Holy Spirit: Indwelling (Part 4)

We continue our study of some key wordings.


The Old Testament record speaks of those who were filled with the Spirit (Exodus 31:1-5; 35:30-35; Deuteronomy 34:9). The reference is to supernatural wisdom and inspiration.

The New Testament record (Matthew – Revelation) speaks of being filled with the Spirit. Different Greek words are used in the passages: (1) Pletho. This word is used of inspiration or prophetic work [John the baptizer (Luke 1:15 cf. 1:41 cf. 1:76), Elizabeth (Luke 1:41 cf. 1:42-45), Zacharias (Luke 1:67 cf. 1:67-79), the apostles (Acts 2:4), Peter (Acts 4:8), the apostles (Acts 4:31), Saul (Acts 9:17), Saul (Acts 13:9 cf. 13:9-12)]. All of these occurrences refer to miraculous indwelling. (2) Pleres. (a) This word is used of Jesus after He was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1 cf. 3:21-22). Jesus was miraculously anointed with the Spirit (Luke 4:18-19 cf. Acts 10:38). (b) This word is used of Stephen (Acts 6:3, 5 cf. 6:8, 10). This seems to refer to inspiration. Some have denied this based on the fact that hands were laid  on Stephen after he is said to be full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3, 5-6). It should be remembered that the laying on of hands was done for different reasons. Yes, the hand of the apostles could impart miraculous gifts (Acts 8:17-18; 19:6). However, such is not the only reason for the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands was used to ceremonially set one apart for work (e.g. Number 27:22-23; Acts 13:1-3). The context seems to refer to a miraculous indwelling (Acts 6:3 cf. 6:10; 6:5 cf. 6:8). (c) This word is used of Stephen who received a supernatural vision into heaven (Acts 7:55). (d) This word is used of Barnabas (Acts 11:19-24). I see no reason to understand this passage different from the previous. passages. (3) Pleroo(w). This word used of the disciples at Antioch – Pisidia (Acts 13:52), and it is commanded to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:18-19 cf. Colossians 3:16). These passages seem to refer to a figurative, non-miraculous indwelling. Marion Fox commented “(Bruce) Metzger helps to understand this word – ‘The ‘ow’ verbs usually express causation’ (Metzger, Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, p. 45)… It is evident that Paul employed a metonymy in Ephesians 5:18 as did Luke in Acts 13:52. The cause (the Holy Spirit) is put for the effect (obedience to the Scriptures)… Many brethren are guilty of the fallacy of inconsistency when they assert Ephesians 5:18 refers to the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If the personal indwelling is a promise, then it cannot be obeyed (Ephesians 5:18). Therefore Ephesians 5:18 cannot refer to a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It could be obeyed if the expression filled with the Spirit were a metonymy, and were equal to letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16)” (Fox, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, pp. 418-419). Foy Wallace Jr. has written, of paralleling Ephesians 5:18 with Colossians 3:16, “We have been told in quite a scholarly fashion that the two passages are not ‘completely parallel,’ and that the argument is not ‘sound reasoning’ because in Luke 1:41 Elizabeth ‘was filled with the Holy Spirit’ when ‘the babe leaped in her womb.’ …the illustration of Elizabeth does not illustrate, for the reason that when she was filled with the Spirit she was not obeying any command but was being acted upon. There is quite a difference in the phrase be filled with the Spirit and was filled with the Spirit. To the Ephesians the command be filled is the active imperative, a thing in the doing of which the person acts; but in the case of Elisabeth, was filled is passive, and she was acted upon” (Wallace, The Mission and Medium of the Holy Spirit, pp. 83-84). A few think that a miraculous indwelling is in view, even in these passages (Ephesians 5:18 and Acts 13:52). Marion Fox has written, “There is precedence for commanding one to use his miraculous gifts… (2 Timothy 1:6), therefore the possibility exists for this to refer to the miraculous” (Fox, ibid).

Spirit In

The Old Testament record speaks of those in whom was the Spirit (Genesis 41:38 cf. 41:14-37; Numbers 27:18-20). The reference is to inspiration.

The New Testament also speaks of those in whom was the Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwelt in Timothy and Paul (2 Timothy 1:13-14). How did the Spirit dwell in Timothy? There was a miraculously indwelling in Timothy (cf. 2 Timothy 1:6).

In The Spirit

Some passages speak of those who were “in the Spirit.” David was “in the Spirit” when he prophesied (Matthew 22:43). John was “in the Spirit” when he received the message of Revelation (Revelation 1:10; 4:2). “In the Spirit” at times refers to being under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Peter said, “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

Spirit Upon

The Old Testament record speaks of those on whom the Spirit came (Numbers 11:17-29; 24:2-4; Judges 3:9-10; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 11:5-6; 16:13-14; 19:20-23; 2 Kings 2:9, 15-16; 2 Chronicles 15:1-2; 20:14-15). This wording is associated with inspired wisdom (Numbers 11:17-29), super-natural strength (Judges 14:6; 15:14), and prophecy (1 Samuel 10:6, 10).

The New Testament also uses this same wording in a similar way. It is used of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35). It is used of Jesus’ anointing (Luke 4:18). It is used of the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8 cf. 2:4).

One of the mistakes made by many Bible students is that they overlook the supernatural context of many words and phrases about the Holy Spirit. We must be very careful to not make this mistake.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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