W. Austin Gardner
The superintendency of the Holy Spirit in missions
The superintendency of the Holy Spirit in missions is evident from the book of Acts. Here it is also evident that the Holy Spirit was not only resident in but also President of the early church. When this happens there is a mighty all-out horizontal push in world evangelism.
From the book of Acts we note that the Holy Spirit is the Initiator, Motivator and Superintendent of world missions. All major steps of expansion were divinely initiated and divinely inspired. The Holy Spirit was the supreme Strategist. On the day of Pentecost He made the message universally understood by enabling the apostles to speak in the various languages present on that occasion in Jerusalem.
1. The Holy Spirit initiated the “leap across religious boundaries” and sent Philip to Samaria, Peter to Cornelius, the saints of Cyprus and Cyrene to Antioch, and Paul and Barnabas into the wide mission fields. The Holy Spirit clearly selected His unique messengers to carry forth the gospel of God. He confirmed the choice of the twelve on the day of Pentecost and in the days following that event, and He selected His “chosen vessel” for a specific ministry and gospel interpretation.
2. The Holy Spirit equipped His servants in an extraordinary way with great power and boldness to speak forth the message of God in season and out of season.
3. The Holy Spirit endued His servants to persevere in the midst of great obstacles, severe opposition, and brutal persecution. He sustained them in their martyrdom.
4. The Holy Spirit specifically guided His servants to the areas and people of special ministries while forbidding them to enter other fields.
5. The Holy Spirit graciously guided His servants in resolving grave tensions and problems.
6. The Holy Spirit mobilized the total body of the Lord Jesus Christ in the great task of evangelizing, inscribing into His church the principle of universal priesthood and the mutually sustaining body—life and service principles which can be neglected only at an awful cost to the world and grave peril to the church.
7. The Holy Spirit prescribed the major means by which the gospel must grow around the world and by which churches are born into the world as living witnesses to the Christ who died on Calvary’s cross and triumphantly rose again. These means include the proclamation of the gospel, the energetic and dynamic witnessing of the saints to the meaning of the gospel in their personal lives, the prevailing prayers of the churches, the sacrifice of the saints and their willingness to suffer for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the expectation of divine interventions and powerful manifestations of God.
8. The Holy Spirit graciously guided in the formation of the churches and provided for the younger churches by inspiring the apostles to prepare an extensive and abiding literature for the guidance of the churches in their mission, the preservation of the message, the Christian way of life, and the apostolic principles and exemplary ways of ministries in accomplishing the purpose of God.
Thus the Holy Spirit as the divine Paraclete remained and does remain in charge of the divine plan of salvation. Here we find our rest in the midst of all confusion and bewilderment. He will not and He cannot fail in His mission. His fullness and pleasure can be enjoyed only in a joyous collaboration with and humble submission to His will and purpose. In His fullness we find the dynamic of world missions.
George W. Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1972), 304–306.