Question: “Is a believer supposed to be able to feel the Holy
Answer: While certain ministries of the Holy Spirit may
involve a feeling, such as conviction of sin, comfort, and empowerment,
Scripture does not instruct us to base our relationship with the Holy Spirit on
how or what we feel. Every born-again believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Jesus told us that when the Comforter has come He will be with us and in us.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with
you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither
sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in
you” (John 14:16-17). In other
words, Jesus is sending one like Himself to be with us and in us.
the Holy Spirit is with us because God’s Word tells us that it is so. Every
born-again believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but not every believer is
controlled by the Holy Spirit, and there is a distinct difference. When we step
out in our flesh, we are not under the control of the Holy Spirit even though we
are still indwelt by Him. The apostle Paul comments on this truth, and he uses
an illustration that helps us to understand. “Do not get drunk on wine, which
leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Many people read this verse and
interpret it to mean that the apostle Paul is speaking against wine. However,
the context of this passage is the walk and the warfare of the Spirit-filled
believer. Therefore, there is something more here than just a warning about
drinking too much wine.
When people are drunk with too much wine, they
exhibit certain characteristics: they become clumsy, their speech is slurred,
and their judgment is impaired. The apostle Paul sets up a comparison here. Just
as there are certain characteristics that identify someone who is controlled by
too much wine, there should also be certain characteristics that identify
someone who is controlled by the Holy Spirit. We read in Galatians 5:22-24
about the “fruit” of the Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit’s fruit, and it is
exhibited by the born-again believer who is under His control.
tense in Ephesians 5:18 indicates a continual process of “being
filled” by the Holy Spirit. Since it is an exhortation, it follows that it is
also possible to not be filled or controlled by the Spirit. The rest of
Ephesians 5 gives us the characteristics of a Spirit-filled believer. “Speak to
one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your
heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for
We are not filled with the Spirit because we feel we are,
but because this is the privilege and possession of the Christian. Being filled
or controlled by the Spirit is the result of walking in obedience to the Lord.
This is a gift of grace and not an emotional feeling. Emotions can and will
deceive us, and we can work ourselves up into an emotional frenzy that is purely
from the flesh and not of the Holy Spirit. “So I say, live by the Spirit, and
you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature … Since we live by the
Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25).
Having said that, we cannot deny that there
are times when we can be overwhelmed by the presence and the power of the
Spirit, and this is often an emotional experience. When that happens, it is a
joy like no other. King David “danced with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14) when they brought up the Ark of the
Covenant to Jerusalem. Experiencing joy by the Spirit is the understanding that
as children of God we are being blessed by His grace. So, absolutely, the
ministries of the Holy Spirit can involve our feelings and emotions. At the same
time, we are not to base the assurance of our possession of the Holy Spirit on
how we feel.
Recommended Resource: The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life by Charles Stanley.