Do you remember flying a kite as a child? Perhaps your initial attempts for lift-off were frustrated either because you lacked experience or there was poor wind movement. However, once the wind caught the kite and it seemingly was moving toward the third heaven, exhilaration immediately followed. Preacher, can you recall a parallel occasion when heralding God’s Word when suddenly the Spirit of God—the ultimate friendly force—did an extreme takeover?

How does the trumpeter of the sacred text position himself for such an occurrence? Is there a difference in the kind of Spirit-filling he can encounter while preaching? These questions will be addressed shortly. First, let’s briefly contemplate the glorious ministry of the Holy Spirit in relation to the believer, particularly to the preacher.

A Guided Tour on the Work of the Holy Spirit
Scholar, pastor, theologian and puritan John Owen wrote, “The great promise of the Old Testament, the principal object of the faith of hope of believers, was that of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh; but when that was accomplished, the principal remaining promise of the New Testament respects the coming of the Holy Spirit.”1 Your Christian journey began the moment you placed your trust in the finished work of Christ for your salvation. At that moment, instantaneously, you received a traveling companion for this most excellent Christian adventure: the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself predicted to His perplexed disciples the third member of the Trinity would indwell them. Speaking about the Spirit of truth, our beloved Lord promised in John 14:17, “for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Furthermore, in Acts 1:5 He boldly said, “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” In just days, these first followers of Jesus would be indwelt by the life-changing force of the Holy Spirit and be placed into the body of Christ—the church.

Indeed, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit would radically alter the spiritual prowess of these learners of Jesus. The soon departing One declared, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The Day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, certainly would be “a day that would live in infamy” because from that moment on, the child of God is indwelt, baptized and supernaturally energized by the Spirit of Christ.

Moreover, the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit produces great comfort for the purveyor of God’s truth (see Ephesians 1:13-14). “In the concept of sealing are the ideas of ownership, authority and responsibility; but above all and including the other ideas is that of security.”2 Paul, the great apostle and preacher could further assert, “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:22-23). This profound sense of security kept Paul faithfully declaring God’s Word in the midst of tremendous adversity (see 2 Corinthians 11:22-33).

The good news doesn’t end here because the Helper is a leader. Paul affirmed in Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Stephen Olford applies the import of this concept to ministers when he writes, “One thing is certain: No preacher can fulfill his ministry, in terms of his life and work, without the lordship and leading of the Holy Spirit.”3 God’s chosen servants would do well to follow the Spirit’s lead in their lives and ministries.

Another essential aspect of the ministry of the Spirit is illumination. John MacArthur describes illumination as “the work of the Holy Spirit that opens one’s spiritual eyes to comprehend the meaning of the Word of God.”4 There must be a prayerful dependence on God’s Holy Spirit for illumination to take place. E.K. Bailey rightly asserts in Preaching in Black & White, “prayer keeps us spiritual enough for the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds and hearts so we can not only see the truth of Scripture but be able to effectively communicate that truth to the people as well.”5

The ramifications of the Holy Spirit’s ministries to the believing pastor are enormous. He personally indwells us, baptizes us into the body of Christ, seals us, leads us and illumines our minds to understand the eternal truths in the Bible. If all these blessings aren’t enough, He fills us for victorious living. Let’s now probe the depths of the filling ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The General Filling Ministry of the Holy Spirit
John Walvoord offered sage advice for the believer when he affirmed, “From the standpoint of practical value to the individual Christian, no field of doctrine relating to the Holy Spirit is more vital than the subject of the filling of the Spirit.”6 All believers, not just pastors, are directed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 declares, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” The verb be filled is a present passive plural imperative, which commands children of God to allow themselves to be regularly filled.

It should be observed that to be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit. (The contrast of drunkenness and Spirit-filling should be noted in Eph. 5:18.) Let me illustrate this concept for you. When my three adult sons were younger, they loved baseball. My wife and I cherished taking them to a major league game each season. We would travel to a different stadium annually with them in tow, with a baseball glove in hand and wearing jerseys representing the home team. They only refused to wear the home team’s jersey one time. It was in Milwaukee in protest of “Bernie the Brewer,” who systematically slid into a huge beer vat if the Brewers hit a home run.

At each game, we purchased all three boys the official program with scorecard. By the ripe old age of 7, my sons kept the stats verbatim; they didn’t miss recording one single pitch. We would generally be surrounded by a mix of quiet and boisterous fans from the outset of the game. It was fascinating to watch a tranquil fan flag the beer man for refreshment. During the seventh inning stretch, a song would play over the loudspeakers as the fans stood. Inevitably, the man who previously was watching the game passively now swung and swayed to the rhythm of the song. What happened to cause this change? He was now controlled by the alcohol. Conversely, we are to be controlled by the Spirit.

Two vital questions concerning the general filling ministry of the Holy Spirit are: How is a Christian to become Spirit-filled? What are the results of this filling? To be filled with the Spirit, the believer must constantly and completely depend on His leading (Luke 4:1), submit to the authority of God’s Word (Colossians 3:16), confess all known sin (1 John 1:9) and surrender to the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Paul shows the results of this filling in Ephesians 5:18-21. The Spirit-filled believer will experience joy (vv. 18-19), thankfulness (v. 20) and submission (v. 21).

There is a general filling that is commanded for every believer. The herald of God’s message is no different. Can this ambassador of truth be Spirit-filled without having an extreme takeover of the Holy Spirit? The answer is yes. We saw in Ephesians 5:18 that every believer is to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. However, there are times when the sovereign Holy Spirit will choose supernaturally to intervene and guide God’s messenger as the wind seizes a kite. Let’s investigate the extraordinary filling of the Holy Spirit.

The Special Filling Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Ryrie articulates the difference between the special ministry of the Holy Spirit and the general ministry when he writes, “The first [special ministry] may be described as a sovereign act of God whereby He takes control of someone for special activity. The Greek phrase pimplemi pneumatos agiou emphasizes the event of being filled in contrast to the state that results from being filled [general ministry].”7 He clearly portrays an extreme takeover from a friendly force by depicting the Spirit’s special filling as “a sovereign act of God.”

Azurdia concurs when he asserts, “a specific phrase in Luke through Acts appears eight times8 and always in relationship to a prophetic kind of speaking.”9 He continues, “In each of these eight occurrences, the filling of the Spirit is presented as an event, a sovereign and spontaneous act of God related to the proclamation of truth.”10 In each passage where this phrase occurs, there is a bold declaration that is spoken from the person (or about the person) who is governed by God’s Holy Spirit.

Let’s look at multiple examples. Gabriel was dispatched from God to speak to Zacharias about his son (John the Baptist). The angel declared in Luke 1:15, “He also will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” John’s supernatural filling is manifested in the next two verses where his ministry was prophesied to be similar to Elijah’s “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” John’s fearless preaching was the hallmark of his life. Luke 3:7 demonstrates this: “Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?'”

Similarly, Elizabeth (John’s mother), and Zacharias gave an unabashed proclamation after being described as Spirit-filled. Immediately following Elizabeth’s description as being filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41), the very next verse offers, “Then she spoke with a loud voice and said [to Mary], ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'” Zacharias gave an extended vivid royal announcement after being described by Luke as Spirit-filled (see Luke 1:67-69).

Moreover, Peter offers a courageous response to the Sanhedrin subsequent to being described as Spirit-filled in Acts 4:8. Strengthened by the Spirit, he said, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man [the lame man of Acts 3] stands here before you whole.” Clearly God supernaturally empowered Peter with the Spirit that enabled him not to be intimidated by the religious hierarchy.

Who can predict the movement of God’s Spirit? Jesus said about Him in John 3:8 to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes.” Yet, God the Holy Spirit seems to act sovereignly in response to prayer. Acts 4:31 reveals the Holy Spirit’s answer to the apostles’ prayer. Luke wrote, “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.”

The special filling ministry of the Holy Spirit is amply testified to in the sacred Scriptures. There were times when the Spirit of God sovereignly chose to extemporaneously guide His servants to make a bold proclamation of truth. This God-driven event is different from what every believer is commanded to experience by the general filling of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion
How can the herald of God’s eternal Word best position himself for this extreme takeover from a friendly force? First, he should focus on the general filling of the Holy Spirit in obedience to the commands of Paul to be controlled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). The Holy Spirit’s spontaneous special fillings are more likely to happen to those who walk with God.

Furthermore, he should imitate the Lord Jesus who constantly pleased the Father. Jesus modeled not a life of independence but dependence upon the Father. The Holy Spirit delights to minister through those who trust God for His divine empowerment. According to Acts 4:31, when the apostles prayed, which showed reliance on God for enablement, God supernaturally filled them to preach the Word valiantly.

On those special occasions, may the Spirit of God sovereignly step in and control your preaching as the kite that is borne along by the wind. By the grace of God, position yourself for an extreme takeover from a friendly force.

1 John Owen, The Holy Spirit: His Gifts and Power (Scotland, UK: Christian Heritage, 2004), 43.
2 Charles C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1997), 120.
3 Stephen F. Olford and David L. Olford, Anointed Expository Preaching (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1998), 30.
4 John MacArthur, Preaching: How to Preach Biblically (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 78.
5 E.K. Bailey and Warren W. Wiersbe, Preaching in Black & White (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 59.
6 John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954), 189.
7 Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, 157.
8 The eight references are Luke 1:15, 41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17 and 13:9.
9 Arturo G. Azurdia, III, Spirit-Empowered Preaching (Ross-shire, GB: Mentor, 1998), 105.
10 Ibid.

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