Voices: 7 marks of the church: Filled by the Holy Spirit


This is the first in a seven-part series examining seven distinctive marks of the church. This began as a sermon series for Pine Forest Baptist Church in Vidor, where I am senior pastor.

The seven marks of the church are: being filled with the Holy Spirit, successful outreach, sound teaching, purposeful compassion, leadership development, dynamic worship and inspired vision.

The first mark of the authentic church is the Holy Spirit fills it.

Giving of the Holy Spirit

Jesus would not leave his first followers to fend for themselves but told them the Holy Spirit would empower them for a very specific mission. The Holy Spirit descended on them (Acts 2), touching off a world-changing revolution.

The Holy Spirit descended in the form of wind and fire (Acts 2:1-13). Often, in the Scriptures, wind is a symbol of regeneration, such as the valley of dry bones vision in Ezekiel 37.

Fire is symbolic of the presence of God. Moses encountered God at a bush that burned with fire but was not consumed. God’s presence was displayed in a pillar of fire that led the children of Israel at night through the wilderness.

The coming of the Holy Spirit was a physical and visible event. The Holy Spirit inaugurated a new covenant based on a personal relationship with each believer. The coming of the Holy Spirit made following Jesus much more of a personal experience than ever before.

Now, through Jesus’ sacrifice, the way for God to dwell with his people was made. A new covenant was established and is based on a personal relationship with God, rather than simply a corporate relationship.

Effects of the Holy Spirit

The tongues of fire, the symbol of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, came to rest on each of the disciples. They all were filled with the Holy Spirit—men and women, and not limited to a select few. The Holy Spirit had a powerful effect on these people. They began to speak boldly of the gospel of Jesus Christ in different languages.

Sign up for our weekly edition and get all our headlines in your inbox on Thursdays

The Holy Spirit came on them to empower the spread of the gospel. They were speaking about the magnificent acts of God. They were speaking the gospel to all who would listen to them. They had a boldness to speak about Jesus.

These Spirit-filled believers were compared to drunks. They were as bold, as talkative, as uninhibited as someone who has been drinking too much. Peter stood up to refute the claim of their intoxication (Acts 2:14-15).

They were not drunk. It was too early in the morning to be drunk. They also were not self-conscious. They were God-conscious and gospel-conscious.

They were under the influence, but not of alcohol. They were under the influence, the power, the filling of the Holy Spirit. They were not concerned about how they appeared. They were concerned about exposing people to the message of the gospel.

Some of the most talkative and outgoing people become introverts when it comes to sharing the gospel. People who will not stop talking will clam up in an instant when it comes to sharing their faith. If you discovered a cure for dementia, would you keep it to yourself? If you knew how to eradicate cancer, would you be afraid to share it?

We have been entrusted with the knowledge of how to have eternal life. The filling of the Holy Spirit is not just for the individual Christian’s holiness and sanctification. The filling of the Holy Spirit is to empower each believer to declare boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The first believers knew what had to be done. They had to share the message. Jesus told them their primary mission: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

This is the church’s primary mission, too.

Don’t avoid or dilute

Christians are to be as bold in sharing the gospel as a drunk person is self-confident. But what if you don’t want to get drunk? First, don’t drink. Second, if you don’t want to get drunk, water it down. Lessen the potency of the alcoholic beverage.

Many believers are not being filled by or under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Lack of filling might be related to not drinking deeply of God’s word. Just as getting drunk involves drinking a lot of alcohol, being filled with the Holy Spirit involves drinking deeply of God’s word.

If you are not experiencing the filling of the Holy Spirit, perhaps you are not drinking deeply of God’s word.

Maybe you are watering down the gospel. Many Christians lessen the potency of the gospel by trying to make it “less offensive” to the one hearing it. The watered-down gospel is no gospel at all.

People filled with the Holy Spirit proclaim the gospel boldly. Drunk people do not care what people think of them. They are just going to do what they do and probably regret it in the morning.

People filled by the Holy Spirit do not care what people think of them. They are going to proclaim the truth of the gospel boldly. People filled by the Holy Spirit are willing to risk it all for the sake of the gospel.

Through the gospel, human barriers are broken down. The Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak languages they didn’t know (Acts 2:9). They were able to spread the gospel to people from many places visiting Jerusalem.

The power of the gospel broke down socioeconomic barriers. The disciples were from Galilee a poorly educated, working-class area of anglers.

The power of the gospel broke down cultural barriers. The Holy Spirit filled both men and women and is still available for all believers, both male and female (Galatians 3:28).

The power of the gospel breaks down racial and ethnic barriers, too. Racism is antithetical to the gospel. Racism has no place in the hearts of followers of Jesus. The apostle Paul made significant points concerning the power of the gospel to break down racial and ethnic barriers (Colossians 3:11).

The Holy Spirit brought new power to believers to spread the gospel. A mark of an authentic church is the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Ben Karner is the senior pastor of Pine Forest Baptist Church in Vidor. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

We seek to connect God’s story and God’s people around the world. To learn more about God’s story, click here.

Send comments and feedback to Eric Black, our editor. For comments to be published, please specify “letter to the editor.” Maximum length for publication is 300 words.

More from Baptist Standard