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I'm aware that Cessationists do not believe in spiritual gifts. However, how do they view the process of being filled with the Holy Spirit?

Tozer's How to be filled with the holy spirit defines the process as a very dramatic, sudden process. Do Cessationists also take this view, or do they view it as a more gradual process?


Appendix - List of verses on "being filled with the Holy Spirit".

  • And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness [Luke 4:1, ESV]
  • 8 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin. [Micah 3:8, ESV]
  • 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [Ephesians 5:18, ESV]
  • When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. [Acts 2:1-4, ESV]
  • 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, [Acts 4:8, ESV]
  • 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. [Acts 4:31, ESV]
  • 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. [Acts 6:3-5, ESV]
  • 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. [Acts 7:54, ESV]
  • 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” [Acts 9:17, ESV]
  • 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. [Acts 11:24, ESV]
  • 9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him [Acts 13:9, ESV]
  • 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. [Acts 13:52, ESV]
  • 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. [Luke 1:15, ESV]
  • 67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying [Luke 1:67, ESV]
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  • Interesting article about how to be filled. Is this agreed upon by a denomination? Aug 14, 2012 at 0:27
  • @GregMcNulty: I don't understand your question. Is your "is this agreed upon by a denomination?" asking about Tozer's essay or the original question?
    – user1694
    Aug 14, 2012 at 0:41
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    @GregMcNulty - Tozer and A.B. Simpson were involved in starting the Christian Missionary Alliance church. They tend to still highly respect Tozer's views. I used to attend one that was very good buy usual not all churches under the same banner are similiar.
    – Mike
    Aug 14, 2012 at 5:46

2 Answers 2

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A Cessationists can believe that a person is ‘filled with the Spirit’ in the sense and way described, but generally they do not. An example of a Cessationist that believed in being filled with the Spirit would be Jonathan Edwards but not exactly as Tozer would explain it. However, at the time of Tozer, the idea of being filled became viewed as a more of a ‘one time’ experience, after conversion, according to the influence of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement. Later on people like Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones argued that a person can be filled ‘many times’ and this was nothing more than a kind of personal Revival that can happen whenever God in his sovereign will allows it, typically in response to praying for revival.

To confuse the issue, various views and distinction of words cropped up, where people distinguished between ‘being filled’ versus having a revival, etc., as ‘a filling’ could be thought more along the lines of general, slow and steady ‘sanctification’, but an ‘outpouring of the Spirit’ was something else. In this confusing time when every theologian had there favorite terms, I thought it was pretty clever of Billy Graham to say ‘I don’t care how you get it, just get.’ (regarding the filling of the Holy Spirit)

For a very insightful view of how a Cessationist describes special fillings or outpourings of the Spirit and how it really happens, I would read this Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls, In Northampton and the Neighbouring Towns and Villages in New Hampshire, In New England, by Jonathan Edwards. He also has a very acute sense between real and counterfeit experiences during a revival in the book, Religious Affections.

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Hmm, I've never heard the term "Cessationist" before, but the description in that article petty much matches the beliefs of many churches that I've attended.

Anyway, most non-charismatic evangelicals that I've known -- fine, I'll call them "Cessationists" -- say that a person is "filled with the Spirit" at the moment that they accept Christ. "Salvation" and "being filled with the Spirit" are seen as either simultaneous events or two names for the same event. Charismatics will normally say that they are two distinct events. A person can be saved but not be filled with the Spirit until a later date.

Also note that charismatics normally say that when one is filled with the Spirit this immediately results in speaking in tongues, and that if you do not speak in tongues you are, ipso facto, not filled with the Spirit. Cessationists say that speaking in tongues is only one of many spiritual gifts, and one that is no longer given to believers. Cessationists distinguish the "sign gifts" of tongues and prophecy from the other spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 12, etc, like teaching and administration. They then say that we no longer have apostles, as Christ is no longer here to commission them, and we no longer have sign gifts, as they are not necessary.

The verse most often cited for this is 1 Cor 13:8-10

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

They then explain that "the perfect" is the New Testament canon: Now that we have the New Testament, we no longer need these sign gifts.

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  • I like the 1 Cor 13:8-10 explaination of "the perfect" as New Testament.
    – user1694
    Aug 14, 2012 at 21:27

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