The Work of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit plays a significant role in the mission of God in the present age. It is with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that ushered in the great missionary age that we live in. Mission to the whole world, as God had fully intended it to be, really began “in the power of the risen Christ” The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, is essential to the mission of God and the mission of the church. It is the Spirit of Christ in us that is the source of our desire to see the world reconciled to God in Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to move us into mission.

In a discussion of the mission of the triune God we can see that the initiative for mission comes from the Father while the basis of that mission is the completed work of the Son, accomplished through his death and resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit, therefore, comes out of the completed work of Christ. The Holy Spirit appropriates to the world what Christ had done on behalf of it. The Holy Spirit assumes the responsibility of carrying the work of Christ and its benefits to the ends of the earth.

There is a self-emptying, self-denying aspect to the mission of the Spirit:

Just as Christ emptied himself even unto death (Phil. 2:6 ff) in order to fulfill his mission, so the Holy Spirit seeks nothing for himself but is prepared to condescend to the limitations of human weakness. The Church in mission under the guidance of the Spirit shares in his kenosis and reveals the glory of God in proportion to its readiness to give up itself. Participation in mission through the Spirit in his kenosis; it is to serve and not count the cost; it is to surrender even its life.

The Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit. Roland Allen says that “the Spirit we receive, the Spirit of Christ, is then a missionary Spirit.” The missionary expansion of the church is totally dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit. As Harry Boer explains, the expansion of the church is wholly related to the “witnessing activity of the Spirit and the recipients of the Spirit.” The Spirit is the dynamic source of power, energy, and movement of missions, both initially as at Pentecost and continually until the end of time. Boer further explains: “He must give the power, He must create the spirit of missionary devotion, perseverance and sacrifice, He must open the hearts of the hearers, He must establish the spoken word.”  Roland Allen articulates this point clearly when he writes that “missionary zeal is grounded in the nature and character of the Holy Ghost.” 

Hans Küng places the work of the Holy Spirit in the role of “possessor.” The Holy Spirit turns man away from both himself and the world, changing man’s loyalty from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of God. The Spirit, by this process, takes possession of us.

It is the Holy Spirit who compels us to go and propels us out into mission. And we become “instrumental in transmitting the life of the Spirit” to those whom we meet. Through us, by way of the Holy Spirit, God imparts grace to those who are moved to turn toward him. Through us the life of the Spirit is imparted in a divine movement that renews and reclaims persons for the kingdom of God.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is the director of the missionary expansion for the church, the master strategist who prepares the hearts of persons to hear and receive the gospel and then sends his witness at the precise time and place of optimum readiness. The Holy Spirit has the vital role of leading the church into new frontiers, to awaken it to discern where the harvest is truly ready, and to gather the resources necessary for the accomplishment of that mission. The whole process is based on the ability of the church to be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit and dependent upon the Spirit for wisdom, for its resources, and for the accomplishment of the mission.

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