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Spiritual Revival


By Cornelius R. Stam

These lines are written at a critical time in the world’s history, when much is being said and written about revival. Many Christians are praying for revival; popular evangelists are doing their best to bring it about; leading periodicals, secular as well as religious, and even the daily newspapers, are discussing it, generally using such phraseology as “a revival of religion,” “a revival of religious feeling” or “a revival of religious faith.” Whatever the human failures involved, every true believer will thank God for the measure in which men are awakening to the need of supernatural aid in solving the grave problems that confront our generation.


But precisely what is true spiritual revival? This question is not too simple to ask while there are those who call almost any series of religious meetings a revival, while others confuse revival with the waves of religious feeling which sweep over the masses periodically and still others suppose that a revival is an ingathering of souls.

Actually a revival is simply a restoration to vigorous health. It relates to the living, not to the dead. The dead cannot be revived, but we do administer food and medicine to those who are faint or ill, in order to restore them to vigorous health. Thus spiritual revival is the restoration of ailing Christians to vigorous spiritual health.

A series of meetings may be used of God to produce a spiritual revival among His people, and such a revival often results in an ingathering of souls, but neither the series of meetings nor the ingathering of souls is in itself the revival. The revival is the spiritual restoration of believers.


With individual believers, as with the Church at large, the need for spiritual revival is frequently not recognized until exceedingly low levels of spirituality1 have been reached. Actually, however, the need is almost continuous.

Physically most of us need to be revived at least three times a day. Hunger and weakness soon overtake us and we feel the need of food to renew our strength. Spiritually it is not less so, for “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Sad to say, however, we are by nature prone to neglect our spiritual welfare and lapse into carelessness and sin, so that repeatedly the need for spiritual revival and restoration becomes acute.


Many feel that lack of prayer, failure to live separated lives, indifference toward the lost, etc., are the real causes of spiritual decline. These, however, are the effects, not the causes. The cause of spiritual decline today is always our departure from the Word of God in general and from the Word of God to us in particular. There lies the root of our spiritual ills, though comparatively few as yet recognize or acknowledge it.

With Israel it was departure from Moses’ law that constantly got her into trouble; with us it has been the departure from Pauline truth, for, remember, as surely as the dispensation of the law was committed to Moses, so surely was the dispensation of grace committed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-3) and those who have lapsed or backslidden, from his day until ours, have done so through departing from the truths committed to him for us.

In Paul’s epistles we find both the evidence and the tendency on the part of believers to depart from the path of blessing, and God’s diagnosis of the particular cause of the trouble. In every case the cause is rebellion against the apostle’s God-given authority and departure from his God-given message and program.

It was only a few short years after Paul had been sent forth with “the gospel of the grace of God” that the revolt against his authority began. The Galatians rebelled, followed the Judaizers and fell into the bondage of legalism. In his letter to them Paul takes almost two whole chapters to prove again his authority as “the apostle of the Gentiles,” calling upon them to examine thoroughly the certificate of his apostleship and warning them of the dangers of departing from his God-given message.

Dumbfounded at their sudden declension, he exclaims:

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Gal. 1:6).

And he adds:

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Ver. 8).

Challenging them as to the result of their rebellion, he asks:

“Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (Gal. 4:15).

“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15).

Mark well: the Galatian believers had lost their blessedness because of their departure from God’s appointed messenger and God’s appointed message to them.

Twice the apostle charges the Galatians with disobedience (Gal. 3:1; 5:7). But why? They had sought to obey more than Paul had commanded them. They were prepared to submit to circumcision in addition to the program he had, by revelation, outlined for them. And they had Scripture for their position too. Yes, but not Scripture rightly divided. Their return to Moses and the law was a repudiation of the further revelation given through Paul: “the preaching of the cross,” which was even then bringing the Mosaic dispensation to a close. Even the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church had recognized the Gentiles’ freedom from the law and had “written and concluded that they observe no such thing” (Acts 21:25). Thus obedience to the law now became disobedience to the truth and cost the Galatians their blessedness, bringing them into a state where they bit and devoured one another.

The Corinthians also rebelled and started rival sects among themselves, as though it were a question of who was right: Paul, Apollos, Cephas or Christ. Thus departing from the glorious revelation committed to Paul, the Corinthians fell into many other grievous errors and sins. The apostle therefore challenged them too as to his spiritual authority and warned them of the dangers of their heresy.

In Asia Minor, where the apostle had labored for “the space of two years,” the issue was again Paul and his message. In his second letter to Timothy the apostle had to write:

“This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me…” (II Tim. 1:15).

This does not mean that all the saved in the province of Asia—and there were many—were now lost, or even that they did not genuinely love the Lord. It means simply that they had turned against Paul as the one to whom had been committed the new dispensation, “the dispensation of the grace of God.”

These are but a few examples. The sacred record contains many more examples of spiritual declension since the raising up of Paul, and always the declension was brought about by a departure from one or more of the particular truths revealed through him: the truth of the “one body” and the sympathy for one another which this implies, or the truth of the “one baptism” with its death to the flesh and its identification with Christ in the heavenlies, or, perhaps, the truth of our standing in grace, with the resultant life lived for God out of sheer gratitude.


When we recognize the fact that the old Adamic nature is still with us, it is easy to see why the most godly among us need spiritual revival almost constantly, for by that very nature we are ever prone to depart from the blessed teachings of the Pauline epistles.

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March 2012
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