What Does It Mean To Be Filled With The Spirit? A Biblical Investigation -- By: Andreas J. Köstenberger

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:2 (Jun 1997)
Article: What Does It Mean To Be Filled With The Spirit? A Biblical Investigation
Author: Andreas J. Köstenberger


What Does It Mean To Be Filled With The Spirit?
A Biblical Investigation

Andreas J. Köstenberger*

A popular pamphlet challenges “carnal Christians” to embark on the “Spirit-filled life” by confessing their sins and presenting every area of their lives to God. 1 Thus they will experience the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10) and be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). While the intention behind the teaching is doubtless commendable—who would disagree that many fall short of the Biblical ideal for the Christian and desperately need to renew their commitment to their Lord?—the theology and terminology upon which this approach is based need to be reexamined to see whether they in fact reflect Biblical categories. The following essay, after providing a brief survey of the OT backdrop, is therefore devoted to a detailed study of all the references to a “filling” with the Spirit or a person’s being “full of the Spirit” in the NT. It is hoped that such an analysis will provide a clear, Biblical answer to the question, “What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?” 2

I. The Spirit’s Coming Upon Or Filling People In The OT

The OT speaks of the Holy Spirit’s “coming upon” or “filling” a person for the sake of a prophetic commissioning (Ezek 2:2; 3:24) or of issuing a particular prophecy (1 Sam 10:6, 10; 19:23; Mic 3:8). The Spirit enables a chosen divine instrument to carry out a particular task or ministry, be it the building of the temple or the leadership of God’s people, including skill in waging warfare (Exod 28:3; 31:3–5; 35:31; Deut 34:9; Judg 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:19; 1 Sam 16:13; 2 Chr 15:1; 20:14). 3 The Greek terms equivalent to

*Andreas Köstenberger is assist...

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