The Fullness of the Spirit
It is sometimes said that Christ’s new commandment “Love one another” is the eleventh commandment. In the same way we have the twelfth in Paul’s mandatory precept, “Be filled with the Spirit: (Eph. 5:18). It is an error to teach that this is only an elective experience—a privilege and not a duty.
We note that the passive voice of the verb “be filled” implies that we cannot fill ourselves but that the Spirit is present like the atmosphere and ready instantly to fill every vacuum. It is ours to create a vacuum by an unreserved self-surrender to Christ as both Saviour and Lord.
This implies strong faith. In truth, faith is man’s only capacity to receive God, for faith is the door by which He comes to us. Man, a spirit, is an image of God the Spirit. The creature is made for the occupancy of God the Spirit. The creature is made for the occupancy of the Creator, and a believer finds his highest joy only when, as a temple, he is “the habitation of God through the Spirit.”
It is quite evident that purity is a prerequisite to this indwelling fullness of the Spirit. This is the divine order: first cleansed, then filled. All filling presupposes emptying. It is true that the baptism of the Spirit brings a full endowment for service. But a careful examination reveals the fact of the Spirit’s revelation of an inward bias to moral evil and also the seeker’s full consent to its cleansing by the purifying fire of the Spirit before He takes up His abode within.
This consent is a part of his all-embracing self-surrender to Christ, the Great Physician, whose healing power is preparatory to the full endowment with the Holy Spirit.
We note that the command “Be filled with the Spirit” is in the present tense, implying a vital fullness, a constant appropriation, and a perpetual reception, a ceaseless drinking and ceaseless thirst. Hence the paradox of Charles Wesley’s lines:
“Insatiate to this spring I fly;
I drink, and yet am ever dry.”
This thirst is for more of the same kind, not for anything different, like the thirst of a perfectly healthy baby.
“But the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Whenever the Spirit is deliberately received in the fullness of His offices and the permanence of His indwelling, men of power are raised up, and anointed women go forth to successful labor in the harvest fields of the world. Many a professed Christian would become mighty in advancing the kingdom of Christ if he were thus filled with the gift bestowed at Pentecost.
They would know the same marvelous change experienced by the first apostles, which Dr. John Morgan explains:
“The apostles were good men before the baptism of Pentecost.
But how dull of apprehension were they though they listened to the instructions, not merely of an earthly prophet, but of Him who was from heaven and spoke the words of God.
How little they saw the glory or felt the power of the truth they heard!
Yet they knew more, believed more, loved more than the rest of mankind.
But when the Holy Spirit fell on them, they received a glorious transformation!
It was as if noon-day had burst upon them.
As with tongues of fire they spoke forth the wonders which they until now had not known.
God had passed before them and proclaimed His name, shown them His glory.
The Spirit had taken the all-glorious beams that blaze from the face of Christ and had carried them deep into their hearts.”
The Rev. Daniel Steele, D.D. was a devout and scholarly Methodist clergyman and writer very prominent in the early holiness movement. Abridged by Larry D. Smith, this selection is taken from Steele’s The Gospel of the Comforter.
Dr. Daniel Steele was a well-known writer, educator, and holiness advocate in late 19th-century Methodism.