The Spirit of evangelism -- By: Luke L. Keefer Jr.

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 20:0 (NA 1988)
Article: The Spirit of evangelism
Author: Luke L. Keefer Jr.

The Spirit of evangelism1

Luke L. Keefer Jr.

Dr. Keefer is Associate Professor of Church History and Theology at ATS.

There is an essential relationship between the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the church’s ministry of evangelism. The annals of church history have abundantly demonstrated that a loss of attention to either of those subjects has resulted in an attendant eclipse of the other. The two have become, as it were, one flesh. If the church ever tolerates their divorce, it will find itself to be fighting against God, for he has fashioned their union.

While our focus today cannot hope to take in the comprehensive scope of this subject, we can hopefully see something of the urgency of the Spirit’s work in the area or evangelism. Evangelism is a specialized form of communication. If we reduce communication to its three simple elements of speaker, message, and hearer, we can see how the Spirit of God functions in each part of the communication process to bring about salvation.

In bringing this subject into its biblical focus, I will be using the book of Acts as a constant context for the message. It will furnish the primary examples for our consideration. Within that general framework, I want also to use one of the resurrection accounts from John’s Gospel (20:19–23).

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Here, in this passage which most Protestants have avoided because of the use the Roman Catholic Church has made of it, is a paradise of nourishment that will reward our attendance upon it.

I. In the first place, it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is essential to evangelism because he molds the speakers of the gospel. Evangelism is a people enterprise. It begins with the men and women whom God chooses to be his witnesses.

When it says of Jesus that he breathed upon the disciples, we take our clue for this symbolic act from the second chapter of Genesis. For just as God fashioned man out of dust of the ground and then made

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