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Sunday, June 10, 2012


In the July 1965 edition of the Banner of Truth journal, Paul E. G. Cook wrote the second part (I wish I could find the first part) of an article on Revival in History. I found it really absorbing. It is one man's view of the activity of the church and God at times since the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ but it seems to make a lot of sense to me so I pass it on for the benefit of other readers. It is a long article so I have to break it up into about five instalments.

"REVIVAL IN HISTORY II - An Historical Survey of Revivals - by Paul E. G. Cook.

The Christian Church has frequently suffered from what might be called the theology of experience. Some aspect of spiritual experience is used to assess the spirituality of others, and often as 'a key' for the interpretation of the Bible. In this way, the Word of God becomes subservient to subjective experience and this may, or may not, be true experience. The study of revivals has suffered much from this approach in which human experience instead of the objective truth of the Bible is used as the norm of interpretation. Principles of revival have been formulated from a study of certain 'revivals' in history, and then used as a criterion for judging whether any existing set of circumstances constitutes 'a revival'. The assumption underlying this whole method is that the 'revivals' from which the principles have been drawn were in fact genuine revivals. It is also in danger of suggesting that all revivals must be accompanied by set patterns of experience, whereas the Scriptures would lead us to believe in a variety of experiences all of which may not necessarily be present in any one revival of true religion.

If there is a true doctrine of revival it should be found in the Word of God. Having formulated the doctrine from a study of the Word, the history of the Christian Church may then be examined in the light of it to determine whether or not any given circumstances and events commonly denoted 'revival' come within its biblical definition. In our last article we looked at the biblical evidence and concluded that all true religion comes within the category of revival and the effects of revival. Man in his fallen and unregenerate state is prone to degenerate religiously. True religion flows from God; it is the creation of fellowship between man and his Maker as the result of a gracious and sovereign intervention of God. This spiritual life is given and sustained by Him. Its spirituality belongs to the plane of the supernatural in contrast to the natural of man's life. Whenever God intervenes in man's life creating true religion the intervention may rightly be described as revival. Although the word 'revival' is usually applied to the intervention of God on a large scale in the lives of many individuals, the personal experience of God's renewing power in the life of an individual is of the same spiritual nature. The word correctly describes the spiritual history of Israel. When God turned aside from His wrath against their disobedience, and visited them with spiritual renewal in His grace, they experienced revival and rejoiced in their God.

Revival is the story of the Church with respect to its spirituality; apostacy
[sic] is the story of the Church with respect to its sin. Only as grace has triumphed over sin has the Church moved forward; and this triumph is God's work in revival. The flow of the Church is revival; its ebb is apostacy. Revival is supernaturalism; apostacy is naturalism. When the Church is in revival it experiences His grace; the day of apostacy is overshadowed by His wrath. It is a mistake to imagine God as ever inactive or impartial in His attitude toward His people. He acts both in grace and in wrath; giving supernatural life in His mercy, or withdrawing it in His displeasure. These are the biblical principles which govern the doctrine of revival.

These are the conclusions we came to in our last article. It follows that the background to any revival is always some form of apostate condition and sin in which the Church is found trusting natural rather than supernatural life and authority. When God arises and acts in revival He lifts the Church out of that state, and places it within the realm of the supernatural. In revival the Church is under the direction of the Spirit, who guides its life and supplies its energies. The Church may be fully regenerate in the sense that its members are spiritual people, but if its life has been reduced to the impotent level of human organization and direction with its energies consisting of no more than the physical and mental strength of its members, there is need for revival.

The interplay of the supernatural and natural elements in the life of the Church is a magnification of what is also present in the individual Christian. Nature and grace are irreconcilable in the context of salvation. Salvation is of grace alone from beginning to end, and man's energies are only permissible in its work when they are the result of the Spirit's activity. The full outworking of the biblical principles of revival are not observed with equal clarity or universality at all times in the history of the Church. A survey of this history does, however, focus our attention upon epochs in which the principles are most clearly illustrated.


The work of God at Pentecost possessed an unrepeatable uniqueness. Nevertheless the principles of revival are demonstrated. In drawing attention to them we do not wish to detract from the unparalleled significance of Pentecost.

Pentecost was mainly - some would say, entirely - confined to a visitation of God upon the Jewish people. The universal implications of the Gospel followed from Pentecost (Acts 1.8). It is not always appreciated that at the time of Pentecost the people of God were actually the Jewish nation. The old dispensation still prevailed in the purpose of God. In this sense, it could be argued that the Gospels belong to the Old Testament. In the period immediately before Pentecost a religion of naturalism held sway over the people of God. Man's works were at enmity with God's grace. Israel was in an apostate condition, and the teaching of the Pharisees instilled a form of legalism, similar in many respects to Roman Catholicism, in which the grace of God had no part. It had become a naturalistic religion because man had usurped the place of God as the author of 'Salvation'. Judaistic moralism focused the centre of attention upon man and his abilities. Justification had become the self-justification of the sinner. The teaching was a misinterpretation of the Scriptures and represented a denial of salvation by grace through faith as it appears in the Old Testament.

The immediate effect of Pentecost was to lift man out of this self-dependence and place him into a dependence upon God. On the day of Pentecost God intervened and grace triumphed with power over an impotent and naturalistic religion. The early Church, born in revival, experienced a period of growth and expansion under the control and sovereignty of the Spirit. The book of the Acts narrates the acts of the Holy Spirit in continuous revival threatened only by the man-centred doctrine of the Judaizers whose legal and moralistic approach to the gospel was a challenge to the supernatural grace which was its very essence. Paul rightly sensed that the divine favour would have given way to the divine wrath had the doctrines of the Judaizers prevailed in the Church

More in two or three days.

Sam Drucker

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