Pieces of Revival

By Dr. Rick Flanders

“And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were puzzlescattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
(Acts 8:1)

We learn a lot from the record of early Christian activity given to us in the Bible book named the Acts of the Apostles. The divinely-inspired account of what the followers of Jesus did after He went back to heaven is organized around His parting words on the Mount of Olives.

“Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8)

As the story is told, we find the Holy Spirit coming upon the band of believers in chapter 2, and the evangelization of Jerusalem going forward from that chapter and continuing through chapter 7. But the next phase of the plan given by Christ (witnessing in the rest of Judaea) has not been entered as we begin to read chapter 8. The witnessing had not spread out from the city into “all Judea.” But clearly God was (and is) serious about the Acts 1:8 program. We see Him bringing severe persecution to the Jerusalem church so that the members were “scattered abroad” spreading the Gospel into Judaea and Samaria. However the twelve apostles stayed in Jerusalem. Chapter 8 records the progress of the Gospel in Samaria and in chapter 9 we see it moving into new parts of the province of Judaea. Of course, in these chapters of Acts we are also reading about how the groundwork for the “uttermost part of the earth” phase of the plan was being laid with the conversions of the Ethiopian treasurer and of Saul the persecutor. Oddly, as the Lord moved to cause His people to fulfill His plan, the apostles held back, and at least for a time, stayed in Jerusalem and stalled in the first stages of the program. Somebody years ago noticed this phenomenon and said that the book could be titled “the inaction of the apostles”! But the program went forward, as “they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:2).

Since those early days, one obstacle to the fulfilling of God’s plan for the evangelization of the world has been the tendency of His servants to pick and choose what parts of the plan to pursue, and what parts to neglect. The plan is not unclear. See it again in Acts 1:8, and follow how it was understood and implemented in the next chapters of the book of Acts. We are to get the power to fulfill the daunting task of telling every person in the world the good news of salvation, not from our own energy and enthusiasm, or from well-devised and implemented human planning, but from the Spirit of God Who came to live in believers on the day of Pentecost. In His power, we are thoroughly to evangelize our cities and our countries, forming churches with the converts in order to carry the Gospel to regions beyond. Eventually the churches will send divinely-called individuals from their growing congregations to go to new places and spread the Gospel. As believers are made by the preaching of the Gospel, and made into disciples by the work of the churches, and as churches are multiplied through the Acts 1:8 program, the message of Christ’s deliverance from man’s bondage to sin will get to every last person in the world! In partnership with God, it can indeed be done, was accomplished in the first century, and will be fulfilled again just before the return of Christ to set up His Kingdom on earth. The main reason it is not being done today is that God’s children, including many very serious ones, are adopting the program of the Lord in pieces, and not as a whole.

Revival, a term quite familiar to evangelical Christians, is the work of God to bring His people back to spiritual health. God is willing to bring us back, to lift us up, to where we ought to be, when we are willing to humble ourselves and seek His face for the revival we need. The goal, in a sense, is to get us back to the program of Acts 1:8. In these desperate days, more and more earnest servants of the Lord are seeing more clearly what that program is, and how far we have come short of it. But some of the best lights that shine among us in these dark days are still shining only on pieces of the plan, and partly for this reason, we are seeing very little of powerful revival in our Bible-believing churches. Some say that “this” is the answer, and others are saying that “that” is the answer. In a sense every one of these voices are right, but most of them are giving us only part of “the answer.” We are being taught about revival in pieces, although it really doesn’t work in pieces, but must be implemented as a whole.

Looking at the book of Acts again, we can discern at least five visible elements in the fulfilling of the Acts 1:8 program. Each of these is being emphasized by some of our preachers today:

1. The need for the enduement of power from on high for the effective spread of the Gospel;

2. The duty of Christians to evangelize the city, producing the growth of the church;

3. The work of evangelism in widening circles of the surrounding areas, eventually covering the whole country and neighboring nations, and bringing about the establishment of new churches;

4. The prosperity of the churches facilitating the progress of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, through the development and sending of missionaries to other parts; and always

5. Prayer meetings to gain and sustain divine blessing in the churches in the work of evangelism.
Obviously there is not enough of any of these elements in the work of Christians today. And strong voices are calling for a return to these factors in real New Testament religion. Some are seeing the need for intensive prayer, including the practice of fasting and even spiritual warfare. Some see powerful revival as the great need, with the focus on power for service. Some see the need for revival with the focus on victory over sin and holy living. Some see evangelism as the need, producing rapid church growth. Some preach church-planting as the great need of the hour. Some see missions and sending missionaries as the answer to the problems of the world. Some say that the key to remedying the malaise of Christianity is purging the churches of worldliness and worldly methods and unscriptural associations. Some see in prayer meetings the key to guiding and empowering the churches, and bringing them back to life. And none of these revival-oriented preachers are wrong. But some of them are giving us only pieces of the revival puzzle.

In a way, the situation in the fundamentalist world is very encouraging, since more than in the recent past, we have all the elements of real revival coming before us. For years we rarely heard from the pulpit sermons on the invisible world, fasting and prayer, the power of the Holy Ghost, the New Testament church, hope for new awakenings, world-wide evangelization, how to conduct effective prayer meetings, church growth without compromise, or victory over the flesh and sin. These are good days for hearing old revival themes proclaimed. The problem is that too many of our leaders suffer from too narrow a vision. To some, the whole thing is church-planting, but not revival prayer meetings. To some, the great cause is the missionary cause, and not the old separation issue. To some the main thing is evangelism, with little attention given to church-planting, Baptist distinctives, or the Holy Spirit. To many the need of the day is knowing more about church growth, with less interest being given to church standards. Each advocate can convince us for a while because on some level, each position is right, but each of them is looking at only a piece of the plan of God.

That plan (outlined by Jesus in Acts 1:8) includes turning without reservation to the Lord for the power of Spirit to fulfill the Great Commission. Such a call to repentance will make us into bold witnesses of Jesus, with transformed lives and countenances to support our testimonies. What an effect this will have on the world around us when we go out as an army of powerful witnesses for Christ! The plan sends us into our cities to saturate the population with our message. It forms us into churches dedicated to fulfill the rest of the plan. Churches operating on the Acts 1:8 plan energize it through effective prayer meetings, and by doing battle with the enemy on their knees. Believers revived in this way live happy and holy lives by the power of the cross and of the Spirit of Christ. The movement will go forward across the map in projects to spread the Gospel and found new churches. The book of Acts gives us the whole picture, and we need to keep the whole picture in mind.
Let the men that are teaching us to pray, keep a Biblical emphasis on evangelism. Let the church-builders make sure that it is Jesus Who is building His church by the power of His Spirit. Let those who inspire us to spread the Gospel also inspire us to exercise our faith to live in victory over sin and the world. Let those who hold up the church as the center of God’s cause in the world, present it also as the means of getting the Gospel to the city, to the nation, and to the world. Let missionary statesmen emphasize the connection of revival to missions. Let all of God’s people seek His face for revival, and recognize that all the pieces of revival are essential to the whole. Our need and our obligation at this time is to turn our hearts fully back to the God of the first Christians, and to settle for nothing less than the complete revival He intends to bring us!

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