If God is gracious in giving His Church revival. the manifestation of such will be according to His Word. In the ministry of Jesus, the Scripture describes how the Holy Spirit works. By way of implication, we can discern principles for spiritual revival.
THE OUTWARD SIGN OF BAPTISM WITH WATER IS FULFILLED BY THE SPIRIT
Mark 1:8: “I indeed baptized with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John the Baptist administered the outward sign of purification but only the Holy Spirit can cleanse us from within. Water baptism alone is nothing more than water.
Revival will refocus on the spiritual meaning of the Christian baptism. During the Reformation Revival it was necessary to desacramentalize the Church. Baptism and the other six sacraments had been elevated above the Word of God. Rebirth was preached for the baptized. Water baptism did not mean rebirth was taking place via the water. Nor would water baptism cause spiritual rebirth. Rather, the water baptism pointed to the necessity of spiritual rebirth.
Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Jesus dispenses the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well as the fires of purification. John Calvin reasons: Christ alone bestows all the grace which is figuratively represented by outward baptism, because it is He who “sprinkled the conscience” with His blood. It is He also who mortifies the old man, and bestows the Spirit of regeneration. The word fire is added as an epithet, and is applied to the Spirit, because He takes away our pollutions, as fire purifies gold.
Revival brings inner purification which only the Spirit of God can affect. When I went to seminary over 25 years ago we were instructed to refer people with emotional. mental and spiritual traumas to specialists who could better handle the situation. Today, specialists are referring their patients back to the church. Without making a commentary on the pros and cons of shock therapy and tranquilizers, it is true that many people are seeking inner purification. Some of us may be critical of our church members seeking hope for inner healing in places other than the institutional church, but we must ask the question as to why they are not finding such healing in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
THE SPIRIT COMES FROM ABOVE, NOT FROM WITHIN
Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32–33: “He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove.” The Spirit does not reside in animals, as the New Agers teach, nor does He come from within us, as humanists hold, but He graciously descends from heaven as God. Revival cannot be manipulated by man, through programs, self-help manuals, fasting and meditation techniques. True revival is affected by God from heaven. For that reason the disciples, prior to Pentecost, were instructed to pray in the Upper Room and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Andrew Murray writes:
The evangelization of the world depends first of all upon a revival of prayer. Deeper than the need for men — deep down at the bottom of our spiritless life — is the need for the forgotten secret of prevailing, worldwide prayer. Every child of God has the Holy Spirit in him to pray. God waits to give the Spirit in full measure. Ask for yourself, and all who join, the outpouring of the Spirit of supplication.]
We can be encouraged today that prayer is uniting many Christians today. If our prayers are inspired by heaven, they will lead us to the only true God in heaven, whom we know through jesus Christ who intercedes for us before the throne of grace.
THE SPIRIT PREPARED CHRIST FOR TEMPTATION
Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1: “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” The Spirit does not lead into temptation but leads us to resist temptation. Calvin observes: “He was then more abundantly endued with the grace and power of the Spirit. in order that he might be more fortified for the battles which he had to fight.” Revival will not help us escape the temptations of the world but the Spirit prepares us to face the temptations.
Times of revival are often followed by persecution. It is one thing to praise the Lord in times of prosperity, but quite another to face adversity for your faith. I am encouraged to read the literature of Richard Wurmbrand and other information about the Persecuted Church. David Barrett asserts that the 20th century is the most persecuted century for the church. His statistics include a special category for the Persecuted Church. He estimates that 159,000 Christians will lose their life for the gospel’s sake during 1996! In the early church, confessing jesus as Lord could cost you your life, since Rome believed that Caesar was Lord. I am familiar with the Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. Immediately after the years of incredible church growth, mass deportations set in. In southern Mexico, the National Presbyterian Church saw the growth of the church from several people to over 100,000 believers. They are still under persecution today, brought on by the Roman Catholic Church and the revolutionary Zapatista movement.
THE SPIRIT EMPOWERED JESUS TO PURSUE HIS MINISTRY
Luke 4:14: “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.” After the temptation, the Spirit continued to empower Jesus in preparation for His ministry. Jesus, in His humanity, depended on the Spirit’s empowerment. This too is a model for Christians. We cannot live the Christian life without being empowered by the Holy Spirit. A Christian without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is not a Christian at all. Revival, too, depends on the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit.
THE SPIRIT ANOINTS FOR MINISTRY
Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” The anointing work of the Holy Spirit associated directly with Christ. the Anointed One. His spiritual anointing includes: preaching the good news to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to captives, giving sight to the blind, setting at liberty those who are oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord. That is the Spirit-filled ministry. Calvin says: “Many make a false boast. that they have the Spirit of God, while they are destitute of His gifts.” Revival will address real spiritual, personal, and social needs with the gospel of the kingdom of God.
Normally the gospel enters a new field through the back door of the misery of sin. This could be our own sin, the sins of our ancestors, or being sinned against. This is not only true in the international mission fields but also in Canada. Gordon Petawabano, Cree Indian from northern Quebec, reports that a majority of his village have turned to Christ after living for generations in spiritual darkness and abuse. Important chiefs are Christians. In Toronto, the Reformed Church in Canada has a difficult time keeping the doors of their churches open for the Anglo community, while Hispanics are using the church on Sunday and during the week with significant crowds. It is reported that there are more than 100 Spanish-speaking churches in Toronto alone. All the major centers in Canada have a significant number of Korean churches. Also, one should look for revival among marginalized groups such as prisoners, ex-drug addicts, AIDS patients, abused women, women who have turned away from abortions and other victims of sin. That makes sense if jesus is Savior. When revival comes, jesus is truly believed and fully glorified, regardless of race, rank or status.
Our brief summary of some of the references found in the early sections of the gospels gives us ample evidence to say that the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit includes both external and internal means. Externally, the Spirit uses the ordinance of baptism, His leading, His anointing, and His Word in order to effect the internal work of purification, direction, empowerment and belief. The Spirit baptized, led, empowered and equipped jesus for His ministry. Can a Christian serve God without such spiritual intervention? Can a church be revived with anything less?
1. Andrew Murray, Ministry of Intercessory Prayer. (Bethany House Publ., 1981) p. 126.
Dr. Neal Hegeman is Associate Pastor at the Cornerstone United Reformed Church in London, Ontario, Canada. He serves as Executive Director of Ligonier Ministries of Canada.