Evangelism is the mission of the people of God (Matthew 28:18-20); however, what exactly is the role of the Holy Spirit in evangelism?
While evangelism is typically viewed as mostly a human endeavor, the Holy Spirit actual plays a big role in evangelism. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to turn people's hearts back to God, which is the essence of evangelism. As Paul describes it, "I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 WEB)
The following are the primary ways in which the Holy Spirit assists in evangelism.
The Holy Spirit is responsible for giving us wisdom of what to say to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus says, "When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, don't be anxious how or what you will answer, or what you will say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say." (Luke 12:11-12 WEB)
Needless to say, as is discussed later, we do have a responsibility to be prepared to defend the gospel.
Wisdom has always been a primary role of the Holy Spirit. As Peter explains, the gospel of Christ (salvation through God's messiah) was revealed through the prophets who were taught by the Holy Spirit. Speaking of the prophets, Peter says, "...which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into." (1 Peter 1:12 WEB)
The Holy Spirit is our counselor, teacher, and helper. Jesus says, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your memory all that I said to you." (John 14:26 WEB)
He also says, "When the Counselor has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me. You will also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning." (John 15:26-27 WEB)
Along with wisdom and being our counselor, the Holy Spirit enables us to be witnesses by giving us boldness in proclaiming the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to leaders with wisdom and boldness. "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel...'" (Acts 4:8 WEB)
After the leaders threaten the disciples to stop declaring the gospel, the Holy Spirit again fills them with boldness. "When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were gathered together. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31 WEB)
Rather than evangelizing through word only, the Holy Spirit sometimes uses miracles and power to convince unbelievers. Paul reminds the Corinthians of this when he says, "My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power..." (1 Corinthians 2:4 WEB) The Corinthians were convinced of the gospel by the power of God's spirit in the form of miracles.
Jesus also says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you. You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth." (Acts 1:8 WEB)
While there are many counterfeit Christians who claim to have God's power within them (causing many to be skeptical), God still does use his power to convince unbelievers and to answer the prayers of believers.
The Holy Spirit provides gifts to witness to unbelievers. Paul refers to the gifts of the Holy Spirit as tools for ministry and evangelism. He lists several gifts as, "For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, by the same Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages." (1 Corinthians 12:8-10 WEB)
Gifts are essentially specific manifestations of the Holy Spirit's power. Many of the roles the Holy Spirit fulfills can be summarized as providing gifts to believers to witness, or simply summarized as being our helper in evangelism.
Technically, evangelism is God's mission to begin with, which means that really evangelism is the Holy Spirit's mission. We are simply instruments in the hands of God, instructed to do our part in being an instrument.
As an example of gifts being used in evangelism, healing is a gift used by Philip to witness. "Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed to them the Christ. The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many of those who had them. They came out, crying with a loud voice. Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed." (Acts 8:5-7 WEB)
Philip is also specifically referred to as an evangelist: "We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him." (Acts 21:8 WEB)
While it is our responsibility to speak the truth and be available for God's use in evangelism, ultimately it is God's responsibility to convert unbelievers. Jesus explains that, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day." (John 6:44 WEB)
Furthermore, as Paul explains, "I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 WEB)
The Holy Spirit is responsible for softening an unbelievers heart, and leading them to a conversion. As much as we wish, it is impossible for us to convert an unbeliever who has not been drawn by God. Although, we do not know if the unbeliever has been drawn or not unless we try to witness to them. Even if they refuse now, you may be only planting a seed for someone else to water later on; but it is God who causes the growth (which we personally may never see).
The Holy Spirit is the power behind the new creation that Paul discusses in 2 Corinthians 5:17. This is the new birth that Jesus speaks of: "Most assuredly I tell you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he can't enter into the kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:5-6 WEB)
The Holy Spirit is also the source of the fruits of the Spirit that are foundational to Christian living. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23 WEB)
It is the Holy Spirit who enables believers to live for Christ by giving us freedom from sin.
While it is not our responsibility to "convert" unbelievers, it is our responsibility to speak the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is responsible for softening hearts and causing growth. Furthermore, it is also the Holy Spirit's responsibility to give you the words to defend the gospel and to convince others. However, our responsibility is to know God's word (the Bible), so the Holy Spirit has the truth within us available to use.
As stated, we are like an instrument in God's hands. The more knowledgeable we are in the truths of God, the more useful we are to God's Spirit for evangelism.
If you want to be good at evangelism, the best thing you can do is to improve your understanding of the kingdom of God by knowing the Bible thoroughly. Start with studying the Parables of Jesus Christ. While God can still use believers who know very little about God's truths, Christians who become well renowned evangelists always have a large portion of the Bible memorized.
Although, memorizing sections of the Bible is not necessary. Simply reading the Bible frequently will cause you to become familiar to the point of near-memorization. Understanding what the Bible teaches is much more important than knowing the exact chapters and verses – although it can be useful to know where verses are found in case you need to prove that the Bible does indeed make certain statements. Furthermore, having verses memorized word-for-word is not necessary. It is more important to understand the concepts taught by verses.
Possibly one of the most useless things a believer can do is to have a bunch of scripture memorized, while not knowing what it means because they do not fully understand the translation or simply have not really contemplated the meaning. It is better to internalize the meaning of scripture, rather than simply having a large amount memorized with little understanding of the meaning.
There is definitely a plurality to God, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, this plurality is often overemphasized to the point of viewing these three portions of God as separate entities entirely. The Holy Spirit is God's Spirit, as well as the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Both Paul and Peter agree on this fact.
Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God and God's Spirit, "But if the Spirit of him [God] who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11 WEB) Paul also refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ in Philippians 1:19.
Peter refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, saying, "...searching for what or what kind of time the Spirit of Christ, which was in them..." (1 Peter 1:11 WEB) Peter also refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God in 1 Peter 4:14.
The Spirit of God (Romans 8:11) and the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11) are both said to dwell within believers, further indicating that the Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ both refer to the Holy Spirit of God. There is only one Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:4)
The three persons of the Trinity are more separated by roles rather than being separate entities. The part of God in heaven is the Father, while the part of God that entered a human body and remains in a resurrected human body is the Son of God Jesus Christ. The spirit of this One-God is the part of God that has the role of being everywhere else. The Spirit of God (the part of God everywhere else) is responsible for creation as stated in Genesis 1. This part of God is also responsible for all of God's miracles and for assisting us in evangelism.
If this seems like an odd concept, consider that we speak of Jesus Christ being in our hearts, while simultaneously speaking of God dwelling within us too.
When Jesus makes this statement: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don't go away, the Counselor won't come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:7 WEB) He is essentially explaining that by leaving physically, he can be with us in spirit. Jesus means this literally, rather than figuratively being somewhere in spirit. Jesus is actually with us and in us.
The Spirit of God is also the seal that marks us as saved. As Paul explains, "...who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Corinthians 1:22 WEB)
"Now he who establishes us with you in Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 WEB)