The book of Acts, strangely enough, opens with closure. Jesus has “shewed himself alive . . . by many infallible proofs” (v. 2) and is shortly to ascend into heaven. Prior to his ascension, He not only proves His resurrection, He also instructs them concerning “the kingdom of God” (v. 2), their need of the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 4-8), and their responsibility to literally witness to the whole world. It is quite a responsibility. It is quite an undertaking. It is literally impossible! And yet, in coming weeks and months and years, that little congregation is going to be part of one of history’s most familiar and incredible evangelistic revivals. What can we learn from this account that will instruct, encourage, and challenge us concerning the same matter? I see several lessons.
In the first place, there is a lesson about prayer. Believing, mighty, miracle producing, life-altering, culture changing, God-honoring, church building, soul-saving, prayer! This little congregation – without a building, a choir, electricity, or even a completed Bible – prayed for ten days, were filled with the Spirit, began to witness with great power, preached about a thirty minute sermon and saw 3000 souls saved, baptized, and following their Savior! Acts 1:14 reveals the beginning: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women . . . .” While we are not given many details (did they fast? did they pray all night? did they kneel? did they take time off from work?), we do know that they “all prayed.” We also know that they prayed over and took care of some business in the congregation (1: 15-26). We also know that they must have been praying for God’s power in their lives. When their prayers were answered, Acts 2:4 teaches that they were “all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak.” As they powerfully and miraculously witnessed and preached the Gospel, sinners were converted, baptized, and started on the Christian journey. Three thousand of them, that is!
All through the book of Acts we see the priority of prayer. Those who were added to them continued “in prayers” (2:42). The church leaders went to the temple to pray (3:1). The congregation prayed when persecution came upon them (4:23-31). They prayed when the needed a miracle (12: 5-19). Is there not a lesson here for our churches?
We must pray if we are to see God move in the mighty ways that He moved in the early church. We must take our eyes off the politics and problems of our day and place our eyes on the God who has all power and authority. We must seek Him. We must cry out to Him. We must pray BIG prayers. We must ask for His power in our lives and pray until we are Spirit-filled witnesses. We must cry out to Him to use us to see a mighty harvest in our Jerusalem. We must ask for Him to use us in Judea and in Samaria and in the uttermost parts of the earth! Is He not a great God? Does He not have all power? Is He not able to do great works? Does He not work miracles?
So, pray by yourself. Pray with your family. Pray with your Sunday School class. Pray with your Bible Study group. Pray with your church family. Pray with other churches in your town. Pray for the filling of the Spirit. Pray for miracles. Pray for a great harvest of souls. Pray for God to move in such a way that nobody is ever the same!
Surely, there is a lesson in this early revival about prayer.
There is also a lesson about proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. While it is easy to turn these passages in this book of Acts into theological debates and questions (did the church start here or earlier? did they already have the Holy Spirit or is Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit first comes? Are these passages simply transitory or do they have actual lessons that we need as much now as they did then?), it seems reasonable that what happened here is exactly what we need to happen in churches all across our nation and around the world.
Consider this matter. They prayed. They saw God move mightily as a result. Certainly we could use some of that in our churches today. They also prayed for the Spirit’s power, were filled with the Spirit, and boldly won souls to Christ, saw them baptized, added to their number, and following Christ. Could we not use some of that in our churches today? I submit that we certainly could.
I also believe that we can! What I love about this book of Acts is the simplicity of what happened. They prayed. I can do that! They needed power. I need that! They prayed for that power. I can do that too! They saw thousands saved. I want that! They saw miracles. Wouldn’t you like to see that? I know that you would.
Not only should we pray, we must specifically pray for the power of the Spirit so that we can be the witnesses we ought to be and need to be. Every believer is indwelt by the Spirit. I Corinthians 6:19-20, Romans 8:9, and Ephesians 1:13-14 are several passages that bear this truth. In fact, I believe that the believers in Acts 1 were already indwelt as well. John 7:37-39 undoubtedly teaches that after He was glorified He would give them the Holy Spirit. Following His resurrection and glorification, He appears to them in John 20:21-23 and gives them the Holy Spirit! If that is true, the passages in Acts are not about the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, but rather about His filling them in power so that they can be mighty soulwinners! Now some, obviously would not agree. I am okay with that, as long as those who disagree still see that we need the Spirit’s power just like they had!
Do you and your church have the Spirit’s power? Are you and your church Spirit-filled, mighty soulwinners? Can you not see how that we need to pray about this matter? We must seek the Lord for His power in our lives and in our church. Consider that they all prayed about it (Acts 1:14) and they were “all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak . . . and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:4, 41). Oh that God would help our churches to pray and to seek for His power so that we could see multitudes saved.
Is there another lesson we can learn? Not only is there a lesson about prayer, and a lesson about proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, there is also a lesson about having a passion for the things of God. A dead, formal, ritualistic, normal Christianity is simply another religious exercise. However, a Christianity that is alive, that regularly see mighty answers to prayer, and that overwhelmingly impacts lives, is another matter entirely. I see “passion” in the fact that they all prayed in Acts 1:14. They were all “filled with the Spirit and began to speak with other tongues” in Acts 2:4 and following. In Acts 2:41-47, they “gladly” received the word and “continued stedfastly” in “doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Furthermore, they “continued daily . . . in the temple, and . . . from house to house . . . with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God!”
If we are not careful, our services can become ritualistic, religious exercises. We do the same routines week after week. As Vance Havner so succinctly stated many years ago, “we start at 11 o’clock sharp and end at 12 o’clock dull.” Our youth see no evidence of the Spirit’s reality nor of the power of God. Neither do our older folks. Instead of being completely “sold out” and on fire for God, we are simply surviving. Perhaps that is the reason so many are moving from our fundamental churches into the more carnal atmospheres in many of our contemporary churches. They are looking for “passion” and many would rather have something that seems to be alive rather that something that seems to be dead! The answer, however, is found in the simplicity of this evangelistic revival recorded here in the book of Acts.
We must learn this lesson about prayer. We must experience these kind of answers. We desperately need some miracles We must learn this lesson about proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. We desperately need to win people to Christ and see our churches grow as a result. Finally, we must become so dedicated to the things of Christ, that our lives are characterized by a mighty passion for the things of God.
That, my friend, is how you have a mighty revival in a local church!