The Outpouring of Pentecostal Power
September 27th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
THE OUTPOURING OF PENTECOSTAL POWER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-27-81 8:15 a.m.
Welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing with us this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Outpouring of Pentecostal Power. It is a message especially prepared in behalf of our revival meeting that begins next Sunday. In the first chapter of Acts, in the eighth verse, our Lord, just before His ascension back into heaven, our Lord said, Acts 1:8, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me to the whole earth." That includes Dallas, our Jerusalem; it includes Texas, our Samaria; it includes the whole world in God’s love and grace.
God has written two books. One book is His book of creation: that is the handwriting of God in the sky; that is the handwriting of God in the sunrise and the sunset; it is the handwriting of God in all the world of marvel around us. God has written another Book: the Book of self-revelation. Here He tells us His name, and who He is, and what He is like. And in both of those books, we discover facts and laws. In the book of creation, there are scientific facts. In God’s Book of self-revelation, there are spiritual facts. In the book of creation, there are natural laws, scientific laws. In the Book of His self-revelation, there are spiritual laws.
A fact, a law, is something that is demonstrable; it is repeatable. A chemist can take a test tube and place in it hydrogen and nitrogen gas, and spark it, and you will have a little drop of water: H₂O, a demonstrable law, a demonstrable fact. A physicist can take an object and let it drop and it will always come to the earth: a law of gravity, demonstrable, repeatable. Or a balloon that is filled, and you open the mouth, and it will immediately propel itself in a backward motion: a great jet airplane will do the same thing. In the tremendous thrust of that heated air furiously pouring out, the plane is thrust forward. That is law and fact; it’s repeatable, it’s demonstrable. If it isn’t, it’s not a law, it’s not a fact. So in God’s world of the soul and of the spirit: there are repeatable and demonstrable laws that work – that’s the way God does things – that work in our souls, in our church, in our lives.
One of the tremendous preachers, evangelists, of all time was Charles G. Finney. He wrote a book – he called it a simple book, Lectures – they are lectures on revival. And the thesis of the book is this: that as there are laws of the harvest, which, if a farmer observes, he’ll reap a harvest, so there are laws of the spiritual harvest, which, if people will follow, they will reap a spiritual harvest. The only difference, Charles G. Finney says, [is] that sometimes the farmer will fail in his crop: a drought, a boll weevil, some visitation of Providence. But in the law of the harvest in God’s spiritual world, it never fails, never. That’s an unusual thesis; but it was demonstrated in his life. He was a lawyer. He was not a theologian; Charles G. Finney was a lawyer, a very successful practicing attorney. And the Spirit of God set him apart for the work of evangelism. Now, when we look at those laws, those facts, if what I have said is just true, that a law to be a law or a fact, to be a fact, whether it’s in chemistry or physics, or whether it is in the world of the Spirit of God, that it is repeatable, that it is demonstrable, if that is true, then this is a concomitant, an inevitable corollary: when we see what these New Testament apostles did, if we do that, the results that they had we also will have. It is a demonstrable fact. It is a repeatable law. It works in God’s providence, in God’s grace.
Then what did they do in order to achieve the incomparable results that we read here in God’s Holy Book? Well, first, they prayed together. The story sort of starts off like that: in Acts 1:14 after it names the apostles, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." And isn’t it unusual that they add, "with the women, and with Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren"? [Acts 1:14]. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." And when I come over into the second chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 42, the pattern of the church, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" [Acts 2:42]. That’s the way it began.
When the little band saw the Lord Jesus taken from them and saw Him ascend up into heaven, and the shekinah glory of God take Him out of their sight, they were left with a commission to conquer the whole earth for Jesus [Acts 1:8-9]. But they had no guns, they had no tanks, they had no planes, they had no armies, they had no guns, they had no navies, they had no political power, they had no prestige, they had no social standing; they had a Savior and a promise, and they committed themselves to two things: to stay together and to pray together [Acts 2:42]. And as they stayed together and prayed together, and as they prayed together and as they stayed together, the power of God fell upon them [Acts 1:14]. That is the demonstrable, repeatable law. It begins first like this: with a stated and open recognition and admission that we are dependent upon the Spirit and the power and the presence of God [Zechariah 4:6]. An admission, "I cannot do it. In me there is no regenerating strength. God must do it."
I feel so helpless when the smallest, littlest child is brought to me seeking the Lord. How can I born again a soul into the kingdom of Christ? I cannot. That is the prerogative of God. I am shut up to appeal, to intercession; God must convert the soul. It is a work of the Spirit of the Lord. We are cast upon the strong arm of the Almighty. It is God who must do it [John 6:44].
Sometimes when I think of the eighteenth chapter of 1 Kings, the dramatic story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, with all the prophets of Baal and all Israel assembled there together, and first the prophets of Baal cry for the fire, and they shout and they cut themselves, and all day long do they appeal to Baal to send the fire [1 Kings 18:22-29]. I sometimes think of us like that: we cry aloud, "O organization, send the fire," or, "O modern, ingenious methods, send the fire," or, "O marvelous human genius, send the fire," or, "O incomparable sermons, send the fire," and no fire falls. But in that dramatic story, it says that when the time of the evening sacrifice came, Elijah knelt down and cried, saying, "Hear me, O Lord, hear me!" And the next words are, "And the fire fell. And the fire fell" [1 Kings 18:37-38]. We’re shut up to prayer; we have no alternative. Organization won’t take its place. Human genius won’t take its place. The finest preparation and sermonizing of the preacher won’t take its place. Nothing ever takes the place of God and the fire and the power He pours out in answered prayer. That’s the first law: intercession, prayer [1 Timothy 2:1].
The second one, do you notice, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine" [Acts 2:42], the Greek didachē, didachē, the doctrine, the revelation, the truth, the teaching. That’s about one of the most unusually strong words translated here, "They continued steadfastly, proskarterountes," proskarterountes, from proskartereō Proskarterountes is a present participle, "going and continuing"; proskartereō means "to give oneself intently to." They really stayed with it. That is the second demonstrable, repeatable law of revival Pentecostal power: to stay true to the truth, to the revelation of God, to the Holy Word; faithful to it, no deviation from it.
You know, I can illustrate that, world without end. There’s a little city. The First Baptist Church in that little city asked me to be pastor about forty-five years ago. Because of that little incident in my life, I’ve always had an interest in it, the First Baptist Church there. Oh, I’d say the church is at least a hundred fifty years old. It’s in the East. On a good Sunday, that church now will have a hundred fifty in attendance. And right across the way – it’s a little city, small – right across the way there is a Baptist church that on any Sunday will have ten thousand in attendance, in that little city. Well, you could ask, "What is the difference?" Well, the difference is evident: the pastor of the First Baptist Church in that city is a liberal. He believes the Word of God in spots and in places, and he’s the judge. And the church is small and inconsequential. Just across the way is a pastor – you’d call him a fundamentalist – he believes every word of the revealed Book, and he preaches it in power. And there are ten thousand people there every Sunday.
I think of another church – and you could just go on world without end. In this little city, the First Baptist Church has about three hundred in it, at the most, three hundred. It’s the First Baptist Church. And right across the way is another Baptist church. And on any ordinary Sunday, they’ll have two thousand five hundred in attendance. What’s the difference? The difference lies [in that] the pastor of the First Baptist Church of that little city is a liberal. He believes the Word of God, maybe; in spots, as he chooses. But the other pastor is a man who gives himself to the whole message of the Lord, and he preaches it faithfully and prayerfully. That’s what that means: "And they proskarterountes." Man, that’s the most emphasized word that a Greek could put together, proskarterountes: "They continued intently and steadfastly in the doctrine, in the revelation of God, in the teaching of the Word" [Acts 2:42]. And God blessed them. That’s the second demonstrable law, repeatable law.
The third one here: "They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ prayers and doctrine and breaking bread from house to house" [Acts 2:42, 46]. And they spell that out in Acts 5:42, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." That’s the third one: daily, from every house, in every house, from house to house, as well as in their public convocations, they were teaching and preaching and witnessing to the Lord Jesus.
Here’s another thing that I often review. The apostle Paul, what kind of a man was he? How did he look? If we went to church in Ephesus or Corinth, and Paul was preaching, what would it be like? And what kind of a man was he personally? I think, from what I can read in the Bible, that one of the greatest outpourings of the converting power of God was in the Greek city of Ephesus, the number one city in the Roman province of Asia. That was when the seven churches in the Revelation were founded. It says, "All Asia heard the Word of the Lord," and turned to the Lord [Acts 19:10]. And that Greek city of Ephesus did [Acts 19:8-41]; it was a tremendous ministry. Well, how did Paul bring about so glorious an outpouring of the Spirit of God? How was he used to do it? In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, he called the elders of the church to Miletus [Acts 20:17], about thirty miles away. And in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, he reviews his ministry with them in Ephesus. And this is what he says in verse 31: "Watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" [Acts 20:31]. Verse 20: "Publicly, and from house to house, testifying to the Jews, and to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" [Acts 20:20-21]. For three years the apostle says he went from house to house to house, with tears, testifying to the Lord Jesus.
What kind of a man was Paul? In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 10, he repeats what people said about him. And this is what he writes in 2 Corinthians 10:10, "For his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible." That’s what they saw and that’s what they heard when they listened to him, this mighty apostle. "His bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible." Then how did he do such an incomparable work in Ephesus? He says that he did it for three years, night and day, from house to house, testifying with tears to the Lord Jesus Christ [Acts 20:31, 20-21].
I can see that demonstrable and repeatable; I have done it myself. A committee came to the little village church where I pastored and said, "Our church is closed up. The door is nailed. But we have so many young people in our community. On a Sunday afternoon, would you come at least once a month, and would you preach for us at our church?" I said, "Yes." So we undid the door. And we put in the panes of glass that were broken out, and we swept out the church, and we cut down the weeds that had grown up to the eaves of the little country church. And I took me a boy, and we started down, on every road from that church, down every road. And I said to the young fellow, "All I want you to do is just to tell them that I’m the preacher down there at the church." And then I said, "When you introduce me, I’m going to ask, ‘Are you Christians here?’ And if they say, ‘We’re Christians here,’ I’m going to say, ‘May I come in and read God’s Word with you and kneel in prayer?’ And if they say, ‘We’re not Christians here,’ I’m going to say, ‘May I come in and show you how to be saved and pray with you?’"
So I started every day there at the church, and went down that road, then came back and went down this road, and went down every road in the community; prayed and read God’s Word in every house in the community. And when time came for me to stand up to preach, you couldn’t get in the house, you could hardly get in the yard, and we had the greatest baptismal service in Barren River that that part of the state had ever seen. It’s a demonstrable fact. Follow it, do it, and you will get the same results.
Fourth: not only did they pray and continued in it, not only were they true to the revealed Word of God, proskarterountes, steadfastly in it, and not only did they have a marvelous, wonderful appeal arising out of their hearts expressed from house to house, but they also continued in the fellowship, the oikonomia, and in breaking bread. And that is so much emphasized. "They continued in the fellowship and in the breaking of bread" [Acts 2:42]. They ate together. There is one characteristic of the New Testament church that stands out tremendously when you closely read the New Testament Scriptures, and that is this: the church ate together in a koinōnia; they were together, breaking bread [Acts 2:42, 46].
That comes out of Israel, out of the Old Covenant, the Old Testament. All, all of the great convocations of Israel were feasts [Leviticus 23:1], all of them except one. There was one day that was at a Day of Atonement, they call it today Yom Kippur [Leviticus 16:1-34; Numbers 29:7-11]; all of the other were feasts. They gathered together, and they rejoiced in the Lord. In the New Testament, they call it "breaking bread." It was in a feast of Israel, in the Passover, that our Lord as He ate with His apostles, took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and they all ate of that broken loaf. And He took the cup, and He blessed it, and they all drank of that fruit of the vine [Matthew 26:26-28]. And this is the continuing memorial of our Lord in the church: the simple thing of breaking bread and drinking of the crushed fruit of the vine. It is a characteristic of the church, their coming together and their koinōnia, their fellowshipping together.
It is a remarkable thing how that phrase "breaking bread," they were "breaking bread." I was in Israel, and the man who went with me – a guide you’d call him – was an old hardened soldier. He had been in Israel from the beginning. He had fought through every one of the wars. And I can’t quite reconstruct the circumstance, but in a place in Israel, I was sitting down with him and about four or five other of those old hardened warriors. We were seated at a table about that high, and were as they were in the New Testament: we were seated on the floor and kind of resting, if you so pleased, on your arm as you ate. And in the center of the table, there was a stack of bread; it was round, about like that, and there were about four or five or six of those loaves, they were flat, sort of flat, and round. And when we sat down, those six or seven, however many of those Israelites, the man across the table from me reached forward and took that top piece of bread, that round loaf, and extending it across the table to me, he said, "My brother, would you break bread with me?" And I extended my hand in fellowship and in love and in gratitude for all that those people have done for us, giving us our Bible, giving us the blessed Jesus, I reached my hand and took the bread, and we broke it and then shared it on either side. It’s a beautiful picture, and it’s the very heart of the church, their eating together, their breaking bread together. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verses 16 and 17:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the koinōnia of the blood of Christ? And the bread which we break, is it not the koinōnia of the body of Christ?
For we being many are one loaf, and one body: and we all partake of that one bread, that one loaf.
[1 Corinthians 10:16-17]
The fellowship in the church, warm-hearted, kind, interested, devoted; it’s a colony of heaven, literally [Hebrews 10:24-25].
I sometimes think of our gospel, that we are born into the kingdom of God [John 3:3]: we don’t come because we’re smart, or because we have degrees, or because we’re gifted; we are born into the kingdom as we are born into this life. Then I think, no child is ever born into this life but in the warm blood-bathed matrix, womb, of a mother. Even these test-tube babies: that little impregnated ovum has to be placed in the womb of a live mother. There’s no life born without it. And I think the same thing about the church and our children being born, our people being born into the kingdom of God. It has to be in a warm, blood-bathed matrix; there has to be in the church a feeling that people are loved, and they are cared for, and they are interested. It matters to us whether they live or die, whether they are saved or lost. It’s a koinōnia. It’s a fellowship. It’s an open door. It’s with open arms.
That’s why I have made the announcement that when we have our revival meeting every night under a big tent out there that will cover Old San Jacinto Street, from Ervay to Saint Paul, then from Old San Jacinto Street to New San Jacinto Street between the chapel building and the KCBI building, every night we’re going to have an agapē – that’s what the New Testament calls it – agapē love feast [Jude 1:12]. Every night we’re going to be out there, five-thirty o’clock we’ll start. And the whole world is invited to come. And I said, "I’m going to pay for the meal." And one of the members of the church heard of my saying that, and sent me word, "Well, I’m going to help you." The meal is free. The agapē is free. It’s for all of our families. It’s for all of our friends. It’s for everybody who will come. Come, it’s a koinōnia, it’s an agapē, it’s a fellowship, it’s a gesture of love and interest in you. And we’ll sit around round tables. And with these who will respond, we will welcome them. And then after we have eaten, we’ll come into the sanctuary here. And if we eat early, there’ll be an old fashioned singing and music program here until seven o’clock. And God’s people will gather in gladness, and in rejoicing, and in fellowship, and in love, and in welcome to the whole world, anybody who will come.
O Lord, my heart is blessed already as I’ve been praying, as I’ve been inviting, as I’ve been studying the Word, as I’ve been preparing for the days, and as I look forward to these convocations when we gather together in the love and grace of our blessed Jesus. My heart is already revived, an outpouring of the Spirit of God.
Now may we stand together?
Our wonderful Lord, as we do the same things, follow the same pattern, obey the same laws, Master, may we see the same results: people saved, whole families turning to Jesus. O Lord, make it a glorious revival time, and let it begin now, this minute. May there be some this morning who come accepting Thee as Savior, some putting their lives in our church, some answering God’s call. And we shall love Thee for the harvest, in Thy blessed name, amen.
Now the appeal: there may be some of you that want to do something especial for the Lord. It’ll do your heart good to come down the aisle to a wicker basket on each side, maybe God’s been good to you and you want to thank Him, or you’d just like to do something over and beyond, it’ll bless your heart to come. Then some of you giving your heart to Jesus, you stay with us. Some of you coming into the church, you stay with us, stand with us here. And God bless you, and welcome as you come, while we sing our hymn of appeal, come. Welcome.
THE OUTPOURING OF PENTECOSTAL POWER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. God has written two books
B. Natural and spiritual laws
1. Laws of the spiritual harvest
II. Prayed together (Acts 1:14, 2:42)
A. Power of God poured out
B. We must cast ourselves upon the Lord (1 Kings 18)
III. Continued in the doctrine (Acts 2:42)
A. Set themselves with intense adherence to the Scriptures
B. When man is true to the Word, God blesses (Psalm 119:105)
IV. Visited daily, from house to house (Acts 2:46, 5:42)
A. Paul in Ephesus (2 Corinthians 10:10)
1. How did he do it? (Acts 20:20-21)
B. Village church
V. Ate together (Acts 2:42, 46)
A. Great convocations of Israel were feasts
B. At the feast of Passover Christ instituted Lord’s Supper