A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Flashpoints of RevivalRevival Fires

Summaries of Revivals
from these two books by Geoff Waugh:
Flashpoints of Revival
Revival Fires

Biblical Background

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim
release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
(Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 61:1-2).

Jesus, reading from Isaiah’s prophecy, claimed its fulfilment in himself. He explained his mission as the Messiah (the Christ, the Anointed One) in terms of being empowered by the anointing of the Spirit of the Lord for his ministry. That ministry, specifically to the poor, captives, blind, and oppressed, demonstrated the liberating good news of the Lord’s favour.

That grace and favour met personal and institutional resistance. Jesus illustrated his mandate in his home synagogue with the biblical accounts of the Lord providing for the Gentile Sidon widow and the Syrian army officer. The congregation’s rage erupted into one of the many assassination attempts on Jesus’ life. His anointed ministry drove him to the cross.

The ministry of Jesus and of his church seen in the ‘revivals’ of the early church show both the powerful nature of the Spirit’s anointing and its power to confront evil.

This book emphasizes the importance of these impacts of the Holy Spirit, demonstrated biblically and also historically in revivals. It shows the importance of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, which declares that Jesus’ followers throughout history ‘to the end of the age’ would obey everything he taught his first disciples. They learned to serve and minister in the power of the Spirit.

Revivals show how different perspectives on Spirit movements find common ground in evangelism, ministry, and in social action.

Different Christian traditions emphasise different dimensions of being baptised in the Spirit. Rather than seeing these perspectives as mutually exclusive, they may be seen as inter-related and integrated. The evangelical emphasis on conversion, the Catholic and Episcopal emphasis on initiation, the Reformed emphasis on covenant, and the Pentecostal emphasis on charismata can be integrated in a dynamic view of Spirit baptism. These perspectives all thrown light on powerful Spirit movements in revival, like facets of a brilliant diamond.

 

Revival

Revival is God pouring out his Spirit on all people.

Revivals have been thoroughly described and analysed. The Christian term ‘revival’ may be traced to its earliest use in the phrase “revival of religion.”

The Oxford Association for Research in Revival, formed in 1974 through the work of revival historian J. Edwin Orr, distinguished between ‘revival’ for believers and ‘awakening’ for the community:

A spiritual awakening is a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival of New Testament Christianity in the Church of Christ and its related community. … The outpouring of the Spirit accomplishes the reviving of the Church, the awakening of the masses and the movements of uninstructed people toward the Christian faith; the revived Church, by many or by few, is moved to engage in evangelism, in teaching and in social action.

The terms ‘revival’ and ‘awakening’ have been used interchangeably in revival literature. ‘Revival’ now usually refers to local revivals of spiritual life and commitment within the church but also touching the surrounding community through conversions and social transformation. ‘Awakening’ usually refers to the more widespread influence of revivals across a large area and for a more extended period of time with considerable influence in the community and the nation.

Martin Lloyd-Jones described revival this way:

“It is an experience in the life of the Church when the Holy Spirit does an unusual work. He does that work, primarily, amongst the members of the Church; it is a reviving of the believers. You cannot revive something that has never had life, so revival, by definition, is first of all an enlivening and quickening and awakening of lethargic, sleeping, almost moribund Church members. Suddenly the power of the Spirit comes upon them and they are brought into a new and more profound awareness of the truths that they previously held intellectually, and perhaps at a deeper level too. They are humbled, they are convicted of sin, they are terrified at themselves. Many of them feel they had never been Christians. And they come to see the great salvation of God in all its glory and to feel its power. Then, as the result of their quickening and enlivening, they begin to pray. New power comes into the preaching of ministers, and the result of this is that large numbers who were previously outside the Church are converted and brought in.”

Revivals may be examined as sociological phenomena. Revivals occur within a sociological context and usually affect and change that context. The sociological discourses are relevant as significant social explanations, but they often exclude the theological dimensions of divine initiative and intervention, supernatural phenomena, and human repentance and faith. Repentance, renewal and divine intervention feature prominently in revival accounts, adding fuller dimensions to the secular sociological explanations of revival phenomena.

Furthermore, Christian revivals often include mass evangelism meetings, but revival also needs to be distinguished from the use of the term ‘revival’ for evangelistic meetings. When ‘revival’ is used for a scheduled revival meeting, such as once a week in a local church, the term is being used in a limited, narrow sense rather than in its historical meaning.

Revival refers to the Lord pouring out his Spirit on everyone.

 
Biblical witness

The Bible affirms specific, identifiable and profound impacts of the Holy Spirit in the redemptive, liberating action of God in Spirit movements. Biblical terms describing charismatic impacts of the Spirit vary greatly in both the Old and New Testaments. They include the following, with these representative references:
the Spirit was given – Numbers 11:17; John 7:39;
the Spirit came upon – Judges 3:10; Acts 19:5;
the Spirit took control – Judges 6:34; 1 Samuel 11:6; 16:13;
the Spirit poured out – Joel 2:28 28; Acts 10:45;
the Spirit came down – Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:22; John 1:33;
the Spirit fell (or came down) Acts 10:44; 11:15;
the Spirit received – Acts 8:15 17; 19:2;
baptised in or with the Spirit – Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5;
filled with the Spirit – Acts 2:4; 9:17; Ephesians 5:18.

The specific nature of these charismatic impacts is significant, as is the varied nature of subsequent charismata and ministries resulting from these impacts. Luke’s narrative discourses in his gospel and the Acts emphasise the importance of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Jesus and his followers, and all the gospel accounts describe the impact of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism and in his subsequent ministry.

 
The Old Testament

The unique Hebrew monotheism involved covenant relationship with God, Yahweh, as supreme. Consequently, any deviation from God’s rule required repentance and restoration in personal, communal, national and ultimately in international relationships.

Revival as repentance and return to that covenant relationship is typical of Spirit movements in the Old Testament. However, periods of covenant renewal were not necessarily times of revival, particularly where people merely conformed outwardly to the edicts of their godly rulers. Revival as an outpouring of the Spirit on everyone is foreshadowed, rather than fulfilled, in the Old Testament. The new covenant blessings involve outpourings of the Spirit in the promised messianic era.

The popular, generic biblical ‘revival’ statement is God’s promise to answer the prayers of his repentant people with the restoration of shalom in the healing of the land. This promise, given to Solomon in a night vision at the time of the dedication of the first temple, answered his public national prayer of 2 Chronicles 6 (specifically verses 26-27), with the assurance of God’s faithfulness to his covenant: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Kaiser notes the significance of 2 Chronicles 7:14, as demonstrated in repentance and reform movements during the reigns of Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah in Judah. Although commentators refer to this passage in terms of the writer’s doctrine of retribution, it is also justified exegetically as a pattern for revival as demonstrated in Israel’s history and more completely in the messianic era of the Spirit following Pentecost.

Spirit movements in the Old Testament demonstrate God’s faithfulness to this covenant promise. Revival or reform always involved returning to theocratic rule, with the prophets as the guardians of the theocracy. Kings were accountable to God, and the true prophets spoke from God.

Where repentance occurred, often in times of crisis and need, the Spirit of the Lord intervened powerfully on the nation and on other nations with glimpses of the blessings of the promised messianic rule.

Examples of ‘revival’ in Israel’s history include movements of reform and repentance under the leadership of:
1. Jacob-Israel (Genesis 35:1 15),
2. Samuel (1 Sameul 7:1-17),
3. Asa (2 Chronicles 15:1 15),
4. Joash (2 Kings 11 12; 2 Chronicles 23 24),
5. Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1 8; 2 Chronicles 29 31),
6. Josiah (2 Kings 22 23; 2 Chronicles 34 35),
7. Jonah (Jonah 1-4, involving Ninevah),
8. Haggai and Zechariah with Zerubbabel (Ezra 5 6)
9. Ezra with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:1 6; 12:44 47).

Although these are not the only occasions of repentance and reform, they were national movements of return to the covenant obligations, and they document the fulfilment of the covenant promises and obligations with typical revival phenomena. Revivals in Israel’s history included these characteristics:
1. They occurred in times of moral darkness and national depression;
2. Each began in the heart of a consecrated servant of God who became the energising power behind it;
3. Each revival rested on the Word of God, and most were the result of proclaiming God’s Word with power;
4. All resulted in a return to the worship of God;
5. Each witnessed the destruction of idols where they existed;
6. In each revival, there was a recorded separation from sin, especially destruction of idols;
7. In every revival the people returned to obeying God’s laws;
8. There was a restoration of great joy and gladness;
9. Each revival was followed by a period of national prosperity.

Revival movements in the Old Testament demonstrated God’s faithfulness to his covenant relationship, but the prophets saw such movements as harbingers of the messianic age in which the promise of shalom would be fulfilled, not merely externally upon anointed members of the covenant community, but internally by the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord upon all people.

 
The New Testament

Jesus fulfilled and completed the messianic promises in himself. This included the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit. Jesus experienced the empowering of the Spirit at his baptism, which he explained in terms of being anointed for ministry (Luke 4:18-19).

The Spirit-empowered preaching and ministry of the twelve and the seventy also proclaimed and demonstrated the messianic kingdom of God. However, the disciples often failed to understand the significance of the Spirit’s liberating presence, and often showed lack of faith and vision, both before and after Pentecost.

Jesus inaugurated the new era of his new blood covenant. His church, filled with his Spirit, still fulfils his mission in the world. The cross and resurrection remain the ultimate and essential victory over evil. Authentic revival demonstrates the triumph of the cross and the presence and power of the risen Lord in his people by his Spirit.

The early church lived in revival. It saw rapid growth in the power of the Holy Spirit from the initial outburst at Pentecost. Multitudes joined the church, amid turmoil and persecution. As with Pentecost, revivals are often unexpected, sudden, revolutionary, and impact large numbers of people bringing them to repentance and faith in Jesus the Lord.

Characteristics typical of revival can be found in the widely acknowledged prototype of revival in the Pentecost account. These themes recur constantly in accounts of Spirit movements in revival. Stott notes revival characteristics in Acts 2: “Pentecost has been called – and rightly – the first ‘revival’, using this word to denote one of those altogether unusual visitations of God, in which a whole community becomes vividly aware of his immediate, overpowering presence. It may be, therefore, that not only the physical phenomena (vv 2ff), but the deep conviction of sin (v 37), the 3,000 conversions (v 41) and the widespread sense of awe (v 43) were signs of ‘revival.’”

Revivals continually display the characteristics and phenomena of the Pentecost account, including:

1 Divine sovereignty (Acts 2:1,2): God chose the day, the time, the place, the people, uniting old covenant promise with new covenant fulfilment. His Spirit came suddenly and people were overwhelmed at the Pentecost harvest festival.

2 Prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:1): The believers gathered together to pray and wait on God as instructed by the Jesus at the ascension. All revival literature emphasises the significance of united, earnest, repentant prayer in preparing the way for revival and sustaining it.

3 Unity (Acts 2:1): The disparate group meeting ‘in one accord’ included male and female, old and young, former zealot and former collaborator, most of the twelve and those who joined them. Their differences blended into the diversity of enriched unity .

4 Obedience to the Spirit (Acts 2:4): Filled with the Spirit they immediately began using gifts of the Spirit as ‘the Spirit gave utterance’.

5 Preaching (Acts 2:14): Peter preached with anointed Spirit-empowered boldness, as did the others whose words were heard in many languages.

6 Repentance (Acts 2:38-39): Large numbers were convicted and repented. They were instructed to be baptised and to expect to be filled with the Spirit and to live in Spirit-led community, and that succeeding generations should expect this also.

7 Evangelism (Acts 2:40-41, 47): The new believers witnessed through changed lives bringing others to faith in the Lord daily.

8 Charismata (Acts 2:43): The era of the Spirit inaugurated supernatural phenomena including glossolalia, signs, wonders and miracles, demonstrated powerfully among the leaders, but not limited to them.

9 Community (Acts 2:42-47): The outpouring of the Spirit brought the church into being as a charismatic, empowered community which met regularly in homes for discipleship instruction, supportive fellowship, daily informal eucharistic meals, and constant prayer.

10 Rapid church growth (Acts 2:47): Typical of revivals, The Lord added to the church those who were being saved. This eventually transformed the community of Judaistic believers into a constantly expanding community embracing all people.

That story of revival declares that “about three thousand persons were added” (Acts 2:41), “many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand” (Acts 4:4), “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women” (Acts 5:14), “The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7), “the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up … it increased in numbers” (Acts 9:31), “a great number became believers” (Acts 11:21), “a great many people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24), “the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents” (Acts 12:24), “the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5).

Those early Christians lived and ministered in the power of the Spirit, facing constant opposition and persecution. They were not faultless, as the epistles indicate, but they were on fire, “people who have been turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Biblical revivals and awakenings return to this normative pattern.

Luke’s narrative in Acts is a narrative of revival. Throughout history and still today, revivals continue that story.

 

Comments on: "Summaries of Revivals Biblical Background" (1)

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