The Church Must have Word and Spirit to Move Mountains
It is difficult to describe the intense force of revival. It literally carries you along on its powerful waves and drives you with its strong winds. It is, in a sense, a corporate version of what Israel's prophets experienced individually: They "spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
Interestingly, the Greek verb translated here with “carried along” (phero, which basically means to bear, bring, or carry) is also found in Acts 27 in the context of Paul’s shipwreck: “The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. . . . Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along” (Acts 27:15, 17b). The same verb is also found in Acts 2:2: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (KJV).
What an apt description of revival! The Spirit comes “like the rush of a violent wind” (NRSV), and we are driven along by that wind. (According to the semantic lexicon of J. P. Louw and Eugene Nida, phero in contexts such as Acts 27 means “to cause an object to move by means of a force”). The obvious question is: How do we stay on course? How do we “navigate” the holy storm? The answer is simple: The Word is our anchor. The Word is our compass. The Word is our infallible guide. And while it is the Spirit who puts the winds in our sails – provided our sails are up and our ship is seaworthy – it is the Word that keeps us from crashing on the rocks. Both the Word and the Spirit are essential!
You see, revival is an extremely spiritual movement, marked by mighty workings of the Holy Spirit and unusually strong visitations. Often, meetings are virtually “taken over” by God, and it seems that all we can do is simply let Him have His way. Sometimes, His presence is so great that it is not even possible to stand and speak, and so no message is preached. But if that pattern continues for weeks or months – if the Word is not proclaimed clearly and fundamental doctrines are neglected, if somehow we begin to think that it is “unspiritual” to use the Bible and “religious” to teach and preach the Word – soon enough, the revival will be killed. It will wane or it will get weird, either floating into spiritual lala-land or violently running aground. One way or another, it will end. The Word must remain central if the revival is to stay its course.
When Joshua was about to take the Promised Land, the Lord gave him clear instructions: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Josh. 1:8). He was about to move into unchartered territory, with every kind of opposition and challenge before him. Keeping the Word in heart and mind was the key. That was the only way he could fulfill the task given him by God.
The key to the success of the godly man according to Psalm 1 is twofold. First, he shuns the counsel and way of the wicked. Second, he delights in God’s Word, making it his portion day and night. That’s why he succeeds in everything he sets his hand to do (see Psalms 1:1-3). It is by hiding the Word in our hearts that we keep free from sin (Psalms 119:11), and it is by paying careful attention to what is written that we find life and health (Proverbs 4:20-22).
In the New Testament, the Word remains just as central. We are exhorted to “let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly as [we] teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16a), and Timothy was urged to give the Scriptures a central place in public services: “Until I come,” Paul wrote, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). How we need to take hold of this in the midst of revival! Jesus Himself taught that our prayers would be answered as we remained in Him and His words remained in us (John 15:7).
Consider the outpouring on Pentecost. It was incredible! The sound of a blowing, violent wind; tongues of fire; new languages supernaturally spoken by the Spirit; people in awe of God’s power, praising Him for what they heard; people mocking the whole event, attributing it to drunkenness. There was glory and there was scorn. The adrenaline must have been flowing! Emotions of every kind must have been stirred, and the crowd scene could have become unruly at any moment.
What did Peter do? He stood up in the midst of the people and preached the Word. He did not ignore the supernatural things that were taking place, but he did not draw all attention to them either. Rather, he explained them in light of the Scriptures. “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:15-16). Being full of the Spirit, he was inspired to preach the Word. It was not a matter of either-or.
The Spirit and the Word work hand in hand. And in Peter’s short message – or, at least, in the text of it we have, probably representing an abbreviated version – Peter quotes verse after verse from the Scriptures. The actual breakdown is as follows: His whole message takes up a total of twenty-three verses
(Acts 2:14-36); Scripture quotations take up eleven – or almost half – of those verses. We can learn from Peter’s example!
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