There is this ever-ongoing discussion about when and how the baptism in the Holy Spirit happens, and / or being filled with the Holy Spirit, etc.. I’m going to present here in short my own model for that, which will probably be integrated in an anthropological model in later articles (brain / spirit discussion). First the model, then its justification.
The multi-pentecostal model
Regarding the relationship between a Christian and the Holy Spirit, there two basic types of events:
- Receiving the Holy Spirit. This happens once, upon conversion, and marks a person as being saved. In the NT, it’s called with different terms, and not consistently: “being sealed with the Holy Spirit”, “baptism in the Holy Spirit” etc..
- Being filled with the Holy Spirit. This may happen zero to many times in the life of a Christians and is getting supernaturally equipped for the demands of the current situation. In the NT, it’s called with different terms, and not consistently: “filled with the Spirit”, but also “baptism in the Spirit” [e.g. Acts 11:16] and even “receiving the Holy Spirit” [Acts 19:2] (so there is no clear terminology in the Bible itself!). Pentecost is just the name for the first-ever of many such events, but Pentecost is in its quality in no way unique, neither in the life of the apostles nor in general Christian history. “Being filled with the Holy Spirit” is a supernatural cause and may have different effects; among them, boldness (of a supernatural source, not due to encouragement etc.), supernatural gifts (tongues, miracles, healings, prophecies). Being filles with the Holy Spirit is not mechanically correlated to any human action, neither leaying hands, praying, worshipping, singing, anointing with oil nor anythin other. It’s something that God does when he sees it fit … there may be temporary correlation in some time in church history (like the Apostle’s laying on of hands), but this is just how God saw this to be fit for that time, and does not constitute a law of “spiritual mechanics”. For the human part, the only thing is not resisting to be filled by the Spirit when God wants to do it, i.e. maintaining an open, obedient mind.
Reasons and observations
The Pentecostal view: commonalities and differences. Interesting enough, the above division between receiving and being filled with the Holy Spirit is also made by Pentecostal Christians, and they also assent that Pentecost was just the name of the first “being filled” in NT ever. But then they leave the subject and intensely try to find the laws of spiritual mechanics to “generate” this being filled by the Spirit; for a presentation of the whole theology, see [Peter Kwiatkowski: multiple fillings – ERROR #8]. As there is no spiritual mechanic, this endeavor must fail: their “fillings with the Holy Spirit” are in most cases just of psychological-emotional origin. Where this becomes apparent, it let’s their whole theology appear flimsy, though it is basically correct! Additionally, this mode of practice makes people suspect that there is no God at all in the Christian faith, just pseudo-divine emotional experiences.
Being filled and the charismata. In Acts, there are multiple cases where “being filled with the Holy Spirit” is recognized by other people because these filled people have spiritual gifts, like tongues. Compare e.g. the story of Cornelius [Acts 10:44-47]. If we now extrapolate these observations to generality (take care: this might be true, but cannot be prooved) we get this: supernatural charismata are effects of being filled with the Holy Spirit. These fillings may fade away (else there would be no reason for the new fillings recorded in Acts), which means that a gifted person is not able to exercise his / her gift all times in the same intensity, but gets equipped as God sees fit for the current situation. Another stumbling block: we should not conclude that all charismata are of supernatural origin. Miracles, works of power, tongues, prophecies etc. surely are. Others like encouragement, being an elder etc. might not need supernatural abilities, but the character of a mature, forged disciple; in this sense, these might be “gifts of an office”, not “gifts of an ability”.
Being filled as getting power. In most cases where the NT relates on people “being filled” with the Spirit it is in connection with their bold, audacious demeanor; examples: [Acts 4:8], [Acts 13: 9-11]. People who are filled with the Holy Spirit are still able to choose what to do, and they think and choose themselves, they simply have supernatural courage to do what is appropriate. This effect of “being filled” is what Jesus promised when saying: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” [Acts 1:8, ISV]. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a power, he gives a power when “filling” people. Coming back to the charismata as the effect of “being filled” (see above), all this might mean: charismata may be mainly about supernatural courage to do something (to serve), not the supernatural ability to do something, and not the supernatural instruction to do something particular. Of yourse you need ability to heal. But e.g. when Peter teached, he rather dared to teach about Jesus without formal education, than showing a supernatural ability to teach. He might still have his bad rhetorics, but who cares? He knew a simple and important truth to tell about Jesus, and he dared to do so.
Differing being filled from intra-psychic courage. To detect where and if a supernatural filling with the Spirit takes place, one could execute a psychological study: one would need to be able to categorize psychological states, and do that for a multitude od average people and those who claim to have been “filled” by the Spirit in a specific situation. Applying multivariate statistical analysis, one would be able to detect the probability that the “filled” peoples behavior differs from the average behavior just by chance. That’s a normal tool in scientific studies: if that p-value is below 0,05 one says the result is “significant” (in this case: the probability that “being filled” does not take place and the suggested effects are just by chance would be below 5%). Now, if the outcome would indeed indicate that there is a supernatural cause of courage (i.e. no psychological explanation is available), one should keep in mind the character of a miracle like this: a miracle is an effect without a detectable, common cause (e.g. when a dead person is raised: there is no cause that might have the effect of reparing all single cells at once). Therefore, it would be nonsense to search for “how a miracle works”; when dealing with “being filled wihth the Spirit”, there is no meaning in psychologically analyzing how it works, as there is a psychologically visible effect but without an psychological cause.
Being filled as God’s agency. Observing that both gifts (including concrete prophecies, miracles and the like) and courage are effects of “being filled with the Spirit” means that nearly all supernatural events in the NT are connected to this. So generally, except the exceptions, “filling people with his Spirit” seems to be how God helps his people supernaturally in NT times. Which means: when you need God’s help in a specific situation, rather don’t expect to hear God’s voice personally and immediately when you pray, don’t expect supernaturally “implanted” wisdom to find in you, and don’t expect difficult situations to supernaturally cease tomorrow, rather expect to be filled with power, courage and gifts.
Why does the Holy Spirit fill people so rarely today? Yea, a very difficult question, at least for those Christians living in highly civilized countries. I simply don’t know. Perhaps it is because we resist to being filled? Not? Then perhaps because we don’t need it? In the sense that there are no special situations in our lifes that we couldn’t handle as disciples of Jesus ourselves, and that we would never ever dare to get ourselves into such situations … .