I am currently in the process of writing a book titled, Evangelism in the 21st-Century. I have a September deadline and so I would appreciate your prayers. This morning (Friday, July 13th) I have been working on a chapter about evangelism and the early church (the church in Acts). One of the things that jumps out to me about the church in Acts was their complete and total dependence on the Holy Spirit. Below is a portion of what I have been writing. I would be interested in what you think.
The disciples were told to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). They were promised that the Spirit would empower and enable them to “be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). As soon as the disciples “were filled with the Holy Spirit” they began to proclaim the wonders of God in ways everyone could understand “as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4).
This dependence on the Holy Spirit was not a onetime thing but continued throughout the story of Acts. Consider the following:
- One of the strongest statements Peter made was before the Jewish court called the Sanhedrin. Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This statement was made only after Peter had been “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:8).
- In Acts 8:26-40, Philip is directed by “an angel of the Lord” (v. 26) to go south toward Gaza. Along the way he met an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Bible then reads, “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot…’” (v. 29). Philip obeyed, explained the prophecy about a suffering Servant to the eunuch. The eunuch believed and was baptized. “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing” (v. 39).
- In Acts 10:9-48, while praying on a rooftop, Peter has a vision that convicts him of his own prejudice attitudes toward people who were different from him. At the same time he was receiving this vision, a Roman soldier named Cornelius was looking for him (Acts 10:1-8). “While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them for I have sent them’” (vv. 19-20). Peter went with the men to Cornelius’ house; confessed his sin of racism to them (v. 28); told them “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (v. 36); and told them the story and meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Cornelius and many others believed, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and were baptized. Peter then explained these events to the apostles, emphasizing he only did what the Spirit had directed and empowered him to do (Acts 11:12).
- In Acts 16:6-10, Paul wants to go to the province of Asia and the city of Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit prevented them from going in that direction. Instead, Paul had a vision to travel to Macedonia and preach the gospel there, convinced this was the direction the Holy Spirit was sending them.
The principle is clear: Evangelism in the twenty-first century will continue to be empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit. In fact, apart from the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, evangelism and life change cannot take place. The very first place to start any evangelism effort is to go to your upper room and pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, empower, and direct.