Filled and refilled
By Opal L. Reddin
Sometimes one word in a conversation can trigger a profitable discussion. During dinner with my new friends, Mike and Jean*, Mike shared a recent experience. They know I am Pentecostal, a member of the Assemblies of God. They are Congregational and charismatic.
“As I walked to the pulpit,” Mike said, “I was filled with the Spirit and for several minutes I could not speak in English.”
Knowing that he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit several years earlier, I was surprised by his use of the term “filled.” I must have looked puzzled, for he quickly added, “Oh, I forgot; you Pentecostals say refilled, rather than filled, when there is a fresh infilling. But, you know, the Scriptures do not say refilled anywhere,” he challenged me with a smile.
I had to agree with him that refilled is not a scriptural term per se. I explained that we have used the word to differentiate between the initial infilling and subsequent ones.
Both of these terms are extremely important for us as we pursue the Spirit-filled life. In the Old Testament, being filled with the Spirit was a very special privilege given to only a chosen few (Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:29). Joel prophesied that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit “on all flesh” (Joel 2:28, NKJV). The first outpouring “on all flesh” occurred on the Day of Pentecost: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Peter announced that Joel’s prophecy was being fulfilled and that Jesus had been glorified (Acts 2:16,17,32,33). That was the first day of “the last days” of the Church Age.
The term filled is used six times in Acts, relating to the Holy Spirit. In two instances, the initial infilling is described (2:4; 9:17). Other terms for the initial infilling are “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (1:5; 11:16), “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38), and statements that the Spirit “fell” or “came upon” (10:44; 19:6) believers. In three places, a refilling is denoted (4:8,31; 13:9).
In Acts 4 we see an event where believers were definitely refilled. Peter and John were arrested and warned by the Sanhedrin not to preach in Jesus’ name anymore. As soon as they were released, they went to the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother, and reported to the believers gathered there. Luke tells us, “When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (v. 31).
We know that many, if not all, of those praying had already been filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Had they lost their Baptism? Had the Spirit “leaked out”? Not at all. They were given a fresh enduement of power to give them added boldness for the new power encounter.
We see the same principle in Peter’s experience before the Sanhedrin. He and John were being tried by the same council that had condemned Jesus to death; their lives were in jeopardy. Acts 4:8 tells us that Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” spoke so forcefully that his hostile audience “marveled” and could only account for such wisdom and power by being reminded that Peter and John had been with Jesus (4:13). Peter received a fresh infilling that gave him sudden inspiration and needed boldness.
Paul likewise experienced the dynamic impartation of special power as he pronounced a miracle of judgment on Elymas the sorcerer, blinding him. As a result of the miracle, the top leader of Cyprus believed on “the doctrine of the Lord” and the gospel was spread (Acts 13:9-12). The refilling met the need.
Are these glorious blessings only for great spiritual leaders? Absolutely not. The Scriptures give abundant evidence that they are for everyone. Writing to “ordinary people” at Ephesus, Paul admonished: “Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The Greek verb translated “be filled” can be accurately translated “be being filled.” Paul knew the Ephesians had already been filled (Acts 19:1-6). But he saw the danger of their neglecting to stay filled. It is God’s will and indeed His command for all His children to be both filled and refilled.
There is no scriptural “formula” for being filled with the Spirit, but we do have scriptural patterns. Immediately prior to the first outpouring the believers “were continually in the temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:53), “in prayer” (Acts 1:14), and “with one accord” (Acts 2:1). The outpouring at Samaria was precipitated by Philip’s preaching and by the apostles’ laying hands on previously alienated Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17). At the home of Cornelius “while Peter was still speaking … the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word” (Acts 10:44). The Holy Spirit came on the 12 Ephesian disciples when they received the full gospel (Acts 19:1-7).
A woman saved her money for years in order to go on a cruise. After purchasing her ticket, she had only enough money left to buy a supply of cheese and crackers. While other passengers ate lovely meals, she ate her snacks. On the last day, she asked what the price of one dinner would be. The astonished steward said, “Why, lady, your ticket included all your meals for the entire cruise.” Do we sometime subsist on “spiritual snacks” when the Master has a feast waiting?
The church at Laodicea had once been on fire with love for Jesus, filled with the Spirit. They failed to keep the experience current. Jesus sent them a message: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
What a majestic invitation. Like any grand occasion, it will involve preparation and time. Are you hungry and thirsty? Open your heart to the Spirit. Leave the dry crackers and enter the feast prepared for you. Just as Mike, Jean and I were saying that day: All believers need to be filled and refilled with the blessed Holy Spirit.
Opal L. Reddin, D.Min., is distinguished professor emeritus in biblical studies at Central Bible College in Springfield, Mo.
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