What is the difference between being filled by the Holy Spirit and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit?
Indwelling is a living presence associated with a home, abode, or even temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and
that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another
Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Being filled is more quantitative and has to do with capacity and abundance.
Ephesians 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be
filled with the Spirit;
filled = plēroō = 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full, 1a) to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, 2) to render full, i.e. to complete - Thayer
In the Ephesians passage the context is contrasting the life Christians are called to with the life those in the world live. The exhortation to be filled implies that this is a choice Christians can and should make.
We get a picture of the capacity for "filling" as a variable in Galatians;
Galatians 5:16-17 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall
not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the
Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the
one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
The idea we get is that while all Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, we have a responsibility to turn from the flesh so that his work would be less hindered.
There is another description of the work of the Holy Spirit that can be confusing. In the early church the Holy Spirit was "poured out", "came down", and "fell upon" Christians with all sorts of manifestations or miraculous gifts.
Acts 8:13-17 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was
baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the
miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were
at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they
sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed
for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was
fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the
Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received
the Holy Ghost.
We see this at Pentecost and Peter describes it as prophesied by Joel;
Acts 2:16-17 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out
of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall
This presents us with a picture that shows the Holy Spirit;
- Living inside each Christian (dwelling)
- Working inside each Christian (filling)
- Manifesting gifts in the early church (falling on)