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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Holy Spirit: How He Works

Don Stewart :: What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Missionary Enterprise of the Church?

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What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Missionary Enterprise of the Church?

The Holy Spirit: How He Works – Question 11

Christianity is a missionary religion. In other words, it attempts to make converts. The Book of Acts informs us of the missionary role of the Holy Spirit. From Scripture, learn the following things about the Holy Spirit’s role in missions.

The Holy Spirit Is the Energizer of the Church

The great missionary movements of the early church were commanded and appointed by the Spirit of God. The energy behind the missionary work of the church is the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself promised this would happen. Immediately, before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave the following promise to His disciples.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8 TNIV).

These believers would have power to witness or proclaim the message of the risen Christ to the world. It would be the Spirit of God who gave them this power.

This began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. The Bible says the following took place.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4 NKJV).

The church began with a miracle. The believers were able to speak in languages and dialects which they had not previously learned.

Peter cited the prophecy of Joel in explaining what happened on that day. He explained the miracle in this manner.

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17-18 NRSV).

It is the power of the Holy Spirit that energizes the church.

The Holy Spirit Was Involved in the Missionary Movement of the Church

The Holy Spirit was also involved in sending out people for missionary work. We read in the Book of Acts about this occurring.

The Holy Spirit Directed Philip

There was an evangelist named Philip whom the Spirit of God directed. We read.

Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot” (Acts 8:29 NKJV).

The Holy Spirit directed Philip to speak to a certain individual.

The Holy Spirit Directed Peter

Peter was told by the Holy Spirit to speak to certain Gentiles about Jesus. This is also found in the Book of Acts. It says.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you” (Acts 10:19 NIV).

The Spirit was actually speaking to Peter to tell him what to do.

Before this time, the church consisted only of Jews. The Holy Spirit confirmed to Peter that Gentiles were also to become part of the New Testament church. We read about what took place when Peter was speaking.

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word (Acts 10:44 NRSV).

In this instance, the Spirit of God fell upon those who heard the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit Selected Missionaries for the Work of Christ

The Holy Spirit selected the missionaries to be sent out to do the work of the ministry. We read about this in the Book of Acts. It says.

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:1, 2 TNIV).

In some unexplained way, the Holy Spirit spoke to the people about separating Barnabas and Saul for the ministry.

We then read what happened.

Sent out by the Holy Spirit, Saul and Barnabas went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus (Acts 13:4 NLT).

They obeyed the word of the Holy Spirit. Thus, He guided the work of the ministry.

The Holy Spirit Empowered Missionaries to Speak

The Holy Spirit empowered the missionaries of Jesus Christ to speak in a powerful way. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit filled Paul to pronounce judgment upon a certain sorcerer. We read the following account.

Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.” Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand (Acts 13:9-11 TNIV).

Thus, those whom the Lord sent out as missionaries were given authority to speak through the Holy Spirit. On certain occasions, this allowed them to perform miracles.

The Holy Spirit Sustained Believers under Persecution They Encountered

The Holy Spirit sustained believers who were experiencing persecution. We read about this occurring in the Book of Acts. It says.

But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:50-52 NRSV).

Those who trust Jesus will be sustained with the power of the Spirit. He will even help us during times of persecution.

The Holy Spirit Led Paul into Persecution

We have one example where the Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to a situation where he would be persecuted. In the Book of Acts, it records Paul saying the following.

And now I am going to Jerusalem, drawn there irresistibly by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit has told me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love (Acts 20:22-24 NLT).

The Holy Spirit will actually lead believers into persecution. This was true in the case of Paul and it is true in many instances today. Of course, the Spirit sustains those believers which experience persecution.

The Holy Spirit Gave His Divine Blessing on the Missionary Work

The Holy Spirit provided the divine blessing over the missionary enterprise of the early church. The Book of Acts records a letter from the council of Jerusalem to the believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. It read as follows.

Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”—to whom we gave no such commandment—it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things (Acts 15:24-28 NKJV).

From this letter it is clear that the leaders of the early church realized that the Holy Spirit guides the work of missions.

The Holy Spirit Restrained Them from Going Where They Should Not

The Holy Spirit also restrained missionaries from going to a place the Lord had not yet appointed. The Book of Acts records this taking place.

Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had told them not to go into the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not let them go (Acts 16:6, 7 NLT).

The Spirit of God restrained believers from going where they should not. He is still doing the same thing today.

The Entire Ministry Was Led by the Holy Spirit

The Apostle Paul was conscious that the Holy Spirit divinely inspired his entire ministry. He wrote the following to the Romans.

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:18, 19 NIV).

Paul realized that his ministry was not his, but actually the ministry of the Lord. Indeed, it was the Lord who guided him every step of the way.

In sum, we find that everything that God directs in the Christian ministry is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Summary – Question 11
What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Missionary Enterprise of the Church?

The gospel or good news of Jesus Christ has gone out into the entire world. Scripture tells us that this is the work of God the Holy Spirit. A number of points need to be made.

First, we find that the Holy Spirit was intimately involved in the missionary activity of the church from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit energized the believers to do the work of the ministry.

We are told that the Spirit of God selected certain believers for missionary work. Indeed, we are told that He “spoke” to the believers concerning whom they should send out. Furthermore, He empowered these missionaries to speak the truth of the gospel. The Spirit of God also gave His divine blessing to their ministry.

There were times when these missionaries were persecuted. We find that the Holy Spirit sustained them under persecution. Therefore, He made provision for them during times of hardship. On certain occasions, the Holy Spirit restrained them from going to the wrong places. In fact, He still does this today.

The Apostle Paul realized that the Holy Spirit divinely inspired his entire ministry. His great missionary work was actually the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the entire missionary movement of the Church has always been a work of the Holy Spirit. This work continues to this very day.

What Is the Work of the Holy Spirit in Relation to the Formation and Functioning of the Church? ← Prior Section
How Does the Holy Spirit Work in Church Organization and Government? Next Section →
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