The Holy Scriptures are the authority on the work of the Holy Spirit. All Scripture is inspired by God. The focal point of Scripture is the LordJesus Christ. So, what better source to goto than to the four Gospels, in which we see the Spirit’s work in preparing Jesus and preparing us to know Him? Revival, according to Martyn Lloyd Jones, is the unusual working of the Holy Spirit for a certain period of time.
This working does not contradict His normative workings, but it is an extension of it. I would propose to you that creation, the incarnation of Jesus, the resurrection and Pentecost are among those special times of divine intervention in which God advances His kingdom in a special way. The coming of Jesus and especially the three years of ministry, death, resurrection and ascension are the focal points of true revival.
R.C. Sproul, in his video on “Pentecost” in the Life of Christ series, shows how the Holy Spirit came as “another Comforter.”2 The Holy Spirit does not replace the authority of Jesus but He comes as one who applies the benefits of the finished work of Christ. In other words, when the Holy Spirit comes, He will lead us to Christ and keep us in Christ.
So let us look at the four gospels and review the workings of the Spirit in relationship to Christ and the followers of Christ. HERE WE SEE A CHRIST-CENTERED MODEL FOR REVIVAL. In this section we will briefly review the first part of the gospels. We will state the verse, give a commentary, and then present the principle and contemporary application. Since this review is a summary, the reader is encouraged to give each principle further study. This study is looking at implications of the work of the Holy Spirit.
THE PREPARATION OF CHILDREN
The first mention of the Holy Spirit in the gospel record has to do with John, the Preparer of the way of the Lord. Luke 1:15: “He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.” The Spirit of God abides in John from birth. If God wills, He can regenerate and spiritually abide even in an unborn child such as John. This does not mean all unborn children are the recipients of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, but rather that God in His sovereignty is able to accomplish that. This double testimony to God’s creation and sanctification shows that God is sovereign and that the Holy Spirit’s work in creation and sanctification makes human life, in all stages of development, sacred. The human being, in all stages of development, is an image-bearer of God, an eternal being, an instrument of God.
John Calvin writes in his commentary on Luke concerning John the Baptist: “The power and grace of the Spirit will appear in him not only when he shall enter upon his public employment, but even from the womb he shall excel in the gifts of the Spirit.”3
Natural man does not have such an elevated and sacred view of human birth or the potential of living to serve God. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “I see no reason for attributing to man a significance in and different from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand.”4 Contemporary Canadian culture agrees more with Holmes than with Calvin. In 1991, in Canada, abortions were done 88% (61,985 lives) of the time when the baby was under 13 weeks, 7.5% (5,271) lives of the time when the baby was between 13–16 weeks, and 2.6% (1,827 lives) of the time when the baby was over 16 weeks. The age of the baby was unknown in 1.7% (1,194 lives) of the cases.5
In times of revival the treatment of all of life, including the newborn, will be interpreted as sacred and in service of the Lord. The praying Hannah was granted a Samuel; Lois, the grandmother of Timothy, and Eunice, his mother, had their prayers answered for their offspring; the pleading prayers of Monica, the rebel Augustine’s mother, were graciously answered in the conversion of her son. In times of revival, parents will seriously consider, not only the here and now welfare of their children, but their eternal purpose.
There are very different views about how the Holy Spirit works among Christian’s children. The May 29, 1996 Globe and Mail reported:
Last Friday night, when most children were either asleep or munching on popcorn in front of their favorite video, the youngest members of Toronto’s Airport Christian Fellowship were jerking uncontrollably or screaming out the name of Jesus.
The children, aged 4 to 12, experienced what this charismatic church calls a “being slain by the Holy Spirit.” They tumble backward into the waiting hands of the ministry team members, who laid them on the floor to do what the church refers to as “carpet time.” Some rested quietly, others convulsed and moaned.
“God bless these children and release your pictures,” said Bill Dupley, the adult co-ordinator of the children’s renewal service. He then invited the children to come forward and share the visions God had shown them. The youngsters eagerly lined up to unleash the word of God through prophecy.
“I saw a lion and I’m thinking, ‘Cool. It’s a lion. It’s God,’” 11-year-old Australian Peter Lazar said with almost breathless excitement to the 40 children in the room.
A five-year old said he saw the gold-filled kingdom of God; other children described doves, fountains and Jesus standing in front of a grocery store saying, “Come, buy the love of the Lord.”
The children are part of a growing emphasis on prophecy within this controversial church. Formerly known as the Toronto Airport Vineyard, the church landed in the spotlight in January of 1994, when the church says the Holy Spirit descended on its members, causing them to burst into “holy laughter.”
How would you compare the events surrounding the birth of John and what happened in Toronto?
THE PRESERVATION OF THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST
Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” The Spirit of God abides with Jesus. The Spirit of God preserves the divine and eternal nature of Jesus and creates, as with any other child, the human nature.
William Hendriksen points out: Not of Joseph but of God!…Neither God nor Gabriel demands ofMary that she must understand everything. What is required of her is only this, that she believes and willingly submits.6
The Athanasian Creed spells out the dynamics of the eternal Son, responding to the heresies of Arius who believed that Jesus had a beginning. “The Son is of the Father alone, not created nor begotten.”
The Spirit of revival requires that we believe that Jesus is God. Revival cannot be accomplished with sects and ministries who deny the deity of Christ. If we search for revival with Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and liberal Christians, we search in vain, for they deny the truth about Christ and Christ is the reason for true revival. Our response to those who deny the deity of Christ is not fellowship but evangelism for those who have never believed and discipline for those in error.
THE MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION
Matthew 1:18: “She was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit generated new birth. The creation and regeneration of human beings is the work of the Holy Spirit. Mariano DiGangi writes:
The Spirit who wrought the miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary brings about our spiritual regeneration. He dispenses with human paternity and acts in sovereign grace to create new persons.7
Matthew 1:20: “That which is conceived in her iof the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit prepared the way for Jesus to come int the world. DiGangi again: The incarnation of the Son of God was not the result of Joseph’s procreative power but of Jehovah’s creative might. The Savior was born without human paternity, dramatizing the fact that God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son to save sinners.8
Revival will not only confirm the miraculous conception of Jesus but also reaffirm the absolute necessity or the miraculous new birth of the believer.
The denial of the virgin birth by liberal Protestants is a denial of the deity of Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures which tell us about this, and ultimately, a denial of the way of salvation through the necessity of radical rebirth. The same Spirit who conceived Jesus, plants new life in us. The two events are undeniably related through the Spirit.
THE SPIRIT EMPLOYS ALL GOD’S PEOPLE
Luke 1:41: “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” God used the mother of John to prophesy. Calvin notes: “She was suddenly endued with the gift of prophesy to an unusual extent.”
In revival, the priesthood of all believers will be spiritually activated. The Spirit comes upon all: children, women and men. Such was the outpouring at Pentecost, not only for the leaders but for all believers. 1be Holy Spirit’s employment of all believers should not lead us to contradict the Spirit’s inspired teachings in other parts of Scripture (I Tim. 2:12). The anointing of the Spirit is according to gifts and responsibilities.
It is not an indiscriminate, disorderly and destructive outpouring. To the contrary, Ephesians 4 points to the working together of Christ’s gifted leaders who are called to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The priesthood of all believers is to be mobilized to ministry.
THE SPIRIT QUICKENS THE TONGUE TO SPEAK FOR THE LORD
Luke 1:67: “Now his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying…” Zechariah had been dumb for nine months due to his unbelief, but now his tongue was made spiritually alive. Calvin says:
This was a remarkable instance ofthe goodness of God, that not only did Zechariah recover the power of speech, which he had not enjoyed for nine months, but his tongue became the instrument of the Holy Spirit.
Revival will see unbelieving and dumb tongues be made alive again. It is incredible to hear the testimonies of ministers who have served in the church for many years and then came to know Christ! Walter Kerr, executive director ofLigonier Ministries, speaks about his father who had been a pastor in the United Methodist Church for many years before he was converted.9 It reminds me of my one year stay at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary where at the beginning of the year a professor gave a chapel meditation which cast doubt on the reality of Biblical events while near the end of the year, after his conversion, he used chapel time to give an evangelical message.
THE COMFORT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Luke 2:25: “Simeon…was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Simeon was not comforted by the faithful human prophets, priests and kings. God had removed the offices, only a remnant of the priesthood was leftover. The Holy Spirit comforted Simeon with a sure knowledge and confident patience that indeed the Savior would come. Revival occurs in times of unfilled human and religious needs. Yet, the Spirit continues to give hope to the remnant to wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled.
I recall an elderly pastor, Jorge Pasible, who had endured the rigors of poverty working with his fellow Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. Revival occurred with lasting results among the Haitian immigrants prior to Jorge’s death. I can still see the glowing smile on his face and other older Christians who would testify that they had been praying for years for revival and relief. They saw the coming of the missionaries and the renewal of the church as answered prayer. Jorge died in peace.10
THE REVELATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Luke 2:26: “And it had been revealed to Him by the Holy Spirit.” God is capable of revealing events related to the salvation of His people. Calvin observes: “Though Simeon had no distinction of public office, he was adorned with eminent gifts—with piety, with a blameless life, with faith and prophecy.”
Revival will be accompanied by a sincere preoccupation for the salvation of the Lord. Salvation, not speculation, is the content of the Spirit’s revelation.
Praise God for Christian lay members, like Simeon, who sacrifice their lives to promote the proclamation of the gospel of the Lord. Revival is accompanied by the promotion ofthe Word ofGod, illuminated by the Spirit of Christ. The Reformation ofthe 16th century was undergirded by the translation and distribution ofthe Bible in the langauge of the people. Praise the Lord for societies such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, Gideons, the Bible Societies and others.11
PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
Luke 2:27: “So he came by the Spirit into the temple. What a wonderful way to go to church! Simeon came seeking the living Savior and Lord in worship! Matthew Henry notes: ‘Those that would see Christ must go to his temple; for there the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to meet you, and there you must be ready to meet him.” 12
Revival will be accompanied by renewal of authentic, Spirit led, Christ centered and Father-glorifying true worship.
The workings of the Holy Spirit surrounding the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world took place in ordinary people in extra-ordinary ways. A careful observation of how the Spirit worked gives us insights as to how He will operate in times of revival, if God grants us such blessings.
FOOTNOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
1. Michael Haykin, “The Holy Spirit and Revival: An Historical Perspective,” and Neal Pronk, “The Holy Spirit and Revival: The Role of Preaching” as given at the London Ligonier Conference, January 13, 1996.
2. R.C. Sproul, “Life of Christ,” video on Pentecost, Ligonier Ministries, Orlando, FL.
3. John Calvin, Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984). All references to Calvin come from this source according to the Bible verse under consideration.
4. R.C. Sproul, Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (Study Guide). (Orlando: Ligonier Ministries. 1990).
5. “Abortion Canada,” (Alliance Action Inc., 1991).
6. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentaries: Luke, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984).
7. Mariano DiGangi, The Spirit of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1975), p. 12.
8. Ibid., p. 10.
9. Walter Kerr, conversation, Feb., 1996, Orlando.
10. Neal Hegeman, Iglesia Dulce (Santo Domingo, Editora Educativa Evangelical, 1987).
11. Bible League, Open Doors and others are into Bible distribution.
12. The Matthew Henry Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publ. Co., 1961).
Dr. Neal Hegeman is Associate Pastor at the Cornerstone United Reformed Church in London Ontario, Canada. He also serves as Executive Director of Ligonier Ministries of Canada.