Method 1:

17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17 ESV)

Method 2:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV)

Do Acts 9:17 and Ephesians 5:18-21 present different "methods" to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Why didn't Paul mention the "laying on of hands" by another believer in Ephesians 5:18-21 as an alternative means by which to be filled with the Holy Spirit?


  • 2
    The gift of the Holy Spirit is a decision of heaven, and NOT something that we earn by some work or rite/ceremony on earth.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 2:57

4 Answers 4


I do think that there are differences between Acts and Ephesians. *I do think that Ephesians not only describes the command to be filled with the Spirit, it also gives the very practical method by which a believer to be filled with the Spirit. The problem we all have is we largely ignore the practical way that is presented because it is so hard for us to do and at the same time so easy to ignore.

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul uses the imperative mood to command all believers to be filled with the Spirit.

Then he wrote a series of clauses that are part of the same sentence, but they have been added to the additional verses. In my opinion, Paul tells us how to be filled with the Spirit in those later verses:

  1. By Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns ... (verse 19).
  2. By Giving thanks for all things (verse 20)
  3. By Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (verse 21).

By doing these things it changes us in relation to the Holy Spirit, which leads us to being controlled by the Holy Spirit. Therefore being filled with the Spirit is not about some sort of ecstatic experience and more about living as He would have us to live. This is actually quite difficult to do consistently but nevertheless it is still a command.

Where it gets really hard for all of us, is I think Paul expanded on the last part in the verses that follow 5:22-6:9:

  1. Wives submit to one another by submitting to their husbands (5:21-24).
  2. Husbands submit to one another by loving their wives as Christ loved the church (5:25-33)
  3. Children submit to one another by obeying the parents in the Lord (6:4).
  4. Servants submit to one another by being obedient to their masters as if you were serving the Lord.
  • What about the laying on of hands? Any thoughts on that?
    – user38524
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 20:15
  • If being filled with Spirit is accomplished in the very practical way I described from the context of Ephesians then it would be without the laying on of hands.
    – Ken Banks
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 14:23
  • Then what do you make of Acts 9:17?
    – user38524
    Commented Aug 12, 2022 at 14:39

My answer to 2 Corinthians 6:16 a subtle reference to the Holy Spirit’s Deity? describes several different uses of the expression "holy spirit" as a non-physical substance (as opposed to a person of the Trinity).

  • A life spirit that forms the life-force of all living creatures:
  • A human spirit that distinguishes humans from other animals:
  • An ad hoc spirit that, perhaps temporarily, allows direct communication with God.
  • A holy spirit that combines with the human spirit to create the embryo of a new spirit being.

Acts 9:17 refers to the last case, where the laying on of hands combines God's spirit with one's own, typically following baptism.

Ephesians 5:18 refers to the second-last case, where one temporarily draws (or is given) extra spirit while communicating with God.


There are two matters here.

  1. Laying on of hands The practice of the laying on of hands occurs 31 times in the New Testament:
  • 3 times to bless someone (Matt 19:13, 15, Mark 10:16);
  • 8 times to arrest someone to put them in prison (Matt 26:50, Mark 14:46, Luke 20:19, 21:12, 22:53, John 7:44, Acts 12:1, 21:27);
  • 6 times to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17, 18, 19, 19:6, 1 Tim 4:14, 2 Tim 1:6);
  • 10 times to heal someone (Mark 5:23, 6:5, 8:23, 25, 16:18, Luke 4:40, 13:13, Acts 9:12, 17, 28:8);
  • 4 times with an unstated purpose but the context suggests that it was for the reception of the Holy Spirit or similar (Acts 6:6, 13:3, 1 Tim 5:22, Heb 6:2).
  1. Being filled with the Holy Spirit

Being filled with the Holy Spirit in the NT is only sometimes associated with the laying on of hands. Most times it occurred as the result of the circumstances and the decision of the Holy Spirit, eg, Luke 1:15, 41, 67, 4:1, John 20:22, Acts 2:4, 38, 4:8, 31, 6:5, 7:55, 10:47, 11:24, 13:8, 52, 19:2, 2 Cor 11:4, Gal 3:2, Eph 5:18, etc.

From this survey, the laying on of hands, is not essential to either receiving the Holy Spirit, or being filled with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it appears that essential requirement is: believing and accepting Jesus by faith as occurred in 2 Cor 11:4, Acts 2:4, 38, 4:31, 10:47, 13:52, etc. Let me quote some of these to illustrate:

  • Luke 1:15 - for he [John the Baptist] will be great in the sight of the Lord. He shall never take wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.
  • Acts 2:38 - Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 6:5 - This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, ...
  • Acts 10:44, 45 - While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard his message. All the circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
  • Rom 15:13 - Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Eph 1:13 - And in Him, having heard and believed the word of truth—the gospel of your salvation—you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

In the specific case of Acts 9:17, was the laying on of hands primarily for (a) healing, (b) receiving the Holy Spirit, (c) both? If it was primarily for healing, the Paulk received the Holy Spirit because he believed. If it was both, then, again, Paul would not have received the Holy Spirit without first believing and trusting Jesus.


Ephesians 5:18 should be rendered as the ASV footnote does, "be filled in spirit" This is the only place in Scripture where Spirit "f(F)illing" is in the imperative. Filled in Spirit in all other cases refers to a gift, receiving prophetic empowerment. It is not something that can be commanded for someone to do. In Acts, except for the Apostles and house of Cornelius, it comes by the laying on of apostolic hands. The exception being when the gospel was first initiated for the Jews at Pentecost, and for the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius.

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