Q. Why are the apostles “filled with the Holy Spirit” when they pray for boldness after Peter and John are arrested, when they had just recently received the Spirit on Pentecost? Isn’t the receiving of the Holy Spirit a one-time thing, as opposed to how it was in Old Testament times? If there are deeper levels or experiences, what do they consist of?
As I understand it, Pentecost is the occasion on which the community is filled with the Holy Spirit. The New Testament speaks of the community of Jesus’ followers as “God’s temple” or a “temple in the Lord.” The physical temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, and the New Testament envisions a new kind of temple, built of “living stones” (as Peter puts it, that is, of people), taking its place. And so the scene on the day of Pentecost is just like the ones in the Old Testament when God’s Spirit fills the tabernacle built by Moses and the temple that Solomon built. (Along these lines, I once preached a Pentecost sermon entitled “The Filling of the New Temple.”)
This is indeed a one-time occasion. The Spirit came to live in the “new temple” only once, just as in the cases of the tabernacle and physical temple. And presumably anyone who was constituting the “new temple” at the time, that is, each the 120 followers of Jesus who were meeting together on Pentecost, was filled with the Holy Spirit as the community was filled. But this is something different from the kind of filling that’s described later in Acts, both in the passage you mention and in others.
In those cases, it’s almost as if the Holy Spirit takes up a person and uses them as an instrument for something on a particular occasion. We see this from what happens next: they speak the word of God boldly, or they announce God’s judgment on opponents, or (in Saul’s case) his lost sight is restored and he receives his divine calling.
This is directly analogous to the situations in the Old Testament where, in effect, the Spirit picks someone up and uses them for God’s purposes. The Hebrew idiom is quite striking: It says that the Spirit of Yahweh “clothed herself* in” the person chosen as an instrument. This is how Gideon, for example, was propelled into his mission of leading Israel’s tribes against an invading coalition of their enemies.
If you think about it, if the Spirit is wearing you like a garment, that’s the same thing as being filled with the Spirit: you’re the outside, and the Spirit is the inside!
This is a matter of special empowerment by the Spirit on a particular occasion for a particular purpose. I’d say that, for its part, it’s different from yet another kind of “filling with the Spirit.” I think that all believers receive the Spirit when they choose to follow Christ. But they are not necessarily filled with the Spirit if they haven’t yet opened up every area of their being to the Spirit’s presence and control. When we do “surrender all,” then the Spirit can flood our being throughout and we are filled.
This might be a gradual process for some people, but for others, it may be a powerful and moving experience that happens at a specific, memorable time. In the mid-to-late 1800s, the phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was used to describe this experience, synonymously with “complete surrender” and “entire sanctification.” The idea was that people weren’t getting more of the Spirit, the Spirit was getting more of them, and so was able to fill them. (The Greek verb “baptize” actually means “to fill by immersing,” and so it’s a suitable term to use for such an experience.)
Later, specifically within the Pentecostal movement starting in 1906, the phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit” became associated with receiving the “gift of tongues,” that is, the ability to speak a language not naturally acquired, as the followers of Jesus did on the day of Pentecost. But even within that movement, the primary emphasis remained on the complete surrender of one’s life and will to God. I believe that God does still give the gift of tongues today, in a variety of forms and for a number of purposes, but that it is not the identifying sign of having been filled with the Holy Spirit. Rather, a greater empowerment for service with whatever gifts God has given, and a greater consecration to God, are the evidence of that filling.
I hope this is helpful!
*I use the feminine pronoun because the word for “Spirit” is feminine in Hebrew. The language has no neuter pronoun, and even if it did, I don’t think either using the impersonal pronoun from English (“it”), or using a masculine pronoun (“him”) to represent a feminine word, would be appropriate for the Spirit as depicted in the Hebrew Bible.