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The Coming of the Missionary Spirit

The Coming of the Missionary Spirit

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Abridged from Roland Allen's "Pentecost and the World" explains the nature of the Spirit of Christ as the missionary spirit of the Church.
Abridged from Roland Allen's "Pentecost and the World" explains the nature of the Spirit of Christ as the missionary spirit of the Church.

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Published by: e4unity on Jan 13, 2011
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11/14/2011

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ACTS: The Coming of The Missionary Spirit

(abridged from Pentecost and the World) Roland Allen (1918) The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the coming of a missionary Spirit. The Spirit stirred in the hearts of the disciples of Christ a great desire to impart that which they had received. He revealed to them the need which Christ the Redeemer alone could supply. He enabled them to pass on to others that Gospel which they had so generously received. He directed them to reach out farther and farther into the Gentile world, breaking down barriers of prejudice which might have hindered their witness, or prevented them from receiving into communion those most remote from them in habits of thought and life. In the book of Acts, the gospel was spread not only by those set apart for this work, but also by the general body of disciples. After the death of Stephen “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word”, and the Apostles are expressly excluded from the number of those who were so scattered. In Galatia, after Paul’s second visit, it is said that the churches were established in the faith, and increased in number daily. From Thessalonica “the Word of the Lord sounded forth, and not only in Macedonia and Achaia”, but far beyond. The whole history of the Church in the early centuries witnesses to the fact that the disciples were missionaries to the nations among whom they lived. This Spirit, the missionary Spirit, was given to every believer. Whosoever received the Spirit of Christ in some degree, if only by approval and support of the efforts of others, expressed that desire for the conversion of the world which the Spirit inspired. What was wholly unknown, what was unthinkable in the early Church, was that Christians should oppose, or deride, or even fail to support, men who were laboring to spread the knowledge of Christ in the regions beyond. Those that knew the Biblical narrative knew that God had the “ends of the earth” as His ultimate passion. Not even the Judaizing party in Jerusalem did that. The Judaizers protested strongly against the form in which the Gospel was proclaimed to the Greeks; they sent out their own emissaries to attack, to undermine, and to destroy the influence and teaching of Saint Paul. But their opposition was directed, not against the conversion of the Gentiles, not against missionary work itself, but only against a particular form of evangelism which they deemed to be dangerous. It was universally agreed that the Gospel must be preached to all the nations. (see Luke’s statement from the resurrected Christ himself that is used to bring to a close his first volume- Luke 24:45-49)

All who received the Spirit of the exalted Christ were more or less conscious then of the missionary passion and impulse of the Spirit. They all truly obeyed the command of their Lord to go into all the world, for they possessed a Spirit which impelled them to desire the world-wide manifestation of their Lord. Now it is the world-embracing Spirit himself which obeys the command rather than the wandering body. Christ came into all the world, though in the flesh He never went outside Palestine. It is obviously necessary to avoid the mistake of thinking that the reception and expression of the missionary Spirit of necessity involves going on missionary journeys, or that missionary journeys are truer and fuller expressions of the missionary Spirit than any other. The Spirit of redeeming love is manifestly expressed as truly in striving for the salvation of those around us where we live as in preaching to multitudes across the seas. It is the reception and the expression of redeeming love which is the all important issue, rather than the manner or the form of the work in which that Spirit is expressed. The desire produced by the Spirit for the salvation of the world may be expressed in any form of Christian activity; but that Spirit is not revealed to others with equal clearness by every form of activity. In the book of Acts, Saint Luke makes the revelation of the Spirit clear to us by setting before us the acts of those whose lives were devoted to what we, today, call “missionary” work. If he had dwelt upon the labors of those who were not engaged in this special missionary work the revelation would have been less clear. The work of those who organized the churches may well have been as true expression of the Spirit of redeeming love as the work of those of whom we are told the most. But if Luke had written at length of church organization we should have probably missed the revelation of the Spirit of Christ as the Spirit which labors for the salvation of the world. By insisting upon the missionary aspect in the book of Acts, we learn to know the Spirit as the Spirit who inspires active zeal for the salvation of others which enables us to easily perceive the same Spirit in other forms of activity as well. We understand that the organization of the churches and the addressing of social conditions are equally forms in which the Spirit in us finds expression. Every form of work can be undertaken by that same Spirit, each individual finding his unique activity to best manifest that same desire for the salvation of humanity which the Holy Spirit inspires. In this sense, if we believe in the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the Acts, we must be missionaries. We cannot accept the teaching, we cannot believe that the one thing of eternal importance to our souls is to receive and to know this Spirit, without feeling ourselves impelled to the missionary task of Christ. We cannot believe that the Holy Spirit reveals our own need and the need of all humankind without beginning to feel that need of others for Christ laid upon us as a serious call to participation. We simply cannot believe that this Spirit is given to us precisely that those who so need Christ may be brought by us to find the one way of salvation for their souls and bodies in this world and in the world to come, without feeling impelled to present ourselves as His human instruments. We must embrace the world because Christ embraces the world, and Christ has come to us, and Christ in us desires to embrace the world.

Activity world-wide in its vision and intention and hope and goal is inevitable for us unless we are ready to deny the Holy Spirit of Christ revealed so clearly in the Acts.
Roland Allen was an Anglican missionary in China working with the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel. Later he labored some 40 years writing missionary principles, retiring to Africa, where he died in Kenya in 1947. First edition of Pentecost and The World was in 1912. Courtesy E4 UNITY Institute.

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