In this article, we will address the following three basic questions:
- Is every Christian indwelled by the Holy Spirit?
- Is every Christian filled with the Holy Spirit?
- What are the differences between being indwelled by the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Holy Spirit?
Is Every Christian Indwelled by the Holy Spirit?
Billy Graham states on page 60 of his book entitled The Journey,
If you know Christ, you don’t need to beg for the Holy Spirit to come into your life. He is already there – whether you “feel” His presence or not. Don’t confuse the Holy Spirit with an emotional feeling or a particular type of spiritual experience.
A number of scripture passages indicate that the Holy Spirit indwells (i.e., exists within, as an activating force) every genuine Christian. [Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when we quote a non-biblical source that is using Scripture from a different version of the Bible.]
Romans 8:9: “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
2 Corinthians 1:21-22: “Now He Who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, Who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit.”
On page 76 of his book entitled The Layman’s Commentary on the Holy Spirit, John Rea, Th.D., explains that the Greek word translated “deposit” in the 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 passage means “the first down payment by which the recipient is assured of final payment in full. . . . The Spirit Himself is this [deposit], or pledge . . ., or guarantee. . . .”
Similarly, Hershel H. Hobbs, on page 146 of his book entitled The Holy Spirit: Believer’s Guide, says, “At the moment one believes in Christ the Holy Spirit indwells him, seals him unto God, and becomes God’s guarantee or earnest money that God will go through with his promise to save him completely.”
And Arthur W. Pink, on page 133 of his book entitled The Holy Spirit, states, “[T]he Spirit seals or confirms my heart that salvation is mine. Thus in ‘sealing’ the Spirit authenticates, certifies, ratifies.”
John Rea provides additional perspective on the significance of “sealing.” On page 24 of his book, he says,
The time when this sealing takes place is said to be after we have believed the Gospel. . . . In those days an owner often stamped his signet into the still soft clay of a newly made storage jar or of a jar stopper. The impression left by the signet “sealed” the jar, clearly marking it and its future contents as the possession of that man.
Other scripture passages, at least, infer that the Holy Spirit indwells those who are genuine Christians (i.e., those who have sincerely trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord) include the following:
2 Corinthians 5:5b: “God . . . has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
Ephesians 1:13-14a: “In Him [Jesus Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in Whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance. . . .”
Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
It may be appropriate to include Acts 2:38 in this list. This passage states, “Then Peter [the Apostle] said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” However, some scholars think that “the gift of the Holy Spirit” refers to salvation, rather than to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In any case, the Bible clearly teaches that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is proof that a person is a Christian, and that all genuine Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Indwelling is constant, regardless of what a Christian feels, says, or does.
Is Every Christian Filledwith the Holy Spirit?
Various scripture passages indicate that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a special experience that not every Christian has.
Acts 6:3: “Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business [i.e., the responsibilities of deacons or elders].”
This passage indicates that, in addition to having a good reputation and wisdom, the men to be chosen needed to have relationship with the Holy Spirit that went beyond His indwelling them. Although all Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, the instruction to choose men who were “full of the Holy Spirit” indicates that not all the Christian men in the Jerusalem church were filled with the Holy Spirit.
John F. Walvoord, Th.D., on page 191 of his book entitled The Holy Spirit, says, “[A] newborn saint may have the fullness of the Spirit, while being nevertheless quite immature, and in contrast a mature saint may lack the fullness of the Spirit.”
Acts 9:17: “And Ananias [a Christian to whom the Lord had spoken in a vision] went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him, he said, ‘Brother Saul [i.e., the apostle Paul’s name, before it was changed], the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”
In regard to this passage, W. Herbert Brown states on page 97 of his book entitled God’s Answer, “Saul must have been a saved man when Ananias came to minister to him, because Ananias addressed him as ‘Brother Saul.’” Therefore, Saul’s filling by the Holy Spirit must have been subsequent to the time when he became indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 11:24a: “For he [Barnabas] was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.”
Acts 13:52: “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”
What was noteworthy about the Christians referred to in these last two biblical passages is that they were not just indwelled by the Holy Spirit – they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Does that mean that someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit has more of the Holy Spirit indwelling him than someone who is not filled with the Holy Spirit? The answer is, “No, other factors are involved.” These factors are discussed in our response to the next question.
What Are the Differences between Being Indwelledby the Holy Spirit and Being filledwith the Holy Spirit?
In attempting to answer this question, we will discuss the following factors:
- Control by the Holy Spirit
- Fruit of the Holy Spirit
- Gifts of the Holy Spirit
- Power, or boldness, in witnessing
- Other possible distinctions
Control by the Holy Spirit
Let’s consider an analogy to help explain conceptually the difference between being indwelled and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
When a person becomes a Christian, that person is indwelled by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, the Holy Spirit will always travel with him (or her). The question is who is driving, because the driver is ultimately the one who controls the direction of the vehicle. When a Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit, he (or she) will allow the Holy Spirit to drive (i.e., be in control).
Thus, the extent of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a Christian doesn’t change, but the degree of the Holy Spirit’s control does change, because His control is dependent on the willingness of the Christian to surrender control at any particular time.
Theodore H. Epp says on page 71 of his book entitled The Holy Spirit and the Believer, “[W]hen the believer is filled with the Spirit, it means that the Holy Spirit controls the mind, the heart and the body of the Christian.” Therefore, when the Holy Spirit does not control the mind, the heart and the body of a Christian, the believer is not filled with the Spirit, even though he (or she) is indwelled by the Spirit.
John F. Walvoord, Th.D., states on page 192 of his book, “The thought is not that individuals by any process have received more of the Spirit, but it is rather that the Spirit has complete possession of the individual.”
Likewise, on page 19 of his book entitled The Journey, Graham states, “It is never a question of how much you and I have of the Spirit, but how much He has of us.”
And, on page 101 of his book entitled The Holy Spirit, Graham says,
Christians, day by day, week by week, and month by month, are told to walk in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit means being led and directed by the Holy Spirit. This comes as we progressively yield various areas of our lives to the Spirit’s control.
Then, on page 127 of the same book, Graham says, “I believe this is one of the tests of the Spirit-filled life. Is Christ becoming more and more evident in my life? Are people seeing more of Him, and less of me?”
[For a discussion of how a Christian can become filled with the Holy Spirit, please see our article entitled “Is It Important for a Christian to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit?”]
Fruit of the Holy Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23a: “[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” [Note: See APPENDIX for a brief explanation of each of these characteristics.]
John R. W. Stott states on page 79 of his book entitled Baptism & Fullness,
[T]his fruit . . . is the best available evidence . . . of the indwelling fullness of the Holy Spirit. The real proof of a deep work of the Spirit of God in any human being is neither subjective, emotional experiences, nor spectacular signs, but moral, Christlike qualities.
This does not mean that only Spirit-filled Christians can have the characteristics that the Bible calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” The attitude and actions of every Christian should reflect these characteristics, because every genuine Christian is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. The more a Christian yields to the Holy Spirit’s control, the greater will be that person’s ability to manifest the fruit of the Spirit. And as the fruit of the Spirit grows in a Christian’s life, the more God will be pleased with that person.
In a publication entitled “Day by Day,” Graham asserts, “If you are a true Christian . . . you will reveal through your daily life the fruit of the Spirit . . . and all the other Christian virtues which round out a Christlike personality.”
Why then do so many Christians not show more evidence of these qualities? The following perspective is provided by John F. Walvoord, on page 219 of his book:
The Christian controlled by the Spirit and empowered to do the will of God manifests a fundamental change in character. While his former sin nature is still present, . . . the new nature energized by the Spirit is producing the fruit of the Spirit.
On page 102 of his book entitled Be Filled with the Spirit, Lehman Strauss declares, “In the spiritual realm, fruit can never be the results of human exertion and self-effort in order to obtain holiness. The fruit of the Spirit is the outward expression of God’s power working in us.” Therefore, evidence of spiritual fruit in a Christian’s life is dependent on the degree to which that person is willing to allow the Holy Spirit to be in control of his (or her) life.
To regularly manifest all of the fruit of the Spirit in their life is a continuing challenge for every Christian. A person’s level of maturity as a Christian is the key factor. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a shortcut to becoming a mature Christian, but it is a way to experience periodically – and sooner rather than later – what a mature Christian experiences on a regular basis.
Hershel H. Hobbs, on page 156 of his book, declares that the fruit of the Holy Spirit “will not be borne in a day. It is the harvest of a lifetime of yielding to the life of the indwelling Spirit.”
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Bible seems to indicate that spiritual gifts are given to all Christians, but it is not clear if Christians have the power to use their spiritual gift(s) if they are not filled with the Holy Spirit, or if they must be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to have this power.
With regard to the significance of the spiritual gifts of Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit, we quote John Rea, who says on page 81 of his book,
Let every Spirit-baptized Christian heed the warning of Jesus: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20), not by their charismatic gifts and miraculous works. . . . The proofs of being filled with the Holy Spirit are far more convincing in the area of His fruit than of His gifts.
Likewise, Lehman Strauss emphasizes the importance of the fruit of the Spirit. On page 103 of his book, he says that the fruit of the Spirit “has to do with character. . . . The fruit of the Spirit constitutes the graces of the Spirit. Today much stress is put upon the gifts of the Spirit to the neglect of the graces of the Spirit.”
[For a more comprehensive discussion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, please see our article entitled “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.”]
Power, or Boldness, in Witnessing
The only certain distinction between Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit and those who are not is the power, or boldness, they have in witnessing to others.
In Acts 1:8, Jesus Christ is quoted as telling His 11 remaining disciples and other believers who were with them, “[Y]ou shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
W. Herbert Brown, on page 87 of his book entitled God’s Answer, states,
Compare the disciples before and after Pentecost. . . . Before Pentecost the apostles had many advantages: they had spent three years with Jesus; they had witnessed and performed miracles; they knew the facts of the Gospel; Christ had opened up to them the prophetic Scriptures. . . . But they had no New Testament power!
After their experience on the Day of Pentecost, however, these disciples had power from God that they previously did not have, as evidenced by their subsequent boldness in proclaiming the gospel (see Acts 4:13, 31). This power seems to be a characteristic that is given to all Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Such power is necessary to fulfill the commission that Jesus Christ gave to spread the gospel of eternal salvation. On page 126 of his book entitled The Power of Pentecost, John R. Rice, D.D., declares,
The apostles and others . . . who were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did go to many nations, but not to all nations. The Great Commission is for the whole church of Christ. . . . And only the whole church of Christ can perfectly fulfill this command of the Lord Jesus about taking the gospel to all nations. And that means that in our day when the Holy Spirit comes upon us we will receive power for witnessing, just as the disciples received power for witnessing in their day.
John R. W. Stott asserts on page 54 of his book, “We must beware of any claim to the fullness of the Spirit which does not lead to an evangelistic concern and outreach.”
Other Possible Distinctions
Desire to Adore and Worship God: Many Christians go through the motions of worship, but when they are Spirit-filled, their worship experience is genuine. Lehman Strauss says on page 82 of his book, “warn-hearted praise and thanksgiving . . . comes from the heart controlled by the Holy Spirit.”
Thankfulness in All Circumstances: Strauss notes subsequently, on the same page of his book, “[T]he Spirit-filled Christian will be thankful at all times and under all conditions,” in accordance with Ephesians 5:20. The same cannot be said for many Christians who are not filled with the Holy Spirit.
Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23a: “[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” The following are brief explanations of each of these characteristics:
Love: “Agape is theparticular word for love which Paul used in Galatians 5:22; it means divine love, the very nature of God. . . . It is that seed of divine love which is sown in the heart of the believer the moment he becomes God’s child. . . . [It] is an all-embracing love. In this it differs radically from ordinary human love: we humans do not love people we don’t like. But God loves every human. . . .” [Strauss, p. 104] “Agape is the intelligent and purposeful love which is an act of the will more than of emotion or feeling.” [Rea, p. 80] “This kind of love is focused on pleasing God, not pleasing oneself. [This type of] love always seeks the best for the object of its love.” [Adult Learner Guide, summer 2009, p. 47]
Joy: “Christian joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit independent of circumstances.” [Strauss, p. 105] “Joy is clearly different than happiness. It is not based on circumstances, but on the presence, hope, and promises of God.” [To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, M.D., p.93] “[It] gives zest and sparkle to all of life.” [Hobbs, p. 155]
Peace: “[This] refers to a pervasive sense of wholeness and well-being.” [Adult Learner Guide, summer 2009, p. 47] “[It is] the condition of composure and serenity even in the midst of a storm, is conditioned not upon outward circumstances but upon a faith firmly fixed in God and his will.” [Hobbs, p. 155] “This peace . . . consists both of inward repose . . . and of harmonious relations with others.” [Rea, p. 80]
Longsuffering: “[This expresses] the idea of patience, spiritual endurance.” [Strauss, p. 108] “[It includes] the patient endurance of wrongs suffered at the hand of another. . . .” [Hobbs, p. 155]
Kindness: “[This] means gentleness, sympathy, and a spirit of concern toward others.” [Adult Learner Guide, summer 2009, p. 47] “[It includes seeking] to do good to those who have wronged you.” [Hobbs, p. 155] “[It is] the mark of a sweet spirit, one that is kind and mild and full of graciousness.” [Rea, p. 81]
Goodness: “[This is] the quality of uprightness which extends itself to benefit others in generosity. . . .” [Hobbs, p. 155] “[It pertains to] an active, caring generosity that desires to do for others what is useful and beneficial.” [Adult Learner Guide, summer 2009, p. 47]
Faithfulness: “It is the quality of reliability, dependability, trustworthiness, fidelity.” [Strauss, p. 112] “It shows itself in being a trustworthy steward of God . . . and in being true and obedient to His word. . . .” [Rea, p. 81]
Gentleness (or Meekness): “[This involves] courtesy and considerateness in one’s dealings with others.” [Hobbs, p. 155] “[It is] based on humility and self-denial. It is a humble tolerance of others. . . . It is gentle and strong . . . .” [Rea, p. 81]
Self-control (or Temperance): “[This means] to take hold of, to grip, to have under control, suggesting self-restraint, self-denial, self-discipline.” [Strauss, p. 114] “[It involves] the discipline of self-restraint and mastery over one’s physical desires and passions.” [Adult Learner Guide, summer 2009, p. 47]