Where the world comes to study the Bible

Q. How does the Holy Spirit and filling work?

Can you clarify Numbers 11:17, 25? Many versions have translated it that God will take some of the Spirit which is upon Moses and give it to the seventy elders. In this sense, it seems like 2 Kings 2:9, where Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of Elijah's spirit - which I interpret as the Holy Spirit. So, is it right to say that God's spirit can be "some", "double" or "full" in a person? How can it be a varied amounts? Will that support what the New Testament says about being filled with the Holy Spirit? Also how do we reconcile the idea that Jesus is in God the Father, and that Jesus is in us, and that we are in Jesus and God the Father? Lastly, how can it be possible that multiple spirits can be in a person, as in the account of a person who has any demons within him in the gospel?




You have asked questions which could take a good deal of time to answer. You also have asked some questions for which there is no answer this side of heaven.

So I begin by reminding you of this verse:

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).

I believe this means that some things are “secret things,” which belong to our Lord, and for which He has not given us the answer.  To spend a lot of time and energy to try to find answers which God has not provided would not be a good use of time.  If God has answered it, then it may take effort on your part to study it.  If the answer is too hidden, this effort may not be worthwhile.  I believe that the important issues are dealt with both clearly and repeatedly in the Bible, so the important answers should be found by anyone looking diligently (see Proverbs 2; Psalm 119).

Regarding the matter of a double portion of the Spirit.  I would agree that it is the Holy Spirit.  I would also say that it is clear that God also gave the Spirit to Israel’s leaders, for the wisdom they needed to lead God’s people.  We know this is true of Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9), Elijah and Elisha, of kings like Saul (1 Samuel 10:6-13) and David (1 Samuel 16:13). as well as the 70 elders who were to help Moses judge the Israelites (see Exodus 18:11-27; Numbers 11:17, 25-30).

Regarding the “double portion” of the Spirit, this is the only instance I know of in the Bible where this request is made and granted, and so I would not consider this the norm, but rather an exception.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, there are a number of differences from the Old Testament.

The gift of the Holy Spirit (His presence in the believer) is given to all who believe in Jesus (Acts 2:38; 10:45).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at the time of one’s conversion (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5; 10:45-48). 

When it comes to Spiritual Gifts, it is a different matter.  While every believer receives a certain spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11), which gift is given, the specific use or application of that gift, and the measure of its effectiveness is something God sovereignly bestows:

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

When the Scripture commands believers to be “filled with the Spirit” I believe that is a command to every believer to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).  When a person is described as being “full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3, 5) this tends to characterize a person’s entire life, while being “filled with the Spirit” can be used to describe a person under the Spirit’s control at that moment (Acts 4:8).

My sense of the New Testament is that a person does not initiate their being filled with the Spirit, or their reception of a particular spiritual gift because this is something God does at His initiative (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

As to your last question, I do not believe that we can fully explain such things, because they are mysteries, beyond our comprehension.  We must simply believe them, by faith, just as Abraham believed that God would give him a son in his old age, or as Mary believed that God would give her a child, although she was a virgin.

For some of your questions I suggest you use the search box on the home page of  To type in your question will point you to a number of articles on our site.


Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)

Report Inappropriate Ad