What Does Being ‘Filled With the Spirit’ Really Mean?

The Holy Spirit descending upon the apostles. | The Bible Panorama/The Holy Scriptures in Picture and Story/Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons

The phrase “filled with the Spirit” is loaded with unfortunate connotations, but it need not be, according to a scholar of early Judaism and Christian origins at a Pentecostal seminary.

To bring clarity to the confusion as Christians observe Pentecost Sunday, The Christian Post interviewed Wave Nunnally, a professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.

Whereas Pentecostals and charismatic evangelical Christians have often spoken of this phenomenon which is spoken of in Scripture, the language spoken in some circles has become tribal in that it is frequently associated with assumptions about particular supernatural experiences with God, church traditions, or theological precepts that do not adequately explain the fullness of what it means.

CP: Why has the phrase “filled with the Spirit” become so associated with Pentecostal baggage?

Nunnally: I think all of those phrases that the Bible gives for this phenomenon, to be “filled with the Spirit” or baptized in the Spirit, to have the Holy Spirit come upon you are all synonymous and the scholarly literature will bear that out.

These phrases and this experience [of being filled with Holy Spirit] has suffered misunderstanding from two different directions. One is from within the Pentecostal and charismatic movement itself, a very uninformed position that this idea that if you’re not charismatic or Pentecostal then you don’t have the Holy Spirit.

I often point out to my students that Paul tells the church in Rome in Romans 8:9 that if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he doesn’t belong to Him. If they don’t have the Spirit, they are not a Christian, whatever the denomination.

For charismatics and Pentecostals to then say, “Well, we’re more spiritual” or “we have more power” or, in other words, “we’re better than” is a mistake human beings have made since the Garden [of Eden] which is “I’m better than you because.”

But that’s automatically unChristlike and unbiblical as well. It’s not a matter of people who are Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopal, or Methodist not having the Spirit. I try to explain to people, our students, that the Holy Spirit is at work in people’s lives even before they make a decision to be a follower of Jesus.

How can that be? Well, how about when the Holy Spirit is orchestrating circumstances like an event or someone crosses your path and then impacts you positively for the Good News. Or how about when you feel conviction for your sin? Is that just a natural biological event like food digestion or blood platelet creation? Absolutely not. That’s a supernatural work that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is going to convinct you of sin.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter