The Day of Revival
March 6th, 1977 @ 10:50 AM
THE DAY OF REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-6-77 10:50 a.m.
To the great host of you who are sharing this service with us in the First Baptist Church on television, you can see the beauty and impressiveness of our sanctuary choir as well as rejoice in their voices that praise the Lord. I am preaching from the last verse of the Book of Acts, chapter 2 [Acts 2]. It is a remarkable thing to me how in my preaching through the Book, there comes always that hour of special service and almost inevitably, that special text will be immediately before me. It is so today.
I read the context in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. After Simon Peter had finished his Pentecostal sermon [Acts 2:14-40], “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and that day, that same day, there were added unto them about three thousand souls [Acts 2:41]. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in the prayers. And fear”—that’s Luke’s word for awesome reverence and wonder—“and fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles” [Acts 2:42-43].
Now the next two verses are my text tonight, which will be the last sermon on the second chapter of the Book of Acts. The message tonight is entitled Christian Communism, and I could hope that the whole creation could listen to it and especially you, being here tonight who are present now and listening on radio and television. The message tonight, 7:30 tonight is Christian Communism. It is an expounding of these two verses: “And all who believed were together, and had all things in common; they sold their possessions and goods, and parted to them all men, as every man had need” [Acts 2:44, 45]. That gave birth to the communist dictum, “from every man as he is able; to every man as he has need” [Acts 2:44,45] The message tonight, I pray you will listen to: Christian Communism. Then it continues, “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their food—their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all of the people. And the Lord added to the church daily”—and the King James Version has it—“such as should be saved” [Acts 2:46, 47], sōzomenous, tous sōzomenous, “those who were being saved”—“and the Lord added daily those who were being saved” [Acts 2:47]. What a remarkable era. What a Day of Revival—the title of this message. “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” [Acts 2:47].
Lord, how we need a revival, an outpouring of the Pentecostal Spirit of God! Look at the mathematics of this. If the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved, a minimum would be one each day. Is that not correct? A minimum—the Lord’s minimum would be one each day. If the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved, a minimum in the course of a year would be three hundred sixty-five. Is not that correct? One each day, the lowest possible minimum, “and f the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved,” a barest minimum would be in the course of a year, three hundred sixty-five. There are not in the whole world hardly one-half dozen churches who baptize as many as three hundred a year. In the whole creation, there are hardly one and a half dozen churches who baptize as many as two hundred a year. There are more than one-quarter million churches on the North American continent, and there are not a handful that baptize as many as one hundred a year. Lord, how we need revival—an outpouring of the Spirit of God!
Look again at the mathematics of the whole world. A newspaper reporter called me when I was teaching at a convention in a distant state. And he said, “What is this that I hear? You are saying that by the year 2000, in the twenty-first century, Christianity—the Christian faith—will be practically extinct.”
“Well,” I said, “Do you have a pencil and paper?”
“Well,” I said, “Take this graph. One hundred eighty-five years ago, there were in this world twenty-five percent of all of the population Evangelical Christians. In 1970, it was eight percent. By 1980, it will be four percent. By the year 2000, it will be two percent.” Now I said, “You graph it and see what is the ultimate end and outcome of the sterile faith of the Christian people who live in this present and modern age.”
Lord, how we need revival! The spiritual dearth and drought that surrounds us on every side is like the endless Sahara of drifting and shifting, and barren, and sterile sand. I can call any group together—any group, and upbraid them and castigate them and criticize them for their powerlessness. And they look at me in helplessness. I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what to say. And I don’t know how to do it. My words are like sounding brass and clanging symbols.
I can call our paid staff together, and I can say to them, “Our first and heavenly mandate is to witness for Christ—to win souls for Jesus.” And they look at me in powerlessness and inability. How many times do you see the paid staff members of the church come down this aisle and say, “Pastor, look. Here is a family I have won to the Lord. Here is a man I have won to the Lord. Here is a college student I have won to the Lord.” It is so rare as to be practically non-existent. And if I call them together and talk to them about the sterility of their witness for Christ, they look at me powerless. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know how to do it. They have no unction from heaven and no ableness from God.
I could call our deacons together. And I could say to our official board, “How long has it been since you came down that aisle and said, ‘Pastor, look—here is a family I have won to Christ. Here is a man I have won to the Lord. Here is somebody I have witnessed to and brought to about Jesus.’” It is so rare as to be non-existent. And if I called deacons together and say to them, “Our first and heavenly mandate is to witness for Christ, it’s to be soulwinners,” they look at me in helplessness and in powerlessness. They have no unction from God.
If I call our church together and I ask our people, “How long has it been since you ever walked down that aisle, bringing somebody to the Lord? Is it a month? Is it a year? Is it a lifetime? Did you ever do it?” They will look at me as they look at me now—in utter helplessness and powerlessness. There is no unction from God. I think of that band of helpless disciples to whom were brought, in the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, a boy who needed deliverance. And they could not deliver him [Matthew 17:14-16]. And I look at myself. I too belong to this church. I too belong to this staff. I too am a fellow servant with our deacons and our women and our people. And I look at myself.
A long time ago, thirty years ago, I was in Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, seated with that little band that remained in the greatest Baptist church that ever existed. I was seated there in that great historic church. In back of me were two old men who were talking. One of them said to the other, “Did you ever hear Spurgeon preach?” And he replied, “Yes, many times. He was my pastor.”
And the man asked him, “How was it? How did he preach? What was Spurgeon like?”
And the man replied, “Sir, I do not like to criticize the preachers of today. But it seems to me that they just talk, they just lecture. But when Spurgeon stood up to preach, sir, there was power in it!”
How many times do I stand here, saying words, repeating clichés, doing what has been habitual for us to do all of our lives? At this such-an-hour, we are here. At this such-and-time, we do this. At that such-and-time, we do the other. At this time, we listen to a sermon and sit in our skins. And this such-and-time, we look for the benediction. And then at that such-and-such time, we go home and forget it.
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
Thy floodgates of mercy on us to open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!
[“Pentecostal Power”; Charles H. Gabriel, 1912]
So we assemble ourselves in the presence of the Lord; and here we are, listening. What do we do? I have a willing heart. I have a yielded hand and spirit; what do I do? What is it that God would have me do? It is not hidden away. It is not a secret that we have to ferret out. It is not a mystery hid in an enigma. What we are to do to have the unction, and power, and ableness to witness for God in soul-saving spirit is plainly revealed to us and outlined for us by the Lord Himself. He has mandated it. He has commanded it. He has revealed it. He has outlined it here on this sacred page. It is just that we listen to the Lord and obey His great heavenly command.
In the middle of the last century, in Greenville, South Carolina, there were four scholarly men of our Southern Baptist communion who founded the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—later removed to Louisville, Kentucky—Dr. John A. Broadus, Dr. James Petigru Boyce, Dr. Basil Manly and Dr. William Williams. Then came the tragedy of the War Between the States and the seminary apparently would die. Those four men met together and placed their hands one upon the other and in a solemn covenant said, “We do hereby resolve that the seminary may die, but we will die first.”
Out of that came a story called by Basil Manly—the press of the Southern Baptist Convention is called the Broadman Press. John L. Hill named that from John A. Broadus, “Broad,” and Basil Manly, “Man,” Broadman Press. Out of that resolve to die first, came this story from Basil Manly. In the days of that terrible War Between the States, there was a little band, a little company of Confederate soldiers who were standing on a hill after the battle had swept past them. They were surrounded by the slain, the dead. An officer came riding back from the front and saw them standing there on that hill. He rode up to them and said, “Sirs, where is your general?” One of the soldiers pointed to a prostrate form and said, “There he lies.”
The officer said, “Where is your captain?” Another soldier pointed and said, “There he lies.” The officer said, “Well, then what are you doing here?” And a third soldier replied, “Our general said this hill was a vantage point that must be kept and defended unto the death. And we are doing just that. We are doing what he said.”
I think of the faithfulness of men in times of war and battle to their commanding officer—carrying out their orders unto the death. Then I think of the soldiers in the army of the Lord, and the disciples of Christ—and how indifferently, and casually, and peripherally, and summarily we accept—listen to, read, the great heavenly mandates of the Son of God, who is the hope of the world. What did He say? What are His great heavenly commands?
When I say them, you immediately reply, “What? That simple thing? That plain word? That humble mandate?” But God is in it. It is like the rising of the sun and the light from the dawn will play upon a baby’s cheek and never awaken the little child. So these humble, plain, simple mandates from our heavenly Lord have in them the power and the unction of God. What did He say? This is what He said. In Luke 24, in Acts 1 before He ascended to the right hand of the throne of God [Hebrews 1:3], this is what he said, “Tarry—wait, until you be endued with power from on high” [Luke 24:49]. “Tarry—wait for the Promise of the Father, which saith He, I have spoken, revealed unto you” [Acts 1:4]. Wait, tarry; and while they waited and tarried before God, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women” [Acts 1:14]. Christianity always has been a woman’s religion. It is a woman’s religion. It always will be a woman’s religion. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and in supplication, with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren” [Acts 1:14].
Tarrying, waiting before God—you have a good illustration of us in this program placed in your hands this morning. There is not a syllable in it about our week of prayer. There is not a reference in it about our cottage prayer meetings. There is nothing in the program that is of an agony before God. You see, you never saw a church as busy as this one. Nor was there ever a congregation I ever read of in the history of Christendom that has the activities that this church has. And I further it every way that I can. There are recreational activities. There are music activities. There are educational activities. There are all kinds of things going on in the church.
But He said something else—what Jesus said was, “You wait and you tarry for the Promise of the Father, for the power from on high” [Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4]. And as they waited and as they tarried, they gave themselves to prayer and to intercession [Acts 1:14]. The prayerlessness of our people is an astonishment to me! And the prayerlessness of my own heart and life is a rebuke to me and a disgrace to my ministry. There is no unction without it. There is no ableness without it. And there is no converting power without it. While they waited, while they tarried, God kept that promise to His Son and poured out the ascension gift of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:1-4]. It was the greatest phenomenon that ever came to pass in all of the history of God’s dealing with men—Pentecost.
And God never intended for Pentecost to be the big end of the horn and then it come down to vanity, and futility, and sterility, and emptiness, and barrenness, and nothing. God meant for Pentecost to be the little end of the horn and it grow and it grow in power and in might. Jesus Himself said, “greater works than these shall ye do; because I go unto My Father” [John 14:12]. Do you remember the word of our—in the third chapter of John? “God gaveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him” [John 3:34]. God does not measure it out, as though He were stingy, or miserly, or unable, or circumscribed. But God giveth the Spirit in infinitude, without measure, immeasurably. There is no limit to the power of the Spirit of God to work with us, if first we wait upon Him.
Would you look again? So they are praying and they are waiting for the Pentecostal power [Acts 1:14]. “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” [Acts 2:1]—all of them. “They were all with one accord in one place.” The apostles were there—all eleven of them, with Matthias the twelfth [Acts 1:26]. All of the apostles were there. All of the laymen were there. How do you know that? Because there were only twelve apostles, and there were one hundred twenty in that first congregation [Acts 1:15]. That meant the great, preponderance of it was laymen. And the women were there. How do you know? Because they are explicitly named, and the women were there. And the young people. How do you know that? The young people were there [Acts 1:14]. In the Pentecostal message, Simon Peter began: “This is that—this is that which was spoken by Joel the prophet; saying that in that day, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: and your young men shall see visions, while your old men are dreaming dreams” [Acts 2:16, 17]. They all were there. When the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place [Acts 2:1]. Not only in prayer, but in presence, they stood and knelt and waited before the Lord.
May I tell you something that I have mentioned for the years of my life? If our people did just one little simple thing, it would be a revival such as you never witnessed in your life. It would be such a thing that all of the newspapers of America would send their reporters here, and all of the magazines in America would send their photographers here, and every wire service in the world would be here. What? What? One plain little thing that will amaze you when I say it; just to be here, just to be present; nineteen thousand members in our church, cut them in half—nine thousand five hundred. What if nine thousand five hundred were to press upon the services of the Lord? Three thousand of them here in this sanctuary, and six thousand five hundred of them out there in the streets, setting up loud speakers all around—people peering in at the doors, crowding in the corridors. It would be a phenomenon thing, the world had never seen it in this series of revival meetings—three thousand of them here in the house; six thousand five hundred of them out there trying to listen to the Word of God. It would be an astonishment to the whole world. This is God.
But we don’t listen, and we don’t heed, and we don’t pray, and we are not here in presence. And the Word becomes anemic and sterile, and finally is beginning to vanish from the earth. O God, for an intervention from heaven!
What did He say? What did the Lord say? He said: “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me” [Acts 1:8]. So I see this little band, not only praying and not only in presence, appearing before the Lord, but they are boldly proclaiming, presenting, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ!
I have homiletically outlined the sermon Simon Peter preached at Pentecost—three homiletical points, and an exhortation, a plain and simple message. Number one: number one, he addresses himself to the wickedness of men [Acts 2:23]. And that is the common ground upon which all of us stand. We are all sinners before God [Romans 3:23]. We are all judgment-bound souls that someday must appear before the Almighty [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And in every man’s bloodstream there is that black drop, and in every man’s heart there is sin. And he begins his first point—the wickedness of men; the common denominator of all mankind—all of us [Acts 2:23].
His second point: then he speaks, in the middle part of his sermon, of the mercy and grace of God extended toward us in Jesus Christ the Son of David, whom He horizō, whom He marked out as the Son of God by the resurrection from among the dead [Romans 1:4]. This is God’s atonement for our sins. This is God’s mercy and grace that we might be saved: Jesus the Christ, whom God raised from the dead [Acts 2:24].
His third point is that all of the future belongs to Him. Him has God raised up, exalted, to sit at the right hand of the power from on high until all of the earth shall be made His footstool [Acts 2:32-36]. The future lies not in the hands of the United Nations; not in the power of the tyranny or a dictatorship; but the future lies in the hands of Jesus the Lord, and none other; in His hands. And before that Lord Christ someday we must appear [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And when Simon Peter came to the end of his third homiletical point, they were cut to the heart. They were convicted in their souls and cried saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do”? [Acts 2:37].
Then, his exhortation: “Simon Peter answered and said”—metanoeō; “Repent, turn.” You have gone this direction, turn—change your mind, change your way, change your life, change your direction, change your vision, hope, and ambition. “Change, turn, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Christ”—e-i-s “because of the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:38]. . . And with many other words did he exhort and testify, saying, Save yourself from this lost judgment-bound generation” [Acts 2:40].
There is no part of that message that is not is not familiar to us who live in America. We are lost in sin [Romans 3:23]. Our own souls witness to it. We are all sinners alike. God in His mercy has sent Jesus to save us [John 3:16], and someday we shall stand before Him who is the Ruler and Judge of all [Hebrews 12:23]. And that exhortation on the basis of the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus, is “Come”—come; come [Matthew 11:28].
Then my text in Pentecost concludes: “They that gladly received His word were baptized: . . . three thousand of them added” to the little congregation that day [Acts 2:41]. “And they, continuing with one accord in breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having the favor of all of the people” [Acts 2:46, 47]. We are no credit to the world, or to the human race, or to the state, or the nation, or to even the city, being weak, and anemic, and powerless, and sterile— “praising God and having favor with all of the people” [Acts 2:47]. O God, for a dynamic church!
“Gladness and singleness of heart” [Acts 2:46]; that is ever and always the inevitable concomitant, and corollary, and following result of a great turning to the Lord. God, who made this world [Genesis 1], made this world like that! When I am in tune with Him, when I am right with God, the whole world is singing. Peace and gladness unspeakable fill my soul and my heart.
These were all Jews. In my text, every one of them was a Jew—every one of them. They all were Jews here at Pentecost. Last Sunday night, I baptized that Jew from the Bronx in New York City, and I baptized his wife from Pittsburgh. [They] came down here to Dallas, found the Lord as their own and personal Savior. Last Wednesday night, he said to me, “Pastor, I have not words to describe the gladness and the joy in my heart. I cannot say it.” Why, he even said, “I have smoked cigarettes for thirty-three years.” He said, “Last Sunday, all desire of it left me. I have no desire for it anymore.”
When a man has given his heart to Christ, why should he find joy or peace in a bottle? “Don’t need it, I have the Lord.” When a man has found Christ and the joy immeasurable and unspeakable fills his soul, why should he seek for pleasure and enjoyment in gambling? When a man has found peace and joy unspeakable in the Lord, why should he seek for gladness and happiness in the pleasures of this world? “I have Jesus and that is all that I need.” What a wonderful testimony, that Jew who sits there by the side of his wife, happy in the Lord! So happy, “I cannot describe it.”
There were two Jews in my presence who were talking together here in the city of Dallas. One of those men had found the Lord Messiah. And he said to this distinguished leader among Jewery in our city, he said, “I have found my life and my peace and my happiness in Christ.”
The other Jew looked at him with a long and searching eye and said, “Sir, you do not know how much I envy you—how much I envy you.”
“I have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets did speak [John 1:45]. I have found the Lord and Prince of Life. I have been saved!”
Then as we shall see in following the Book of Acts—the door was opened to the Gentiles, to all of the families of the earth [Acts14:27], and the same glorious testimony follows you. Anywhere in the earth a man gives his heart to Jesus, there is joy and gladness and singleness of heart. One of these men, won to the Lord, the next day went to his work. And those buffoons there, ridiculing what he had done, said, “So you’ve got religion. So you’ve joined the church. So you’ve been saved, you’ve been converted. What a stupid thing!” And he replied very humbly but very marvelously, he said, “But since I gave my heart to Jesus, I have found peace and joy and happiness unspeakable.”
It may be idiocy to these and stupidity to those but to us who have looked in faith to His saving name [Ephesians 2:8], we have found peace and rest and joy and happiness, both for us and for our families. That’s God! That’s God. God put it together like that. God made it like that. He still presides over His creation. And He is still Lord of this whole world.
Our time is much spent. In a moment we will stand and sing our hymn of appeal. Has the Holy Spirit of God spoken to you? Is there something that the wooing presence of Jesus invites in you? Then would you answer with your life? Would you do it now. “Today, pastor, I am standing in the presence of men and angels to give my life in faith to Jesus Christ [Romans 10:8-13], the Son of God, who died for my sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]; who was raised for my justification according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25]. And before whom someday, I shall stand [2 Corinthians 5:10]. Unashamedly, I am confessing my faith in Him today.” Is there a family you whom God would bid come? Is there one somebody you to whom the Holy Spirit makes appeal? Come, angels will attend you in the way. Come, and see for yourself. In this balcony round, there are stairways, walk. In the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, come. Do it now. Make it now. “Here I come, pastor. I’m on the way.” While we stand and while we sing.