Filled with or Full of the Spirit: Acts and Ephesians -- By: Larry R. Oats

Journal: Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal
Volume: MBTJ 01:2 (Fall 2011)
Article: Filled with or Full of the Spirit: Acts and Ephesians
Author: Larry R. Oats

Filled with or Full of the Spirit:
Acts and Ephesians

Larry R. Oats1

In the Book of Acts, various disciples of Christ were “filled with the Spirit,” some apparently more than once. In Ephesians 5:18 Paul commanded the believers to be “filled with the Spirit.” There is, however, no commandment in Acts to be filled, and there are no examples of anyone actually being “filled with the Spirit” in the Epistles. Because of Paul’s command and the results that happened when the early believers were filled with the Spirit in the book of Acts, some believers today seek some kind of miraculous work of the Spirit to demonstrate their obedience to the Word.

This article will examine the concept and language of being “filled with the Spirit” in Luke and Acts (the phrase is not used in Matthew, Mark or John) and compare that with Paul’s commandment in Ephesians 5:18, in order to demonstrate that these two fillings are not the same. This article will also examine the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament to lay a foundation for this New Testament study.


There were numerous ministries of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. A common reference in the Old Testament, one which relates to this article, is the

phraseology of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person.2 It will be seen that these passages speak of the Holy Spirit empowering or enabling someone for special ministry. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, it will be demonstrated that the leaders of God’s people were enabled to function by the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit. The judges, Saul, David, the prophets, the apostles and the elders of the church at Ephesus are all examples.3

The first references to the Spirit coming upon someone are Numbers 11:17, 25, and 26. The Spirit was taken from upon Moses and put upon others. This should not be taken to mean that the Holy Spirit can somehow be divided or separated. In this passage, the Lord enlarged the ministry of Moses by placing his Spirit upon the elders who would assist him (24-30). The sign of the Spirit’s coming was prophecy, as at other times (for instance, 1 Sam 10:6-13; Joel 2:28;

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