Commentary: How to be filled with the Spirit


According to D.L. Moody, the renowned evangelist from a previous generation,  “You might as well try to see without eyes, hear without ears, or breathe without lungs, as to try to live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit.” Paul was thinking along the same line when he wrote, “Do not get drunk on wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NASB).

While many Christians speak out strongly on the first half of that verse, for our purposes here, I’d like to focus on the second part. Paul is writing to believers, which means they’ve already been baptized in the Spirit. This is a one-time event  that is synonymous with salvation. That’s different from being filled with the Spirit, something believers will find necessary throughout their faith journeys.

Let’s explore the question of how to be filled with the Spirit. But before we dive in, understand that this isn’t a magic formula or academic exercise, but rather a biblical pathway to the Holy Spirit’s advancement from resident in your life to president of your life. If you're willing to launch out into these deeper waters, note these four steps.

Confess — Just like you wouldn’t want to drink from a dirty glass, God’s not likely to fill an unclean vessel. After committing adultery with Bathsheba and murder to cover it up, David prayed to the Lord, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin, for I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:2, 3 NASB).

A fresh filling begins with an acknowledgment of our sin, just like a new paint job begins with scraping and cleaning the surface. Act now upon this promise from God, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NASB).

Ask — My wife and I have been married for almost 41 years, yet it never would have happened if I had not asked her. I remember these words being hammered into me during sales training in my younger years, “Ask for the order.”

Jesus said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Luke 11:13 NASB). Jesus’ half-brother wrote simply, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2 NASB). Following confession, ask God to fill you.

Yield — Driving around Athens, Georgia, can be extremely difficult, especially now that I’m in my sixties. I find myself paying closer attention than ever to yield signs and flashing yellow lights.

The same holds true in kingdom life, especially when it comes to walking in the Spirit. God is liable to point you in a different direction than you had planned. Jesus Himself yielded on the night before His crucifixion. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NASB). Life works out so much better when we move in the same direction as God.

Believe — Don’t look for flashing lights and ringing bells when the Holy Spirit fills you. Just like  salvation, it’s not a matter of feelings, but rather faith. God’s presence and power await those willing to be filled with His Spirit and used for His glory. 


Todd Gaddis is a semi-retired minister living in Athens. He continues to serve as an interim pastor and can be reached at