And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (see Acts 2:1-4).
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Ghost? It means that all sin has been crowded out; oil and water do not mix, neither do the Holy Spirit and sin. They are opposites. A vessel may be full of oil, but when water is poured in and it is filled completely, there is no longer any oil in the vessel; the water pushes the oil out. This is but an illustration of what the Holy Ghost does. His infilling banishes sin from the heart. That is exactly what took place on the Day of Pentecost—“And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.”
We may look at this truth in another way and say that the individual has given himself over completely to God. The Third Person of the Trinity takes possession of him, not arbitrarily, or by force, but because the individual chooses for the Holy Ghost to become his Owner. He surrenders all to God, and every area of his personality is inhabited by the Holy Ghost. Thus, there is no place left for the sin-nature; Pentecost sanctifies.
There is still another way to approach this truth. In speaking of the deity of Christ, there are those who talk about His ethical rather than His metaphysical deity. They hold that Christ is one with God the Father in spirit, or purpose, but not one with Him in substance. The orthodox Christian Church, however, has not accepted this interpretation of the deity of Jesus Christ. It is not enough to say that He’s ethically one with God. He is that, but He is more than that; He is one with God in substance. They are of the same essence. Now when a Christian is filled with the Holy Ghost, it does not mean that he then becomes one with God in substance; he does not, in other words, become God. He is still a human being. The relationship which is indicated by the infilling of the Holy Ghost is not a metaphysical one, a substance-thing; it is ethical in character.
I do not mean by this that a man when he is sanctified by the baptism with the Holy Ghost becomes one with God in purpose, or will, in the same sense in which Jesus was one with God in purpose and will. Jesus had an infinite and all-powerful personality; that we do not have. He could carry out His volitions and decisions in a way that no finite being could ever carry them out, even though that finite being might be filled with the Holy Ghost. Further, human beings not only are finite, but their finiteness has been marred by sin. Their minds, even when they have been filled with the Holy Ghost are not all-wise, but are subject to mistakes and other effects which have come upon them through sin. Those infirmities of the flesh, as they are sometimes called, stay with us after we are sanctified. Therefore, we must remember that when we are infilled with the Holy Ghost we do not even ethically stand in the same relation to God that Christ did. However, we can be one with God in spirit and purpose, in that from the standpoint of inner motive we have no other intention but to do the will of God.
This does not signify that our activities externally will always be perfect. Our motives on the inside have to express themselves through, let me say once more, finite creatures whose minds and bodies have been marred by sin. Because of this, we do not always realize all that we plan to do. The infilling of the Holy Ghost implies that there is no room left, from the standpoint of motive, for self and sin; we are wholly on God’s side and wholly determined to do His will. This is a matter of choice. This state we have come into by choice and not by coercion. It is a wonderful heart condition which God wants and we want, which God has chosen and we have chosen. Such a close or ethical union between God and man always generates new spiritual power in this world. Pentecost brought about a great forward movement in the Christian Church when it first came and a real Pentecost still results in a mighty forward movement for God and His kingdom.
This was written by Stephen S White, in the Herald of Holiness, 44(43), December 28, 1955