How To Be Filled with the Spirit: Part 2

By Mark D. Roberts

October 15, 2019

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

Ephesians 5:18

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to examine the imperative in Ephesians 5:18: “Be filled with the Spirit.” As you may recall, that imperative is in the passive voice. It does not mean, “Fill yourself with the Spirit,” but rather, “Let God fill you with the Spirit.” We cannot do anything to force God to fill us as if by magic. But, by stepping out in faith to minister in Christ’s name, we can make ourselves available to the filling of the Spirit.

Hot air balloon floating over the mountainsThere is another peculiar feature of the imperative, “Be filled with the Spirit, though this does not show up in most English translations. The Greek tense of “be filled” is present. This tense suggests an ongoing action, not something that happens once and for all. In English, we might render the present imperative in Greek as “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” The use of the present implies that the filling of the Spirit is something that can happen again and again in the life of the believer.

This is different from the receiving of the Spirit that happens when we come to faith in Christ. Scripture teaches that we receive the Spirit when we say “yes” to Jesus as Lord and Savior. To put it in its negative form, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). Positively, if you belong to Christ, then “the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:9).

Yet, there is a sense in which we who have the Spirit can, at times, be filled with the Spirit so that we might serve God with unusual power. How can we who have the Spirit also be filled with the Spirit? Consider the example of breath (which would be referred to in Greek as pneuma, the same word translated as “spirit”). In ordinary life, you and I have breath within us which keeps us alive and allows us to function normally. Most of the time we don’t even think about our breathing and we do just fine with an ordinary amount of breath in our lungs. But every now and then we need to be filled with breath. Perhaps we’re planning to swim underwater or are hiking up a steep hill. In those unusual times, we not only have breath within us, but also we are filled with breath, with pneuma.

Similarly, there are times when God fills us with his pneuma so that we might serve him with extra inspiration. The present imperative “Keep on being filled with the Spirit” suggests that this is something that can and should happen often in our lives.

Once again, I would emphasize that the purpose of being filled with the Spirit isn’t primarily so that we might have an experience of God, no matter how wonderful this might be. Rather, we are filled in order to serve. Thus, if we want to be filled with the Spirit, we must be ready and willing to offer ourselves as servants to God and to others in God’s name.

Something to Think About:

Can you think of times in your life when you were filled with the Spirit?

If so, did these fillings empower you for service to God? In what way?

Are there acts of service to which God is calling you now, and for which you need God’s power in order to do them?

Something to Do:

Be open to ways God might fill you today so that you might serve others in his name.


Gracious God, even as you have filled me with your Spirit in the past, I ask you to fill me again. Fill me so that I might be a vehicle of your grace to others. Fill me so that I might serve them with wisdom, power, and grace. “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.” 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
Living According to the Spirit Leads to a New Quality of Life (Romans 8:1–14)

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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