Part 4 of 5.
“What is a revival?” Answers to this question are essential if you want to understand the rationale for the Church Growth Modelling project. The fourth in this series of five articles comes from a sermon I have preached in many churches. The passage is Acts 1:1-16.
Read parts 1, 2 and 3 to set the context.
Throughout this article, I treat revival and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as synonymous. See the previous parts.
In this part, I show that in revival, God is present, giving witness to the risen Christ.
Power to be Witnesses
We are looking at the first 16 verses of the Acts of the Apostles, especially verse 8:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earthActs 1:8
Note the words “power” and “witness”. Why did they need power? They had already seen the risen Christ. Why was this not enough for them to witness?
The physical resurrection was vitally important to the Apostle’s witness. It was why they had to replace Judas with someone who had witnessed Jesus before and after his resurrection – i.e. Matthias. (Acts 1:21-26). However, this was not enough. Why would anyone believe them? What proof could they give? The empty tomb? That they saw him? These are all in the past and unverifiable. The ultimate proof that Jesus was alive was that he was with them. That needs power!
But what power? What sort of power makes them witnesses?
Power to Witness is God’s presence with them
Other people know Jesus is risen and alive because he is present with them. The presence is the power. I will show this in three ways
1. The Outpouring Proves Jesus has ascended and, therefore, risen
Look at Acts 2:32-33:
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.Acts 2:32-33
As an apostle, Peter knew Jesus had risen because he had seen him. However, Peter’s hearers knew that Jesus had risen because they “see and hear” the evidence of his reign as ascended king. Evidence that is displayed in the apostles. Peter’s argument is simple. The work of the Spirit shows Jesus is exalted. So he must be risen! Revival is evidence that Jesus has been raised.
2. The Witness is to a person
It is clear from Acts 1:8 that the Apostles’ witness is to a person, not just to a set of true facts. Jesus said, “You will be witnesses of me.” The power of the Spirit displays the person of Jesus to the onlookers. They know he is present.
3. They are filled with God
In Acts 1:8, Jesus had said to them, “The Holy Spirit will come on you”. He had also said they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person. He is God. They are being filled with God. God’s presence is in them and with them. The Welsh preacher Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones described revival as many people being baptised at the same time. Revival is when God’s presence is visible in many people, individually and as a group.
An outpouring of the Holy Spirit is when God’s presence is displayed as the Holy Spirit is seen and heard by others. It shows that the Lord Jesus is risen and exalted. The presence of God gives the power. Believers are confident that God is with them.
The Holy Spirit’s presence enhances their witness
I can go further. The Holy Spirit witnesses the resurrection to them in addition to the resurrection events they have seen, In Acts 5:32, Peter says
We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey himActs 5:32
For Peter and those who had seen Jesus risen, the Holy Spirit confirms in them what they have already witnessed. They are witnesses, but so is the Holy Spirit. We may not think they needed that confirmation. But most people who proclaim Jesus never saw these events. People like you and me. The witness of the Holy is essential to us so that the words on the page of the Bible that prove his resurrection become more than words as God makes us witnesses through his Spirit.
This is how Paul became a witness. He had never seen Jesus, nor had he seen the resurrection. But, the exalted Jesus says to him, “I have appeared to you to appoint you as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you”. God continues to show things to Paul as he is filled with His presence through the Holy Spirit.
When revival comes, God’s presence is manifest. We take Jesus with us wherever we go. That presence proves Jesus is alive, both to us and to others. That is revival – Jesus showing he is alive through us!
The more you know Jesus, the greater the effect of his presence in you, then the more power you have to witness to others. The presence is the power.
The effect of the Presence of God is profound
The crowd saw and heard Peter. That was Pentecost at a human level. But the crowd felt God. So they were cut to the heart and cried out, “What must we do”? (Acts 2:37).
In Acts 4, Peter and John are called to give witness to the Sanhedrin. The apostles were filled with the Spirit as they spoke. The leaders were astonished and noted the boldness of the apostles. They also noted they had been with Jesus. His presence gives power. It is as if Jesus were there. He was! And it frightened the leaders.
In Acts 7, the crowd heard Stephen as he spoke. But they saw his face as if it were the face of an angel. They felt God – and they did not like it.
In revival, the presence of God is felt by all around. Indeed, Duncan Campbell, who was used in the Lewis Revival, described revival as “a community saturated with God.”
There are numerous examples of the presence of God in revival. Here are three to inspire you.
Isle of Lewis 1950
In 1950, during the Hebridean revival, a powerful prayer meeting took place in the village of Arnol. As someone prayed a prayer reminding God of his promises, the room shook, and the dishes rattled. The effects went further as people in the community left their homes under conviction heading for the meeting. They were a community saturated with God. Some years ago, I met a man who was at that meeting. It really happened just as it is written!
Jonathan Edwards, Northampton, Massachusetts 1735
The minister Jonathan Edwards was a key part of the revivals in the USA known as the First Great Awakening. He made this observation in 1735:
This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town: so that in the spring and summer following, 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then.
The people of this town knew the Lord Jesus was risen because they had met him and experienced his presence.
John Wesley, Scotland, 30th May 1787
John Wesley travelled extensively in the UK during the 18th century. He wrote in his journal:
About eleven I preached in the market-house at Enniskillen. They flocked together from every part, and were all attention. Before I had half done, God made bare his arm, and the mountains flowed down at his presence. Many were cut to the heart, and many rejoiced with joy unspeakable.
Wesley was a witness to Jesus, and so was the Holy Spirit among all those to whom he witnessed.
Do you know Jesus is risen?
Do you know this because you believe what you read in the Bible? Do you know this because he lives within you? As the old hymn says
I serve a risen saviour – he’s in the World today.
I know that he is living whatever men may say.
How does he know Jesus lives? The chorus explains:
You ask me how I know he lives?
He lives within my heart?
Do you want to Witness to Jesus?
Do you want to do this in power? That power is the presence of Christ in you. His presence makes you a witness. In revival, the Holy Spirit is poured out in such abundance, God is so present, that not only do you know Jesus is risen, but so does everyone around you.
- Blog posts:
Part 1: What is Revival? Introduction.
Part 2: Revival is a Work of God
Part 3: An Outpouring of the Spirit concerns the Kingdom of God
- Campbell D. (2015) Revival in the Hebrides, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Free PDF. P. 46-49.
Woolsey A. (1974). Duncan Campbell, Hodder and Stoughton. P. 132-133
- Edwards J. (1965). Jonathan Edwards on Revival. Banner of Truth, p.14.
Lloyd-Jones D.M. (1986). Revival. Marshall Pickering, pp. 103-104.
- John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 4, WesleyScholar.com
Tags: Presence of God