How To Be Filled with the Spirit: Part 1

By Mark D. Roberts

October 14, 2019

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18


In last Thursday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider the exhortation in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” In this verse, the Spirit is the Spirit of God, the one who enables us to experience God’s own presence and power. The imperative “Be filled with the Spirit” implies that filling with the Spirit is possible. You can indeed be filled with the presence and power of God.

A glass of water being poured out into spaceHow? How can you respond to the imperative in Ephesians 5:18? You may have noticed that this is a passive imperative in English, as it is in Greek. This verse does not say, “Fill yourself with the Spirit,” as if this is something you can do by your own power. No, the passive suggests that God is the active agent who fills us with his Spirit. But if God is the one who fills us, how can we do what verse 18 expects? What can we do to “be filled” with the Spirit of God?

There is no magic formula here, no secret words or actions to make God fill us with his Spirit. God is sovereign and fills us according to his sovereign will. At times, some Christians seem to have forgotten this basic truth, assuming that if they pray in a certain way or worship in a certain way then God is somehow compelled to fill them with the Spirit. This neglect of God’s sovereignty isn’t true or helpful.

Yet we aren’t completely passive when it comes to the filling of the Spirit. There are ways we can make ourselves available for God to fill us. The New Testament frequently associates the filling of the Spirit with ministry. In the Acts of the Apostles, for example, spiritual filling leads to bold and empowered acts of ministry (see Acts 4:31, for example). In 1 Corinthians 12-14, the gifts of the Spirit are given for building up the Christian community.

So if we step out in faith to minister in the name of Christ, whether on a mission trip, in a worship service, or in our daily work, we are putting ourselves in a position to be filled with the Spirit. This is especially true when we risk doing something that is far beyond our personal capacity. So, one way to be filled with the Spirit is to step out in faith in order to serve others in Christ’s name.

Tomorrow, we’ll reflect a bit further on how we might be filled with the Spirit. For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.

Something to Think About:

Are you available to be filled with the Spirit of God? If so, why? If not, why not?

Do you ever ask God to fill you with his Spirit?

Do you ever step out to minister in Christ’s name, relying on the power of the Spirit?

Something to Do:

Specifically, ask the Lord to fill you with the Spirit so you might serve him well in the work of this day.


Gracious God, you are indeed the one who fills us with your Spirit. We cannot make this happen on our own. Yet, we can offer ourselves more fully to you. We can open our hearts to be filled by you. We can step out in ministry to others, relying on your power. We can devote ourselves to prayer, so that our hearts and minds are more fully yours. We humbly ask that you might fill us with your Spirit so we might serve you more fully in every part of life. Amen.

P.S. from Mark: If you would like to go deeper in your experience of God’s presence in your work, you may find helpful a six-part Life for Leaders devotional series called: “God’s Presence as You Work.” This devotional series is a gift to you from the De Pree Center.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
The Holy Spirit Empowers Radical Generosity With Every Kind of Resource (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-38)

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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