Posted by: rcottrill | April 21, 2014

Fill Me Now

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Words: Elwood Haines Stokes (b. Oct. 10, 1815; d. July 16, 1895)
Music: John Robson Sweney (b. Dec. 31, 1837; d. Apr. 10, 1899)

Wordwise Hymns (John Sweney)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Elwood Stokes wrote this hymn in 1879. Dr. Stokes was a pastor, one of the founders of a religious community in New Jersey, and president of the Ocean Grove Campmeeting Association. He felt there was a lack of hymns on the work of the Holy Spirit, so he wrote Fill Me Now. The camp’s director of music at the time, John Sweney, supplied the tune, testifying that while he was on his knees in prayer, “God seemed to speak the melody right into my heart.”

F illed and fulfilled–there’s often a connection between them. When you fill a pitcher with milk, you are also enabling it to fulfil the purpose for which it was designed. The relationship is so close that the Greek of the New Testament has one word (pleroo) which can mean either or both. The Greek word is used to describe a net full of fish–with the net’s purpose thus being fulfilled (Matt. 13:37-38).

Knowing this provides valuable insight, when it comes to a ministry of the Spirit of God. The Old Testament and the New speak of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps some are inclined to think of that in spatial terms, seeing it as similar to filling a pitcher. So when the Spirit in us is somehow depleted we need to be “topped up” in some way. But that is not it at all. To begin with, the Holy Spirit has all the attributes of deity, and He is therefore omnipresent–fully present everywhere at once.

The term describes not a physical experience, but a spiritual work of God in the believer’s life. What’s implied in Stoke’s repeated plea that the Spirit of God “bathe his brow” (CH-1 and CH-4) tends to get us off the track with regard to the meaning, though this may simply be poetic imagery for the comfort of the Spirit.

The Spirit’s filling refers to His empowering, the enabling grace given to us so we can fulfil the purposes of God. A man named Bezalel was filled with the Spirit to give him skill as a craftsman to construct Israel’s worship centre (Exod. 31:2-5). Zacharias with filled with the Spirit so that he might prophesy (Lk. 1:67-68). And when the early church faced persecution, they prayed for boldness to continue preaching the gospel. It was the filling of the Holy Spirit that equipped them to do so (Acts 4:29, 31).

CH-1) Hover o’er me, Holy Spirit,
Bathe my trembling heart and brow;
Fill me with Thy hallowed presence,
Come, O come and fill me now.

Fill me now, fill me now,
Jesus, come and fill me now;
Fill me with Thy hallowed presence,
Come, O come, and fill me now.

What Christian has never felt a sense of inadequacy to do the will of God, and live consistently in a way that pleases Him? But there is a problem with these lyrics, though we can certainly appreciate the sentiment they express. The text is based on the holiness doctrine of the need to tarry and plead for a “second blessing.” The difficulty lies in the basic implication of the hymn that we must ask and urge the Holy Spirit to fill us. No one in the Bible ever does that, nor are we ever commanded to do so.

First of all, each and every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God (e.g. Rom. 5:5; 8:9, 11; I Cor. 2:12; 6:19; II Cor. 5:5; Gal. 4:6). As to pleading for Him, even the words of Ephesians 5:19, “Be filled with the Spirit,” might be translated, “Be being fulfilled by the Spirit.” In other words, make sure you are in tune spiritually, so you will be receptive to His fulfilling work.

That is sometimes described as “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 25). Our walk involves a consist life of obedience and faith. A step by step trust in the Lord, and obedience to His Word. If we sin, we are to confess our sin (I Jn. 1:9), and take up our obedient, faith-filled walk again. When these things are true of us, the Spirit of God is able to fulfil His purpose in and through us. As we walk, He fills. The result is successful Christian living.

CH-3) I am weakness, full of weakness,
At Thy sacred feet I bow;
Blest, divine, eternal Spirit,
Fill with power and fill me now.

The evidence that we are walking (living) in the fullness of the Spirit will be seen in our lives in a practical way. Recently, I wrote a blog on a hymn about revival. The characteristics of a revived believer will do nicely here to describe a Spirit-filled believer. He or she will exhibit the following:

¤ A repentance of sin, and a desire to live a holy life
¤ A love for the Lord, and a longing to know Him and serve Him
¤ An enriching study and application of God’s Word
¤ A love for the people of God and a desire to fellowship regularly with them
¤ An earnestness and power in prevailing prayer
¤ A love for the great hymns and gospel songs of the church, and for singing them with others
¤ A passion to witness for Christ, and see others come to know Him

1) How is the Spirit of God fulfilling His purpose in you today (or this week)?

2) What other hymns about the ministry of the Spirit do you know and use?

Wordwise Hymns (John Sweney)
The Cyber Hymnal


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