Be filled with the Spirit

From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). And Caleb said, 'I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.' Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, 'What can I do for you?'

She replied, 'Do me a special favour. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.' Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. (Jdg 1:11–5)

Springs in the desert

Acsah, Caleb's daughter, having been given land by her father in the Negev (an arid desert region), then asked him for springs of water. In answer to her request, Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs. In John's Gospel, Jesus used water to symbolize the Holy Spirit (Joh 7:37–9), because the Holy Spirit is as essential for spiritual life, as water is for physical life.

We live in a spiritually dry world. It's wonderful meeting with Christians in church, but when we get out into the world it's a dry place; it's as if we've been given land in the Negev. We need spiritual water while we live in this spiritual desert if we're to remain strong and do the works God has prepared for us to do (Eph 2:10).

Be filled!

Eph 5:18 tells us not to get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery (loose living), but to be filled with the Spirit. The Greek verb translated 'be filled' is in the present imperative tense. That means that God wants us to be filled with his Spirit, and to continue to be filled.

The Bible tells us to be filled, but it doesn't tell us how to be filled. God wouldn't tell us to do something that we cannot do, so how do we obey this instruction?

Ask and you will receive

First of all, we can ask him to fill us, just as Acsah asked her father for water in the Negev. The Bible says that when she asked him, he gave her the upper and lower springs. God wants us to be filled with his Spirit, so he's going to answer us when we ask him, because we are asking in accordance with his will (1Jo 5:14–5).

In Luk 11:11–3 Jesus said:

'Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!'

On that occasion Jesus was referring to the gift (baptism) of the Holy Spirit (Act 1:4–5), which is in addition to receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion (Joh 20:21–2). When we're baptized with the Holy Spirit, the Father is the giver, the Holy Spirit is the gift, and Jesus is the baptizer (Mar 1:7–8).

The baptism of the Spirit is a single event, and is permanent, whereas being filled with the Spirit is a recurring event. The disciples were filled with the Spirit when they were baptized with the Spirit at Pentecost (Act 2:3–4), but were filled again, a few days later, after they had prayed (Act 4:31).

Visible sign

When a person is filled with the Spirit their countenance can change. Moses went up the mountain and spent forty days and nights with God and when he came down his face was radiant; it was shining brightly, but he was unaware of it (Exo 34:29).

God is spirit (Joh 4:24), and having spent time in God's presence, his Spirit had been imparted to him and had produced a visible change in him.

Similarly, when the members of the Sanhedrin looked at Stephen, they saw that his face was like the face of an angel: it too was shining brightly (Act 6:15). Act 7:55 tells us why that was so: his face was shining because he was full of the Spirit.

When Christians are filled with the Spirit they can glow; there's something about them that makes them look different. Unbelievers often notice it, but they don't know what it is. That 'something' is God's presence radiating from them.

Aids to being filled

We can ask God to fill us with his Spirit, but there are things we can do that can help us to be filled. Anything we do that brings us closer to God will result in his Spirit being imparted to us in some measure.

Meeting together

Have you left a church meeting feeling full of joy? That's the Holy Spirit. By being in God's presence you've become filled with his Spirit. Luk 10:21 says: 'At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said…' One of the effects of being filled with the Spirit is a feeling of joy—an inexpressible and glorious joy that passes all understanding (1Pe 1:8–9).

Reading the Word

I get blessed every time I read the Word. I feel spiritually stronger and more powerful after I've read it. It charges me up; it's like a spiritual workout. Why is that? It's because I've been meeting with God.

The Word of God is living and active (Heb 4:12); it's the living word of the living God. It's anointed, and when we read it, some of its anointing—some of God's power and presence—is imparted to us.

It's impossible for anyone to read the Bible without being affected by it. Even unbelievers will be affected in some way because God is speaking to them through it. As they read it, the seed of God's Word is being sown into their hearts (Luk 8:11).


Even though we may not feel particularly anointed when we fast due to the physical effects of fasting, we are, nevertheless, drawing near to God.

Fasting is a God-appointed way to draw near to him. When we fast, even for short periods of time, we are demonstrating that spiritual things are more important to us than physical things (Mat 4:3–4). That will result in a greater anointing of his Spirit on our lives.

Jesus, already full of the Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the desert (Luk 4:1) and, after fasting, returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Luk 4:14). Can we afford to neglect such a God-given way to gain more power in our lives and ministries?

Praise and worship

We can praise and worship the Lord either quietly in our hearts or out loud in song. The chorus says: 'I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I will enter his courts with praise (Psa 100:4).' Praise and worship brings us into God's presence.

Psa 22:3 says that the Lord is enthroned on the praises of Israel (ESV). You will find that the Lord's presence is greater when we gather together to praise him, than when we praise him by ourselves.


Prayer is communion with God; it's fellowship with God. God is our loving heavenly Father, we are his children, and he loves us to speak to him. When we spend time in prayer we come into his presence and a measure of his Spirit is imparted to us.

Jesus said:

'Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.' (Mat 18:19–20)

As is the case with praise and worship, the Lord's presence is greater with us when we pray together than when we pray alone.

Praying in tongues

The Bible says that he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself (1Co 14:4). The Greek word translated 'edify' means to build or strengthen something. When we pray in tongues we build ourselves up spiritually. Why is that?

When we pray in tongues the Holy Spirit gives us the words. He then flows through us as we speak them out. In that way we become channels of the Spirit and are strengthened as we pray.

Final words

In our opening text Acsah asked her father for springs of water to make the land she'd been given productive. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as a spring of living water (Joh 7:38–9). We need to ask our heavenly Father to fill us with his Spirit so we can be spiritually productive on earth.

In answer to her request her father gave her the upper and lower springs. What do they represent? The upper springs are God filling us with his Spirit without us doing anything—which he will do on occasions—and the lower springs are us being filled with his Spirit as the result of something we have done.

There is a balance in Scripture between what God does for us, and what he wants us to do. Salvation comes from the Lord (Jon 2:9), but we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phi 2:12). That is something we have to do.

The same is true of being filled with the Spirit. Have you experienced the upper springs? Has God come upon you sovereignly from heaven and filled you with his Spirit? Then don't forget that he's also given you the lower springs—things you can do to be filled.

The Bible tells us to be filled with the Spirit. Let us do everything we can to be filled, and to continue to be filled.

Michael Graham
November 2003
Revised May 2023

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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