Be filled with the Spirit — Ephesians 5:18
Village Schools of the Bible’s four core values, as determined by VSB Board and staff, are Christ-centered; Spirit-filled; student-focused; always growing. Our intent is to express these values in all we do, so that nothing encumbers our stewardship of VSB’s mission: to teach the Bible to transform lives.
This final post in our four-part series on VSB core values describes ‘Spirit-filled’. VSB is trusting God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to begin a movement as we disciple people in the teachings of Jesus. The Holy Spirit has historically moved in remarkable ways during revival and God’s Word provides clear direction on how to grow in Christ through the Spirits’ power and provision. This post highlights both of these aspects of our vision and values.
Today we need revival. Many people think as the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire did in 1764, that the world is seeing the twilight of Christianity. We know from the Bible and from the history of the church that the light of Christ is inextinguishable. Christ loves, cherishes and perfects His church (Ephesians 5: 25-27). God’s Word endures forever (Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35) and will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Jesus will come again. A time is coming when every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).
What might a revival — a great outpouring of God’s Spirit look like today? The Pilgrims, among the first Europeans to settle in North America in the 1600s, came to America with a vision and passion for the reformation of Christianity in the New World. However by the 1700s, this initial spiritual fervor was in serious decline as colonists prospered and became spiritually complacent. Samuel Davies (president of Princeton University from 1759-1761) recalled that the English colonies had lain “in a dead sleep of sin, having at best the form of godliness but nothing of the power…The clergy were unconcerned, lacked compassion and zeal; and did not care to study, teach or visit their congregants.
Then came a series of revivals from the 1730s to the 1740s which theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) described as a ‘surprising work of God’: a once-in-a-century outpouring of the Spirit. The First Great Awakening, which swept through not only the thirteen North American colonies but also Britain, was heralded by authoritative, fervent, heart-searching, evangelistic preaching. God worked powerfully through people like Jonathan Edwards, British evangelist George Whitfield, and many lesser known people.
Parallels with the outpouring of the Spirit in Acts chapter 2 are remarkable. [S]uddenly, wrote Samuel Davies of the Great Awakening, a deep, general concern about eternal things spread through the country; sinners started out of their slumbers, broke off from their vices, began to cry out, What shall we do to be saved? and made it the great business of their life to prepare for the world to come. Then the gospel seemed almighty, and carried all before it. It pierced the very hearts of men with an irresistible power… [T]housands at once melted down under it…”
A sense of God was evident both in conviction of sin and in the bewildered amazement of people conscious of the Lord in their midst. They were solemn, overawed and humbled as the hush of matters eternal soaked into the soul. People who had thought of themselves as Christians before felt they had scarcely begun to be real Christians.
The Spirit breathes life and love into people. Wrote Davies: “Because [the revived person] loves [Christ] he longs for the full enjoyment of him…he longs to see his kingdom flourish, and all men fired with his love. Because he loves him he loves his ordinances; loves to hear, because it is the word of Jesus; loves to pray, because it is [dialog] with Jesus; loves to sit at his table, because it is a memorial of Jesus; and loves his people because they love Jesus”.
The Great Awakening enriched society. Churches flourished. Denominational barriers dissolved. Christians worked together to spread the gospel. Colleges were founded to equip eager young men to serve as Christian ministers. Universities like Princeton, Rutgers, Brown, and Dartmouth were established as a direct result of the Great Awakening.
Thus far we have traced the contours of a spiritual revival on a massive scale: a modern equivalent of what we see in the Book of Acts. The study of authentic revival in history is both insightful and inspiring — it shows close up and in concentrated form the work of the Holy Spirit reviving and inspiring the church. Between revivals the Holy Spirit works the same way as during revivals but — not as suddenly or as intensely — but always in a way that is consistent with Scripture. God reveals through His Word important ways in which the Spirit is at work, and ways in which God’s people respond. What can God’s people do today?
- Receive Christ
The Holy Spirit, the indwelling Spirit of Christ, the Comforter, proceeds from the Father (John 15:26) as a gift given at the moment of salvation through faith in Christ to all believers in Jesus (John 7:37-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9). The sealing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit occurs at the time of believing as a permanent down payment in anticipation of the believers’ future glorification in Christ (John 14:16, Galatians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 4:30). The indwelling Holy Spirit assists believers in prayer, interceding for God’s people, (Romans 8:26-28), leads them into righteousness (Galatians 5:16–18) and produces the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).
- Do not grieve or quench the Spirit.
To be filled by the Spirit, one must not grieve or quench the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Holy Spirit wishes to express Himself through us, but we grieve and quench the Spirit when we give over control to our fallen nature. Gratifying “the desires of the flesh” —our fallen nature under the power of sin—is in direct conflict with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17). When we sin or backslide and let our fallen nature take charge, the results are obvious (Galatians 5: 19–21) and the Spirit’s activity within is quenched.
- Walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 25)
Rather than grieving or quenching the Spirit, we are to walk in step with the Spirit or live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 24-25). To ‘walk’ is a metaphor for daily living: we are to walk (make consistent, day-by-day progress) in the Christian life — we are to yield to His control on an ongoing basis, following His lead in thought, word, and deed (Romans 6:11–14). To walk in the Spirit means immersing ourselves in the Holy-Spirit-inspired, living and active, Word of God, letting “the word of Christ dwell…richly” within (Colossians 3:16) for ongoing maturing and sanctification (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12-14).
- Be filled with the Spirit
The filling of the Spirit is different from the indwelling of the Spirit. The Bible teaches that we should be so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit that He can possess us fully and thus fill us. The filling of the Spirit starts with our innermost thoughts and motives, which then translates into action. Being filled with the Spirit is characterized by joy, thankfulness and mutual encouragement: Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21; Colossians 3:16). Being filled with the Spirit implies freedom for Him to occupy and guide every part of our lives so that He can work through us for the glory of God.
- Confess and repent.
Sin is what hinders the filling of the Holy Spirit, and ongoing sanctification is how the filling of the Spirit is maintained. It is not merely praying for the filling of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes the filling. It is our walking in the Spirit that gives the Spirit freedom to work in increasing measure within us. Because we are still infected with sin, it is impossible to be filled with the Spirit at all times. However we always have available to us the cleansing power of God’s gracious forgiveness (1 John 1:7-9): When we sin, we can immediately confess before God that we have grieved the Spirit, renew our commitment to walk with the Spirit, and yield to the deep, heart-transforming work of the Spirit so that He may indeed fill us, and work through us for His redemptive purposes in the world (Matthew 18:18-20).
Father, thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ who is my righteousness and sanctification and redemption. I want to walk in your Spirit today. Replace the self-centered desires of my heart with Jesus as the primary desire of my heart. Free me that I might more fully delight in you. Redeem every area of my heart that I might more fully yield to the Spirit for your Kingdom purposes. May I forgive as you’ve forgiven me, accept others as you have accepted me in Christ, and encourage others as the great day of Jesus’s return approaches. Amen.
- Greear, J.D. Jesus Continued…Why the Spirit inside you is better than Jesus beside you. Zondervan, 2014.
- Murray, I.H. Pentecost – Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival. Banner of Truth Trust, 2017.
- Murray, I.H. Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858. Versa, 2017.
- Severance, D. What was the Great Awakening? Know the facts and summary. Christianity.com, 28 April 2010.
 Samuel Davies, Sermons on Important Subjects (London, 1824), vol. 4, pp 49-50; quoted in Murray, Revival and Revivalism.
 Ibid, pp. 150-151.
by Warwick Alcock
Director, Strategic Operations at VSB