Revivals in the Bible - The New Testament (Lessons 10-14)
John the Baptist (Matthew 3, and Luke 3.)
When we read the account of the work of John the Baptist, although it has to be classified as the last of the Old Testament happenings, we can see that it shows many of the signs of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which became better known after Christ's ministry was over.
1. The following passages are the Old Testament prophecies which are commonly applied to John the Baptist. Isaiah 40: 1 - 8, Malachi 3: 1 - 6, and 4: 5 - 6.
From what little we know about his career, in what ways did John fulfil these prophecies, and in what ways did he not fulfil them? What comments do you have to make about these prophecies?
2. Bearing in mind what John looked like, what he said, and the results of his preaching - how would he get on if he worked amongst us, and preached today?
3. Reflect upon the words in Matthew 3:5, and discuss how widespread was the impact of John's preaching throughout Jewish society. What did John achieve?
How many converts do you think there were? How were the people different afterwards? How long do you think it lasted. Think of people who appear later in the New Testament story, who had been John's disciples, or who had received John's baptism, in answering these questions. What other indicators are there?
4. Why did John attack the Pharisees and Sadducees in the way he did? Why did he think there was little or no hope for them?
5. What was the fruit that John expected the Jewish tree to produce?
6. John said Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.
(a.) Read Acts 1:5 and John 7: 37 - 39, and discuss what is meant in these passages by baptising with the Holy Spirit.
(b.) Read Matthew 21: 33 - 46, Luke 11: 50 - 51 and Luke 21: 5 - 7. In the light of these passages, what is meant by baptising with fire?
(c.) What other comments do you have about Matthew 3: 11 - 12?
7. Luke 3: 10 - 14 tells us some of the evidences of repentance that John called for. What would this advice mean to each of those classes of people?
8. What would you say if someone asked you today to describe the difference in behaviour required by Christian repentance, and being born again by God's Spirit?
Pentecost (Acts 2.)
The season of Pentecost in the Jewish calendar was the harvest festival. It had a number of descriptions in parts of the Old Testament, and various kinds of activities were involved at different times.
1. Peter said that the events on the day of Pentecost, described in Acts 2, were a fulfilment of the prophecy in Joel 2. "This is that..." Read the relevant parts of Joel 2, and discuss in what ways you think the events fulfilled the prophecy, and in what ways you think they did not. Which parts remained to be fulfilled later?
2. What role did the gift of tongues serve on the day of Pentecost?
3. What were the effects of Peter's sermon, and the witnessing of the other apostles, on their hearers, that day? Why were these effects different from what would have happened if the apostles had tried to do the same thing a few days earlier?
4. What fruit of the Spirit, and signs of spiritual growth and maturity, occurred, resulting from the events of Pentecost, as described near the end of the chapter?
5. How many conversions were there?
6. Describe some of the events in Acts 2 which were like the events in Matthew 3, or Luke 3.
7. What miracles are described in Acts 2, or in chapters 3 or 4?
8. What essential elements of the gospel are mentioned in Peter's sermon? Can you think of any essential elements of the gospel which are not mentioned here?
9. Commencing with the list of spiritual gifts mentioned in 1st Corinthians 12, along with any other Christian spiritual gifts that you can think of, which spiritual gifts are described as happening on the day of Pentecost, or very soon after?
10. What do you think being "cut to the heart" means? Compare John 16: 8 - 11.
11. Have you heard of other instances where the Spirit has come with the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, or something similar? Describe these?
12. In what ways might preaching the gospel in languages which had not been learned by the speakers, as described in Acts 2, differ from the speaking in tongues commonly seen in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles today?
13. How much waiting on God had there been in the few days before Pentecost, as described in chapter one? Do you think the events of the day of Pentecost were simply an answer to prayer, or were they a sovereign act of Christ to begin building His church, or were they a combination of these? Matthew Henry said that when God plans some great thing for His people, He first sets them praying. What do you think?
14. What is the relationship between Jesus breathing the Spirit upon His disciples, described in John 20: 22 - 23, and the events of Acts 2?
Samaria Acts 8: 1 - 25.
The day of Pentecost saw the beginning of a tremendous movement of the Spirit, but it does not seem that its real power was felt in Samaria for several years.
Then, persecution was used by God to scatter the Christians far and wide, and Philip the evangelist went to Samaria.
From this fact it can be seen that Christ was building His church, as He said. The initiative was clearly with God, and the growth of the church did not depend for its basic inspiration and power upon the organising abilities of the disciples.
Persecution of Christians is, in a sense, the work of the devil. But he has only limited power. So, the episode at Samaria shows God using what the devil does to promote Christian growth, purity and usefulness. Other interesting examples of this can be seen in the story of Job, of Christ praying for Peter before he denied the Lord, and in Paul's thorn in the flesh.
In relation to Simon Magus, in this Samaritan story, "magic" can be defined as attempts to manipulate super-human powers to achieve ends that people desire for themselves, or for others. Magic may be linked to the occult, but not necessarily so.
1. Acts 8: 7 - 8 describes a number of miracles that Philip performed. What are they? Which of these miracles were also seen on the day of Pentecost? Which ones seen here were not seen at Pentecost? Which Pentecostal miracles are not seen here?
2. These miracles constitute another example of what is called a "power encounter". Revise what was said about power encounters in the study about Elijah on Mount Carmel. In what ways does the Samaritan power encounter serve the purposes of the gospel?
3. How would you describe the reality, or otherwise, of Simon's conversion? What mistakes in understanding the nature of the Christian life was he making? What would he need to do to become a thoroughgoing Christian?
4. In this story we see Christ building His church - first at Jerusalem, then Samaria. Strategic steps in the growth of the church reveal He is Lord of overall plans, and details as well. What does this tell us about our own work for God?
5. What were the overall results of this Samaritan spiritual movement, in conversions, and the spread of the church? Include in your answer the spread of the influence to Lydda and Sharon (verse 35), and Joppa (verse 43).
6. What special teaching is seen in the account of this revival?
7. Describe what would have produced the "great joy" in verse 8.
8. If Simon Magus had become a real convert, what impact could that have had upon the local people?
9. From the definition of "magic", given at the top of this study, in what ways is magic directly opposed to the gospel?
10. So far as we know, does the gift of tongues appear in this revival?
Caesarea Acts 10, and 11: 1 - 18.
In one sense, a revival at Caesarea could be seen as an extension of the movement from Samaria, through Joppa. So, you never know what wonders are going to flow from God's blessing in one place, or where the blessings will flow to.
Here, again, we see the sovereign action of God. Here we see Christ building His church. Here, the gospel is "officially" preached to the gentiles.
1. Which spiritual gifts appear in this story? What purpose do they serve? What visions, or angelic visitations, appear in this story? What purpose do they serve? What did Peter learn, and what did Cornelius learn?
2. What spiritual results were achieved here?
3. What miracles were part of this story, if any?
4. Which fruit of the Spirit are most evident?
5. Are the details of this event in any way similar to the events on the day of Pentecost? If so, what similarities are there, and what purpose do they each serve?
6. List the "co-incidences" in Peter's vision, and in the surrounding events.
7. What is the role of prayer in this story?
8. Which parts of the story show God taking the initiative? Which events show human initiative?
9. What do we know about the meeting at Antioch? (Acts 11: 21.)
10. Peter's sermon at Cornelius' place is the first recorded preaching of the gospel to gentiles. We do not really know much about its content, but, from what little we do know, what can we learn about the content of the gospel from this sermon?
Ephesus Part One Acts 19.
This revival is perhaps the most far-reaching revival movement in Paul's ministry. It had a wide impact through that part of the world while Paul was still there, and the long-term impact lasted for many years, probaly centuries.
1. How long did Paul stay in Ephesus? (see Acts 19:10 and 20:31).
2. What impact did Paul have upon hard and unbelieving people? (19: 8 - 10).
3. What healing miracles and exorcisms occurred?
4. In what ways was this revival different from the others we have studied? In what ways is the Lordship of the Spirit visible in this revival?
5. What role was played here by confession of sin, and destroying occultic articles? Why might it be a good idea to destroy objects involved in magic, or in occultic practices?
6. How important do you think is the sense of awe at the presence of God, during a revival? (verse 17).
7. In what ways did idolatry confront the Christian gospel at Ephesus?
Part Two Acts 20: 17 - 38.
1. Describe the opportunities Paul used to proclaim the gospel in Ephesus?
2. Try to be more detailed in describing what "the whole counsel of God" would include. (verse 27).
3. Where would the "savage wolves", and those who would distort the faith, come from? What general results would these people achieve?
4. What do we know about Jewish persecution of Paul at Ephesus?
5. Can you think of ways in which church leaders at Ephesus might have fulfilled what Paul said in verse 30? What are these ways?
6. The willingness of the Ephesians to hear and do what Paul said is a challenge to us. Which parts of this passage challenge you most?
7. How would you describe the overall impact of Paul's work in Ephesus? Which verses provide us with information about his impact?
The study of Bible passages has many uses, including growth in our knowledge of God, of our love for Him, our trust in Him, and our obedience to Him. But such study must also produce a result in our daily living, and in our impact upon the society in which we live.
Bible stories of revival happenings serve a number of purposes.
(a.) encourage us to pray for revival today,
(b.) outline aspects showing the need we have for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Church and society,
(c.) show some preparatory which we can take, and
(d.) highlight the sovereignty of God in causing His Kingdom to come.
The first and greatest commandment calls upon us to love God with our entire personality, and powers of mind. As a result, the Bible student is directed to the following suggestions which may be of further use.
Major Publications on Revivals in the Bible
Those published during the Twentieth Century have been very few in number, and most of these are out of print and hard to obtain.
- Ernest Baker. "The Revivals of the Bible." Covers most of the important occasions in both the Old and New Testaments. First published in 1905, and republished in 1987. It is the only title still available in 1999. Baker was a South African preacher.
- C. E. Autrey. "Revivals of the Old Testament." Good studies of many Old Testament occasions, written by a Southern Baptist Seminary Professor of Evangelism. Published in 1963, and hard to get.
- Wilbur M. Smith. "The Glorious Revival under King Hezekiah." A smaller book in which Smith uses this Bible story as a basis to make an extensive study of Biblical revivals. First published in 1937, and again in 1954. Hard to find. Smith was an outstanding evangelical leader and Seminary Professor.
- Walter C. Kaiser. "Quest for Renewal." Personal Revival in the Old Testament. A good study of Old Testament happenings by a Seminary Professor. Published in 1986 by Moody Press, who tend not to reprint many of their titles. Some copies may still be available in the second hand market.
Further Study Notes
The Preface to this booklet indicates the original purpose for which the present study material was prepared.
(a.) For the same purpose, the author also prepared some brief study leaflets on aspects of the whole subject of revivals. These included helping material to study:-
- The History of Modern Revivals,
- Revivals as a Transformer of Society,
- Counterfeits, Deceptions, etc.,
- Lateral Thinking About Revivals,
- The Literature Relating to Revivals.
(b.) A booklet offering group study materials on the main themes raised in Second Chronicles 7:14 was also prepared, entitled "If My People..." The theological content in these studies is deliberately set at a much deeper level than has been used in the present book.
Copies of these various materials can be obtained from the author, and perhaps through your local Christian bookshop.
Many worthwhile titles could be suggested here for further reading, and the first suggestion should always be for any interested person to consult the shelves at their local Christian bookshop to see what is immediately available.
A full list of books which are currently in print about the various aspects of revivals would be quite lengthy. The present author can be contacted for any needed information in that area.
There is also a very extensive list of older books relevant to revivals, and some of these can be consulted at libraries where these books are held.
The following short list, however, is intended only as an appetiser, and as a brief indication of the wide range of materials which are available, and which are currently in print.
This list would include the following:-
- D. M. Lloyd-Jones. "Revival". (a set of 24 sermons.)
- Richard Owen Roberts. "Revival."
- Brian H. Edwards. "Revival."
- William Reid. "Authentic Records of Revivals."
- "Lectures on the Revival of Religion." by Ministers of the Church of Scotland.
- R. Evans and R. McKenzie. "Evangelical Revivals in New Zealand."
- Iain H. Murray. "Revival and Revivalism."
- Iain H. Murray. "Pentecost Today?"
- Frank Bartleman. "Azusa Street."
- Charles G. Finney. "Lectures on Revivals."
- Charles G. Finney. "Reflections on Revival."
- R. E. Davies. "I Will Pour Out My Spirit."
- Eifion Evans. "Fire in the Thatch."
- E. L. Blumhofer and R. Balmer (eds.) "Modern Christian Revivals."
- T. Beougher and L. Dorsett. "Tears of Revival."
- Jonathan Edwards. "The Religious Affections."
- Richard Lovelace. "Dynamics of Spiritual Life."
- Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts. "War on the Saints."
Prepared by Rev. Robert Evans OAM