The Stewardship of God’s Truth Through Evangelism (Part 1)
Understanding Our Mission
The Great Commission
Each of the gospels, though they each vary in the wording, conclude with what we can call the Great Commission. And Acts, which continues what Jesus began, basically begins on the same note.
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Luke 24:46-48 and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Messiah would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
John 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”
Right from the very beginning when the Lord was calling His disciples do you remember what He told them? In Matthew 4:19 He said, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.” In Mark 1:17 we read, “Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people.'” But it is important to realize that fishers of men are not born. They are made. They are made by knowing the Master and knowing and following the Master’s plan (or vision) rather than their own. To drive that principle home, He illustrated it to them on a couple of occasions.
One illustration is found for us in John 21:1-14. It is an event that occurred after the resurrection in one of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances and just before His ascension, but also not long after He had told them, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” The story begins in John 21:1. It’s the story of seven of the disciples who, probably in their impatience and frustration, went fishing and fished most of the night without success, but who, at the command of the Lord, pulled in a great catch of fish.
Now remember, this is a story of one of the ten post-resurrection appearances of the Lord just prior to His ascension and absence from the earth. In this scene, the Lord was manifesting Himself to men as the risen Lord and inviting them to personal fellowship with Him as the source and meaning of their lives.
This event dramatically portrays that which the living Christ is to us and is doing today—calling men and women away from lives of frustration and futility to lives of meaning and productivity as they learn to live in vital communion with Jesus Christ and through following the Master’s plan for life.
But further, this story also portrays the typical tendencies and weaknesses of men as they tend to operate in and of themselves without waiting for the Lord, without His plan, strength and energy, and direction which, of course, only comes from intimate fellowship with the Savior.
John 21:1-14 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. Now this is how he did so. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael (who was from Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of his were together. 3 Simon Peter told them, “I am going fishing.” “We will go with you,” they replied. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 When it was already very early morning, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?” They replied, “No.” 6 He told them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they threw the net, and were not able to pull it in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” So Simon Peter, when he heard that it was the Lord, tucked in his outer garment (for he had nothing on underneath it), and plunged into the sea. 8 Meanwhile the other disciples came with the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards. 9 When they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire ready with a fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you have just now caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three, but although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 “Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said. But none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Let’s note a few things from this passage:
“After this” refers to the seven great selective signs concluded by the resurrection which John describes in his gospel, but the purpose of these signs is clearly stated, “that you may believe …” It is designed to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ alone as the Son of God and the only means of salvation (cf. 28-31). John 21 is an epilogue or postscript designed to reveal the person of Jesus Christ in certain ways that are vital to our mission in the absence of Christ’s literal presence on earth.
“Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples…” Who manifested Himself? Jesus, the resurrected one who had died for our sin. This is a special manifestation of the risen Christ. What did He do? He manifested Himself. “Revealed” is phaneroo, “to shine forth, make clear and visible.” The verb is somewhat causative and the text means that Jesus intentionally made himself to shine forth. It does not simply say, “he appeared” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4,5). Christ was intentionally revealing certain things about Himself that are vital for us to grasp during His absence from us as the resurrected and ascended Lord of life.
Christ manifested Himself to the disciples, to believers, to those who were his followers, to those to whom He had given and would repeat again the Great Commission and to whom He had said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” But this group was restless and uncertain. Their hopes were now revived, but they were in need of His direction and fellowship. They had a resurrected Savior, but they were in a fog. What were they to do now? How were they to act?
Where Was This Done? At the sea of Tiberius where these men went fishing. Tiberius is the Roman name for the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1, 23). It was sometimes called this because the city of Tiberius, the capital of Galilee, was located on its shores. But we should note that this was an area very familiar to the disciples both as fishermen (Mark 4:16 and Luke 5:1), and as disciples for they had spent much time with the Lord by and on this sea. The sea in Scripture is often a picture of the sea of mankind. So here they were in their own backyard so to speak, in very familiar surroundings. How much we need to see this! The Lord wants to take our lives as they are—our family circumstances and conditions, our businesses, our routines—the things we take so for granted and do so automatically, that we think we can handle so well, and then He uses those very things to manifest just how much we need Him for meaning and success according to His standards.
When Did He Do This? The timing of this is significant!
“Again” (vs. 1), that is, following other manifestations of the Lord. The disciples all knew now that Christ was very much alive and were convinced of that (cf. 20:26-29).
But compare Matthew 26:32—He would meet them in Galilee so they were to go to Galilee. Also note Matthew 28:7, 10, 16. Here we see He designated a particular mountain where they were to wait for His arrival and manifestation. This was their responsibility and need for the present. They were to assemble and wait; they weren’t ready for service. Activity and work wouldn’t solve their restlessness. What they needed was Christ—waiting and looking for Him.
“When it was already very early morning, Jesus stood on the beach” (vs. 4). This manifestation occurred after a long night of futility and frustration. WOW! WHAT TIMING! Note the Lord’s words here in the passage which calls attention to their lack and failure, but also offers His fellowship and provision.
Why Was This Done? As the Prologue, chapter 1, reveals Jesus Christ as the pre-incarnate God who became flesh that He might reveal God and become the perfect substitute for man, so chapter 21, the epilogue, reveals what Christ means to us as the incarnate and glorified God-man in our life and ministry. It reveals the frustrations we have with life, the way life never satisfies when we are not operating out of fellowship with the resurrected Christ as a result of not following His instructions and being involved in His purposes. It illustrates the failure we experience when we operate by our schemes as well as the success we can experience when we operate by His directions or the ‘Master’s Plan.’ Finally, it demonstrates the importance of fellowship to our mission and ministry and our ability to effectively use the Master’s Plan.
But the Great Commission does not end in the gospels. It is picked up immediately when we come to the book of Acts which is a continuation of all that Jesus began to do and to teach. So, in the very first chapter, the Lord tells the disciples, “but you will …” (1:8). What exactly is the Great Commission? What exactly is our mission? The most complete presentation of the Great Commission is Matthew 28:18-20.
I do not mean to imply by what has been said that our only mission or purpose in life is the Great Commission. I don’t believe that it is. But it is such an integral and indispensable part of our purpose as believers in Christ that without it, trying to live as Christians is like trying to build a house without nails and mortar or the things needed to hold it together. It is one of the prime reasons for being and it provides added meaning, peace, and purpose.
There are probably very few who have never heard a message on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. While I am confident that the greatest problem with our failures in evangelism and outreach is not information, but motivation, burden, courage, and availability, still, there is a lack in our understanding regarding our mission and a proper understanding of this passage.
And even where that is not the case, we need reminding as Peter put it in 2 Peter 1:12-13. If we are to be effective in our mission, we do need to understand exactly what that mission entails. This must become our vision, the goal and purpose of the church. Goals are what drive and motivate us. But if our goals are unclear or wrong, then we will lack the drive and direction we need as God’s people (Pro. 29:18; cf. Jud. 21:25).
Though I won’t be following this particular outline, a good way to look at this passage is through the perspective of the following outline: (1) Armed with His Authority and Power (vs. 18); (b) Aligned with His Aim or Purpose (vss. 19-20a); and (c) Assured of His Attendance or Presence (vs. 20b).
The Structure and Meaning
To properly grasp the mission or aim of this Commission given to the church, we need to understand both the structure of these sentences and the meaning of this structure. Without this we are left with an unclear understanding of what the Lord is calling us to do as the church.
Verse 18 introduces the commission with a statement concerning the Lord’s authority and power which forms the foundation for courage, comfort, and motivation for the mission to which the Lord has called us.
Verse 20b, concludes with the assurance of Christ’s continued presence providing us with another word for courage, comfort, and motivation. The mission itself is spelled out in verses 19-20a.
What exactly is the main thrust and aim of the Great Commission given us by our Lord? What’s the core?
The original Greek has one main verb supplemented by three participles. The one main verb, “make disciples,” points us to the primary mission and aim. The three participles, “go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching,” tell us what is involved in making disciples. Literally, the text says, “going, make disciples, baptizing them, … teaching them to observe all that …”
The First Participle “Go”
The difficult part of the structure is deciding how to take the first participle, “going.” There are two views prevalent today. One is to give this participle the character of an imperative or command in which it would mean “go.” The other is to give it an adverbial character like “having gone” or “in your going” or “as you go make disciples.” Apart from a specific context, both ideas are grammatically legitimate. Greek participles can be used like an imperative, but only the context and usage can determine if a particular instance has the meaning of an imperative.
The usage of this construction and context does indicate this should be understood as a command, “go,” but while this is true, we must never lose sight of the fact that the main command and mission is that of making disciples.
The following are illustrations to show this means “go,” as an imperative, from usage:
- Genesis 27:13 in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, we have poreuthentes enegke which means, “go, bring.” The Hebrew has two imperatives. There are plenty of other examples of this in the LXX (Gen. 37:14; Ex. 5:18).
- Matthew 9:13, “go and learn what this saying means.” The Lord was not saying here, “In your going, learn what this meant.” The same concept is true in the following verses.
- Matthew 11:4, “Go tell John what you hear and see:” Matt. 28:7, “Then go quickly and tell his disciples,” Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach …” and Matthew 2:13 and 20, “Get up, take the child.” Certainly the angel was not saying something like, “when you go, take the child,” or “in your going, take the child.” This was an urgent command.
Then, why this construction? Why not use two regular imperatives? Is it just an idiom without significance? First, the participle with the main verb is used in order to stress that there is one primary objective—making disciples. Making disciples is the core or heart of the commission. Second, the use of the participle shows the action of the participle is closely connected or vitally related to the main verb. It proposes the necessary way to fulfill the main verb.
Without going, the command to make disciples is impossible, especially when it involves all nations. Going is not a secondary option. You don’t catch fish in a barrel. We must do something that puts us in contact with people so we can win them to Christ and begin the process of making disciples. The going involves anything we do from hosting outreach Bible studies, getting acquainted with neighbors, or by crossing oceans to take the Gospel to lost tribes.
Both words, “go” and “make disciples” are in aorist tense which, in Greek, makes the action definite and urgent. The idea is “go and perform your calling.”
The Next Two Participles, “Baptizing” and “Teaching”
These two are not so problematic. They tell us the means or method for making disciples. How do we make disciples? By two activities—by baptizing them and teaching them which is equivalent to evangelism and edification. As Ryrie points out:
Baptizing is a single act; teaching is a continuous process. Disciples have to be baptized (an evidence of salvation—therefore, one may say that disciples must first be saved); then they have to be taught over and over to obey (observe all things).
In New Testament times, baptism served as one of the clearest proofs that a person had accepted Christ. Baptism was not entered into casually or routinely as is often the case today. Although it is clear in the New Testament that baptism does not save, to be baptized was to signify in no uncertain terms that one had received Christ and was also associating himself with the Christian group, the church.140
See 1 Corinthians 1:14-17; 15:3 which show that baptism, though important, was not a part of the Gospel message. In other words, baptizing men and women in the name of the Father, etc., must naturally include and be preceded by the ministry of evangelism by which people come to know Christ and can then profess their faith through baptism.
The Setting and Context
Since the main verb and primary command of the commission is “make disciples,” we next want to focus our attention on this command for this is the heart of the Great Commission.
What does it mean to make disciples? To grasp this we want to focus on the cultural and contextual setting out of which arises the meaning and use of the Greek word matheteuo.
The Cultural Setting
The Basic Meaning: Matheteuo can mean “to practice the duties of a disciple,” that is, “to be a disciple (pupil or learner).” Or it can have a causative meaning, “make a disciple,” which is the meaning here. In general, a disciple was one who bound himself to another in order to acquire his knowledge and understanding.141 The use of this word by our Lord brings to mind the Rabbi-student context and setting, for it is in this cultural context that He used this term.
The word was used of students who lived in close fellowship with their teacher, they traveled with him, ate with him, attended festive occasions with him. The students of a teacher were characterized by complete submission to the authority of the teacher, as well as by a devotion to him which was to surpass devotion to father or mother and which displayed itself in service to the teacher.142
The teaching or learning method was to sit at the feet of the teacher listening to him; to engage in a question and answer encounter with the teacher; to observe the actions of the teacher, especially how he conducted himself in regard to the Law or solved problems of conduct through his knowledge of Law and tradition.143
After the strenuous studies the student was ordained through the laying on of hands and received the right to be called Rabbi. He then had the responsibility to pass on that which he had learned from his teacher and to make disciples himself.
The Biblical Context
The word disciple itself means “learner or pupil.” A disciple is one who is under instruction. It always involved a teacher-student relationship. John the Baptist had his disciples (Matt. 9:14), the Pharisees had theirs (Matt. 22:16), even Paul had his (Acts 9:25), and of course, the Lord had many disciples (Luke 6:17). A New Testament disciple is one who is under biblical instruction.
Some followed the Lord only a short time and then dropped off because of the cost. There was Judas who was unsaved, Joseph of Arimathea who was a secret disciple for some time, and there were others who belonged to the inner circle. The Lord expected discipleship to involve total commitment if one was going to be able to fully follow through as a disciple, but being a disciple and being a believer are not one and the same.
Salvation is a free gift but being a disciple means counting the costs. All believers should be disciples, but not all believers actually follow through as disciples.
Now, look back at the words of the Great Commission. What is the core assignment here? Win converts, hold great evangelistic rallies, pass out tracts, hold Bible classes and teach theology so we can defend the faith? No! One thing stands out, especially in the Greek, and only one: “Make disciples.”
Making disciples is the heart and center of the command. The three other actions tell us how, by going, baptizing (which assumes giving the Gospel and winning people to Christ), and teaching them as believers.
The Significance of the Setting and Context
When the Great Commission is viewed against the setting in which it is given, we not only find some significant insights, but some tremendous motivations.
(1) The Adoration by the Disciples (vs. 17)
Present in this scene is the risen and glorified Lord with the disciples bowing down to Him in worship and adoration. Though some were doubtful because it was hard for them to grasp the reality of the resurrection, the majority recognized this was the risen and glorified Lord, and as a result, they worshipped Him as Lord. The significant point is that the Great Commission was given in a context of worship and obedience. Responding to the Great Commission is naturally the product of worship and submission to the lordship of Christ. If we truly recognize who He is and truly worship Him in Spirit and in truth, we should commit ourselves to the propagation of the message of Christ to the world since He is its sovereign Lord and Savior.
(2) Assurance of His Authority (vs. 18)
The command to make disciples is based on the fact of His Authority. Note the “therefore” of vs. 19. This means the Lord’s unlimited authority in all areas. In the light of the cultural and rabbinic context or setting, making disciples under the authority of Christ includes the following:
- He alone is the master teacher and has the right to make binding interpretation and authoritative statements. He Himself is our ultimate teacher, a ministry He carries out through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the body of Christ, and the gifted teachers He gives to the body (John 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 4:4-6; Eph. 4:11-16).
- He alone has the right to reveal the will of the Father and teach His followers. All of us are to be in submission to His authority through the Scriptures, our authoritative index for truth. He alone has the right to be judge and make decision in accord with the righteousness of God.
- It means living daily in continual fellowship with Him, listening to His Word, learning from Him and putting His teaching into practice, and letting His life be manifest in our daily life. Discipleship calls for complete submission to Him with total devotion and service as we learn to pick up our cross and submit to His authority and leading.
- It means proclaiming His Word and seeking to bring others into this relationship, training them to in turn win and train others (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
Baptizing believers in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the sign or symbol that the old life and its connections have been broken and the person has entered into a new life by faith in Christ and a new fellowship with Jesus as their teacher and master.
Teaching is the instruction new converts are to go through to build them in the Word of the Master that they might become obedient students as well as disciples makers. They are to learn, put into practice, guard, and pass on that which Jesus commanded.
(3) Assurance of His Continual Attendance and Presence (vs. 20b)
Verse 20b gives us the promise of the Savior’s continual presence and teaches us He is available for our protection, provision, and guidance. But that’s not all. He is also present as our Teacher for constant fellowship, to receive our devotion, obedience, and ministry through the Spirit’s enablement as He promised. However, as His followers, unlike in the Jewish rabbinical tradition, though we teach others, we do not become rabbis, but remain His students with the command to make others students of the Master.
This, then, is the Great Commission and our mission. The Lord calls his church, and us as individuals to make disciples. In summary, what does this involve?
- It means going, getting out into the world to love and reach men and women for Christ. It means being involved through prayer, through loving neighbors, through building bridges or common ground, and from that, sharing the Gospel.
- It means baptizing them as a public declaration of their new life in Christ after winning them to the Lord through the Gospel message.
- It means building them in the Word, teaching them to know, guard, and apply the Word to their lives so they can in turn become disciple makers who are involved in this multiplication process through the ministry of the local body.
This is a call to commitment, to fellowship with the Lord, fellowship with other believers, time in the Word and prayer, along with a commitment to doing those things that will enable us to reach others for Christ and engage as many as possible in the process of making disciples.
We each need to ask the question, “where am I in this process?”
Understanding Our Means
Enablement for Accomplishing Christ’s Plan
Earlier I made reference to the way the early church, as it is recorded for us in Acts, grew by leaps and bounds with great power. In one place we read that the Lord added 3000 to His church, and shortly after that about 5000 (Acts 2:41; 4:3). But the important question is simply how do we account for such a phenomenon?
The book of Acts is often called the Acts of the Apostles because in it we see the work and ministry of the Apostles of our Lord continuing that which He began to do and to teach (Acts 1:1). But it is much more accurate to call this book the Acts of the Holy Spirit for the ministry and power of the Spirit is everywhere present and seen as the cause and source of the spread of the Gospel through the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Behind the work of the Apostles the executive activity of the Spirit of God was seen everywhere. The book of Acts is the story of men who both established the church and led the missionary enterprise. As Oswald Sanders remarks,
It is of more than passing significance that the central qualification of those who were to occupy even subordinate positions of responsibility in the early church was that they be men “full of the Holy Spirit.” They must be known by their integrity and sagacity, but preeminently for their spirituality. However brilliant a man may be intellectually, however capable an administrator, without that essential equipment he is incapable of giving truly spiritual leadership.144
In view of our Lord’s teaching and promise to the Apostles in Acts 1:4-8, we should not be surprised at this. There He declared to them and to us that the means for our ministry and effectiveness lies totally in the ministry and power of the Spirit of God. Our success, our boldness, our courage, our ability is dependent on the Spirit of God. It is to be as it was in the days of Zechariah when the Word of the Lord came to Zerubbabel, “Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit, says the sovereign Lord" (Zech. 4:6).
Why is the ministry of the Spirit of God so important? Because of our insufficiency and because reaching others for Christ requires the miraculous work of the Spirit of God to convict and break through the hardness of the human heart, to illuminate the darkness of the human mind, and to regenerate the spiritual deadness of the human spirit. Nothing short of the power of the Spirit of God is sufficient. Making disciples, reaching and building men and women in Christ can be effectively accomplished only by spirit-filled people. Other qualifications are of course desirable, but to be Spirit-filled (controlled by the Holy Spirit) is indispensable.
The Age of the Spirit
From the standpoint of the believer’s walk with the Lord, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is one of the most important doctrines and promises of the Word for the church age. This age, the church age, is the age of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s special administrator, gift, and means of power to glorify and reveal Jesus Christ and to experience the Christian life.
The Promise of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the object of many marvelous promises in both the Old and New Testaments (Ezek. 36:24-27; 37:14; Isa. 44:3; 59:21; John 7:37-39; 14:16, 17; Acts 1:4-8).
The Fact of the Spirit’s Coming
The following passages describe the fact of the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised by the prophets and by the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:1-33; 10:43-44; 11:15-18; 1 Cor. 6:19; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; Gal. 5:5-25).
The Age of the Spirit Illustrated
The following diagram illustrates the distinctive ministry of the Spirit for church age believers in contrast to Old Testament saints.
The Ministry of the Spirit in Acts
The importance of the ministry of the Holy Spirit for this age is quickly obvious from a consideration of the following facts: (a) The words “Holy Spirit” are used 40 times in Acts, (b) “the Spirit,” referring to the Spirit of God, 14 times, (c) “by the Spirit” emphasizing agency, 4 times, (d) “filled” or “full” emphasizing His control is used in connection with the Spirit 8 times, and (e) in the majority of these passages, the Spirit of God is seen as the agent of action enabling and directing the church primarily in its missionary enterprise on earth. Also, compare the following: Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 6:10; 8:29, 39; 10:19; 11:12, 28; 13:4, 9, 52; 16:6, 7; 21:4.
Ministries and Purposes of the Spirit
Some see the purpose of the Spirit in our lives as power, some as performance, some as unity, some as the administration of the gifts of the Spirit, some as teaching, some as His miraculous workings and so on. All of these either are or have been ministries of the Spirit and are important to the body of Christ. However, to emphasize any one of these to the exclusion of the others, and especially to the exclusion of the chief emphasis of the Word, is to go off into error.
Jesus Christ is our life, the hope of glory. Therefore, the chief focus given to us in the Word is that the Holy Spirit in all His ministries is given to us to mediate the presence of Christ. He is given to manifest the person and work of Jesus Christ, to make Him known, and to make us aware of all He is to us (cf. Heb. 2:1-4; 6:4; 10:29 and the theme of the book).
The ministry of the Spirit is Christ-centered. It is neither man-centered, with an emphasis on our gifts, personalities, and experiences, nor is it Holy Spirit centered with an emphasis on His miraculous activities. Please note the following Scriptures: John 7:37-39; 14:26; 16:8-14.
The Holy Spirit, therefore, calls attention to neither Himself nor to man, but focuses all attention on Jesus Christ and what God has done in and through His Son. His purpose via all His ministries is to develop our faith, hope, love, adoration, obedience, fellowship, and commitment to Christ.
This thus becomes a criterion by which we may judge any spiritual movement and its biblical authenticity.
Summaries of the Spirit’s Ministries:
(1) Who the Spirit is: He is not simply a force or an influence or simply a power. He is a person and He is God the third person of the trinity, who as a person, can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), lied to (Acts 5:3-4), obeyed (Acts 10:19-21), resisted (Acts 7:51), and blasphemed (Matt. 12:31).
(2) What the Spirit is to believers:
- A seal (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13)
- An anointing (2 Cor. 1:21-22; 1 John 2:20, 27)
- A pledge (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:14)
- A helper (John 14:16, 26)
(3) What the Holy Spirit does for believers:
- Convicts and reveals Jesus Christ to men (John 16:8-11)
- Regenerates believers to new life (Tit. 3:5)
- Baptizes believers into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13)
- Reproduces the character of Jesus Christ in those who submit to Him (Gal. 4:19; 5:5, 16-23)
- Promotes spiritual maturity (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:1-5; Heb. 5:11-6:6)
- Teaches, gives understanding in the Word (1 Cor. 2:9-16; Jn. 14:26; 16:11f; Eph. 3:16-18)
- Applies truth to our experience (Rom. 8:16; John 14:26; Eph. 6:18)
- Gives power to our prayer life (Eph. 6:18; Jude 20; Jn. 15:7; cf. Ps. 66:18)
- Gives meaningful worship (Jn. 4:23, 24; Eph. 5:18f; cf. Isa. 1:11f; 59:1f; Ps. 50:16f)
- Gives capacity, direction, ability, and burden for witnessing (Acts 1:8; 13:4; 16:6; 1 Thess. 1:5)
- Gives ability in service (1 Cor. 12-14; 1 Pet. 4:10—Refers to gifts of the Spirit to be exercised in the power of the Spirit from the motive of love, a work of the Spirit)
All these ministries demonstrate the importance of the ministry of the Spirit to our daily walk and particularly to our witness. Our responsibility and need, then, is to walk and minister by means of the Spirit (Acts 1:8; Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 5:18). (For a more in-depth study on how to be controlled by the Spirit, see Part 2, Lesson 5.)
To be sure, we must understand that our means for fulfilling our calling or commission as believers in Christ is the filling of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of God in control of our lives. We must not think of this only in term of witnessing as though when we get ready to witness, we must get filled with the Spirit like plugging a cord into an electric socket. It doesn’t work that way.
It should be noted, however, that nearly every intervention of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts had as its objective the spread of the Gospel to men and women. His great preoccupation, then as now, was to make the church a missionary church. Should His preoccupation not be ours too?145
Since the Holy Spirit is so vital to the experience and character of Christ in our lives and to our witness, shouldn’t our walk by the Spirit of God become a priority in our lives, not that we might experience the ecstatic for selfish reasons, but that we might fulfill God’s calling? Without the filling of the Spirit, we fail. One tendency we face is to lean on our own abilities—our training, personality, looks, persuasiveness, or whatever. But we must remember God’s word to Zerubbabel, our effectiveness is “not by strength (human resources) and not by power (human strength, ability, or efficiency), but by my Spirit, says the sovereign LORD” (Zech. 4:6). Another tendency is that of fear, but God’s word to Zerubbabel is just as pertinent against fear as with self-confidence for the word to Zerubbabel was actually to give him courage in the face of hostility (see 2 Tim. 1:6-7).
Then exactly what is the filling of the Spirit and how do I get it?
Reduced to it simplest terms, to be filled with the Spirit means that, through voluntary surrender and in response to appropriating faith, the human personality is filled, mastered, controlled by the Holy Spirit. The very word filled supports that meaning. The idea is not that of something being poured into a passive empty receptacle. “That which takes possession of the mind is said to fill it,” says Thayer, … That usage of the word is found in Luke 5:26 (KJV): “They were filled with fear,” and John 16:6: “nstead your hearts are filled with sadness because I have said these things to you.” Their fear and sorrow possessed them to the exclusion of other emotions; they mastered and controlled them. That is what the Holy Spirit does when we invite Him to fill us.
To be filled with the Spirit, then, is to be controlled by the Spirit. Intellect and emotions and volition as well as physical powers all become available to Him for achieving the purposes of God … The now ungrieved and unhindered Spirit is able to produce the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the leader, with added winsomeness and attractiveness in his service and with power in his witness to Christ. All real service is but the effluence of the Holy Spirit through yielded and filled lives.146
The mission the Lord has called us to in the Great Commission is to become an integral part of His program of making disciples. We will have neither the motivation nor the ability to do so with success without the means He has supplied—the indwelling Spirit whom He has given to each believer to take charge and enable us for Christ’s life in ours, a life motivated by His love and enabled by His power.
140Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1989, p. 103.
141 Cleon Rogers, “The Great Commission,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 130, No. 519, Jul 1973, 262f.
142 Ibid., p. 264.
144 Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, Moody Press, Chicago, 1986, p. 97.
145 Sanders, p. 100.
146 Sanders, p. 101.