“for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.”
– Luke 1:15, NIV
A certain priest named Zecharias and his wife, Elizabeth, were advanced in years and without children. They were righteous in the sight of God and walked blamelessly in keeping the commandments of God. While Zacharias was performing his priestly duties in the temple, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled and afraid, but the angel delivered his message. Zacharias and Elizabeth would be the parents of a son whom they were to name John. The son would become known as John the Baptist.
The role of the Holy Spirit in John the Baptist’s life is of great interest to us. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ. In Luke 7:26 Jesus said that John was not only a prophet, but more than a prophet. As a prophet, and the forerunner, John’s entire life would be powerfully influenced by the Holy Spirit. Luke writes (v. 15), “and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”
When Was John Filled?
Why was John Filled?
Old Testament and New Testament
Some Old Testament believers were “filled” with the Spirit. Luke uses the term plesthesetai, which is the future tense of pimplemi. As Stronstad (pp. 18-19) points out the Septuagint uses the Greek term pimplemi in connection with the Spirit several times. He includes Exodus 28:3; 31:3; 35:31; and Deuteronomy 34:9. According to Kittel’s Dictionary (p. 130), only Luke uses this term in the New Testament with regard to the Holy Spirit. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament use the term in connection with authentication and power for service.
All this raises the question as to what difference there is between an Old Testament experience of being filled with the Spirit and the New Testament experience. This verse does not answer the question. However, in Acts 2:17 and 33 Luke emphasizes that the filling of the Spirit is now for all believers. As we will discover, any differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament center in Christ. We will take up the subject again later.
The Sovereignty of God
Kittel, Gerhard and Friedrich, Gerhard (editors), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Menzies, Robert P. Empowered for Witness. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1946.
Stronstad, Roger. The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1984.
Copyright 2000 © George M. Flattery