There is a subtle but important distinction between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the filling of the Spirit. This brief document profiles these distinctions.
All believers receive the Gift and a gift. The Gift is the abiding, indwelling presence of God. This means, when a person becomes a committed believer and follower of Jesus Christ, God places on them, the seal of promise (Eph. 1:13), and places in them, the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16). The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit comforts (John 14:26), strengthens (Acts 1:8), guides (John 16:13), regenerates and renews (Titus 3:5), sanctifies (Romans 15:16), provides wisdom (Isaiah 11:2), helps (John 14:16), aids in prayer (Romans 8:26), and much more.
The Gift of the indwelling, abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, is amazing, wonderful, and a testimony to the grace of God—but there’s more. Not only are believers blessed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, believers can also be filled by the Holy Spirit, which means they are equipped, gifted, anointed, and empowered to be effective in spiritual service.
In Acts 2:38, Peter preached: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The “Gift” he referenced is the indwelling presence of the Spirit. The Spirit is given to every believer at the moment of salvation as a merciful gift of God.
When Peter preached: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10), he was referring to the filling or gifting of the Spirit. Whereas the indwelling presence of the Spirit reflects our seal and salvation, the filling or gifting of the Spirit reflects our equipping for service.
The gifting or filling that Peter refers to in 1 Peter 4:10 is vast and wonderous. Scripture notes there are at least three categories of gifting, each identified by distinct terms in the original Greek text:
- Phanerosisis the Greek term used to describe the sign or manifestational gifts. These gifts are profiled in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 and include wisdom or knowledge, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.
- Domais the Greek term used to describe gifts associated with particular callings. These gifts are associated with the work and calling of an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, and are profiled in Ephesians 4:11.
- Charismais the Greek term used to describe gifts given to aid in the fulfillment of the Great Commission work. These gifts include discernment/perception, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, leadership/administration, and mercy/compassion. These gifts are profiled in Romans 12:6-8.
Being filled with the Holy Spirit helps believers accomplish the will and work of God. Another way of stating this is: What God wants you to do, He will help you to do, and He does this by filling and equipping you with the Holy Spirit.
Watchmen have a tremendous calling. The days of serving the Lord are becoming more and more fraught with danger and resistance. In these last days, it is especially important to seek from God both guidance and supernatural equipping to be the light He has called you to be.
The Old Testament prophet Zachariah spoke well when he reminded a weary people that the Spirit is the source of strength and success: “Not by [your] might, nor by [your] power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
Some have likened the filling of the Holy Spirit to our muscular system. We have muscle, but we can develop that muscle by doing the certain things. For example, if we exercise, we become stronger and more able to do physical tasks, or, in biblical terms, “run the good race.” In the same way, believers have the Spirit—it is given at the moment of salvation, but we can do things to refine and develop particular spiritual attributes or areas of gifting in our lives. We develop areas of gifting as we surrender to the will of God, pray, study, give, serve, read the Word, witness, worship, and by being faithful. And just as muscle can atrophy with non-use, so can our spiritual muscles. It’s not that we leak or must continually pray that God would give us, once again, the Gift of the Spirit; but believers must remember it is only through the proper, focused, and earnest exercise of spiritual muscle, that the dynamic filling of the Holy Spirit can be realized.
Being filled with the Spirit can be a difficult concept to grasp and articulate. Being filled with the Spirit may sound like we are leaky vessels in need of God’s constant refilling. That is not the case. One cannot be more filled with God’s presence, for we are filled with His presence. The term “filled” is more an earthy concept than a spiritual one. In the faith, one is filled when they lean more on God than on self. When one works to develop the spiritual gift God has extended to them (such as teaching, serving, helping, giving, etc.), they experience joy and are renewed in the Spirit. This is akin to being filled. To be filled with the Spirit is to know that God is for you, with you, in you, and guiding you. To be filled with the Spirit is to know that you are His “noble instrument,” “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” To be filled with His Spirit is to be assured of His love and His desire to stand with you and work through you.
As we grow in faithfulness and in pursuing the will of God, the work of the Holy Spirit becomes more prominent in our lives. Being filled with the Holy Spirit results in our being more in step with the leading of God, and more able to accomplish the work of God.
The list of gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 is not a comprehensive listing. Through prayer, confirmation, and study in His Word, God will reveal your particular gift(s). Each spiritual gift is of equal value. The gift of teaching is equal in glory to the gift of serving. Likewise, the calling to serve as a missionary is equal in glory to the calling to serve in the nursery. The very best thing a believer can do is what God leads them to do. And the best way to accomplish that work is to ask God to help you refine, develop, and maximize (be filled with) the working of the Holy Spirit within you.
For additional information on this subject, please refer to the following live worship hour teachings:
 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).
*Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the King James Version.
 “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).
 “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things…” (John 14:26a)
 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8a).
 “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a).
 “…he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (Titus 3:5b).
 [By faith we are made] “acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:16b)
 “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding” (Isaiah 11:2a).
 “And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
 “…the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
 “…after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13b).
 Zodhiates, Spiros. Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1990), 1522
 Zodhiates, Spiros. Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1990), 1565
 Zodhiates, Spiros. Hebrew Greek Key Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1990), 1501
 “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).
 “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
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