Revival. What is it? We sometimes talk about a revival of a old musical production. Or a person that stops breathing, but is revived through CPR. Revival is the breathing of new life into something that is dead or dying. And while there is physical revival, as we continue studying Acts 2, we’ve come to a story of spiritual revival. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, stands up with the rest of the disciples around him, and he raises his voice and begins to preach to the crowds in the city of Jerusalem. You can read his sermon in Acts 2:14-36.
Do you see what Peter is doing in his sermon? Witnessing! He is sharing the good news that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets, that though he died, he was resurrected. Peter’s witnessing led people to receive this good news with gladness. In verse 37 we read that the people were cut/pierced to the heart. People asked, “What shall we do?”
Peter’s response? “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.” Repent is an inward and outward turning away from self-focused lives toward a God-focused life. Repentance of head, heart and hands. This is the same message that John the Baptist and Jesus preached. Repent! This concept of turning away from a life that does not honor God, and turning toward the God-honoring life is essential for a person to be a follower of Jesus. And that day, 3000 repented and were baptized and joined the church.
Let’s take a few minutes and talk about revival. Peter preached a revival message!
Revival on this scale does not occur again in the Bible, which covers roughly the next 60-70 years. That’s not to say that in that time period revival like that didn’t happen again. The writers of the New Testament just don’t record anything like it. As we think about the church throughout the centuries, this kind of revival does occur again, many times. Often revival is preceded by prayer, just as the Acts 2 revival was preceded by prayer in Acts 1. The same thing has happened many times in history, including here in the United States, especially through the Great Awakening in the 1700s and the Second Great Awakening that went into the 1800s.
In 1805-6, revival broke out here in central Pennsylvania through the ministry of Jacob Albright and George Miller, two Evangelical pastors. Albright started the Evangelical Association that is the predecessor denomination to my own denomination, the Evangelical Congregational Church.
George Miller wrote this about Albright, when Albright was preaching in a meeting that took place in a home: “Indeed even his bearing, countenance and movements often betrayed the presence of God’s Spirit in his chest, so that the hearers were deeply moved without his saying many words. And there were times in which he so entirely forgot his humanness and even himself—when such a high rapture worked on and in him—that he was driven from his position as far as halfway through the house in which he spoke without he himself even being aware of it. And after such a shaking of his spirit, one then saw on his face a special joy and the praise of God poured from his lips, and one saw him so moved that all his limbs were in motion.”
Miller remembered when he first came under the conviction of the Spirit while hearing Albright preach: “I was touched in such a manner by his powerful sermon, that if I had not taken hold of a table, I should have sunk to the floor.” Only a few years later, after Miller had become a preacher himself, this powerful experience would continue through his ministry as well. In 1805 while preaching right here in Lancaster County in a home, Miller notes that, “The Lord gave me grace to preach his word with feeling and power so that nearly all were melted.” On October 25, 1806, a revival broke out in Union County. George Miller delivered the opening sermon at a “Big Meeting” and “the power of the Lord came upon the congregation with such force that many fell on their knees, and with tears in their eyes, besought the Lord to save them.” In the ensuing months, as the revival progressed, the Holy Spirit continued to be poured out, this time under Albright’s preaching so that “a great commotion resulted with many falling on their knees and crying aloud for mercy.”
My question to you is this, could this happen again? YES! And I believe we are right to pray for it. Often in our Wednesday evening prayer meeting, we pray for revival. Let’s keep praying for the Spirit to work!