The Church Needs A Renewal Of The Power Of Pentecost
By James A. Stewart
Taken From Herald of His Coming:
It is not easy to define the true spiritual condition of the Lord’s people in every part of the world. There are many encouraging signs; yet no leader would disagree with me when I say that we are not living the robust, radiant, powerful life of dynamic Christianity.
The vast majority of Christians are living a sub-normal Christian life. The New Testament characteristics of power invincible, joy unspeakable, glory immeasurable, and peace incomprehensible – are strangely lacking in their lives. The Christian experience of the church is not deep, intense or vital enough to meet her own needs, let alone the needs of the world.
“A grasshopper church can never become an effective witness to the strength and majesty of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.”
The Church Must Awaken!
The church must be saved to save the world. This is a law corroborated by every genuine movement of God in the past. The church cannot give what she does not possess. The measure of the outward must always be the measure of the inward. The church’s potential is the same as in apostolic days.
The church has flung a smoke screen around her true spiritual condition by building enormous church edifices, and by spending vast sums of money in promoting and popularizing her conventions and campaigns. Her leaders bask in the spotlight of Hollywood glare. The noise of the machinery of propaganda is louder than the still small voice of the Spirit. The fame of men and movements is greater than the fame of the Redeemer.
There is so little spontaneity in our life and labor. Much of the results are those of sound advertising and magnificent organization. When the structure of organization is taken down, oftentimes the results are very meager and disappointing.
The glory of Pentecost was its spontaneity. The Revival at Pentecost was a spontaneous, evangelistic effort. There was no advertising of Peter and the apostles as special speakers. There was no planned method of evangelism. The supreme fact of that first and purest revival was the reception of the Holy Spirit by a waiting church. The inevitable consequence was expressed in one line: “And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Hallelujah! The fire of God fell!
The clarion call comes to us from Isaiah’s prophecy: “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: …shake thyself from the dust...loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion” (Isa. 52:1-2).
The church is like a great giant sleeping. She is like Jonah asleep in the storm. She is like the disciples asleep in Gethsemane. The great need is for trumpeters.
Notice the pathos in the challenge and rebuke, “O Jerusalem, the holy city! O captive daughter of Zion! Rouse thyself, clothe thyself, cleanse thyself, shake thyself, loose thyself.” What a terrible condition to be in – how God-dishonoring! “Captive daughter of Zion!” What a contradiction! The church has compromised and dragged the dear name of the Savior in the dust. Therefore she is in captivity. The sin of the church is that she is earth-bound. “Shake thyself from the dust!”
The remnant of old cried to Jehovah, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old” (Isa. 51:9). God answered them with this rebuke, “Awake, awake; put on THY strength, O Zion” (Isa. 52:1).
It is not the Lord who is asleep, but His people. We must repent and get right with God and humble ourselves to the dust in sackcloth and ashes. “Put on thy strength, O Zion.” Strength is at our disposal. The garment of power is hanging on the door of Pentecost (Acts 1:8). Power is at our disposal. We read the menu, but fail to order.
“He that believeth on Me…out of him shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). We must appropriate our resources. They are not dried up. The church’s potential is the same as in apostolic days.
The church of Jesus Christ, the pillar and ground of the Truth, came in its pure glory, unsullied from the hand of its Divine Artificer. But all too soon, its splendor was darkened and its beauty stained. Yet there have been times of refreshing from the Lord, in which the intrusive unsightliness has been in part cleared away. And at such times one begins anew to realize what the church of the first-born in the days of the great Pentecost must have been.
What strikes one most forcibly in reading of the vitality of the church of the first century is not so much the glory of her conquests, as the fact that it was secured with resources that appear to us altogether inadequate for a task of such magnitude. A number of plain men, for the most part insignificant and unknown, with the most slender equipment, against fierce persecution and hatred, “Turned the world upside down.” Wave after wave of persecution broke over them, and yet they emerged victoriously.
The message of the Acts is that the bare simplicities of Christianity are the things that count. The glory of the victorious church was that men proclaimed the Gospel with holy unction and certified it by holy lives. I am deeply persuaded that, judged experimentally by our daily life and practice, much of the mental attitude and spiritual poise of the modern church is pre-Pentecostal, and in this is to be found the secret of common weariness and impotence.
Indeed, Pentecost was the initial day of a new order. It was the opening page of a new book entitled “The Acts of the Holy Ghost,” or “The Autobiography of the Holy Spirit.” It was a new beginning; the beginning of a new spiritual life, a new relationship, a new fellowship, a new authority and a new power.
“Not Yet” Was Changed to “This Is That!”
This new life created a new fellowship of men; a new race incorporated into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Pet. 2:9). Mantled with unction, they went everywhere preaching the Word (Acts 8:4).
Theirs was a spontaneous evangelism. They did not need to conduct clinics or conventions concerning the task of evangelism. They held no large conferences to stir the believers to evangelize the lost. Oh no! Such a notion never entered their head.
Saturated with the Spirit, filled with the love of Christ, bubbling over with their newfound joy, they ministered for Christ. It was as natural with them as was breathing. “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). It was spiritual combustion!
So great was their enthusiasm and aggressiveness, that the enemy hurriedly called a council meeting with the theme, “How can we stop this Gospel epidemic!” – “that it spread no further”? (Acts 4:15-17).
The more they were persecuted and insulted, the more dynamic they became. Soon they were accused of being the people that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
They abode in the Spirit’s atmosphere, manifested the Spirit’s fervor, preached with the Spirit’s power, and garnered a harvest of the Holy Spirit.
Scarcely anyone would affirm that we are today living in that blessed apostolic atmosphere. Our palatial buildings, our large membership rolls, our high-salaried pastors and popular evangelists are no proof of dynamic Christianity.
The early church had none of these elements of success. No sincere believer can compare conditions in our churches today with those of early Christianity – without being broken down before God.
A holy alarm must be sounded at this midnight hour! God must deliver us from the awful discrepancy into which we have drifted. Oh! dear child of God, this would be Revival – a restoration! a recovery and a renewal!
The godly remnant in Lamentations, after surveying the awful condition of Zion, cry out in agony, “Wherefore dost Thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old” (Lam. 5:20-21).
Repentance and Desperation
All over the globe saints must come to the place of repentance and desperation! O God, bring us back to the place of simplicity and power!
The church has allowed herself to become the custodian of dead creeds rather than the trumpeters of living faith. We are playing with the gravedigger’s shovel when God wants to give us a resurrection trumpet! “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60).
“To a large extent, the church has become a band of suave saunterers, when the Lord wants it to be an army of stern soldiers. When the church settles down to the comforts of a religious club, and forgets its holy mission, it abides alone.”
In interpreting the causes of declension and departure, we must mention three glaring sins:
The Loss of the Spirit’s Power
The first one is that we are fighting over the doctrine of Pentecost. The devil is laughing. Souls are perishing. The heart of Christ is broken. The Spirit is grieved, and the church is powerless.
I will not argue with any believers concerning the precious Holy Spirit. They either know Him or do not know Him (John 14:7; 2 Cor. 13:14). Many who have the correct terminology have no experience, and many who have the wrong phraseology have the right experience.
Whatever your exposition of this great Natal Day of the church, one fact is incontestable: Pentecost is always associated with power! The greatest marvel of the Spirit’s outpouring is the transformation of the disciples themselves. It turned those commonplace fishermen and tax-gatherers into prophets, teachers and flaming heralds! Their fearfulness and timidity were burned up in the blaze of the Pentecostal baptism!
You look in vain for the Peter of the judgment hall on that day! He is a new man. Peter at the fire and Peter baptized with fire, have nothing akin.
The Pentecostal robe was a mantle of power. They were robed with power from on high. This was the authentic touch of God upon their lives. The Acts of the Apostles is a subsequent history of Pentecost (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).
In this book we find a Pageantry of Power. You can write this word “Power” over every chapter, every verse, and every incident. They had power to testify, power to suffer, and power to die.
While in the home of Sidney Evans, the brother-in-law of the late Evan Roberts of Welsh Revival memory, we listened in awe to the account, firsthand, of the mighty movement of the Spirit in 1904.
This work of grace has been rightly called “Something Wonderful Happened.” Yes, something wonderful always happens when the Holy Ghost is given His rightful place in the church.
The Acts of the Apostles are the mighty exploits of the primitive apostolic church. “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Dan. 11:32).
The Book of Acts is a great book, for therein we find great power and great grace (4:33), great fear (5:11), great wonders and great miracles (6:8), a great persecution (8:1), great joy (8:8), and great suffering (9:16).
We are living in the wonderful age, the latter days of the dispensation of the Spirit. Says the seraphic Scotsman, Samuel Rutherford, “If you would be a deep divine, I recommend to you the anointing.” Let us stop our quibbling and seek earnestly the Spirit’s anointing.
Denial of the Personality of the Holy Ghost
The next great sin is the denial of the Personality of the Holy Ghost. Even in evangelical circles, education is sometimes placed before the blessed Spirit.
We thank God for all the cultured, learned men, like the Apostle Paul, in the church of God, but the first essential of any Christian worker is the mighty anointing of the Holy Spirit!
Those who lean on degrees, will “die by degrees,” without the power of the Spirit. If any man could have spread the Gospel by native ability and human learning, surely it was Paul. Yet we discover that the fullness of the Holy Spirit was the supreme qualification for his ministry (Acts 9:15-17).
Another great sin is the compromise with the world. There seems to be a diabolical plot to wed the evangelicals to the world-system in these last days. What an unholy mess! Christ has died in vain if we are not delivered from the pleasures of this world.
We have heard of sincere believers seeking the Lord’s face for Revival in a church in which half of the other members were engaged in worldly amusements far out into the night. May God raise up a mighty band of Gospelers to strike a mighty blow at this spiritual adultery. May God give us grace to stand true, with our garments unspotted: with the silver trumpets of Redemption pressed to our lips, sounding out the glorious Gospel.
“They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.
“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:14-16).
Abandonment to the Spirit
Oh, for an utter abandonment to the Spirit! Oh, for the faith to abandon utterly these devices of carnality – and to throw the church without reserve upon the power of the supernatural!
Whenever, in any period of the church’s history, a little company has sprung up, pliable in the hands of the Holy Spirit, then a new Pentecost has dawned! Let us go forth, in the might of the Spirit – to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the old-fashioned Gospel, sharing in our own experience its crucified message!
– Taken from Come, O Breath! printed with another book, The Wonder of God’s Tomorrow, copyright 1966, 150 pages, paperback. Available to U.S. readers from Revival Literature, P.O. Box 505, Skyland, NC 28776 for $6.00, including postage.