Inward and Outward Fillings


The New Testament distinguishes two primary ways that believers can be filled with the Spirit. What are these two ways and why are they important?

While the manifestations of the Spirit are manifold, the New Testament distinguishes two primary ways in which believers can be filled with the Spirit:

1) The inward work of the Spirit produces Christ-like character and spiritual maturity. The Greek verb plêroô and its cognate plêrês refer to filling as a growing state of being. These words are used of spiritually mature believers like Stephen and Barnabas who are controlled by the Spirit (see Luke 4:1-2; Acts 6:3, 5; 7:55; 11:24; 13:52; Ephesians 5:18-19).

2) The outward work of the Spirit concerns divine empowerment for ministry and service. The Greek verb pimplêmi refers to filling as a temporary experience of the sovereign power of God that is evident in action. This word is used of specific manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people like Elizabeth, Peter, and Saul (see Luke 1:41-42, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17-20; 13:9-10).

A healthy Spirit-filled spirituality requires both kinds of filling, but there is an unfortunate tendency among Word-centered believers (WCBs) to stress the inward and neglect the outward, and among Spirit-centered believers (SCBs) to focus on the outward and minimize the inward. When this happens, a WCB can be strong in knowledge and/or character and shallow in power and deed. Churches and individuals who quench the outward work of the Spirit become ineffective in transformational ministry. Their explanation exceeds their experience.

On the other hand, an SCB can be strong in power and deed and shallow in knowledge and/or character. When experience runs ahead of biblical explanation, a person is vulnerable to deception and emotional manipulation. And when experience surpasses character, the Spirit is grieved and power is eventually lost. Power without character becomes more of a curse than a blessing and leads to the error of confusing spiritual manifestations with spiritual maturity.

Character and gifting are both important; we need the fruit of the Spirit (the inward work) as well as the power of the Spirit (the outward work). Purity and power work best together and reinforce each other. It is also important that we relate Spirit-filled spirituality to the ordinary affairs and challenges of life, and not limit the work of the Spirit to extraordinary phenomena.

A full-orbed spirituality involves grounding in biblical truth and sound doctrine (knowing), growing character and personal experience with God (being), and developing gifts and skills in the service of others (doing).

When a person or a group neglects any one of these three areas, distortions are inevitable. Because of our backgrounds and temperaments, some of us will naturally be attracted to knowing, some to being, and others to doing. It is wise to discern our personal tendencies and to seek balance in our thinking, affections, and choices through exposure to people in the body of Christ who will stretch and exhort us.

Taken from Ken Boa's Handbook to Spiritual Growth.

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