Alex's Blog for April 11, 2011 - True Revival Brings a People Back to the Bible
By Alex Dodson
Some say we are living in a post Christian society. Christianity is being left behind and the Bible is no longer relevant. Such an attitude has become common to many in this nation. Though there is much religion going on, few really honor and believe the Bible as former generations did. This is not unusual. It has happened before.
Iain Murray writes in his book Pentecost - Today? - "…it is true that the most widespread revivals in the last four centuries have followed eras when unbelief was dominant both in society and in the church. This was the case before the Reformation of the sixteenth century and again before the Evangelical Revival two centuries later. Bishop Butler could lament of England in 1736: 'It has come to be taken for granted that Christianity is no longer a subject of inquiry; but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious.' Unbelief was established in the pulpits of Geneva before the revival which began in 1816. Jean Jacques Rousseau had mocked the Swiss pastors of that city with the words: 'It is asked of the ministers of the Church of Geneva, if Jesus Christ is God? They dare not answer. It is asked, if he were a mere man. They are embarrassed, and will not say they think so…They do not know what they believe, or what they do not.'…The twentieth century has seen a more widespread and enduring defection from historic Christianity in the English-speaking world than has been witnessed in any period since the Reformation. This defection has occurred through the removal of the foundation to all Christian teaching, namely that the words of Scripture are so given of God that the teaching they contain is entirely trustworthy and authoritative. The Bible stands supreme above all human wisdom and religious tradition. It alone is the Book which God has given for the salvation of men. If, therefore, Scripture loses its true place in the church nothing remains certain." (p. 171)
Today, Christians compromise their belief in the Bible with naturalism by trying to fit atheistic evolutionary philosophy into the Book of Genesis. Others are coming up with new theories about the love of God and have pretty much done away with Hell and eternal punishment. All of this is just a symptom of disbelief in the Bible.
Now, we live in a day when the preaching of the Word of God has taken a back seat in many evangelical churches to other things. The great pulpits of the past have been removed and the stage opened up for the worship team. It is not that the worship team is doing something wrong but that what they do has priority over the preaching of the Word of God which used to be pre-eminent in our worship services. Many Christians no longer take the Bible seriously or have no confidence in much of what it says. We are living in a time of compromise. No longer is the Bible revered as the very Word of God. Even seminaries compromise with modern day science theories and philosophy. The whole Bible is not considered trustworthy anymore. Darwinian philosophy has taken the place of a truly Biblical and Christian philosophy in the public schools of this land and even in some Christian schools.
Will this always be? Will we continue on this downward spiral of unbelief in the Bible? Will we ever go back to the way it was in times past when the Bible was respected and revered in this nation? Will we ever go back to a day when the President of the United States could say, "It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord." So wrote Abraham Lincoln. (The Rebirth of America, p. 32) Nowadays such a statement from the President would not be considered politically correct. Yet, times will change when the Holy Spirit comes in power.
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit after He had ascended. He said that when the Holy Spirit came He would lead them into all truth. (John 16:13) Jesus also prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17 KJV) When the Holy Spirit comes, the Bible will be respected and believed. Belief and respect for the Bible by our society will return when God pours out His Spirit on this nation in power. At the present time, this is not happening and the nation lies on the brink of great judgment for its sins. Other nations are being judged and we are not exempt from such judgment. Yet, if and when revival comes, things will change. We must pray that God will have mercy on our land and send the Holy Spirit in power. When He comes, He will lead into all truth. He will point the nation to the Bible which is God's Truth.
Now, we want to consider the fact that the Holy Spirit leads into all truth. The mission of the Holy Spirit is to point people to God's truth. When He comes in power, He will do this to an even greater extent. The Holy Spirit comes from the throne of God and He is God and will reveal and point to God's truth. John Calvin writes, "We know that God is the fountain of truth and that outside Him there is nothing sure or substantial…As if He were saying that whatever the Spirit brings flows from God Himself…In short, Christ wanted to tell us that the teaching of the Spirit would not be of this world, as if it were produced in the air, but would proceed from the secret places of His heavenly sanctuary." (Commentary on John, pp. 120-121) The Holy Spirit comes from heaven to point people to the truth from God.
Matthew Henry wrote, "That they do not miss their way: He will guide you: as the camp of Israel was guided through the wilderness by the pillar of cloud and fire. The Spirit guided (the apostles) their tongues in speaking, and their pins in writing, to secure them from mistakes. The Spirit is given us to be our guide (Romans 8:14) not only to show us the way, but to go along with us, by his continued aids and influences." (Commentary on John, p. 1138) R. V. G. Tasker writes, "But what Jesus had been unable to make fully clear to them during His earthly life, the Spirit of truth, speaking from the ultimate source of truth, would expound to them further after His departure. It would, however, not be any new truth that He would unfold, but the truth that was implicit in what Jesus had said and done. He would explain in greater detail the divine plan of salvation, and disclose the eternal significance of the crucial events that were now imminent - the death and resurrection of their Master. And every fresh insight into such truth would enable the apostles to have a more complete vision of the glory of God to be seen in the face of Jesus Christ." (Commentary on John, p. 180) The Lord Jesus promised the apostles that He would send the Holy Spirit to them and He would lead them into all truth. This is exactly what He did. The whole New Testament is a testimony to that fact.
God's Word is Truth. John 17:17 again says, "Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth." (KJV) The Bible is Truth - It is God's Word. II Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. Therefore, the Holy Spirit will lead us to the Word of God. That Word will be honored by Him when He comes in power." William Hendriksen writes, "Thus he guides into all truth, that is, into the whole (with emphasis on this adjective) body of redemptive revelation." (Commentary on John, p. 328)
It is God's Word - the Bible- where we are to look for the Truth for it is God's Truth. Martin Luther wrote, "One should know and learn that He will be in and with the Word, that it will guide us into all truth, in order that we may believe it, use it as a weapon, be preserved by it against all the lies and deception of the devil, and prevail in all trials and temptations….He wants us to adhere solely to the Word and to regard it as the only truth and through this Word alone He governs the Christian Church to the end." (Commentary on John, p. 362) We must look to the Word - It is God's Truth. When the Holy Spirit comes, He points us to the Word.
When the Holy Spirit comes, He will honor the Word of God. He will bring men's attention to the Word. William Hendriksen writes, "What the Spirit hears from the Father he, in and through the Word, whispers into the hearts of believers." (Hendriksen, p. 328) The Spirit comes and makes the Word of God real to our hearts. When the Spirit is poured out, He points men to the Bible. He honors the Bible for it is God's Truth. He is the Spirit of Truth and He leads into all Truth. When true revival comes, the Bible is honored. In true revival, the Spirit of Truth comes and He honors the Bible. Therefore, true revival points men back to the Bible.
When the Holy Spirit comes, He empowers the Word. It is no dead letter when the Holy Spirit comes. The Holy Spirit rides the chariot of the Word of God into our hearts. Peter and John had been instructed by the authorities not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. What were they to do? We read about what happened in Acts 4:23-29 - "On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. 'Sovereign Lord,' they said, 'you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: Why do the heathen rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness…." What happened then? We see in verse 31 where it says, "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." That's what happens when the Holy Spirit comes. He honors the Word of God, God's Truth and enables His servants to proclaim it boldly.
Now, we want to consider what actually happens when a true revival comes upon a people. There have been great revivals in this country in the past which we hear little about today. However, that doesn't take away from the fact that they have happened in the past. When the Second Great Awakening came to the United States, the Holy Spirit came in power and the Word of God was preached in power. We want to consider some eyewitness accounts of that revival to see what actually happened. The first account comes from Rev. Timothy M. Cooley of Granville, Mass. who tells about what happened at his church in 1798. He writes, "On the second Sabbath in June; a very plain sermon was preached from Ezekiel 37:3, which was blessed to the awakening of a number of sinners. On Tuesday of the next week a number of young people met for a civil visit, and the violin was introduced, which instead of producing the usual hilarity, occasioned a flood of tears. The work of the Spirit, which had been for several days concealed, now burst forth. It was found that numbers had for sometime felt a very serious concern for their future well-being, and thought they were alone in it, being ignorant of the feelings and resolutions of others. The glorious work spread with surprising rapidity through the parish. Christians were animated, sinners were awakened, and scoffers were struck silent at the powerful work of the Almighty. It was truly a remarkable season, and the most aged had never witnessed the like before. A surprising change from apparent thoughtlessness to universal alarm took place within two or three weeks. The rapidity of the work must be ascribed to the all-conquering influences of the Holy Spirit." (Revival Sketches, p. 107)
The Second Great Awakening was to last for up to fifty years. Another eyewitness of the earliest days of the revival was Rev. Samuel Shephard of Lenox, Mass. who wrote about what happened in his church in 1799. He said, "Well might his church, like God's ancient covenant people when they sat in captivity by the waters of Babylon, hang its harps upon the willows, for it seemed indeed that when the few who were rapidly hastening down the vale of years should be removed, the name of Jesus in the holy ordinance of the supper would scarcely be had in remembrance. 'Such were the melancholy prospects of this church in the spring of 1799, while the showers of divine grace were falling on other parts of Zion. But in the month of April, several members of the church manifested great anxiety about the state of religion among us, and expressed a desire that meetings might be appointed for religious conference, and special prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit. It was done, and the second meeting was unusually solemn. At the third, persons came together from every part of town. The divine authority of the Scriptures was the subject of conversation, and the appearance of the assembly was truly affecting. Sinners were brought to tremble in view of eternity, and professors of religion were animated and rendered fervent in prayer. From that time the work became more general….'" (P. 111-112) When the Holy Spirit comes in power, He points people to the Word of God and they attend upon it. During the time of the Second Great Awakening, people all over this nation flocked to the churches to hear the Word of God preached in power. Our prayer is that this will happen again in our day.
When the Holy Spirit comes in power during times of true revival, He eradicates unbelief. Men will be convicted of their unbelief because when the Holy Spirit comes, He convicts people of sin. One of the greatest sins of this nation today is unbelief. When the Holy Spirit comes, He will bring people under conviction for this great sin. Atheistic evolutionists will come under conviction. Christian compromisers of Truth will come under conviction.
At the time of the Great Evangelical Awakening in England in the 18th century, unbelief stalked the land. Yet, when the Holy Spirit was poured out in great power, that unbelief disappeared. Iain Murray quotes J. Fordyce who wrote, "Thus without any reasoning, with but little argument, the Deistic position was completely undermined, and the walls of the proud Jericho of eighteenth-century unbelief fell flat before the blasts of the new evangel." (Pentecost - Today?, p. 175) The unbelief in this land today, where Darwinism reigns in our schools and universities and halls of science, will dwindle away when the Holy Spirit comes in power. He convicts men of their unbelief and points them to the Word of God - God's Truth.
True revival will bring the nation back to the Bible. Again people will honor the Bible as God's Word. Again people will believe the Bible and accept it as the truth of God. Murray writes, "God himself must authenticate the truth to make it real to us. In the words of Owen: 'There is a sacred light in the Word: but there is a covering and veil on the eyes of men, so that they cannot behold it aright. Now, the removal of this veil is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit.' This being true, it inevitably follows that every period which has seen a widespread restoration of faith has always been a period when the convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit has been manifest. Apologetics may modify conditions for the better but it is only under the powerful preaching of the gospel that unbelief is scattered as mist before the sun." (p. 173)
Murray goes on to quote Jonathan Edwards who wrote, "God was pleased to suffer human learning to come to such a height before he sent forth the gospel into the world, that the world might see the insufficiency of all their own wisdom for the obtaining the knowledge of God, without the gospel of Christ, and the teaching of the Spirit. When in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." (p. 173-174)
It is my firm belief that when true revival comes the nation will turn back to the Bible. When the Holy Spirit is poured out in power, men will throng back to God's Word. We do not know if God will send another Great Revival to this nation. He could send judgment instead. The sins of our nation cry our for such judgment. Yet, we must cry out to a merciful God to send revival and turn this nation around. We must pray and not cease until the Spirit is poured out from on high. We are now living in a wasteland of sin and unbelief. Yet, this can change. Isaiah 32:12-15 speaks of a pouring out of the Holy Spirit on a wasteland and wasteland changes to a fruitful field - "Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vines and for the land of my people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers - yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry. The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest."
Let us storm the windows of heaven till the Spirit be poured out upon this dry and barren land. Let us not cease to cry out to God for this nation. Our forefathers did not come here to establish a nation that would go down in judgment but they came to establish a land where righteousness would flourish and where God would be honored. May it yet be.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (1978) unless indicated otherwise
Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries - The Gospel According to St. John, 11-21 and The First Epistle of John, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961.
DeMoss, Nancy Leigh, Ed. The Rebirth of America, The Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation, USA, 1986.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. 5 - Matthew to John, Fleming H. Revell Company, USA. (Originally published 1721)
Hendriksen, William. Exposition of the Gospel According to John, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1954.
Humphrey, Heman. Revival Sketches and Manual in Two Parts, Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1999. (Originally published 1859)
Luther, Martin. (Pelikan, Jaroslav, Ed.) Luther's Works, Volume 24, Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, Chapters 14-16, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, 1961. (First published 1537)
Murray, Iain. Pentecost Today?, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1998.
Tasker, R. V. G. The Gospel According to St. John, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960.