November 7, 2016

November 7, 2016

Dear Esther,

I am a born-again believer, yet I am confused by the terms “filled with the Spirit,” and “baptized in the Spirit.” Can you possibly expound on this and tell me what the difference is? I would greatly appreciate it.


Dear Valentina,

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit occurs the very moment we turn to Christ by faith (1 Corinthians 12:13). At the moment of our spiritual birth, the Spirit of God comes to live within us bringing Christ to our hearts. He then places us (spiritually baptizes us) into what is termed the Body of Christ or Body of Messiah (His church).

The Holy Spirit never takes a vacation or goes away on long walks. Once filled with the Holy Spirit, one is always filled with the Holy Spirit. However, considering the way we can all “fall short” and the carnal manner in which some believers continue to conduct their lives, one wonders if the Holy Spirit truly lives inside some of them, or if they were ever truly saved.

“For as many who are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:14-18).

Accepting Christ—being “born-again” one day and subsequently receiving the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) at a later time is not Scriptural. However, being “filled” with the Holy Spirit is an ongoing, continuous experience in the sense that it is up to each one of us as believers to allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, our behavior, to be continually filled by Him—to yield to Him. In that regard we can and should be “filled” with the Holy Spirit often. We should do our best every day to give ourselves over to the Holy Spirit and avoid quenching His loving guidance.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

The Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of Christ’s presence within us. Scripture dogmatically reveals if the Spirit of God does not live in us, we do not belong to Him. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens to every truly repented believer once and only once at the time of salvation; just as salvation is a one-time gift—a “done deal” so to speak. I have heard some Christian church leaders say, “We are a Spirit-filled church,” implying that they have a special move of God or something beyond what other true Christian churches have.

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Roman 8:9).

All genuinely born-again believers are Spirit-filled or they are not truly saved, and there are no special or additional “fillings” of the Holy Spirit given to select individuals. As born-again believers, we are all equal in Christ. However, how each individual treats and relates to the Holy Spirit is a strong determining factor for spiritual growth. In that sense only, some churches are more Spirit filled than others, only because of the way each individual at that church relates to the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and true devotion to the Lord we are continuously filled. [1]

What is the difference of being baptized with the Spirit and filled with the Spirit?

These two terms being baptized in the Spirit and filled with the Spirit have become synonymous with each other but they are distinct in the Scriptures and should not be confused.

Scripture shows that the baptism of the Spirit happens at our salvation experience.

John came baptizing in water but said, “There is one who will come after me. . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:7-8; Matthew 3:11; John 1:33). In Acts 1:4-5, after His resurrection Jesus said: “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” In John 14:16, Jesus told us that the Father, “He will give you another helper, that He will be with you forever.”

The phrase “Baptized in the Holy Spirit” is not used in Scripture but baptized “with” the Holy Spirit is used twice; Acts 1:5 and Acts 11:16 (which refers to Jesus’ statement in Acts 1:5). The phrase “with” – Greek- en; a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state).

In Acts 2, the 120 in the upper room were baptized by the Spirit, which is what Jesus told them to wait for in Acts 1:5.

Some people were filled with the Holy Spirit before the New Testament: Numbers 11:16-17. God had the Spirit put upon the 70 elders to empower them for service. Verse 17: “Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them.”

The prophet Ezekiel wrote: “And He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you. Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me’” (Ezekiel2:1-2).

This was before there was a baptism with the Spirit in the New Testament. Speaking of John, “He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15); his mother “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).

John’s father “Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied” (Luke 1:67).

“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1).

Is the baptism of the Spirit a salvation experience or a separate experience of the Spirit after one is saved? The Bible’s consistent teaching is that there is only one Spirit baptism at salvation, but there are many fillings. This Spirit baptism occurs once for every believer; it is the new birth. The baptism of the Spirit is given to all believers alike, (1 Corinthians 12:13).

ALL believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit, (Galatians 3:27). ALL believers have been baptized into Christ. What is available to all of us are subsequent fillings that keep us walking in the Spirit’s power to live a life pleasing to the Lord and pursue serving Him and doing His will.

“And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18), Jesus is the baptizer, making every believer today part of the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is given to bring believers into the “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Galatians 3:26-27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Meaning to wear Him—to be seen on the outside like a garment; we are to be living epistles.

On the day of the Pentecost the apostle Peter promised unsaved Jews that they would receive the Holy Spirit as a gift when they repented and were baptized. It was promised to people who had not YET been born-again. Acts 1:5 says that they would “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Acts 2 does not mention Spirit baptism but shows the result. Verse 4 says: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:4: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

This is why tongues or prophecy accompanied the baptism of the Spirit, to show a group of people were saved, that they received the Holy Spirit. Each time a different people group received the Holy Spirit in their salvation they exhibited a manifestation to validate them.

The Jews who first received the Spirit and spoke in tongues preached to other Jews at Pentecost. Acts 2:38: “Then Peter 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.’” They, (the 3,000 recipients) received the Spirit from hearing the word and believing, but this time you can see in Scripture they did not speak in tongues.

The Samaritans that Peter and John came to had already received the Word of God, were baptized and still did not have the Spirit.

Then “they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 8:17).

Later to Peter’s amazement in Acts 10, Peter saw firsthand the Gentiles come into the covenant of grace. Acts 10:44-45: ”While Peter was still speaking these words, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. … the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

The gift was the Spirit from above, and produced the new birth before Peter could finish his sermon.

In Acts 11:16 Peter states that by Spirit baptism, salvation began for the Gentiles; both groups were saved and put in the body the same way.

If you are not baptized in the Holy Spirit then you are not “in Christ.” Romans 8:9 states: “If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling makes the bodyof the believer his temple (Ephesians 2:21-22), individually and collectively.

It is a Spirit baptism from above that buries us with Christ into his death (Romans 6:3-7). Individuals could not be considered believers before they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as is evident from Paul’s question, to those in Acts 19:1-7: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

Therefore the presence, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is essential to proving salvation. Paul’s question in Acts 19:2 is significant, “Into what then were you baptized?”

Paul makes it clear that it is necessary for the Holy Spirit—that which is called baptism with the Holy Spirit: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.”

At Pentecost Christ was the Baptizer, with the Spirit (Acts 1:5). When they received the Holy Spirit they possessed the new life in Christ through being born-again. This is repeated in Acts 8 and Acts 10 for the Gentiles. There is no command in Scripture that tells us to be re-baptized by the Holy Spirit because that is what takes place in salvation.

Teaching another baptism with the Holy Spirit for those who are born-again is not correct; the Bible teaches to be filled and refilled as a continual and necessary process. We do not lose the Holy Spirit in us, nor do we get more of Him. What this means is that He gets more of us. We give him control of our lives daily; we present our bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord each day, and he fills us with himself and has control over our lives.

Being Filled

Ephesians 5:18-19 states: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

This is the tense of being continually filled, meaning often; it is not a one-time event as the baptism of the Spirit is. In contrast, the filling of the Spirit is a continuous activity. Paul makes a contrast that our being filled with the Spirit does not have the same effect as drinking alcoholic beverages, but is the opposite.

A Spirit-filled Christian has his Bible in his heart. As David said, “thy word I have his in my heart that I may not sin against you.” It is essential to KNOW the Word to live a spiritual life.

Being filled with the Spirit means one has self-control. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control (Greek – egreitei), not lacking it. The Holy Spirit is given to believers so that they might have the power to live like Jesus and be different than they were before.

It is a matter of giving up areas of our lives over to the Holy Spirit’s control to have Him fill it with the Spirit. As we walk with the Lord and obey, He continually fills us with His Spirit so we are progressing in the sanctification process and can be more effective in other people’s lives.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). The filling of the Spirit is a command not an option (Ephesians 5:18). Being filled has to do with allowing the Spirit to be the dominating influence over our lives, not letting selfishness or the world influence our lives.

Being “filled” is about yielding, allowing His control to influence and affect our character which will have others see Christ through our lives. It is putting loving behavior into action and not operating from a place of self-centered control toward others.

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians is related to them being filled with the Spirit; Colossians1:9-10: “[We] do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

There is no command in Scripture that tells us to be re-baptized by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because it is something that immediately happens when one is born-again. Teaching another baptism with the Holy Spirit for those who are born-again is not correct; the Bible teaches to be filled and refilled as a continual and necessary process.

When faith is exercised at the moment one believes, the Holy Spirit indwells us (Galatians 3:2).

The Greek perfect tense is used in 1 John. 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 5, 18. It emphasizes an action that was completed in the past but continues unchanged into the present. It means it is instantaneous, regeneration is not a process, but its effect continues to the present. We are justified and are presently being sanctified and will one day be glorified.

In the book of Acts, the endowment of power was for their witnessing, by preaching of the Word. The power was seen in transforming lives when people’s sins were forgiven through the gospel being preached. Boldness, not just tongues, was the common denominator of being filled with the Spirit. “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to them…when they saw the boldness of Peter…” (Acts 4:8,13). “They [the believers] were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (4:31).

“Brother Saul…was filled with the Holy Spirit… Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues… (9:17, 20). “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit… speaking boldly in the Lord (Acts 13:45-46,52, 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:2).

A Spirit filled person or church will be bold in proclaiming the truth, the gospel and standing against error. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

What many believe as a separate baptism should more accurately be called a filling of the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is a daily occurrence, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (baptized into the Body by the Holy Spirit) happens only once. So the baptism with the Spirit is what takes place at salvation which places us into the Body of Christ and He indwells us. The filling of the Spirit is part of our sanctification, our discipleship, as we give over the areas we need to for His control. [2]

Valentina, I hope these answers will give you a better understanding on this important topic regarding being “filled with the Spirit,” and “baptized in the Spirit.”

God bless you and thank you for your letter.


“But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (John 14:26).

Endnotes [1] A Better World Is Coming Soon – Don’t Miss It, Updated Expanded 2013 Edition, pages 231-232, Olsen, Kit, World Bible Society. [2]