The Holy Spirit's Role in Evangelism
The is a lot of talk in modern evangelical churches about the Holy Spirit and not all of it is helpful. It is not uncommon for people to talk or sing things like, "Let the fire of Holy Spirit fall on us" or "Come Holy Spirit, revive us again" or other similar things. I was in a church meeting the other day, and the pastor had written (in Thai) on a handout, "This is the age of the Holy Spirit. We all are living in this age. The Spirit is ready to move in the lives of Christians if only we give the Spirit the opportunity to work in our lives."
I want to ask, what exactly does it mean for the Holy Spirit to move in people's lives? What does it look like to have the fire of the Holy Spirit fall on someone? And isn't it our Sovereign God who takes the initiative in our sanctification, changing our hearts to respond and be transformed? Is the Holy Spirit really sitting around, wringing his hands, waiting for us to ask Him to fall on us? I am hard pressed to find any Biblical reference to needing to call the Holy Spirit to fall on us again and again or to light us (or the land) on fire, as it were. Sure, it happened at Pentecost but that was a rather unique event that was initiated by God, not the apostles. From that point in history, believers are henceforth indwelt with the Holy Spirit from conversion onwards (Eph. 1:13-14).
As I began to prepare a Bible study on Ephesians 6:10-24 this afternoon, I was struck by the Apostle Paul's understanding (and indeed, God's understanding) of the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelism and spiritual transformation. In Eph 6:17, Paul says that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. How is it that the Holy Spirit is going to move powerfully through the land to convict and convert sinners, and purify his people? Is it through miraculous manifestations? through miracles and healings? through dreams and visions? Paul doesn't mention any of those. It is the Word of God! The idea of praying that God will use dreams and visions to bring people to Christ is somewhat trendy these days, particularly among missionaries. But the Apostle Paul says that the Bible is the Holy Spirit's chosen tool to bring people to Himself, and to bring revival and reformation. In Eph 6:18, Paul goes on further to urge the Ephesian Christians to pray in the Spirit at all times all prayer and supplication. To some modern believers, the idea of praying in the Spirit may conjure up images of eyes closed, hands uplifted with an eager expectation of a touch from the Spirit of God. However, Paul tells believers to stay alert and to persevere, indicating that praying in the Spirit is a difficult and arduorous task that requires our full attention. Paul doesn't give a list of the types of things we are to ask for when we pray in the Spirit but only mentions one thing. This one thing must have been uppermost on Paul's mind. He asks them to pray that "words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel." (Eph 6:19).
How does the Spirit move in evangelism and revival? In Ephesians 6, Paul clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit uses the Bible to make the Gospel known, and the Holy Spirit works through the words of the Bible when it is boldy proclaimed as it ought to be (Eph 6:20). The Holy Spirit blows where he will, changing people's hearts to recieve the Gospel (John 3:8) in preparation for the Word of God that comes to them in the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ boldly proclaimed. "Faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17)
Let us not waste our time in singing vague lyrics like "let the fire fall", "let the river flow" and so forth, but rather pray for the bold proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and get on with opening our mouths and telling people the Gospel.