You Can Be Filled with God’s Spirit

Dr. W. A. Criswell
Ephesians 5:18  (Link for you to hear message)
10-24-71 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist
Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message. The title of the sermon is the
text itself, Filled with the Spirit, in Ephesians 5:18: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is
excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” In the Old Testament, in the prophecy of Joel, in the
second chapter and the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth verses, is the marvelous prophecy
of this day of grace and outpouring in which we live. “And it shall come to pass afterward,”
said the prophet Joel:
that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall
see visions:
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And also upon the servants and upon the handmaidens in those days will I
pour out of My Spirit.
[Joel 2:28-29]
There is a day coming, a great day coming says the prophet, when the Spirit of God
will not fall upon just a leader here, or there, or yonder—as upon a Samson, and a David,
and an Isaiah—but it will be poured out without measure upon all flesh: sons, daughters,
old men, young men. And then he says, “And even upon” and you have it translated
“servants,” and “handmaids,” “even upon the slaves”; no distinction in the outpouring, in the
empowering of the Spirit of God.
I do not know of a finer illustration of that than some of these things that I read in
books of homiletics. There are learned professors of homiletics—preaching—who write in
books that the greatest genius in the ministry that America has ever produced was one
John Jasper. He was a Negro slave; and as he sorted out with his hands tobacco in the
warehouse, the Holy Spirit of God came upon him. Upon a visit to Richmond, Virginia, to
the Foreign Mission Board, one time, the young man they sent out to the airport to get me
and take me to the board meeting, driving into the city, down one of those freeways, came
to a big bend in it, and as I looked at it, I said, “Well, why should not the freeway go
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Well, he said, “When the highway department condemned all the property— eminent
domain—for the building of this great expressway, they came to the church—the Sixth
Mount Zion Baptist Church—in Richmond. They came to the church of John Jasper, and
the people of Richmond said, ‘No, not a brick touched! It’s to stand there as a monument to
the preaching of the slave, John Jasper.’”
When you go into the city of Richmond down that freeway, you’ll make a great bend,
and there in the bend stands the Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, a monument to a slave,
John Jasper. “Up
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g y y p g
development. God never recedes; He never retracts. But He necessarily and inexorably
moves on. And every age and every dispensation is the foundation for a greater one unto
the consummation of the end of the world. His creation is followed by redemption, and His
redemption is followed by sanctification, and His sanctification is followed by glorification.
God intends that the saints shall inherit the earth [Matthew 5:5]. That is why the Scriptures
say the elect are never to be discouraged or troubled [John 14:1]. Convulsions of nature, and
of nations, and the dissolution of social institutions, and war, and desolation, these things
are but preliminaries to the great final triumph of God in Christ Jesus. “Fear not, little
children; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” [Luke 12:32]. The whole
spirit of the prophetic message and the revelation of God is that: it is up, “There’s a great
day coming!”
Now, the prophecy is of a special and deepening interest to us because it refers to
the day, the age in which we live. If I can continue reading now the passage of Scripture we
shared in the second chapter of Acts—the Pentecostal chapter—Simon Peter stood up and
said, “This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel” [Acts 2:16]; it’s this age, it’s this
day. This is the great hour of which the prophet spoke, and our lives are enmeshed in it.
Pentecost was a time set in heaven, just as the incarnation, the nativity of Christ was
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a time set in heaven. Paul will say, “In the fullness of time, Christ came to be born of a
woman” [Galatians 4:4]. The time was set in heaven; and when the Romans had made the
empire, and the Greeks had provided the language, and the Jews had Moses read in every
city, “In the fullness of time, Christ came to be born of a woman” a time set in heaven. His
crucifixion was [Matthew 27:32-50] at a time set in heaven. He is the Passover Lamb [1
Corinthians 5:7]. The resurrection [Matthew 28:5-9] was a time set in heaven; prophesied, “On
the third day, He shall rise from the dead” [Luke 18:33]. The ascension into heaven [Acts 1:9],
and the advent, the return of Christ [Acts 1:11], known but to God, is a time definitely set in
heaven. So this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a time known to God, prophesied by Joel
[Joel 2:28-29], and set in heaven.
As such, it is a one time experience. It is something that happened in God’s program
—kingdom development—that will never happen again. There will never be another
incarnation; Christ came one time to be born in a manger, one time [Luke 2:7-16]. So there is
one time that the Holy Spirit of God was poured out upon the earth, the beginning of a new
era, a new government, a new age of grace, a new dispensation. Now that was introduced
by the messenger, John the Baptist, the great forerunner. And he said:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but there cometh One after
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me who is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to loose; He shall
baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.
[Matthew 3:11]
And before the Lord ascended to heaven, He repeated that Johannine prophecy,
“For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many
days hence” [Acts 1:5]. Now this baptism of the Holy Spirit—this “pouring out” of the Holy
Spirit—was a once-for-all set date in heaven; and it came to pass at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4].
Now, John said, “I baptize with water, but He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit”
[Matthew 3:11]. And Jesus is the baptizer in the sense that He poured out the ascension gift.
In Luke 24:49, the Lord said: “Behold, I send the Promise of the Father upon you; tarry in
Jerusalem until it comes, until the promise is fulfilled, and ye be endued—clothed—with
power from on high.”
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the ascension gift of Christ, and in that sense He is
the baptizer [Matthew 3:11]. When He returned to heaven [Acts 1:9-10], after His death, burial,
and resurrection [Matthew 27:32-28:7], when He returned to glory He poured out upon this
world the Spirit without measure [Acts 2:1-4]. In that sense, He is the baptizer; Christ is the
baptizer, pouring out the Spirit [Matthew 3:11].
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But since Pentecost, the baptizer is the Spirit who baptizes into the body of Christ,
into the church. First Corinthians 12:13, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one
body.” Christ is the baptizer in the sense that He pours out the Spirit—the ascension gift—
from heaven [Acts 2:1-4]; but since that time, the Holy Spirit is the baptizer, and He baptizes
into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. When a man trusts Jesus as Savior, looks in faith
and repentance upon Christ, becomes a Christian [Acts 20:21; Ephesians 2:8], the Holy Spirit
baptizes him, adds him to the body of Christ; he becomes a member of the household of
faith [1 Corinthians 12:13]. And that is a one-time operation; and it happens when you are
saved. You are added, you are baptized into the body of Jesus.
Now could one be added and then taken out? Could he be placed in the body of
Christ and then removed, and then reinstated? Can you be saved and then lost, and saved
and lost? Added and taken out, made a part of the body of Christ and then cut off? Like cut
off your foot and then put your foot back on you; cut off your hand and put your hand back
on you; cut off your head, or cut off your arms and then put them back? Such an idea is
fanciful in anatomy; it is no less fanciful in Holy Scriptures. There is no such thing in the
Bible as being added to the body of Christ and then taken out of the body of Christ, and
then added to the body of Christ, lost and found, back and forth, “For by one Spirit are we
all baptized into the body of Christ” [1 C i thi 12 13] And that’s the work of the Holy Spirit
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all baptized into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. And that s the work of the Holy Spirit
when we’re saved. He baptizes us into the body of Christ; it is positional. It is something
God does for us, like writing our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Revelation 3:5, 20:12,
1521:27]. I could not do that, I’m not even up there; nor do I have the book in my hand, nor
would I know how to inscribe it. It is something God does. So the baptism of the Holy Spirit
is something God does for us. When we’re saved [Acts 20:21; Ephesians 2:8], we are added,
we are baptized into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13].
Well, what is this then that happens to us in the experience related here in Acts and
in the epistles? Without exception—and there’s no exception—without exception there is a
nomenclature that the inspired writers used, and they never vary from it: they never use
that word “baptize,” never. The only time you find it in the epistles and beginning in the
Book of Acts, the only time you’d find it is in the text that I read in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “By
one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ.” Well then, what is the word that they
use? Without exception it is one, and never varies, “And they were all,” Acts 2:4, at
Pentecost, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” The baptism places us in the
church, in the body of the Lord. Just like the symbol, we are baptized into the fellowship of
the church, and nobody becomes a member of the fellowship of the local church who does
not find himself walking with the Lord through the waters of the Jordan; we’re baptized into
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not find himself walking with the Lord through the waters of the Jordan; we re baptized into
the fellowship of the church. We are baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ [1
Corinthians 12:13]. Then what we experience, that is positional; something God does. There
is an experiential part of it, that’s something we feel and share. When God writes my name
in the Book of Life I don’t feel it, I didn’t even see it; I just know He promised that He did it
up there in heaven. But there is an experience in this also. And the experiential part of that
pouring out of the Holy Spirit is this being filled with the Holy Ghost. They never depart from
that word “filled.” At Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:4]. At Samaria
they were filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 8:14-17]. At Caesarea they were filled with the Holy
Spirit [Acts 10:44]. At Ephesus, they were filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 19:6]. The disciples
were filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-4]. Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 9:17].
Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 7:55]. There is never an exception to it: always
that one word.
And that is my text: “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the
Spirit—plerousthe —translated “filled,” plerousthe [Ephesians 5:18]. It is in the imperative
mood. There is never a commandment that we be “baptized with the Spirit”; that’s not in the
Bible, nor does it a
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e a p e o t t e e s a co a d e t t at e be ed t t e Sp t ut be ed,
plerousthe,” it is imperative mood; we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit [Ephesians
5:18]. We’re to be quickened, we’re to be alive. And a dead, dull, dry, dreary, boresome
Christian is a travesty on the name of Christ and an insult to God.
And that’s true with a preacher; a dull, dry, phlegmatic preacher. That’s true with a
deacon; a sorry, no-account, dead, good-for-nothing deacon. I don’t know why I’m looking
at you all. And a choir; I’m not saying you have to scream at the top of your voice all the
time, but I am saying if you sing softly, it ought to be done with intensity; I want to be able to
feel it down here. We’re under command to be filled with the Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]. And our
services ought to be the most gloriously interesting of any convocation, any attendance of
anything in the earth; there ought not to be any vaudeville you ever saw, any show you ever
attended, any game you ever witnessed, there ought to be nothing that rivals the intensity of
the interest of the services of God. Amen!
As you know, our glorious choirs—this marvelous Sanctuary Choir and our Chapel
Choir went out to the Cotton Bowl—sang. SMU would have lost that had it not been for my
praying. They would have. We won it for them. Well, I was out there, I took Cris and David
Yates; we were in the press box and all over the thing. Man, the people listening,
everybody intensely interested, and then the boys wanted to go to the midway.
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So I took what funds I had, all my life savings! I tell you if I ever saw gimmicks in my
life that’s the number one: it’s the midway out there. Went up and down that thing, I wasn’t
interested in doing that. You know, pitching those balls, and flinging out those quarters and
dimes trying to get a piece of glass and a stuffed teddy bear that you could buy for half as
much if you go to Woolworth’s or Kress; someplace. So I just looked. And as they went on
those tail-spinning rides and all the rest, well, I just watched the crowd. You just never saw
such an interesting thing in your life: pitching dimes in the hope to get a piece of glass
there, throwing that ball, taking that gun, shooting stars. Oh, man! The interest, they were
just glued to it. And as I watched them I thought, “What intensity of interest and response
for some thing that if I had it I would put it in the trash can, literally.” What interest, though;
the whole thing just riveted!
Then when we think about church, “Oh, dear me! Do I have to go to church?” And
look on the benediction like an amnesty, “I’ve got free!” Oh, no! Filled with the Spirit: a
command, plerousthe, to the preacher, to the deacon, to the choir, to the teacher, to the
leader, to every member; we ought to sparkle for God, we ought to be alive for God, like
putting your finger in a hot plug where you screw in a light, boy it ought to feel that way
when you touch one of us.
“B fill d ith th S i it” [E h i 5 18] l th i ti d It i t
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“Be ye filled with the Spirit” [Ephesians 5:18] plerousthe; imperative mood. It is present
tense. Now there’s no other way in the English language for us to describe the verbal
system. The Greeks never used tense. We do in English. I cannot talk, we cannot talk
without pigeonholing everything in a tense; it has to be past, or present, or future, or
pluperfect, future perfect, you can’t talk in English. But the Greeks didn’t do it that way; they
used their verbal system to describe kinds of action. For example, the whole aoristic verbal
system in Greek refers to just the fact of a thing, a pinpoint of a thing. And what we call the
present tense, plerousthe here means a continuous action. We’re not to be up—man I can
touch the feet of the angels—and we are really at it; and then the next day, why, we’re so
far removed and so dead and so unresponsive as though we never did know the Lord.
We’re to be happy, and glad, and praising God, and serving Jesus all the time, today, this
service, and then tonight at that service, and Monday just like Sunday, and Saturday, and
all over again. It’s a plerousthe present tense, it moves, it continues.
It is plural, plerousthe, it is plural; it’s everybody. We all are to share in that
marvelous quickening presence of the Spirit of God: the professional man, the steam fitter,
the fellow that picks up the garbage or sweeps out the floor, the lawyer, the doctor, all of us;
the pastor, the people, the singers, those who labor in teaching and pedagogical ministries,
all of us are to be filled with the Spirit [Ephesians 5:18]. There’s to be a quickening power that
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a o us a e to be ed t t e Sp t [ p es a s 5 8] e e s to be a qu c e g po e t at
moves in us, and the people ought to be able to see it.
Plerousthe, not only imperative mood, it is commanded. Not only present tense, it
continues. Not only plural number, it includes us all. But it is passive voice, plerousthe—
that is, the subject is acted upon—it is something that happens to the subject. “Plerousthe,
be ye filled with the Spirit”; it is something that the Spirit does to us. And Paul uses an
illustration here. You don’t quite get it because of the way it’s translated, “Be not drunk with
wine, wherein is excess; but be plerousthe,” passive voice, “filled with the Spirit” [Ephesians
Now let me show you the comparison that he’s making. When a man is under the
influence of alco
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shower and all around, and maybe at 3:00 o’ clock in the morning coming home. He’s
somebody else. He’s asotia ; he’s just abandoned himself. And he just attempts things,
what things a drunk man does, oh, you just, you hardly know.
There were a couple of drunks in the house upstairs, and one said to the other, “You
know, I’m going to jump out the window and fly around the house.” And the next day when
the other friend went to see him in the hospital, the guy lying there in the hospital bed said
to that friend, “Why didn’t you stop me?” And the other guy who was drunk with him said,
“Man, I thought you could do it.”
Now, that’s what it is to be under the influence of the Spirit of God; we are somebody
else, and things that we thought we could never do, man, we attempt them. We’re saying
things we never thought we could say, witnessing and testifying—bold, given to the work of
the Lord—filled with the Spirit, moving [Ephesians 5:18].
That’s why I think God will bless us so in our stewardship appeal. We’ve got the
heart, we have the trust, we have the commitment, we have the faith, we have the Spirit of
God working with us; and we are attempting things that never in the earth we would have
thought to attempt. We’re doing it because we’re moved by the Holy Spirit of God. And
that’s the way the Holy Spirit acts. He doesn’t lead us into little things, diminishing things,
d i i thi d t ti thi b t l h th S i it f G d it’
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and receiving things, and retreating things; but always when the Spirit of God moves it’s a
march, it’s a thrust, it’s a going. Man, look what God is doing through us!
When I was down there at the Panama Canal—been there several times and it’s a
miracle to me—did you know the mechanism of the running of that canal, those great gates,
after two generations is identical as those American engineers set it up? The reason it’s
such a great miracle, for one thing was government, after government, after government
attempted and failed ignominiously. You can go down there and see the attempt of the
French government. They were able to pursue it, pursue it—oh, maybe eight hundred
yards or something—and the big scar is still there, then they abandoned it. But the
American engineers were sent down there, and they did it. It’s one of the great engineering
feats of the history of mankind. Well, looking upon it, I thought of the song those engineers
sang after they had achieved that marvelous result:
Don’t send us back to a life that’s tame again
We who have shattered a continent’s spine;
Easy work, oh, we couldn’t do that again,
Haven’t you something that’s more in our line?
Now the next stanza all of you know:
Got any rivers you say are not crossable?
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Got a y e s you say a e ot c ossab e
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
We specialize in the wholly impossible,
Doing what nobody ever could do.
[title and author unknown]
Why, the spirit of that, of those American engineers, is the exact spirit of the apostle Paul
here, plerousthe, “filled with the Spirit” [Ephesians 5:18], passive voice, acted upon,
attempting, doing what you never thought just in human strength or ingenuity you could ever
achieve. Why, it’s a marvelous thing. It’s a glorious thing, led by the Spirit of God, this is
what we offer; seek, try, and by His grace shall do in His name.
Now we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal. I am praying the dear Lord that I have
this appeal on television. We’re going to do it today. You know what I have found as I talk
to these many people who listen to this television service? They say to me, “We do believe
that the most inspiring part of the hour is to see people come down that aisle and to the
Lord. It blesses our hearts.” And then if some of them are mean enough, they’ll say, “Why
don’t you stop some of that talking of yours, and let us see these people come down the
aisle?” Well, I’m going to take that as an admonition from God, even though it sounds like
the devil talking to me, I’m going to take that as an admonition of the Lord, and I’m going to
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do it. I’m going to quit before that time, and we’re going to let the quarter of a million people
or more see these that God has given us today.
The Lord has never failed in that. I have never preached here, morning and night for
twenty-seven years, no matter how cold or how hot, I’ve never preached here but that God
has given us a harvest. He has never failed. And I’m believing He will do it today. And you
television cameras, the people are going to see today, as they did last Sunday, how God
adds to His church. When I’m faithful to the Word and preach it, and when the people are
faithful and pray, we have every right to expect that God shall give us a harvest.
That’s you, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, out of the balcony,
down a stairway, into the aisle, here to the front, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. I’m
giving my heart to Jesus.” Or, “I’m putting my life in the fellowship of the church.” Do it
now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.

Author: Editor

An ordained Baptist minister. Worked for 10 years with a Christian publishing ministry where I was the circulation manager for a growing publication, The Sword of the Lord. I also did most of direct mail fundraising and promotion. I have pastored churches in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama & Arkansas. I served for some four years as Vice President of The Spoken Word of God ministry, Orlando, FL. This ministry was active in church planting in India and broadcasting the Scriptures via Trans World Radio and other radio outlets. My associate in this ministry later invited me to join him and his dad in starting a business working with churches providing multimedia equipment. I have done this work for the last 16 years. This blog, hopefully, will scratch an itch I have for communicating the Word of God to a broader audience via the Internet. I would be honored to hear from you via email.

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