In the story of Jesus’ ascension in Acts chapter 1, the Lord gives last instructions to His disciples. He asks them specifically not to leave Jerusalem until God’s promise of the Holy Spirit is fulfilled in them, so they can fulfill the mission God entrusted to them. Verse 8 says:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
It’s interesting that even when there was an urgent need to save souls by preaching the gospel, the Lord asked the disciples to remain still, until they received the Spirit of God. This simple observation shows that the Holy Spirit presides over the mission of the church. In other words, without the Spirit of God, the work of the church has no meaning. It is something purely human, insipid, insignificant, and incapable of changing the heart of humanity or their environment.
In short, without the Holy Spirit, there is no mission.
According to the apostle Paul, the mission of the church isn’t purely human, since it confronts spiritual powers (Ephesians 6:12). As we face this reality, no human power can overcome the great enemy of our souls: sin in any of its manifestations. This is the very reason Christ asked His disciples to make sure the Spirit of God was with them before they started preaching the gospel. The mission is done by the Spirit; the church is the instrument He uses.
The Spirit of God performs at least five functions in the mission of the church.
1 He ensures the fidelity and purity of the message being shared, because the Spirit guides us to all truth and justice (John 16:13-15). In a world full of lies, religious syncretism, and cheap philosophies, the truth of the gospel shines with incontrovertible spiritual authority because it comes from God.
2 He convicts the conscience of people. Jesus said, “And when he [the Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (v. 8). For a person to accept the gospel, they must first acknowledge they are a sinner and repent. This is the work of the Spirit, not of men.
3 The Spirit provides all that’s necessary for the quantitative and qualitative growth of the church. In Acts 9:31 we read “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” Beyond plans and systems of evangelization that are undoubtedly important, we must understand that for the numerical growth and healthy development of the church, the vital thing is the presence of the Holy Spirit.
4 The Spirit is with believers who testify even in the midst of adversity. Jesus encouraged His disciples by saying, “ And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say” (Luke 12:11, 12). Before the technical preparation of the message, there must be the spiritual preparation of the messenger.
5 The Spirit converts believers not only as evangelists but as witnesses. That’s what Jesus said: “And ye shall be witnesses” (Acts 1:8). In any court, witnesses tip the scale for the final verdict of the trial. They are valuable because they have a testimony. In fact, what makes a person a witness is their testimony. The greatest is Jesus, called “The faithful and true witness” (Revelation 1:5; 3:14). What we believe about God, we believe because of the testimony of Christ. Likewise, what people believe about Jesus will be through the testimony of believers.
Power and presence
For many years in the history of our denomination, we have said that the Holy Spirit is not a person. However, we need to say much more of what the Holy Spirit is. In some circles of our international community, it is simply stated that the Holy Spirit is a power, which is unjust. It should be said that the Spirit is the Power.
Jesus explained to His disciples the invaluable presence of the Holy Spirit: “But I tell you the truth; it is better for you that I go away, for if I may not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you, and if I go on, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7, YLT). In light of this verse, we can affirm that the Holy Spirit is power as well as the very personal presence of the Father and Son in the life of the believer.
The Holy Spirit is about the Deity acting in the lives of His children. For this reason, we affirm that the mission of the church is not only a human mission, nor only divine, but divine-human. In this sense, the believer has the incomparable privilege of working with God on His side. Only then can the mission be fulfilled.
In a special way, Jesus invites us to ask the Father to give us more of His Spirit every day (Luke 11:10-13). Only then will our evangelizing efforts have the appropriate results. Only in this way will the growth and development of our community be guaranteed as it was in the first century: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to preside over the mission of the church.