Monday, February 2, 2015

The Holy Spirit empowers missions

Acts 1:8 "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

The last couple of posts have focused upon how the great commission is really God's mission. The Person of the Father is the One Who invented missions. All missionary efforts have their origin in the mind and heart of the Heavenly Father. We then saw that the Person of the Son issues forth the Great commission. The three Persons of the Godhead work together in and through One another to put forth and execute the missionary endeavor. Today's post will feature the Person of the Holy Spirit. What role does the Holy Spirit have in missions? God in the Person of the Father invented missions and in the Person of the Son issues forth the command to go into all the world. The Holy Spirit, as we shall see, empowers missions. Whenever we consider all Three Persons, we can say that God is indeed the Great Missionary.

The Holy Spirit empowers missions
Acts 1:8 is Jesus' restatement of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 along the lines of the Holy Spirit's specific role. Before anyone can "go into all the world to make disciples" or baptize or teach the Word of God, the pre-requisite empowerment of the Holy Spirit must be in place. The Triune God is the power source behind the Great commission - as will be seen by the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. God prescribes the Great Commission, as already seen in the achievement of the Son. God has planned the beginning and outcome of the Great commission, as witnessed in our past study of the Person of the Heavenly Father. God planned it, prescribed it and empowers the mission - we as His people need to trust Him and go forth, carrying forth the message of the Gospel to a lost and dying world. 

The Book of Acts details for us how the Holy Spirit empowered the early church to do it's missionary work. Acts 1:8 gives the reader a nice outline of the entire book. Thus notice the following key thoughts in our consideration of how the Holy Spirit empowers the Great commission.

1. "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you...."
This first part of Acts 1:8 covers the first two chapters of the Book of Acts. The disciples waited in the upper room and the Holy Spirit descended. Power from on high was given and the flame of the Spirit has burnt in the church ever since those early days. 

2. "and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem....."
As the early church began to meet, worship, break bread and adhere to the Apostle's teaching, word spread quickly with regards to this new Christian movement. As the Apostles preached the Word of God, multitudes were converted (Acts 2:41; 4:4), miracles were wrought and the early church grew. Acts 4:33 notes - "And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all." As the church grew and spread through Jerusalem, persecution arose. Though greatly afflicted by their opponents, the early church thrived under hardship. Acts 8:4 records - "Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." The Spirit empowered the church to go from Jerusalem into the next region....

3. ...."and in all Judea and Samaria...."
Acts 1:8 continues to explain the overall spread of the church by the Spirit empowered strategy given by Jesus. The church would eventually spread into the surrounding regions of Judea and Samaria. Just as there was a Jerusalem Pentecost with the brithing forth of the church in general, Acts 8:14-17 records a Samaritan smaller version of the Spirit's outpouring: "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent themPeter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for themthat they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply beenbaptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then theybegan laying their hands on them, and they werereceiving the Holy Spirit." Once again the Holy Spirit was empowering the church to go on mission and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However there was one more element to the overall strategy we read of in Acts 1:8....

4. ...."and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
The Samartian and Judean mission of the church, led by Peter and eventually featuring the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, would stretch from Acts 9-12. With the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to becoming Paul, the early church would expand into Gentile lands. How would this be possible? The Holy Spirit would pour out Himself not just once, but twice in Acts 10:44-48 and Acts 19:6-8. By the end of Acts, we see Paul's missionary journeys early completed. Within a span of 30 years the early Christian movement would come to encompass nearly the entire Roman world, growing from over a 100 to tens of thousands. Acts 28:30-31 closes out the book with these words: "And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered."

Thus we can see that the Great Commission is God's mission due to the fact that it is empowered by the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. He is the One who convicts and calls forth sinners unto salvation. (John 16:8-16)

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