Sent – By Whom? Lesson 5: The Sending Spirit (3) and Lesson 6: Who are Sent? Evangelism and the Church


Scripture: Zechariah 4:6; Acts 2:1–4; I Corinthians 2:9-11; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:11–16

The great missionary holiday on the church calendar is Pentecost -and with good reason. The Holy Spirit came with the rushing of a mighty wind which filled the house where the disciples were gathered. Upon each of the disciples there appeared tongues of fire. They began to speak in foreign languages the mighty works of God. This was the birthday of the New Testament church. The Good News of Jesus Christ was about to be spread throughout the world. Instead of the narrow inclusivism, we see a glorious world-wide scope of the gospel which must be preached to all the nations. Instead of the confusion of tongues at Babel, we see a symphony of tongues at Pentecost, launching the church on its maiden voyage to conquer the world in the name of the King of kings.

There are two things that we must see about the Sending Spirit. First, the Spirit works through the Word; second, the Spirit works through the church.


It is important that we see that the Holy Spirit is not simply an influence, an impersonal force like wind and fire. What the Holy Spirit does can be compared to the work of wind and fire, but the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a force. He is a powerful, sovereign Person who created the world, who inspired the Bible, who prepared a body for Jesus, who raised Jesus from the dead, who applies Christ’s work to the hearts of believers, who seals believers as God’s possession, who makes them holy, who leads them in prayer, who prepares them for heaven.

Why is it so important that one Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the Son”? (See introduction to the Nicene Creed.)

Show from the Bible that the Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament too.

After the Father created, He rested; after the Son accomplished His work of redemption, He sat down at the right hand of the Father; but when is the Holy Spirit going to rest after His finished work? He will not rest until He hands over the Bride of Christ to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, without spot and without wrinkle.

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. He is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth. The Spirit was promised to the church in order to lead the church into the truth. He will say nothing of Himself, but He will only tell what He has heard from Christ. The Spirit is the Spirit of truth.

It is important to emphasize the very close relationship between the Spirit and the truth which is the Word of God. In Ephesians 6 Paul says: “Take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” The relationship between the Spirit and the Word is a very natural one for three reasons:

1. The Spirit gave the Word. He inspired men to write the Bible. Peter writes of this when he says: “For no prophecy ever came by the will of man, but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” ( II Pet. 1:21). The context makes it very clear that Peter is speaking about Scripture, the Word, the truth. No Scripture is of any private interpretation. Men did not sit down and initiate the Scriptures. Men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The word “moved” is a nautical word referring to the action of water carrying a ship. So as water carries a ship, the Holy Spirit bore along the men who wrote the Bible. The result is this: we have a Bible from God which is totally reliable in all its details, infallible. inspired and profitable for teaching the faith, for refuting error, “for resetting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living” (II Tim. 3:16; Phillips). The Sending Spirit is the Spirit who gave us the Bible. He does not teach anything in conflict with that living Word of God. His written Word is His final Word, His all-comprehensive instruction. He directs us  to the Word and leads us by the Word. Everything we do in evangelism must be measured by the Word. Any methods, programs, plans which do not meet’ the high standard of conformity to Scripture are not Spirit-sent. The Spirit is the Spirit of truth and not error! It is for this reason that so many plans, programs and campaigns fail. They are not Spirit-sent because they are not in conformity with the Spirit’s Word. One of the most significant responsibilities of the elders of the church is to weigh all materials, programs, plans and methods of evangelism and ministry according to the basic rule of Scripture. If they conform to the Word of God, they can be enthusiastically endorsed. If they do not conform, they must be eliminated from the program of the church. If we want the Spirit’s blessing, we must conform to the Spirit’s Word!

How does a close relationship between the Spirit and the Bible help to prevent an unhealthy spiritual subjectivism?

Why is it very dangerous to separate the Holy Spirit from the Bible?

2. Not only does the Spirit give us the Bible, He opens it to us. He enables us to understand it. The unconverted will stumble at the Word. Their eyes are blind, they cannot see nor comprehend the truth. An unconverted professor in a college or university may make some very disparaging comments about the Bible and the Christian faith. But remember, he is not converted. He is blind, even if he has many degrees. He must be born again in order to understand that man is a unique creation of God and that the world was made by the word of God.

It is the Holy Spirit who enlightens our minds to understand. Paul says this so beautifully in I Corinthians 2: “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard . . . what God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” Paul is not speaking first of all about the glories of heaven. He is speaking about true wisdom which is known only through the Spirit. Peter understood the prophet Joel and the purpose of Christ as he never had before when he preached on that first Pentecost Sunday, because the Spirit opened his eyes to see and understand.

3. The Holy Spirit not only gave the Word, He not only opens the Word, hut He also enables us to use the Word, the Bible. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses.” The Spirit gives us power to witness. We cannot do it by ourselves. A person can take all the witnessing courses which are offered. He can memorize the plan of salvation from Romans. But if he does not have the Spirit of God in his heart, he will be completely powerless. He will be an utter failure. It is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” (Zech. 4:6).

How does the Holy Spirit enable us to use the Word of God in facing temptation in times of sorrow, in the training of our children?

How can we be better prepared to use the Word of God in our lives?


The Holy Spirit and the Word of God meet in the believer within the church. The Holy Spirit was not poured out upon the disciples individually, separate from the group. But there appeared cloven tongues in a cluster and sat upon each of them. They personally received part of that fire, but only as members of that gathered church. It was into the church that the Spirit came. If one feels the need for a spiritual “shot in the arm,” where will he find it? He will find it only among those who continue steadfastly in the apostle teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42), that is, only in the church around the Word of God. There is a place for conferences, retreats, crusades, and camp fires. But we misunderstand the church completely if we depend on these for our spiritual nurture and vitality. It was into the church that the Holy Spirit came.

From Ephesians 4:11–16 show how the Holy Spirit builds the church.

At Pentecost we see something new. The disciples were friends of Jesus. They admired Him, walked with Him, ate and drank with Him. But before Pentecost they were weak, fearful, Israel-oriented. They were consecrated to Christ but separated from Him. But on Pentecost something happened that revolutionized them. Christ came into them with His Spirit. They became sharers of Christ’s life. They received His Power. It was no longer they that lived, but Christ lived in them, and the life they lived in the flesh, they lived by the faith of the Son of God who gave Himself for them (Gal. 2:20).

How can we cultivate a healthy piety, a healthy view of the mystical union with Christ?

The question asked of the Ephesians in Acts 19:2: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” is a very sobering question. It is possible to have faith, an historical faith or a temporal faith, without having the Holy Spirit. What about you?

The disciples at Pentecost were still themselves, but now the old relationship with Christ was fulfilled. They had a new vision. Within minutes after the outpouring of the Spirit they knew more of Jesus and the Old Testament, than they had ever known before. They were sharing the life of Christ. He was in them! This is the secret of power in the church. This is why the Holy Spirit is also called the Comforter who abides with us forever. It means that we are not our own, but we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.


What is the result of the presence of the Spirit in our lives? The result is seen in the signs of the Spirit: wind and fire. The wind and fire break and build. Wind and fire are two of the greatest forces on earth to make changes. Have you seen the result of the Spirit’s work in your life?

Jesus said that when the Spirit came, He would convict the world concerning sin, concerning righteousness, and concerning the judgment to come. This is the wind and fire. The Holy Spirit convicts. He convicts of sin. He comes with the law and the gospel. He shows what sin really is. He leads us to true godly sorrow for sin. The fire of the Word purges our sinful hearts. The mighty wind of His voice breaks the stubborn will. By this great power, a new man is born. Have you been purged by the Spirit, broken by His power? Have you been lit by the Spirit’s presence? Have you been broken in repentance to be built? Have you been crippled by His conviction to be crowned by His power?

Why is the Spirit’s work of conviction so indispensable in evangelism?

When the Spirit takes hold of a person, He convicts also concerning righteousness. There can be no agreement with evil. The Spirit will expose our unrighteousness and cultivate holy living. He leads us in the path of righteousness. The mighty wind and fire of the Spirit purged the church of unrighteousness through the Word of God spoken to Ananias and Sapphira: “You have not lied to man but to God!”

Why did Jesus insist that His prospective followers “count the cost”?

He convicts also concerning the judgment to come, as He spoke through Peter on Pentecost: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord come, that great and notable day; and it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The powerful Word of the Spirit penetrated into the hearts of the people and they cried out: “What shall we do?”

Why don’t we hear much of the judgment to come today?

When the Spirit comes into our hearts He comes with wind and fire. He drives away the chaff, burns the waste, cleanses and heals.

So when we pray for the Spirit to dwell within our hearts, we are asking for a revival in our lives! He will melt us, mold us, fill us and use us.

The wind and fire are very positive too. Wind is the movement of life-giving oxygen. It renews the earth, it drives away the clouds. The Holy Spirit is the life-giver, life-preserver. He abides with us forever. As the wind brings rain to the dry land, so the Spirit quenches the thirst of our parched souls: “With joy let us draw water from the we!ls of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee” (psalm 42:1). He brings showers of blessing. He brings us to the church to hear God’s Word; He opens our hearts to receive the truth and to grow. He helps us to be a source of healing and strength to others. We are the temple of the Spirit. The joy of the Spirit in our lives can be a blessing to the discouraged.

How can we cultivate a closer communion within the church?

The fire is light. The Spirit in us makes us shine as lights upon a hill. Through the preaching of the Word, the Spirit will set the world aflame; through the witness of each believer in the marketplace, in the factory, school and home, the enormous power of God is unleashed.

Make this your prayer!

Dwell in me, O blessed Spirit!
How I need Thy help divine!
In the way of life eternal,
Keep, O keep this heart of mine!


Scripture: Acts 13:1–3, Acts 14:21–28, Acts 15:1–4

Through the Agency of the Church -In the first lesson in this series my co-author included a paragraph with the above heading. Let’s take a more in-depth look at this essential relationship between Biblical Evangelism and the Church. At the same time let’s explore some of the problem areas which come to the surface when this essential relationship is applied to our present day programs of Evangelism.


A careful study of Paul’s missionary strategy and practice will make it clear that Paul insisted on:

a. being sent by the Church;

b. being responsible to the Church -reporting and consulting;

c. working towards the goal of establishing a Church;

d. new converts to find their nurture and growth within the Church.

If ever there was a man who would have been able to make a case for becoming ‘a free-lance evangelist’ or to start a ‘faith mission’ outside of the proper supervision of the Church, that man was Paul. And yet Paul, with a clear-cut commission from Christ at the time of his conversion (Acts 26:16, 17) waited fourteen years for a specific call from the Church at Antioch before he started his official ministry to the Gentiles. A careful study of Paul’s Epistles as well as of the book of Acts makes it abundantly clear that Paul carries on his entire ministry, even to the letters that he writes to groups of Christians and individuals, within the responsible framework of the Church. Missions and Evangelism programs which are carried on outside this Church framework are foreign to the entire New Testament pattern.

Questions: Why is so much of modern Evangelism, even by our own people, carried on outside of the Church?

What problems are apt to arise when Evangelism ministries are cut loose from the Church? (Think of doctrinal faithfulness, sound policies, financial responsibility etc.)

If we should become convinced that the Church is not being faithful to it’s Evangelistic task, what should we do about it?


At this point someone is going to say, but every Christian is a Prophet—the office of all believers, don’t you know? Everyone should share the Gospel with his neighbors and friends. Certainly you cannot leave the proclamation of the Gospel to the official ministry of the Church?

By all means, every individual Christian should be an ‘evangelist: But docs this give the individual Christian the freedom to present the Gospel without any reference to the Church of which he is a part? As a member of the Church each Christian assumes a doctrinal responsibility, for instance. A Reformed Christian certainly cannot, with any degree of integrity, present an Arminian Gospel. Nor can he employ Methodist or Roman Catholic methods.

Every Christian, moreover, has the responsibility to build the Church of Christ. No sincere Christian should carry on his own private little ministry and ignore the Church, much less, undermine the Church. Personal Evangelism, although not under the direct supervision of the Church, must find its proper and responsible direction and expression within the Biblical framework of the Church. Christ is gathering His Church; and all Evangelism, whether official or personal, must be directed to that Christ ordained goal.


Why do so many testimonies among Evangelicals begin with a statement like this, “I really never found Christ in the Church, but then one night I met this man . . . and my whole life was changed . . .”?

Why do so many Christians find the fellowship outside the Church much sweeter than the fellowship within the Church? Evaluate Bible Study groups which avoid all relationship to the Church. Are there any dangers in this? Explain.

How would you deal with those who claim to have accepted Christ but want nothing to do with the Church?

How would you reply to those who insist that the biggest obstacle to effective Evangelism is Churches?


It is at this point that we constantly run into the well-worn defence for the wave of independentism and indifference to the Church which has swept across so much of modern Evangelism. This is part of the Church as organism—not the Church as an institution. With this neat distinction all kinds of special ministries—in the ‘inner city,’ on college campuses, among ‘street people,’ on beaches, in coffee houses are justified even though they are completely cut loose from the institutional Church. The only time they want anything to do with the institutional Church is when they want money. There arc so many groups and organizations which claim to be the ‘arm of the Church,’ even though they have no regard for the Church, that the cause of the Gospel looks like a monstrous flailing of enormous arms which, at best, arc attached with a very thin string to a body—the Church.

It is our contention that this appeal to the Church as organism in distinction from the Church as institution, when it involves the ministry of the Word, has no Biblical warrant. The distinction is strictly a technical, doctrinal one but in no sense is it a practical, working distinction, as it appears in Scripture.

Berkhof defines the distinction as follows: “The Church as an organism is the communion of believers who are united in the bond of the Spirit. The Church as Institution is the mother of believers, a means of salvation, an agency for the conversion of sinners and the perfecting of the saints” (Berkhof’s Systematic Theology–p. 567).

Look at I Corinthians 12:12-27. Here Paul is talking about what we supposedly would call the Church as organism—the body of Christ. As he continues in verse 28, however, without making any distinction of any kind, he speaks of this Church as an institution with offices and so forth. Exactly the same lack of distinction appears in Romans 12:4–8. In fact, no where in the New Testament can this handy little distinction he found as a working distinction. Whenever the ministry of the Word is involved in any form it is the Church as institution that functions.

To seek to escape our responsibility to the Church so that each one can ‘do his own thing’ in his own way by piously saying, “This is the Church as organism,” is neither honest nor Scriptural. Throughout the New Testament any involvement in sounding forth the Word or proclaiming the Gospel includes clear responsibility to the Church as institution. 1£ this was true in Apostolic times when the Church received direct revelation from God, how much more true this is today when the Church is charged with responsibility for preserving the truth of the given revelation (I Tim. 1:3, 4; Titus 1:7–14).

Far too many programs and organizations involved in Evangelism foster an implicit disregard for the Church and even overt rebellion against the Church and then want to fly the banner of the Church as organism. It is high time that our entire program of Evangelism get back to the Biblical concept of the Church. Any program of Evangelism which does not build the Church is not Biblical Evangelism.


Evaluate the trend in Home Missions (also CRC) away from Church planning towards special ministries with no specific goals of establishing a Church.

Why do so many Seminary students want to go into ‘special ministries’ rather than into the parish ministry of a Church?

A recent questionnaire which asked, “Should the CRC have a new creed?” was answered “No” by a large majority of the pastors in established-Churches. It was answered “Yes” by a large majority of ordained men in special ministries. How do you explain this sharp difference?

For further study: Make a study of the history of Pietism. What is Pietism? Is Pietism true to the Reformed Faith? What movements in our day within our circles would you classify as definitely Pietistic in nature? What are the inherent dangers of Pietism?

William Heynen is pastor of the Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.