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Six Conditions for the Filling
of the Holy Spirit

by K. Neill Foster

©1999 Christian Publications Inc.
Used by permission

The most important message people will ever hear is the message of salvation and forgiveness through faith in Christ.

To the one who has already received this message, there is no more important message than the one relating to the work of the Holy Spirit, which issues directly from the words of Christ as recorded in John 14, 15 and 16; also Acts 1.

  • [Jesus] commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:4-5)

Peter, in his message to the troubled Jews, called them to repentance and baptism. He then announced that their inherited "promise" was extended. Said he, "The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (2:39). The promise was "unto you," "to your children" and "to all that are afar off."

While the Jews who first heard these words, and many generations after them, have passed into eternity, there remains in the vast scope of this Scripture hope that all who are "afar off" may indeed share in the promise. It is my firm conviction that even though we are twenty centuries removed from the historical outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we still may experience this New Testament empowering because we are afar off, yet called of God.

When committed Christians will hear this apostolic message and give room to the blessed promise, the Church will again pulsate with power. Victorious living will again be the normal experience. Revival again will sweep coldness and carnality from the heart of the Church, and the miracles, the gifts, the signs and wonders of the early Church will be the rule instead of the exception.

These lines are written in the sincere hope that in some way they might be used to accelerate the coming of that day.

What, then, are the six conditions for the filling of the Holy Spirit?

1. Be Saved

The first condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit is simply that you must be saved.

A number of Scriptures demonstrate this clearly. Romans 8:9 says, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." This refers to the new birth by the Holy Spirit. The biblical principle, "For he that hath, to him shall be given" (Mark 4:25), clearly applies here.

In Acts 2:38 repentance and baptism are enunciated as conditions for receiving the "gift of the Holy Ghost." (It should be pointed out that baptism is not a condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by the experience of the apostle Paul and the household of Cornelius [Acts 9:17, 10:44].)

This receiving of the Holy Spirit occurs after regeneration; it cannot be confused with regeneration and the new birth unless we accuse Peter of favoring baptism over conversion and encouraging the baptism of persons yet unconverted.

We find in Acts 8:14-17 that some converts of the Samaritan revival under Philip had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. But these converts still were in such spiritual need that the church at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to lead them into the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Again, this is a postconversion experience. To say their reception of the Holy Spirit was conversion is to accuse Philip of baptizing unbelievers! By his conduct relating to the Ethiopian eunuch (8:37), this would be an unwarranted accusation.

Without contradiction, these new converts had been discerned by the evangelist to be worthy of baptism, but still they were lacking the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Few passages illustrate more clearly that one of the conditions for the filling of the Holy Spirit is salvation.

In Acts 19:1-7 a similar circumstance exists. Paul asks the question, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" (19:2). Some who fear the Holy Spirit have almost persuaded evangelical Christians that it is not "since" but "when" that is the proper word for this question. Harold M. Freligh wrote:

  • . . . it really makes no difference whether one translates this "since" or "when." The very fact that Paul asked the question proves that it is possible to believe without receiving (as a personal and definitely conscious act) the Holy Spirit; otherwise Paul would never have asked the question.

In addition, we believe that the key verse in this passage is 19:5: "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." These Ephesians, twice baptized, were surely true Christians. Yet they needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and after Paul had laid his hands upon them, they were filled (19:6). We must admit either that Paul baptized people who were not

saved or that before a person may be filled with the Holy Spirit he must be truly saved.

In a series of revival meetings in Lewiston, Idaho, a man sought earnestly to be filled with the Holy Spirit with no result. That evening at home he was impressed with these words from John 14:17: "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive." Later, fully persuaded that he was still in the world and that he needed to be truly saved, he did the first works, was born again and soon found the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

The first condition for the fullness of the Holy Spirit is that we must be saved. The world cannot receive-only the Church!

2. Have a Right Motive

The second condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit is that you must have a right motive.

Some desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit simply because they are attracted to what they deem to be an ecstatic experience. Some, sad to say, want to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that, they hope, they will then be considered among the spiritually elite. These motives are objectionable, carnal and wrong.

Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8), was an improperly motivated person. He had believed. He was baptized. Though he did not himself want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, he did covet the authority and power of the apostles in leading others into the fullness of the blessing. Since his motive was wrong, Peter rebuked and censured him severely.

Murray W. Downey, once lecturer in Bible and Theology at the Canadian Bible College, said this: "We must decide whether the Holy Spirit is a power that we are to take hold of and use, or whether the Holy Spirit is a personal being who is to take hold of and use us."

Since the Spirit will testify of Christ (John 15:26) and will glorify Christ (16:14), the only proper motive for desiring to be filled with the Spirit is to obey the Scripture (Ephesians 5:18), to glorify Christ and to testify of Him. Any other motive is less than worthy.

The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself but to Christ. He would impress every Christian with the mysterious truth: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). The Holy Spirit is eclipsed by Christ.

We must desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit for the glory of God alone.

3. Have a Deep Desire to Be Filled

The third condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit is that you must have a deep desire to be filled.

To the uninitiated or the naive in the kingdom of God, it would be an utterly amazing thing that some Christians would not want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Yet this is a fact of little dispute.

One extremely honest man admitted that he ought to be a Spirit-filled Christian, "but," he said, "I don't want to be filled with the Spirit because if I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I will have to witness on my job and I'm not willing to do that; and God might ask me to do something I wouldn't want to do."

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). This deep desire means importunity. "How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!" (Luke 11:13, Amp). The Christian who wishes to be filled with the Spirit must not only be willing, but must hunger, thirst and persistently desire.

A certain lady in a prairie church had come to the altar seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. She had not been successful in her quest and was advised to go home, as the hour was late. Instead she determined, "I'm not leaving here until God fills me with the Holy Spirit." A few Christians who were still in the church gathered around the ministers to pray for the woman. Many laid their hands upon the believing woman. Others laid their hands upon those who were reaching her. The prayer of faith and desperation then brought a baptism of fire! (See Luke 3:16.)

It should be pointed out that a person need not wait any longer to be filled with the Holy Spirit than it takes to meet the conditions. Tarrying was necessary before Pentecost because the Holy Spirit was yet to come (24:49). After the Comforter came, there is no biblical record of tarrying. Those who were ready received the Holy Ghost without delay.

The modern tongues movement which demands that every believer speak in tongues has fallen into this error in an effort to substantiate its doctrine. There is not only error but danger in prolonged tarrying, for it then becomes possible for open hearts to receive a spirit other than the Holy Spirit. That this has happened there can be no doubt, for the author has had the unpleasant duty of joining in prayer with some for deliverance from demon tongues.

4. Be Obedient

The fourth condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit is that you must be obedient.

Acts 5:32 speaks of "the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him." Obedience is what the rebellious and unregenerate heart resents and resists. On the other side, obedience is consecration, surrender, yieldedness, confession and restitution. The all-inclusive word "obedience" allows for no resistance, resentment or rebellion. It calls for a military and instant response. This obedience in every area of life is a condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit.

We recall a young woman in nurse's training who sought to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Lord pointed out a confession which had to be made to secure the promised blessing. She must confess to her superior a misdemeanor that could occasion her dismissal after two years of training. It was not easy, but finally the dear Christian girl obeyed. She was forgiven and was not dismissed. And she found the fullness of the Holy Spirit that very evening.

There is no better rule for the hungry heart than, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it" (John 2:5).

5. Put the Flesh to Death

The fifth condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit is that you must be willing to put to death the flesh. "But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13).

What are the deeds of the body? What are the works of the flesh? Paul gives us a catalogue in Galatians 5:19-21:

  • Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some of these things which Paul denounces are recognized as heinous sins by the Church-but other sins in this list are allowed in evangelical churches without even a ripple of protest. Paul might also have gone on to enumerate "such things." He might have added the love of money, the love of the world, the lust of the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, rebellion, stubbornness, disobedience, stealing, lying, evil speaking, ad infinitum.

The flesh, the carnal nature, the self-life, the old man militates against the spiritual nature. The conflict is sometimes fierce and long. This little anecdote (though it exists in many variations) illustrates this principle well.

An Eskimo was explaining to a missionary that he had two dogs within his breast. The missionary was interested. "One is bad and one is good," the Eskimo went on, "and they are always fighting."

The missionary then asked, "Which one wins?"

The Eskimo replied, "Whichever one I say, 'Sic' em!' to!" The Eskimo had discovered and aptly described his carnal nature.

The carnal nature, the deeds of the body must be crucified and mortified. This can only be done through the Spirit (see Romans 8:13). To try to reckon ourselves dead to sin without the help of the Holy Spirit is to fail. The Lord would have us drive the sword of the Spirit through the heart of the black god in our lives.

A revival preacher was on one occasion speaking of the Holy Spirit and death to self. A man came to him admitting, "I would rather die than give in to God." To this the veteran preacher replied, "Brother, do both."

Death to self is the door to life in the Spirit. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (8:2).

6. Believe God

The sixth and perhaps most important condition for the filling of the Holy Spirit is that you must believe God.

There is an abundance of teaching on the first five conditions for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Many indeed meet some of the conditions discussed here and then fail to go on and take by faith the fullness of God. Instead, as spiritual vacuums, they are susceptible to the resurgence of self and sin defeated in earlier dedication and death. Negative emphasis is not enough. Positive, aggressive faith is needed to bring the seeker the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

To this necessity of faith the Scripture abundantly attests. Paul made it clear to the Galatians that the Spirit was received by faith (3:2). Jesus declared, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24).

We believe that one of the principles of the doctrine of Christ, the laying on of hands (Hebrews 6:1-2), is sometimes helpful to the one who seeks to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The laying on of hands for the filling of the Holy Spirit finds New Testament precedent in Acts 8 and Acts 19. While the laying on of hands can be an aid to positive faith, it ought to be observed here that the laying on of hands is not the only way, nor a condition itself, to the filling of the Holy Spirit. The experience of Cornelius is a case in point (Acts 10). He was filled with the Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands. Indeed, the Bible warns, "Lay hands suddenly on no man" (1 Timothy 5:22).

What will happen when you are filled with the Holy Spirit? What is the scriptural evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit?

You Will Know

Initially, you will know that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. With the context clearly relating to the coming of the Comforter, Jesus says:

  • At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:20-21)

The words "know" and "manifest" are very positive and definite. We believe that persons who do not know for sure that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit have never been filled. It is a sad occurrence indeed to hear Christian workers who have been serving the Lord for years say, "I don't know if I ever have been filled with the Holy Spirit."

In the booklet "Keys to the Deeper Life," page 31, Dr. A.W. Tozer has this to say:

  • Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New, nor in Christian testimony as found in the writings of the saints as far as my knowledge goes, was any believer ever filled with the Holy Spirit who did not know he had been filled. Neither was anyone filled who did not know when he was filled. And no one was ever filled gradually.

He goes further to say this:

  • Behind these three trees many halfhearted souls have tried to hide like Adam from the presence of the Lord, but they are not good enough hiding places. The man who does not know when he was filled was never filled (though of course it is possible to forget the date). And the man who hopes to be filled gradually will never be filled at all.

Freedom

When you have been filled with the Holy Spirit there will be freedom. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). The tyranny of the rule of sin is broken by the Holy Spirit.

Power for Witnessing

There will be power for witnessing when you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me" (Acts 1:8). The flaming witness for Christ finds power through the Holy Spirit.

Manifestations of Gifts

When you have been filled with the Holy Spirit there will be the manifestation of one or more of the supernatural gifts according to the will of God. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal" (1 Corinthians 12:7). " All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit dividing to every man severally as he will" (12:11). Many Christians have these gifts but do not recognize their operation or working. The proper attitude of one who has been filled with the Holy Spirit is to seek the Lord that he might know the gift or gifts that are in his life. The gifts that are present are to be stirred up (2 Timothy 1:6), and other gifts may be coveted earnestly (1 Corinthians 12:31) and received according to the will of God.

The fruit of the Spirit is universal evidence of the filling of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

The filling of the Holy Spirit should not be regarded as an inoculation against sin. It is an experience which begins but ought never to end. "But ever be filled and stimulated with the (Holy) Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18, Amp). In Acts chapter 2 the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. In the fourth chapter they were filled again. Concerning repeated fillings of the Holy Spirit, one man of God said this: "The way back is the way you came the first time."

In the documentary film Eastward to Asia issued by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Dr. Graham is seen at one point addressing several thousand Indian Christian workers. The subject of his early-morning address is "Be Filled with the Spirit."

In his own inimitable way, Dr. Graham asks these questions: " Are you filled with the Spirit? Do you know it?"

We turn these questions to those of you who read these lines. Are you filled with the Spirit? Do you know it?

"Wherefore be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:17-18).

Dear Heavenly Father,

You know, dear Lord, that I want to be filled with the Holy Spirit and I now ask for His empowering presence in my life.

I come to You in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I confess my sin to You, Lord, and trust You for Your forgiveness and cleansing, for Your Word says that if we confess our sins You are faithful and just to forgive us our sins.

I also reject, renounce and repudiate Satan and all his works. I cast him out of my life. I take back all the ground I have ever given Satan, knowingly or unknowingly, and I give that ground to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also bring the self-life, the carnal nature, the old man to the cross, and by the Holy Spirit I crucify it and make it dead. I crucify, I mortify adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, arguing and evil lust.

Lord Jesus Christ, I mortify, I reckon dead by the Holy Spirit, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, rebellion, stubbornness, disobedience, all stealing and lying. The whole carnal nature I crucify and mortify by Your Holy Spirit. Every besetting sin, sins known and unknown, along with the propensity to yield to them, I crucify, I mortify, I put to death and reckon dead by the Holy Spirit.

And dear Lord, I now invite Your Holy Spirit to fill those areas of my life where sin resided. I invite Your Holy Spirit to fill and control those areas formerly yielded to Satan, and where self ruled and reigned, where the enemy usurped, I now invite the Holy Spirit to fill and control; Lord Jesus, fill me now.

Lord Jesus, by Your Holy Spirit, I am going to believe that You fill me now; by Your Holy Spirit I do believe now; Lord Jesus, by Your Holy Spirit I have believed and have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Impart to me those various gifts of the Holy Spirit that are in Your sovereign plan, according to Your perfect will.

Teach me, Lord, how to be filled and filled and filled with the Holy Spirit. May this experience be repeated over and over again in my life.

With thanksgiving and gratitude I pray, in the powerful and all-prevailing name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.