“Testing the Spirits” is Hatred?

Asbury University Closes Down Revival that Clogged Small Kentucky Town ...

If you have been following the Asbury revival, it would seem so. Here are some comments about that those who don’t automatically accept that what has been happening at Asbury, and elsewhere now, is indeed genuine revival. Here’s the latest example I found just this morning, as a comment to a FB post about Asbury:

“I cannot be the only one who feels the unwarranted anger, hatred, and fear in the atmosphere right now. But what hurts my heart at much of it, is that it’s not only from the world. It’s from Christians, at Christians, by Christians!” – R.C.

Another article had this to say:

“That hesitancy (to accept Asbury as a true revival), however, is offensive to people who seem to think it’s Satan, not God, who said:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1-2).

Then we have this:

Over the past week, seemingly anyone who shares any caution or concern over some of what’s happening at Asbury University is immediately labeled a “Pharisee,” a “Doubting Thomas,” a blasphemer, and other silly accusations by people who hypocritically attack their brothers and sisters in the name of defending brothers and sisters at Asbury University.”

And this::

“Recently a chapel at Asbury university has resulted in what people are calling a revival. Many pastors and church leaders have been quick to call it a revival. Many pastors and church leaders have been quick to condemn what they refer to as “revival skeptics”.”

No I can understand how young Christians, who are not yet steeped in God’s Word might have a problem with Asbury skeptic. And when they have experienced a high level of excitement and warm fuzzy feelings, it’s not surprising they might have such thoughts, thinking they are in the midst of genuine revival. It’s doubtful these young professing believers even know the characteristics of genuine revival.

On the other hand, if pastors and church leaders condemn those who have responded biblically condemn them, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Consider the following:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1).

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

To date, I’ve collected a lot of material about Asbury, both articles that have simply declared/decreed that there’s genuine revival taking place in Asbury (and in other locations by now) and those who have suggested cautious optimism. I also find very troubling that it’s those who have decided that the revival is real who are slandering or condemning those who are “testing the spirit”.

Having said all of that, let us pray that whatever the truth concerning the Asbury is, God will indeed save those in whom He has begun the supernatural work of salvation!

Be blessed!

Is the Asbury Revival a True Revival?

Video: The Asbury University Revival | OpentheWord.org

That’s a frequent question these days. Everybody is taking a crack at answering that question.  Of all of the articles I have read about it, . Jordan Standridge , has offered what I think is a very well balanced review at the Crippllegate titled  Why It’s Good to be Skeptical of the Asbury Revival. It is very well balanced and worth reading.  Here are some short quotes from his article,

“Perhaps the greatest reason is this very desire to label it a revival so quickly. Instead of calling it a powerful chapel that resulted in conviction of sin and a desire to worship by the attendees, it is immediately called a revival and those who are skeptical are immediately called spirit quenchers.”


“It is also right to be skeptical of the fact that it did not occur in a church. The Lord has promised to build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:17-19). He said nothing about universities.”


“It is also good to be skeptical of the message that He supposedly used. I listened to it. I like the preacher. He seemed like a guy I would get along with. We clearly come from different theological backgrounds. Regardless, I hope he would agree with me that the gospel was not preached in the message.”


“It is also good to be skeptical of the type of people it has attracted. Todd Bentley is one of the people excited about what’s going on. He hates the God of the Bible. He has shown up and is loving it.

Some have said that it’s a real and awesome revival! Others have labeled it false and stated their reasons. Others, like myself, are cautiously optimistic

To read the entire article, click the link below:

:Why It’s Good to be Skeptical of the Asbury Revival

Code Orange Revival ‘Expectations’

Chris Rosebrough over at Fighting for the Faith calls the annual Code Orange Revival at Steven (COR) Furtick’s Elevation Church the “Heresy Olympics”. Not only does he review ‘sermons’ delivered at the auspicious event, he provides audio clips of advertisements and ‘man on the street’ interviews concerning the assumed expectations of the event promoters at Elevation Church and some of the attendees.

  • During the ‘pre-game’ show for night one, ‘Code Orange’ was defined as an eruption similar to volcanic activity – an ‘eruption’ of faith – 10 days and nights of celebrating and believing God for ‘breakthroughs’ for Elevation Church and for individuals.
  • In a short interview with someone who had travelled from London, when asked what she was expecting God to do in her life, a lady said she expected to get a new passion to go into her patients’ lives (she is a paramedic in London), so God could shine through her in her work as a paramedic.
  • Holly Furtick said she was looking forward to God speaking to her personally and she loved to watch God speaking personally to those around her. She also loved hearing stories from those who travelled to attend COR. She again emphasized ‘breakthroughs’.
  • The last point shared by Chris Rosebrough from the ‘pre-game’ show (2 minutes before ‘show’ time) again reinforced the ‘breakthrough’ theme, coming into God’s presence, and God doing something specific in every life. The announcer said “we’re going to have a lot of fun; we’re going to have a lot of guests here”.

Chris Rosebrough described the above ‘breakthrough’ rhetoric as the theology of’ triumphalism’, or ‘self glory’, and I for one agree with him.

Also part of the ‘pre-game festivities’ attendees/listeners are informed of all the ways they can participate with their giving, since it is important that we trust God in all areas of our lives, including our finances. Giving is ‘worship’ and folks can give online, on an App, and via texting, all of which will result in God’s blessings for the one giving.

Following the account of the ‘pregame’ festivities, there was a recap of Steven Furtick’s (contestant #1 in the 2016 Heresy Olympics) sermon, allegedly received by direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, during the sermon, Mr. Furtick correctly described Code Orange as ‘our’ revival, since it certainly isn’t God’s.

You can find Chris Rosebrough’s comments and critique of the Code Orange Revival here. You can find an interesting ‘Code Orange Bible Challenge’ here, as well as a recap of COR night one in the ‘Rhythm of Heresy’ podcast here. Stay tuned to Fighting for the Faith for other COR recaps and commentary.

The Cry for Revival – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

"Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?" Psalm 85:6.

It is interesting to notice the time when this prayer was offered. It was a time of mercy. "Lord, thou hast been favorable unto thy land." It was a time when God had led many to the knowledge of Christ, and covered many sins. "Thou has forgotten the iniquity of thy people." It was now they began to feel their need of another visit of mercy — "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

The thing prayed for. "Revive us again," or literally, return and make us live anew. It is the prayer of those who have received some life, but feel their need of more. They had been made alive by the Holy Spirit. They felt the sweetness and excellence of this new, hidden, divine life. They pant for more — "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

The argument presented. "That thy people may rejoice in thee." They plead with God to do this for the sake of His people, that their joy may be full; and that it may be in the Lord — in the Lord their righteousness — in the Lord their strength.

I. When this prayer is needed.

1. In a time of backsliding. There are times when, like Ephesus, many of God’s children lose their first love. Iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold. Believers lose their close and tender walking with God. They lose their close and near communion with God. They go out of the holiest, and pray at a distance with a curtain between. They lose their fervency, sweetness, and fullness in secret prayer. They do not pour out their hearts to God.

They have lost their clear discovery of Christ. They see Him but dimly. They have lost the sight of His beauty — the savor of His good ointment — the hold of His garment. They seek Him, but find Him not. They cannot stir up the heart to lay hold on Christ.

The Spirit dwells scantily in their soul. The living water seems almost dried up within them. The soul is dry and barren. Corruptions are strong: grace is very weak.

Love to the brethren fades. United prayer is forsaken. The little assembly no more appears beautiful. Compassion for the unconverted is low and cold. Sin is unrebuked, though committed under their eye. Christ is not confessed before men. Perhaps the soul falls into sin, and is afraid to return; it stays far off from God, and lodges in the wilderness.

Ah! this is the case, I fear, with many. It is a fearfully dangerous time. Nothing but a visit of the free Spirit to your soul can persuade you to return. Is it not a time for this prayer — "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

2. A time of temptation. The soul of a believer needs grace every moment. "By the grace of God I am what I am." But there are times when he needs more grace than at other times. Just as the body continually needs food; but there are times when it needs food more than at others — times of great bodily exertion, when all the powers are to be put forth.

Sometimes the soul of a believer is exposed to hot persecution. Reproach breaks the heart; or it beats like a scorching sun upon the head. "For my love they are my adversaries." Sometimes they are God’s children who reproach us, and this is still harder to bear. The soul is ready to fret or sink under it.

Sometimes it is flattery that tempts the soul. The world speaks well of us, and we are tempted to pride and vanity. This is still worse to bear.

Sometimes Satan strives within us, by stirring up fearful corruptions, till there is a tempest within. Oh, is there a tempted soul here? Jesus prays for thee. Pray for thyself. You need more peace. Nothing but the oil of the Spirit will feed the fire of grace when Satan is casting water on it. Send up this cry, "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

3. A time of concern. "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain." When God begins a time of concern in a place — when the dew is beginning to fall — then is the time to pray, Lord stay not thine hand — give us a full shower — leave not one dry. "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

II. Who need this revival.

1. Ministers need it. Ministers are naturally hard-hearted and unbelieving as other men (Mark 16:14), so that Christ has often to upbraid them. Their faith is all from above. They must receive from God all that they give. In order to speak the truth with power, they need a personal grasp of it. It is impossible to speak with power from mere head knowledge, or even from past experience. If we would speak with energy, it must be from present feeling of the truth as it is in Jesus. We cannot speak of the hidden manna unless we have the taste of it in our mouth. We cannot speak of the living water unless it be springing up with us. Like John the Baptist, we must see Jesus coming, and say, "Behold the Lamb of God." We must speak with Christ in our eye, as Stephen did. "I see Jesus standing on the right hand of God." We must speak from present sense of pardon and access to God, or our words will be cold and lifeless. But how can we do this if we be not quickened from above? Ministers are far more exposed to be cast down than other men; they are standard-bearers, and Satan loves when a standard-bearer fainteth. O, what need of full supplies out of Christ’s fullness! Pray, beloved, that it may be so. "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

2. God’s children need it. The divine life is all from above. They have no life till they come to Christ. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." Now this life is maintained by union to Christ, and by getting fresh supplies every moment out of His fullness. "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in him." In some believers this life is maintained by a constant inflowing of the Holy Spirit — "I will water it every moment" — like the constant supply which the branch receives from the vine. These are the happiest and most even Christians. Others have flood-tides of the Spirit carrying them higher and higher. Sometimes they get more in a day than for months before. In the one of these grace is like a river; in the other, it is like the shower coming down in its season. Still, in both there is need of revival. The natural heart in all is prone to wither. Like a garden in summer, it dries up unless watered. The soul grows faint and weary in well-doing. Grace is not natural to the heart. The old heart is always for dying and fading. So the child of God needs to be continually looking out, like Elijah’s servant, for the little cloud over the sea. You need to be constantly pressing near to the fountain of living waters; yea, lying down at the well-head of salvation, and drinking the living water, "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

3. Those that were awakened and have gone back, need it. A drop fell from heaven upon their heart. They trembled, wept, prayed. But the shower passed by, and the rocky heart ceased to tremble. The eye again closed in slumber; the lips forgot to pray. Ah, how common and sad is this case! The King of Zion lifted up His voice in this place and cried. Some that were in their graves heard His voice, and began to live. But this passed by, and now they sink back again into the grave of a dead soul. Ah! this is a fearful state! to go back to death, to love death, and wrong your own soul. What can save such a one, but another call from Jesus. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." For your sake most of all I pray, "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

4. Barren fig-trees need it. Some of you have been planted in this vineyard. You have enjoyed sun and shower. You have passed through all this time of awakening without being moved. You are still dead, barren, unconverted, fruitless. Ah! there is for you no hope but in this prayer. Ordinary times will not move you. Your heart is harder than that of other men. What need have you to pray for a deep, pure, effectual work of God, and that you may not be passed by. Many of you would stand the shock much better now. You have grown experienced in resisting God, and quenching the Spirit. Oh, pray for a time that will remove mountains. None but the Almighty Spirit can touch your hard heart. "Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." "Wilt thou not revive us again; that thy people may rejoice in thee?"

III. From whom revival comes.

It is God who must revive us again. It is not a human work. It is all divine. If you look to men to do it, you will only get that curse in Jeremiah 17, "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm."

1. The Lord has all the means in His hands. The Son of Man holds the seven stars in His right hand. These stars are ministers. He lifts them up, or lets them down, at His sovereign will. He gives them all their light, or He takes it away. He holds them up and lets them shine clearly, or He hides them in the hollow of His hand, as it seemeth good in His sight. Sometimes He lets them shine on one district of a country, sometimes on another. They only shine to lead to Him. The star that leads away from Him is a wandering star, and Christ will cast it into the blackness of darkness forever. We should pray to Christ to make his ministers shine on us.

2. The Lord has the fullness of the Spirit given to Him. The Father has entrusted the whole work of redemption into the hands of Jesus, and so the Spirit is given to Him. "As the Father hath life in Himself, and quickeneth whom He will, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself, and to quicken whom He will."

It is He who keeps all His own children alive from day to day. He is the fountain of living waters, and His children lie beside the still waters, and drink every moment eternal life from Him.

It is He that pours down the Spirit in His sovereignty on those that never knew Him. "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications." Truly, the whole work from beginning to end is His.

Every means will be in vain until He pour the Spirit down (Isa. 32:15): "Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers," until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high. We may preach publicly, and from house to house; we may teach the young, and warn the old, but all will be vain; until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, briers and thorns shall grow. Our vineyard shall be like the garden of the sluggard. We need that Christ should awake; that He should make bare His arm as in the days of old; that He should shed down the Spirit abundantly.

3. The children of God should plead with Him. Put your finger on the promise, and plead, "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, I the Lord will hear them." (Isa. 41:17) Tell Him you are poor and needy. Spread out your wants before Him. Take your emptiness to His fullness. There is an infinite supply with Him for everything you need, at the very moment you need it.

4. Ungodly men, you are saying, there is no promise to us. But there is, if you will receive it. Ps. 68:18; "Thou has ascended on high; Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also." Are you a rebel? Go and tell Him so. Oh, if you are willing to be justified by Him, and to get your rebel heart changed, go and ask Him, and He will give you living water. Prov. 1:23; "Turn you at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you." Go and tell Him you are a "simple one, a scorner." Ask Him to do what He has promised in Ezek. 34:26: "I will make them and the places round about my hill, a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing." Now, you cannot say you belong to Zion hill, but you can say you are in the places round about this hill. Oh cry, "Wilt thou not revive us again?"

IV. The effects of a revival.

1. The Lord’s children rejoice in Him. They rejoice in Christ Jesus. The purest joy in the world is joy in Christ Jesus. When the Spirit is poured down, His people get very near and clear views of the Lord Jesus. They eat His flesh and drink His blood. They come to a personal cleaving to the Lord. They taste that the Lord is gracious. His blood and righteousness appear infinitely perfect, full, and free to their soul. They sit under His shadow with great delight. They rest in the clifts of the rock. Their defence is the munitions of rocks. They lean on the Beloved. They find infinite strength in Him for the use of their soul — grace for grace — all they can need in any hour of trial and suffering to the very end.

They go by Him to the Father. "We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We find a portion there — a shield, and exceeding great reward. This gives joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Now, God loves to see His children happy in Himself. He loves to see all our springs in Him. Take and plead that. Oh, you would pray after a different manner if God were to pour water on the thirsty. You would tell him all, open to Him all sorrows, joys, cares, comforts. All would be told to Him.

2. Many flock to Christ. "Who are these that fly like a cloud, and like doves to their windows?" "To Him shall the gathering of the people be." Just as all the creatures came into the ark, so poor sinners run in such a time. Laying aside their garments (Mark 10:50), their jealousies, they flee together into the ark Jesus. Oh, there is not a lovelier sight in all this world.

Souls are saved. "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. They are passed from death unto life."

It is glorifying to God. "He that receives Christ, sets to his seal that God is true." He confesses the holiness of God, His love and grace. His mouth is filled with praise. "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" He begins to long for the image of God, to confess Him before men, to walk in His ways. It gives joy in heaven, and joy in earth. Oh, pray for such a time.

There is an awakening again of those who have gone back. If we have not a time of the outpouring of the Spirit, many who once sought Christ, but have gone back, will perish in a dreadful manner; for they generally turn worse than before. Sometimes they scoff and make a jest of all. Satan is all the worse, that he was once an angel. So they become all the more wicked who have gone back. They generally go deeper into the mire of sin. But if God graciously pour down His Spirit, the hardened heart will melt. Pray for this.

There is an awakening of fresh sinners. It is a sad state of things when sinners are bold in sin; when multitudes can openly break the Sabbath, and openly frequent the tavern. It is an awful sign when sinners can live in sin, and yet sit unmoved under the preaching of the Word, cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God. But if the Lord were pleased to revive us again, this state of things would be changed.

I am sure it would be a lovelier sight to see you going up in company to the house of prayer, than thronging to the tavern, or the haunts of sin and shame, that will bring down eternal ruin on your poor soul. It would be sweeter to hear the cry of prayer in your closets, than to hear the sound of oaths and profane jesting, and your hard speeches and reproaches of God’s children. Sweeter far to see your hearts panting after Christ, His pardon, His holiness, His glory, than to see them burning after the world and its vain idols.

Oh, lift up your hearts to the Lord for such a time. Plead earnestly the promise, "I will pour my Spirit upon all flesh." Then this wilderness will become a fruitful field, and its name be, Jehovah-Shammah — the Lord is there.


Robert Murray M’Cheyne (pronounced, and occasionally spelled as "McCheyne"; 21 May 1813 – 25 March 1843) was a minister in the Church of Scotland from 1835 to 1843.

Personal Revival–The Birthright of Every Believer

“Revival is first personal and immediate. It is the constant experience of any simplest Christian who “walks in the light”. Walking in the light means an althgether new senstivity to sin, callign things by their proper name of sin, such as pride, hardness, doubt, fear, self-pity, which are often passed over as merely human reaction. It means a readiness to “break” and confess at the feet of Him who was broken for us, for the Blood does not cleanse excuses, but always cleanses sin, confessed as sin; then revival is just the daily experience of a soul full of Jesus and running over.” – Norman P. Grubb. in the introduction to Roy Hession’s book, ‘The Calvary Road’


Signs of True Revival

by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

I intend to show how we may definitely conclude that God is at work. I want to show the signs which Scripture says are clear evidence that God is at work. We will then be able to use these signs to judge any work without fear of being misled.

I propose to look only at those signs given in 1 John 4. That is because this chapter deals with this question plainly and more completely than any other part of the Bible. So let us look at the signs in the order they are given in the chapter.

1. When esteem for the true Jesus is raised

If a person’s esteem of the true Jesus is raised, it is a sure sign that the Spirit of God is at work. By “the true Jesus,” I mean this: that Jesus was born of a virgin and crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem; that He is the Son of God and the Savior of men as the gospel declares.

This sign is given by the apostle in 1 John 4:2-3:

“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.”

This implies acknowledging more than that there was such a person as Jesus who appeared in Palestine and did those things that the Bible says. It implies acknowledging that He was the Christ, the Son of God, chosen to be Lord and Savior.

This word “acknowledge” is important. In the New Testament it means much more than merely “admitting.” It implies knowing something and being willing to declare it in praise and love. For example, Matthew 10:32 says,

“Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”

People may praise their own false Christ while having no respect at all for the true, historical Jesus. Indeed, they are led away from Him. But no spirit can give testimony to the true Jesus, or lead men to Him, except the Spirit of God.

Why is this the case? It is because the devil has a bitter and unchanging hatred for the real Jesus, especially as Savior. He passionately hates the story and the doctrine of redemption. Satan would never work in men to produce honorable thoughts of Jesus, nor cause them to value His commands. The Spirit that turns men’s hearts to Christ is not the spirit of the serpent that has such an unchanging hatred toward Him.

When we look at anything that is happening in the religious world, and need to pass judgment, the first question we must ask is “Are these people coming to love, honor, and esteem the real Lord Jesus more than ever?” If people are being convinced of their need of Christ and led to Him; if their belief that Christ appeared in history is strengthened; if they are more convinced than ever that He is the Son of God sent to save sinners; if they acknowledge that He is the only Savior and they need Him desperately; if they appreciate Him more than they did, and love Him too, then we may be quite sure that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work!

2. When Satan’s Kingdom is attacked

The Spirit of God must be at work if the interests of Satan’s kingdom are opposed. This is a sure sign. Satan’s kingdom encourages sin and encourages men to cherish worldly lusts. The Holy Spirit does not. This sign is given in 1 John 4:4-5:

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.”

The apostle is here comparing those who are influenced by two opposite kinds of spirits. One spirit is true, and the other is false.

John shows the difference like this: one spirit is from God and so overcomes the spirit of the world. The other spirit speaks about and relishes the things of the world. Here, the spirit of the devil is called “the one who is in the world.” This is the difference between Christ and the devil. Christ says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), but Satan is called “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4).

We know what the apostle means by “the world” or “the things that are of the world” from his own words in 1 John 2:15-16:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Clearly, he means everything to do with sin and includes all men’s corruptions and lusts–everything they look to for satisfaction.

So, from what the apostle says here, we may safely conclude that if a people: have their love of ordinary, worldly pleasure, profits, and honors lowered; are weaned from eagerly chasing such things; have a deep concern about eternity and the eternal happiness that comes through the gospel; earnestly begin to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness; and are convicted of the ugliness and guilt of sin, as well as the misery to which it leads, then the Spirit of God must be at work.

We cannot believe that Satan would convict men of sin and awaken the conscience. The conscience is God’s representative in the soul. It can do Satan no good to make its light shine brighter. It is always in his interest to keep the conscience quiet and asleep. When conscience is awake, everything that Satan wants to accomplish is hindered.

When he is out to lead men further into sin, would the devil first open their eyes to see its ugliness? Would he make them afraid of sin? Would he make them mourn over past sins? Would he show them that they need to be delivered from sin’s guilt? Would he make them more careful about everything they do, to ensure there is no sin in it? Would the devil lead them to avoid future sins and make them more careful to avoid his own temptations? If a man thinks the devil acts like this, I wonder what he uses for brains!

But some may argue that the devil may even awaken a man’s conscience in order to deceive him–that is, to make him think he has been saved while he is still in his sin. To argue like this is futile. It is to argue that Christ was making a mistake when He told the Pharisees that Satan would not cast out Satan (Matt. 12:25-26). Remember, the Pharisees believed that the spirit at work in Christ’s ministry was the devil.

A man with an awakened conscience is the hardest man in the world to fool! The more awake a sinner’s conscience is, the harder it is to quiet it down until it is really delivered from sin. The more a conscience is aware of the greatness of man’s guilt, the less likely he is to be satisfied with his own righteousness. Once a man is thoroughly frightened by a sight of his own danger, he will not believe himself truly safe without good grounds. Awakening a conscience in this way is not likely to confirm a man in his sin. On the contrary, it is likely to lead to sin and Satan being driven out.

So, whenever we see people made aware of: the ugliness of sin; God’s anger against sin; their own natural lostness because of sin; their own need of eternal salvation; their need of God’s mercy and help; and their need to do what God has commanded in seeking salvation, we may certainly conclude that it is the Spirit of God at work!

Yes, even if their bodies are affected and they cry out or scream or faint. Yes, even if they go into fits or are affected in other dramatic ways. Those things do not count at all.

3. When People come to love the Scriptures more

When men are persuaded to love the holy Scriptures more, and to trust their truth and divine origin more, it is certainly the Spirit of God at work. This is the sign the apostle gives us in 1 John 4:6:

“We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

When he says, “We are from God,” he means, “We are the apostles God has sent to teach the world His doctrines and commands.” This argument extends to all those God has appointed to deliver to His church its rules of faith and practice. That is to say, it covers all those apostles and prophets that God has inspired to write the Scriptures.

The devil would never try to produce such a respect for God’s Scriptures. A spirit of delusion will not persuade men to listen to God for direction. The devil does not say, as Abraham did, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29). Nor will he say the words that came from heaven about Christ, “Listen to him” (9:35).

Would the spirit of error, wanting to deceive men, turn them to God’s infallible Scriptures? Would he lead them to get to know those Scriptures well? Would the prince of darkness lead men to the light of the Sun in order to promote his kingdom of darkness? The devil has always shown how much he hates the Bible. He has always done all he can to put out its light and lead men away from it. He knows that this is the light that will overthrow his dark kingdom.

He has had much experience of the power of Scripture to defeat his purposes and thwart his designs. It is a constant plague to him. It is the main weapon that Michael uses in his war with Satan (Jude 9). It is the sword of the Spirit that pierces him and conquers him (Eph. 6:17). It is the sharp sword that we read about that comes from the mouth of the One on the horse with which He smites His enemies (Rev. 19:15).

Every text of the Bible is a torment to the old serpent. He has felt its stinging smart thousands of times. He is therefore at war with the Bible and hates every word in it. We may be quite sure he will never try to persuade men to love it or value it.

It has often happened in history that many sects of enthusiasts have undervalued the written Word of God. They set up some other authority that is over the Scripture. That still happens today. But when men come to value the Scriptures more, not less, then the Spirit of God is certainly at work.

4. When men are led away from falsehood into truth

We may learn another way to judge between spirits from the names given to the two opposite spirits in 1 John 4:6. One is called “the Spirit of truth” and the other “the spirit of falsehood.” These words point to a vital difference between the Spirit of God and other spirits that may imitate His work.

If we see a spirit at work that is leading men into the truth and convincing them of things that are true, we may be sure it is the Holy Spirit. For example, if people become more aware that there is a God, or that God is a great God who hates sin, or that their own lives are short and may end at any moment, or that there is another life and they have immortal souls, we may be sure it is the Holy Spirit at work. When men realize that they will have to give an account of themselves to God and that they are very sinful in nature and practice; when they understand that they are helpless in themselves; when, in short, they are brought to sound doctrine, then we may be sure that the Holy Spirit is at work in them.

It is the Holy Spirit who brings men into the light, not the spirit of darkness. Christ tells us that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. His kingdom is a kingdom of darkness. Satan’s kingdom is upheld only by darkness and error. Scripture speaks of the reign and dominion of darkness (Luke 22:53; Col. 1:13). The demons are called the rulers of the darkness of this world. It is only God who brings us to the light of truth and removes our darkness.

5. When there is an increase in love to God and man

When people begin to love God and man with a genuine love, we may be sure that the Holy Spirit is at work. This is what the apostle says in 1 John 4:7: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” John is still speaking of two different sorts of people who are led by two opposite spirits and pointing out the contrast between them. Love is one way we may know which person has the true spirit.

This is especially clear from 1 John 4:12-13:

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”

Here the apostle speaks of love and the Holy Spirit almost as if they are the same thing! If God’s love dwells in us, then the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The same point is made in 1 John 3:22-23 and 4:16.

Love is the last sign the apostle gives us of the true Spirit’s work, and it seems to be the most important. He pays more attention to this than to all the rest. He tells us that love for God and love for our fellow men are both important. He writes of love for our fellow men in 1 John 4:7, 11, and 12, and of love for God in 1 John 4:17-19. Then in 1 John 4:20-21, he speaks of both together because he wants us to understand that love for men springs from love to God.

So if people have great thoughts of God and His glory, the Holy Spirit must be at work. If they understand (to some degree) the greatness of Jesus Christ so that they delight in Him, the Holy Spirit must be at work. Jesus becomes very precious to them and their hearts are overwhelmed by the wonderful and free love of God, who gave His only Son to die for them. Surely this must be the Spirit of God at work!

“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. . . . And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. . . . We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:9-10, 16, 19).

If a spirit makes us love God for these reasons, it must be the Spirit of God. If we delight to think about the attributes of God that the gospel and Christ reveal and we yearn to be made like Him, living in ways that please and honor Him, that must be the Spirit of God. When a spirit calms quarrels between men, promotes peace and goodwill, and desires the salvation of souls, this must be the Spirit of God. When men delight in the company of others who are obviously God’s children, and have all the love I have described, we have the highest possible evidence that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work.

The Spirit of Revival (Part 5 of 6)

from R.C. Sproul

Continued from Part Four

Positive Marks

Next Edwards turns to the positive marks or biblical signs of true revival. The first positive mark is seen in the elevated level of people’s esteem for Jesus. Edwards follows the Reformation’s emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the application of the work of Christ in our redemption. It is the chief ministry of God the Holy Spirit to bring people to God the Son and apply His work to them. In a true outpouring of the Holy Spirit people are never led to a unitarianism of the Third Person of the Trinity. A preoccupation with the Holy Spirit without a view of Christ is not the desire of the Holy Spirit Himself. Edwards remarks:

The person to whom the Spirit gives testimony and for whom He raises their esteem must be Jesus—the one who appeared in the flesh. No other Christ can stand in his place. No mystical, fantasy Christ! No light within—as the spirit of Quakers extols—can diminish esteem of and dependence upon an outward Christ. The Spirit who gives testimony for this historical Jesus and leads to Him can be no other than the Spirit of God.

In his epistle John is keenly concerned to distinguish between Christ and antichrist. The concept of antichrist is often misunderstood in our day. We tend to perceive the image of antichrist simply in terms of those who vehemently oppose Christ. We use the Greek prefix anti almost exclusively to mean “against.” But the “anti” of antichrist can also be translated to mean “in place of.” To be sure, anyone who is a substitute for Christ is at the same time one who stands against Christ.Here we see something of the subtlety of the spirit of antichrist. It can be disguised as an angel of light, garbed in the clothing of piety. Almost daily we hear the dictum “No creed but Christ” or “I don’t need to know any doctrine. All I need to know is Christ.” These words can formulate the creed of antichrist. The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Book that informs us of the identity of the real, historical Jesus. Scripture works hard to set forth the real Christ. The creeds are merely attempts to preserve this biblical portrait and to protect it from distortions. When a person says, “All I need to know is Jesus—doctrine isn’t important,” we should immediately ask in reply, “Who is Jesus?” The moment a person begins to answer that question, the person is inescapably involved with doctrine.To the Christian, doctrine is unavoidable. Ours is never a choice between doctrine and no doctrine, but between sound doctrine and false doctrine. This is nowhere more urgent than when we are talking about the Christ, who is the object of our faith. It is not only liberal scholarship that has turned away from the historical Jesus by viewing the quest for Him as a fool’s errand and giving us in His place an existential Jesus, a Marxist Jesus, or a mere teacher of ethical values. “Evangelical” religion can also replace the biblical Christ with a Savior who is not also Lord or a caricature that bears the image of the vested interests of particular institutions, religious organizations, or religious subcultures.True revival under the impetus of the Holy Spirit cuts through the fantasies and drives us to the biblical and historical Christ— and never to a substitute. Any substitute Jesus, no matter how dripping in piety, is never Christ but is always antichrist.The second mark Edwards describes is that the Holy Spirit operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom. In simple terms this means that the Spirit works against sin. No revival has ever eliminated sin, but all true revivals check and curb sin. The Spirit convicts us of sin and leads us into sanctification. In this convicting operation the consciences of people are awakened from dogmatic slumber. Satan desires that the consciences of people be seared. When the conscience is awakened, the interests of people turn away from lusts and are inclined afresh to the things of God.Some polls have indicated that in major ethical areas of concern, there is little if any discernible difference in the behavior patterns of professing Christians in America and those of the secular culture with respect to such matters as divorce, abortion, pre- and extramarital sexual relationships, etc. If these polls are accurate, they would indicate that we are far removed from revival.The third mark is that the Holy Spirit causes greater regard for the Holy Scriptures. Edwards argues that a spirit of delusion will not incline people to seek direction at the mouth of God.Perhaps there has never been a time in the history of the church when the Bible has been subjected to greater attack and criticism than it has in the past 200 years. The higher criticism that reached such wide proportions in the nineteenth century has left its mark on the contemporary Christian community. Near the turn of this century the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper remarked that biblical criticism had degenerated into biblical vandalism. Virtually every Protestant creed has affirmed confidence in the divine origin and authority of Scripture. This was the direct fruit of the Reformation principle of sola scriptura. Yet this uniform conviction of historic Protestantism has been all but abandoned in the so-called mainline churches of American Protestantism. Indeed, many of the splinter groups that have divided from mainline denominations have done so precisely over the issue of biblical authority.However, though we see strong affirmations of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible in evangelical churches, there are many evidences of defection from the historic view of Scripture even there. The controversy chronicled by Harold Lindsell in his book The Battle for the Bible is still being waged within evangelicalism.Perhaps what is even more alarming is that even within churches and organizations that still profess a high view of Scripture, there is an alarming ignorance of the content of Scripture. For many, being “led by the Spirit” means being led by some inner light or impulse rather than by the Spirit’s testimony to the written Word of God. Edwards says, “And accordingly we see it common in enthusiasts who oppose Christ that they depreciate this written rule and set up the light within their souls or some other rule above it.”Edwards gives as his fourth mark “the words used in addressing the opposite spirits.” Appealing still to 1 John 4, he speaks of the sixth verse: “The Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” We recall that before Pontius Pilate Christ declared: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” In light of these words of Jesus, it is clear that His cause is the cause of truth. One cannot be enrolled in the cause of Christ and despise truth. The devil works for the cause of the lie, and as the father of lies he works on behalf of falsehood and error. No true revival can lead Christians to a cavalier attitude toward the truth of God. Luther insisted that whenever the Gospel was clearly proclaimed, controversy would surely follow. The only way to avoid controversy is to avoid the Gospel.Francis Schaeffer frequently spoke of the necessity of antithesis in the Christian life. That is, for every truth there is a corresponding falsehood. A Christian is known not only by what he believes or affirms, but also by what he rejects and denies. This posture of antithesis is on a collision course with modern theories of relativism. A revived Christian Church will be marked not only by what it affirms but also by its courage to deny truth’s antithesis.The fifth mark is that the Spirit produces a spirit of love to God and to man. In this mark we encounter vintage Jonathan Edwards. His entire ministry was captured by a concern for true religious affections. As cerebral as Edwards was, in the final analysis his relationship to Christ was expressed as an affair of the heart. He never tired of speaking of the “excellency” of Christ as the chief object of the believer’s delight. It is the Spirit of God who awakens within our souls a true love for God. Speaking of this work of the Holy Spirit Edwards writes: “He makes the attributes of God as revealed in the Gospel and manifested in Christ delightful objects of contemplation. He makes the soul long after God and Christ—after their presence and communion, acquaintance with them and conformity to them; and to live to please and honor them is the spirit that quells contentions among men. He gives a spirit of peace and goodwill.”Here Edwards sees the fulfillment of the reality announced by angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem. This is not the mutual bonds of affections by which heretics and cultists are drawn to mutual admiration among themselves, like honor among thieves, but rather the love that is born in the souls of wretched sinners who know their own wretchedness and cleave to the grace of God whose fellowship they enjoy.

Continued in Part Six


Excerpted from R.C. Sproul’s Introduction to The Spirit of Revival, edited by Archie Parrish.

The Spirit of Revival (Part 4 0f 6)

from R.C. Sproul

Continued from Part 3
Negative MarksEdwards begins by following the via negationis or “the way of negation.” That is, before he proceeds to affirm positively what are the true marks of revival, he first spends time in Section I observing what are not (or at least not necessarily) signs of the work of the Spirit of God. Then he quickly moves in Section II to the positive signs that are evidences of a true work of the Spirit of God. His presentation of the positive signs flows from his exposition of the text of 1 John 4.Edwards gives attention to one of the most controversial aspects that attended the awakening in New England, the matter of the bodily effects wrought by the Spirit of God upon those under His influence. Here Edwards is careful to note that a true work of God cannot be judged by the bodily or emotional reactions of those who receive this work.The Bible does not provide a uniform formula for the proper physical or emotional reactions to the presence of the Holy Spirit. The presence of tears, convulsions, jerking, laughter, etc. are no measure of the Spirit’s presence. When we canvass the Scripture to see how the saints reacted to the outpouring of the Spirit, we see no prescribed form of bodily behavior. Habakkuk had a quivering lip and a trembling belly. Others fell to the ground as though dead. Some wept, some sang, some were reduced to stunned silence. In light of the diversity of human personalities and indeed the very nature of man, the presence or absence of these responses is no true test of the authenticity of the Spirit’s work. However, I hasten to add that though a wide variety of emotional responses may be detected in Scripture by those who encounter the living God, there is at least one emotion that may safely be excluded from the list—namely, boredom. It is hardly possible for a creature made in the image of God to be awakened or revived by the Spirit of God and be bored in the process.The presence of “much noise about the Christian faith” is viewed by Edwards as no argument against true revival. When the Spirit of God moves, not only are waters stirred up, but people are as well. Such stirring is a common indication of the controversy that attends the bold proclamation of the Gospel. Just as the apostolic preaching of the first century stirred up mighty opposition against it, so in any generation the resistance to the Gospel will be made manifest. The kingdom of Christ is in direct conflict with the kingdom of Satan and the kingdoms of this world. The Christian faith is a disturbance of the peace. But the peace it disturbs is a carnal peace, a peace that is wrongfully “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1, NKJV). Though Christ is the Prince of Peace and gives His peace as a legacy to His people (“My peace I give you,” John 14:27), it must not be forgotten that Christ did not come to bring a carnal peace; rather, His coming provokes a crisis in the midst of the world.The more at peace the Church is with the world, the more worldly the Church becomes. It may be said that in one sense the worst thing that ever happened to the Church was the Edict of Constantine in the fourth century, by which Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire. For the first time in history the Church had something to lose. It was now acceptable, and its new status inclined it to compromise in order to preserve public acceptability. This is the curse of mainline churches that quench the Spirit in order to protect their own social acceptability.The stirring up of imaginations and emotions is also no argument against authentic awakening. We need look no further than to human nature to account for zealous excesses of behavior, especially among infant Christians. Under the powerful influence of the Spirit people can easily become carried away with zeal and emotion. Edwards says:

They may have soul-ravishing views of the beauty and love of Christ. And they might have their normal strength overpowered. Therefore, it is not at all strange that with so many affected in this manner, there should be some people of a particular makeup who would have their imaginations thus affected.

We think of Jeremiah, who under the influence of the Spirit of God cried out, “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived. You overpowered me and prevailed.”1 Here the prophet exhibits an extraordinary grasp of the obvious. Never was an inspired redundancy so evident. If one is deceived by God, it is plain that he is deceived. When the Almighty overwhelms a person, it takes no acute deduction of logic to realize that they are indeed overwhelmed.Arguments proved often from example rather than from careful reasonings during a strong visitation of the Spirit of God are likewise no arguments against such visitations. Great impressions of religious affection are often expressed in actions rather than words. Edwards remarks: “In some cases, the language of action is much more clear and convincing than words.”This is consistent with the injunction of James that we must show our faith by our works. The impact of example or modeling was clear in the Apostolic Age as well as during the Reformation. The Scripture calls attention to the example set by the Old Testament saints in Hebrews 11.Edwards then notes that those exposed to the operation of the Spirit may be guilty of rash acts and unconventional conduct. The Spirit tends to overthrow human conventions. Edwards declares, “The end for which God pours out His Spirit is to make men holy, and not to make them politicians.” This is consistent with the biblical call to not conform to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind.Even rash acts that are contrary to the Word of God do not disprove the presence of revival. In the New Testament, the Corinthian congregation, where abuses attended the awaking of the people of God, is a case in point. The Spirit who works sanctification in the believer does not do it all at once. There is dross with the gold, tares with the wheat.The new convert may easily be puffed up and exhibit an overconfidence with his or her boldness. Though such zeal may be mixed with corruption, at least it is not the lukewarmness that Edwards calls vile. The zeal of the new convert can lead to an immature spirit of censure and/or to legalistic practices, which though contrary to the Word of God are common in the midst of a true work of God.The true work of God may be intermixed with errors in judgment and delusions of Satan. The true miracles of God are often countered by the false or counterfeit miracles of Satan, such as were seen in the days of Moses when he encountered the magicians of Pharaoh’s court. As Edwards indicates, “The kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil remain for a while together in the same heart.”The errors or practices that attend true revival may be gross and scandalous, but such things may be expected in any time of reformation. Heresies abounded in the early church. The practice of Nicholas the deacon produced the heretical sect bearing his name, the Nicolaitans. From the Gnostics of the early church to the extremists of the Reformation, the pattern is similar. Edwards said of the extremists of the sixteenth century, “It was as if the reformation had been the sun to give heat and warmth to those worms and serpents to crawl out of the ground.”That ministers may terrorize people by insisting on the reality of hell and the dreadful judgment of the holy law of God is also no argument against the work of the Spirit. Edwards is known for his own “scare theology” and has been branded as a sadist for his fire-and-brimstone preaching. But a true sadist, if he believed in hell, would take delight in persuading people there is no hell. That Edwards truly believed in the biblical doctrine of hell is without question. He was concerned that because people lacked a sense of dread of hell, they did not take due care to avoid it. It is as reasonable for preachers to warn against hell as it would be for a sentinel to warn of an approaching army or a weatherman an approaching tornado. Indeed, for a minister to warn of impending disaster in a cold manner, with no emotion or sense of urgency, would be a contradiction. Edwards strongly advocated the preaching of the Gospel but insisted that it was also necessary to preach the law. Without a knowledge of the law, the good news of the Gospel is perceived as no real news. The bad news of the law is what reveals the good news of the Gospel. Edwards says, “Some say it is unreasonable to frighten people into heaven. But I think it is reasonable to try to frighten people away from hell.”Continued in Part Five*****Excerpted from R.C. Sproul’s Introduction to The Spirit of Revival, edited by Archie Parrish

The Spirit of Revival (Part 3 of 6)

from R.C. Sproul

Continued from Part 2

A Preview of Edwards’s Distinguishing Marks

Edwards bases his assessment of revival, in the first instance, on an application of the exhortation of 1 John 4:1: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”This text functioned as the normative benchmark for Edwards. Ironically, the biblical mandate here is a call to unbelief. Certainly this call to unbelief does not summon us to the faithlessness of the ungodly; it is not a repudiation of true biblical faith. Rather, it is a red alert against the beguiling force of credulity, a readiness to believe on the basis of insufficient evidence. As Augustine had done centuries before, Edwards noted a difference between faith and credulity. Credulity is faith without substance, an easy-believism that lacks critical judgment and consequently discernment.Any claim to spiritual power is to be tested to see if the claim is validated by the work of God. This rests on the axiom that not all spirits are holy. The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Truth whose operation is validated by the truth of Scripture that He Himself inspired and illuminates.The testing of the spirits is made necessary by the presence of false prophets, who are both alluring and numerous. The Israelites’ greatest threat in Old Testament times was never the warring nations that surrounded them and often invaded their borders from the outside. It was always the threat of the false prophets within their own gates. The false prophets of Israel had their own “revivals.” Their congregations tended to be much larger than the true prophets’ because their message and their religion had strong popular appeal. They preached a message that tickled the ears of those who had “itchy ears” but did not have ears to hear the Word of God.The “worship” offered by false prophets was the worship of idolatry in which the creature was exalted above the Creator. Such worship was popular with the people but repugnant to God. We see a glimpse of this in Exodus 32:

And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said: “It is not the noise of the shout of victory, nor the noise of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing I hear.” So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing.
—vv. 17-19, NKJV

The noise that Joshua heard was not the noise of battle. It was the noise of joyful religious celebration. The event in view was one of the best-attended religious gatherings recorded in the Old Testament. It was the noise of jubilant worship coupled with unbridled religious zeal. But the object of the worship and the focal point of the zeal was not God but a golden calf. This was not reformation but deformation; it was not the experience of revival or new spiritual life but the expression of spiritual death. Moses reported this to God, saying, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!” (v. 31, NKJV). The response of God to this event, which was “a great sin” rather than a great awakening, was that “the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made” (v. 35).Edwards warns that the influence, operations, and gifts of the Holy Spirit are aped and mimicked by Satan. That is why it is necessary to provide marks that can help us distinguish between the true Spirit of God and false spirits. Without such distinguishing marks the church is vulnerable to delusions and their dire consequences.

Continued in Part Four

Excerpted from R.C. Sproul’s Introduction to The Spirit of Revival, edited by Archie Parrish.

The Spirit of Revival (Part 2 of 6)

from R.C. Sproul

Continued from Part One

The Cultural Context

We live on the far side of a watershed in American history. Our nation has gone through two mighty revolutions since Edwards wrote his treatise. The first revolution was that which yielded the foundation of the United States into an independent republic. Edwards labored before the Revolutionary War that won the independence of the American colonies from the British crown.

In the eighteenth century the western world witnessed two major revolutions—the American Revolution and the French Revolution. The two have often been compared and contrasted by historians. The chief difference between the two may be seen in the root causes of the conflicts.

In the case of the French Revolution, the objective of the revolutionaries was to bring a radical change to French culture including the political institutions, customs, mores, and ethos of the old order. In a sense it was a revolt against the status quo and deeply entrenched traditions. The conflict was one of profound bloodshed accompanied by a reign of terror.

By way of contrast, the American Revolution was not fought to overthrow or destroy the old order but to preserve it. The colonists resisted changes enacted by Parliament that threatened the established American way of life.

Sometimes we tend to forget that America did not begin as a nation at the end of the eighteenth century. The settlers began the task of colonization of America in the early years of the seventeenth century with the Jamestown settlement in 1607 and the Massachusetts settlement in 1620. We tend to forget that between 1607 and the inauguration of George Washington, more than 175 years of time elapsed, only slightly less time than has transpired between George Washington and William Jefferson Clinton. We tend to telescope our history to the extent that we see Miles Standish and Thomas Jefferson as virtual contemporaries.

The point is, the time that elapsed between the beginning of colonial America and the Revolutionary War was ample time to establish an American way of life with its own traditions, customs, mores, and cultural ethos. Those elements were not suddenly and dramatically overthrown by the American Revolution. Indeed, as is the case with all cultural customs, they were exposed to gradual changes and adaptations—but without radical over- throw until the Second American Revolution.

When I speak of the Second American Revolution I am thinking of the cultural revolution that took place in the decade of the sixties and early seventies. This revolution was far more drastic in its consequences for American life than was the first Revolution. It ushered in a new order that has left our culture gripped in an ongoing cultural war that has a nation divided and fragmented over issues of sexual morality, the relation between church and state, the collapse of the family unit, the emergence of a drug culture, and a radical change in the customs of polite speech. A culture that once embraced normative ethics has given way to an ethos of relativism. The impact on education, law, the press, and virtually every societal institution has been enormous. Clearly we are living in a new order, which some, including myself, view as a new disorder.

It is this cultural context we must keep in view when we speak of spiritual revival and/or reformation. It is this present order, including the state of the church, that we must understand when we seek to find relevance or application for Edwards’s work to our own time.

During the same time that the cultural revolution was in high gear, significant events were unfolding within the church. During the decade of the sixties we saw the explosion of the charismatic movement that spread far beyond the confines of Pentecostal churches and penetrated mainline denominations. Subsequently it has become a major force within contemporary evangelicalism. In the years since the sixties we’ve also seen a large decline in the membership of liberal churches and a corresponding rise in membership in conservative and evangelical churches. Polls indicate a marked increase in the adherents of evangelicalism since 1960.

During the same period we have witnessed a rising involvement of people in occult practices and the advent of New Age philosophy and religion. A new fascination with supernaturalism has slowed the tide of the creeping naturalism so entrenched in the secular culture.

The Relevance of Edwards’s Distinguishing Marks

What do these trends signify? Are we in the midst of a major revival? Or are we seeing spurious marks of revival? Here is where the revisiting of Edwards’s Distinguishing Marks can be most helpful. For us to discern the presence of an authentic revival, we need to know what such a revival would look like.

When signs of revival appear on the landscape of history, one of the first questions that is raised is that of authenticity. Is the revival genuine, or is it a mere outburst of superficial emotion? Do we find empty enthusiasm backed by nothing of substance, or does the enthusiasm itself signal a major work of God? In every recorded revival in church history, the signs that follow it are mixed. The gold is always mixed with dross. Every revival has its counterfeits; distortions tend to raise questions about the real. This problem certainly attended the eighteenth-century Great Awakening in New England, in which Jonathan Edwards was a key figure. His Distinguishing Marks provides a careful analysis of that revival, noting its substance as well as its excesses. But the Puritan divine’s study of the matter has more relevance than its application to that singular awakening. It provides a map to follow for all such periods of revival and for that reason is of abiding value for us today.

Continued in Part Three


Excerpted from R.C. Sproul’s Introduction to The Spirit of Revival, edited by Archie Parrish.