Note: Sermon manuscript from last Sunday's afternoon service at CRBC:
Revivals or the Ordinary Means of
CRBC February 19, 2023
We’re going to take a break today from our Lord’s Day
afternoon series through the Minor Prophets, having finished Haggai, before we
move on, Lord willing, to Zechariah and then complete the series in Malachi.
In this break, as we do from time to time, we want to
consider this sacred meal in which we participate Sunday by Sunday, the taking
of the Lord’s Supper, in obedience to the command of our Lord, who said, “This
do in remembrance of me.”
Ordinary Means of Grace
The Reformed (Biblical) theological tradition, teaches that
God has provided for his people “ordinary means” of grace.
This is taught in our Confession in 14:1. The ordinary means
the Lord has provided for the saving of sinners and then increasing and strengthening
them in the faith, as noted in Confession 4:1 are:
The ministry of the Word. That means
the reading of the Word, privately and publicly, and it especially means the
preaching and teaching of the Word.
10:14 How then shall they call on
him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom
they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
Romans 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and
hearing by the word of God.
Corinthians 1: 21 For after that in the
wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the
foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach
the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all
long suffering and doctrine.
Second: Alongside the ministry
of the Word we also have the ordinances or sacraments of baptism (the public confession of one’s faith before men, and the symbolic
identification with his life, death, and resurrection by immersing the whole
body in water—in obedience to his command) and the Lord’s Supper (taking
bread and cup in that spiritual meal instituted by Christ and commanded for
perpetual obedience till he comes again).
Third: To these the
confession adds prayer. Paul urged believers
to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In Acts we have description of
the church often meeting to pray, as when the apostle Peter was imprisoned and
they gathered in the house of Mary the mother of John (Acts 12).
Fourth: And it mentions
“other means appointed by God.” This might include
fasting, meditation on the Word, the assemblies of the saints, but these must
have scriptural warrant.
So, Jude urges:
Jude 1: 20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves
on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
saw a tweet yesterday from a RB pastor in California which read, “Tomorrow [the
Lord’s Day] is the weekly day of revival.”
was making a sly reference and perhaps even a critique of the current “revival”
that recently began at the Wesleyan and Holiness heritage Asbury Seminary in
Wilmore, Kentucky. It started with a student led chapel service on February 8
and has continued to meet day and night since then. By this time, you may have seen
this on your social media feeds.
has attracted attention across the country and similar meetings have sprung up on
various other campuses (most recently at Samford University in Birmingham) and
visitors (like evangelical pilgrims pursuing “spiritual tourism”) have flooded
the school to experience the revival in person.
has been been covered by media from the Washington Post to Tucker
Carlson. To the university’s credit they have discouraged live streaming and
tried to manage the media frenzy and attention.
Wikipedia article on the “Asbury Revival” has a day-by-day timeline of what is
happening. The university has apparently announced that the revival will end on
February 24 (strange to announce the end of a "revival") and has written letters to the parents of students, some of whom
might have been concerned about how these meetings have affected the things universities
are mostly known for, like academic instruction.
is actually the second revival of this type to have happened at Asbury. Another
apparently took place in 1970.
of course, there were great revivals in the past that had a significant impact on our
so-called First Great Awakening began with Jonathan Edwards preaching his
classic sermon (reading from a manuscript in a monotone from behind a pulpit) “Sinners
in the hands of an angry God” in colonial America. It is reported that some who
heard his preaching of God’s wrath were so filled with terror that they feared
the floor beneath might collapse at any moment and deposit them into hell.
Then there was the so-called Second Great Awakening in the nineteenth century that really set the tone for what most still think of as the pattern for a revival—a time of spiritual renewal and enthusiasm. These were the times of the camp meetings and “the saw dust trail.” It sadly resulted in many excesses, the introduction of “new measures,” including the “anxious bench” and altar calls, making extra-ordinary subjective experiences the measure of true faith. When the whirlwind of enthusiasm ended, however, it led to the creation of “burned over districts” which bred cults, like the Mormons. As Paul reminds us in Romans 10:2 there can be zeal for God, “but not according to knowledge.”
What do we make of the Asbury revival and of revivals in general?
might be raised. The Asbury revival seems driven not so much by the ministry of
the Word in preaching but by singing and swaying to contemporary praise songs.
has been the reading of Scripture and giving of testimonies at an “open
microphone.” But what about the injunction in James 3:1: “My brethren, be not
many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”?
seems to be a series of meetings taking place apart from the oversight of any local
church and its elders. Christ did not say, I will build my Christian
university, or my para-church student ministry, or even, I will build my "revival," but I will build my church (Matthew
the other hand, I think we can point to some things we can see in this as hopeful
and encouraging signs:
it shows us that there are young people, in particular, in this generation who
have been and will continue to be drawn to the cause of Christ. The Lord will
not be without a witness in each generation till he returns in glory. He has
his elect in this generation whose hearts will be strangely warmed by the work
of his Spirit. We should not spurn or attempt to quench that. This is
encouraging in light of the fact that we are nearly constantly told by the
media that the faith is in decline or demographically challenged. They seem to delight in telling us that this is a
generation of “nones” (no faith) and “dones” (tried it but left).
many of those who might be drawn to spiritual things through this movement, whatever
its weaknesses (and perhaps, upon later reflection, because of its weaknesses)
will be drawn to study the Scriptures in greater depth. They will be drawn to
Biblical doctrine and to faithful churches. There will likely be not a few who
might be drawn eventually to become confessional Reformed Baptists!
What about us?
about us? Will we begin a series of Asbury-style revival meetings? Will we make
a pilgrimage to Wilmore or the next big place where “revival” breaks out?
We will continue to meet on the Lord’s day and give attention to the ordinary
means of grace as the Lord has provided. We will commit ourselves to the
ministry of the Word. To baptizing new believers upon the confession of their
faith in Christ. To sitting down at the Lord’s table and receiving the bread and
the cup in obedience to his command. To private and public prayer, and to other
By these means, we believe the Lord will be faithful to, as Jude put it, build us up in our “most holy faith” (v. 20).