Christian Character and the Holy Spirit

Nine Words

But the fruit of the Spirit is

love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

“Compressed into these nine words we have not only the exact statement as to what Christian character is, but a description as well, of the life that Christ lived while here on earth. It is also a statement of that manner of life which He would have the Christian experience here and now. These nine words form a Bible definition of what is meant by the phrase, ‘For to me to live is Christ.’ Though the world strives at a shadow of what these nine words represent, the reality is foreign to human nature, even when that nature is at its best. These graces, as here presented, are exotics and are never found in human nature unless produced there by the power of God. They are the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ Christian character, therefore, is not developed or ‘built’ through human attention and energy

“There are…two principles of life which are open to the Child of God: the carnal walk which is by the energy of the flesh, ‘as men,’ and the spiritual walk which is by the energy of the Spirit, or as Christ. This passage in Galatians states, ‘This I say the Walk in the Spirit [lit. by means of the Spirit], and ye shall not fulfill the lust [desires] of the flesh.’ These two principles are absolutely opposed to each other and therefore cannot be mingled. Walking by means of the Spirit, or ‘being led by the Spirit,’ is not the flesh being helped in some degree by the Spirit. It is said to be a direct accomplishment of the Spirit in spite of the opposition of the flesh.

“The nine words which define Christian character may be traced through the New Testament and, when so traced, it will be found, (1) that they are always present as being divine characteristics, though they sometimes have a shadow of their reality in the relationships and ideals of the world; (2) they are assuredly expected by God in the believer’s life; and, (3) they are always produced only by the Spirit of God.” *


* He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 44-48)


Genuine Faith Produces Good Works

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable,

gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits,

without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

James 3:17-18  (NKJV)

A person who is born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit will show outward evidence of that inner transformation. Conversely, a person who does not have the Spirit of God in them will eventually show their true colors by what they say and how they act.

In the Epistle of James, there is a section about faith vs. works (2:14-26) that is often misinterpreted, or at least misunderstood. The epistle is directed to believers; it is not an epistle telling unbelievers how to be saved! James’ purpose is to explain to believers how they can tell genuine faith from a phony or showy faith that talks a big talk. This was the problem in his day when Pharisees came into an assembly of Christians and announced, “I’m a Christian just like you. I’m right with God. Listen to what I have to say because I’m a teacher sent by God.” These were Pharisees who mixed the grace of God with displays of colorful clothing, lavish ceremonies, and complicated rules and traditions. They insisted that believers in Jesus Christ also obey the Law of Moses and follow the Temple elders. These Pharisees were educated, articulate, persuasive, respected religious people! Should James’ readers follow them?

Of course, the best way to spot a false teacher is to see if they teach the truth or not! If they teach false doctrine, then reject them (Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 1 John 4:2-3). Another way to detect a false teacher is to evaluate their works. People can say anything, but their actions will give them away.  That’s the point James makes in his faith vs. works treatise: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? James 2:14 (NKJV). If this “someone” says he has great faith but his works contradict what he says, that kind of faith won’t save him—it’s a hollow, empty, dead faith. “… faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17, 26).

The hypothetical discussion continues in 2:18 when this “someone” points to his works: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” The “someone” who we now know is an ultra-religious Pharisee, a false teacher, upholds his “works” as superior to the other person’s “mere” faith. The Pharisee points to his meticulous observance of a kosher diet, frequent prayers, regular fasting, observance of holy days, fine religious clothing, precise tithing, an all the ceremonies of the Temple as the evidence of his faith. God is not impressed. These are not works at all! How do we know, because James describes their true works: bitter envy, self-seeking, boasting, lying against the truth (3:14). James assures us, “This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (3:15).

Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh!” (3:12). The answers to the two questions are No! James concludes with this guidance: watch to see what kind of fruit that fig tree produces. What kind of fruit does the grapevine yield? Watch those teachers and look for evidence of spiritual fruit that comes from above.


“…be filled with the Spirit” – Part 3

It bears repeating before we look at an essential aspect of being “filled with the Spirit” that this “filling” is not something that can be achieved by willpower, determination, self-discipline, or “grit.”  It is the natural result of a redeemed life yielded to the Lord Jesus Christ and moment-by-moment control by the Holy Spirit. If you are not born-again by faith in Jesus Christ, then all the self-help or self-reformation programs will not produce eternal life. (Read John 3:3-18 for a clear explanation of how faith alone can produce eternal life.)

Lewis Sperry Chafer offers us this gem on the meaning of being filled with the Spirit: *

“It is important to note that three times in the New Testament the effect of strong drink is put over against the Spirit-filled life (Luke 1:15; Acts 2:12-21; Ephesians 5:18). As strong drink stimulates the physical forces and men are prone to turn to it for help over the difficult places, so the child of God, facing an impossible responsibility of a heavenly walk and service, is directed to the Spirit as the source of all sufficiency. Every moment in a spiritual life is one of unmeasured need and super-human demands, and the supply of enabling power and grace must be as constantly received and employed. “As thy day, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25).

“To be filled with the Spirit is to have the Spirit fulfilling in us all that God intended Him to do when He placed Him there. [See previous posts on Regenerating, Indwelling, Baptizing, Sealing.] To be filled is not the problem of getting more of the Spirit: it is rather the problem of the spirit getting more of us. We shall never have more of the Spirit than the anointing which every true Christian has received. On the other hand, the Spirit may have all of the believer and thus be able to manifest in him the life and character of Christ. A spiritual person, then is one who experiences the divine purpose and plan in his daily life through the power of the indwelling Spirit. The character of that life will be the out-lived Christ. The cause of that life will be the unhindered indwelling Spirit (Ephesians 3:16-21; II Corinthians 3:18).

“The New Testament is clear as to just what the Spirit would produce in a fully adjusted life, and all of this revelation taken together forms the Bible definition of spirituality. These undertakings are distinctly assigned to the Holy Spirit, and are His manifestations in and through the Christian.” [Emphasis added.]


* He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 43-44)


“…be filled with the Spirit” – Part 2

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit

Ephesians 5:18

So far, we have looked at five ministries of the Holy Spirit to believers in the Church Age:

    • Regenerating

    • Indwelling

    • Baptizing

    • Sealing

    • Filling

The first four of these happened at salvation, maybe without our knowledge at the time, while the fifth is an ongoing process that is governed by our willingness to submit moment-by-moment and day-by-day to the inner work of the Holy Spirit.

The outline below gives a quick exposition of Ephesians 5:18.*

  1. The Ephesian Christians had been blessed with every “spiritual blessing.” v. 1:3

Evidently you can have “every spiritual blessing” such as the first four in the list above and still not be “filled.” Filling comes after the initial work of the Holy Spirit at salvation.

  1. We are not to think of the Holy Spirit like air or water that is the content of the filling.

Filled means “controlled by” cf. Luke 6:11. It is like the command, “fill the bucket with the hose.” I know that you don’t want me to stuff the hose into the bucket until the hose fills it. Likewise, we don’t put more and more of the Holy Spirit into us until we are “full.” The Holy Spirit is a Person and isn’t measured out a bit at a time. The Third Person of the Triune God lives inside each believer–we have ALL of Him! The Holy Spirit is the one filling us or controlling us. (The Holy Spirit is filling us with what Galatians 5:22-23 calls the fruit of the Spirit.)

  1. The command implies that not all Christians are “filled.”

Commanding us to be filled shows that this is different from Regenerating, Indwelling, Baptizing, Sealing which happen at salvation.

  1. The command proves that the responsibility for the infilling is ours.

We never find a command for any Christian to be indwelled or baptized of Spirit. God never commands us to do something that we are incapable of obeying.

  1. Present tense (in Greek) shows that God wants us to be filled continuously, not merely at times.

Regenerating, Indwelling, Baptizing, Sealing by the Holy Spirit are one-time events. Being filled (controlled) by the Holy Spirit is an ongoing action.

  1. Not to be filled means we are consciously disobeying the Lord’s command and this is sin.

The other command in the first half of the verse, “be not drunken with wine,” is something for which we are responsible. Being drunk means that a person is intoxicated with alcohol and that “spirit” controls their actions. Contrary to the thinking of some in our society, the intoxicated person is responsible for his/her actions when he/she decides to let another spirit control them.

The life of a Christian—a spiritual Christian—is a life controlled by the Holy Spirit.


  • Taken from The Persons of the Triune God, Dr. Alva J. McClain (class notes from Grace Seminary provided by George Zeller, Middletown Bible Church.)


“…be filled with the Spirit” – Part 1

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit

Ephesians 5:18

This will be our theme for the next several months as we examine the activity of God’s Spirit in the life of the believer. Our prior posts were about what the Holy Spirit did in a believer at the moment of salvation. The four that we looked at are among many things that happened when we were saved – Regenerating, Indwelling, Baptizing, Sealing. They required us to do one thing: believe. These were one-time acts that will not be repeated.

Today’s portion on Biblical Spirituality examines an activity of the Holy Spirit that takes place after salvation. Filling of the Holy Spirit involves our constant, willful participation. Ephesians 5:18 is a key, thematic verse which we will exegete (bring out the meaning of the text) in some detail next time.

Today is a short post because I want us to take our time to ponder the verse. I suggest that you memorize it because it is foundational to Biblical Spirituality. It is a verse often misinterpreted. It is at the heart of personal sanctification.

Some things to meditate about this week:

  • The first half of the verse contrasts with the second half. Can you see why?

  • What does it mean to “be filled”? How do we know when we are “full”?

  • be filled with the Spirit” is an imperative (command) in Greek. What does that imply?


A Prayer Meeting by the River

An email from George Zeller arrived in my Inbox this week and I had to post it here! We never know how God has prepared the way ahead of us when we take a step to share Christ with someone. It may be as simple as handing someone a Bible pamphlet, saying something kind to a cashier or bagger at the supermarket, or helping a neighbor. It may be just the lift they need to point them to a gracious and loving God!


“In his second missionary journey, Paul had wanted to go to Asia (probably to Ephesus), but God sent him and his missionary team in a different direction. In a night vision, a man [anér, a male individual] of Macedonia implored them to ‘come and help us’ (Acts 16:9). They obeyed the vision and arrived in Philippi of Macedonia, a city named after Philip, the father of Alexander the Great.

“Ironically, the ‘man’ they came to help turned out to be a group of women: ‘And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither’ (Acts 16:13). On this Sabbath [Saturday[, the day when the Jews would rest from their labors and worship, Paul and his companions went to a place where a group of women customarily met to pray to God. There they sat with and spoke to the women who had gathered to pray to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“What a touching scene it must have been! A group of devout women met by this scenic riverbank to call upon the name of the Lord. How we each need to develop prayer habits so as to meet with the Lord both alone and at times with other God-fearing souls. How fitting it is to find a quiet gathering place in the midst of God’s creation, far from the distractions and interruptions of the world!

“Consider how the Lord Jesus would often do the same: ‘He went up into a mountain apart [by Himself] to pray’ (Matt. 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). These women had been prepared by prayer and were ready to hear the Gospel message! From this humble prayer gathering the great church at Philippi could trace its origin.”

~George Zeller:




Ministries of the Holy Spirit – Sealing

“‘And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption’ (Ephesians 4:30. See also, II Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13). The ministry of the Spirit in sealing evidently represents the Godward aspect of the relationship – authority, responsibility, and a final transaction. It is ‘unto the day of redemption.’ The Spirit Himself is the seal and all who have the Spirit are sealed. This ministry of the Spirit is also performed when faith is exercised for salvation, and this ministry could not be repeated since the first sealing of any believer is ‘unto the day of redemption.’

“There are then, four ministries of the Spirit for the believer which are wrought the moment he is saved and are never accomplished a second time. He is said to be born, indwelt (or anointed) baptized, and sealed of the Spirit. It may also be added that these four operations of the Spirit in and for the child of God are not related to an experience. The Spirit may actualize all this to the believer after he is saved and it may then become the occasion for most blessed joy and consolation. These four general ministries which are performed in and for believers alike constitute the ‘Earnest of the Spirit’ (II Corinthians 1:22,; 5:5), and the ‘Firstfruits of the Spirit’ (Romans 8:23).”

From He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 38-39)

Our study in Biblical Spirituality continues with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in filling the believer.

Being “Filled with the Spirit” is the biblical term for true spirituality.


The Great Magnet

The Great Magnet

John 12:23-33

Three crosses were seen on Calvary’s hill. The center cross was the cross of redemption as the Saviour bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The center cross was meant for Barabbas whose name means “son of the father.” The Jewish people wanted Pilate to release this murderer and crucify the Holy One in his stead (Acts 3:14). As a result, the true “Son of the Father” went to the cross to suffer for sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones (1 Peter 3:18). Two criminals died, on the Lord’s left and right. One malefactor refused to believe. His was the cross of rejection. The other evildoer initially hurled insults at Christ (Matt.27:44), but later changed his mind and believed (Luke 23:39-43). His was the cross of reception.

Each cross carried a message. One Man died for sins, in the sinner’s place. One man died in his sins (John 8:24); the other man died with his sins forgiven (Acts 10:43).

Our Lord once predicted that when He would be lifted up on the cross. He would draw all men unto Himself (John 12:32-33). A magnet attracts metal; the center cross attracts all mankind. All men are drawn to the center cross where a decision must be made.

We each must answer this question: What will I do with Jesus who is called the Christ? (Matthew 27:22). Will I receive Him or reject Him? Which evildoer will I imitate? All men are drawn to the center cross where they must consider the crucified One and decide what they will do with Him. We can see the cross as foolishness or we can see the cross as the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18, 24).

We can receive Him or reject Him. Our decision will determine our destiny.

George Zeller:


Ministries of the Holy Spirit – Baptizing (2)

“The full Bible teaching of this theme is presented in a very few passages: Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Romans 6:3-4; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:5; Colossians 2:12. Of these passages, only one unfolds the meaning, “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13, cf. Romans 6:3). In no Scripture is this ministry of the Holy Spirit directly related to power or service. It has to do with the forming of the body of Christ out of living members, and when one is united vitally and organically to Christ, he has been “baptized into one body,” and has been “made to drink of one Spirit.”

“Being a member of the body of Christ anticipates service; but service is always related to another ministry than the baptism of the Spirit. Since the baptism of the spirit is the organic placing of the believer into Christ, it is that operation of God which establishes every position and standing of the Christian. No other divine undertaking in salvation is so far reaching in its effect. It is because of this new union to Christ that a Christian can be said to be “in Christ,” and being “in Christ” he partakes of all that Christ is—His life, His righteousness, and His glory. The unbeliever enters completely into this union with Christ the moment he believers.

“[In two synoptic Gospels the promise of the baptism with the Spirit is accompanied with the promise of baptism with fire (“I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he [Jesus the Messiah] that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” Matthew 3:11; “John [the Baptist] answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I [Jesus the Messiah] cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” Luke 3:16). Just what is meant by a baptism with fire has been the subject of much discussion. “Cloven tongues like as of fire” (Acts 2:3), sat on a few on the Day of Pentecost; but this has not been the experience of all believers. The judgment of the believer’s works at the judgment seat of Christ ( I Corinthians 3:9-15; II Corinthians 5:10) is the only contact with fire which is determined for all who are saved. It is therefore probable that this judgment is the baptism with fire. There is a deep correspondence between the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the baptism with fire. As the baptism with the Spirit provides the saved one with a perfect standing for time and eternity, so the baptism with fire will provide the saved one with a perfect state which will fit him for heaven itself. At the judgment seat of Christ, His eyes of fire (Revelation 1:14) will burn away all the dross and only that which is heavenly will abide.]

“The organic relationship to the body of Christ is accomplished as a part of the great divine undertaking in salvation which is performed when saving faith is exercised. There is no indication that this baptizing ministry of the Spirit would be undertaken a second time.”


He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 37-38)


Five ministries of the Holy Spirit to believers in the Church Age:

        • Regenerating

        • Indwelling

        • Baptizing

        • Sealing

        • Filling


Ministries of the Holy Spirit – Baptizing (1)

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,

whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;

and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:13

This is the key verse for the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. As always, the meaning of this verse is drawn from the context in which it appears. Three things to note:

This is not referring to water baptism

The literal meaning of the Greek word BAPTIZO is to immerse, submerge, soak, saturate in something. An example is plunging a garment into a container of dye to color the entire garment.

The word baptize (immerse) is also used figuratively in the Bible about a person being completely saturate or entirely immersed in or by an experience or circumstance. For example, John the Baptists literal baptizing his followers in water is extended to another “baptism” that is not with water, but the Holy Spirit to denote a complete, all-consuming experience. Figuratively then, being baptized “by fire” would change a person to the core.

Matthew 3:11 I [John the Baptist] indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he [Jesus] that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Acts 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

The context of I Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” describes the agent (the Holy Spirit) and the method (immersion) and the act (placing into the Body of Christ). Speaking about the body of Christ in the context (later described as the church, which is His Body, Ephesians 1:22-23), Paul explains how God the Holy Spirit places the believer into His Son.

Being a Christian is synonymous with being “in Christ.

The Bible knows nothing about a believer who is not “in Christ.”

Galatians 3:26-28 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul says: You were saved by faith in Jesus Christ (v. 26). You have also been baptized into Christ (v.27a) and as a result, you are to “wear” Christ every day like you would a shirt or coat (v. 27b). Thus, you are all one in Jesus Christ because you are in His Body (v.28).

We see then that water baptism does not place a believer into Christ’s Body, but the Holy Spirit who does that work. Most (if not all) Baptist churches require baptism by immersion in water for church membership and this is biblical. A few Baptist churches go a step further and believe that water baptism is necessary to become a member of the Body of Christ. That is unbiblical.

Galatians 3:26-28 + I Corinthians 12:13 makes it clear that God the Holy Spirit is the agent who, through a complete, spiritually immersive act, places us into the Body of Christ.


Useful references from Pastor George Zeller, Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, CT:

The Charismatic Movement—35 Doctrinal Issues

Does Water Baptism Save? (A Biblical Refutation of Baptismal Regeneration)

Spirit Baptism and I Corinthians 12:13 [Including Important Grammatical Considerations]

From Got Questions Ministries:

What does it mean to be in Christ?