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Forgotten Power: The Lord’s Supper and the Biblical Pattern of Revival

 

The Scottish Communion Cycle as the Feast of Booths

Retrospectively, we may conclude that what happened in the Scottish communion cycles, including Cane Ridge, and in the camp meetings that followed, was a recovery of the sacrament of the Feast of Booths. It is not difficult to detect the hand of the Holy Spirit in shaping this recovery during the century and a half that it took to form the communion cycles. All the essential elements of the Feast of Booths were reactivated: a dramatic decrease in social pretensions and separations by removing the individual from his or her home (a major emblem of social standing), the charity and joy (and grace) of food sharing, and fellowship regardless of class or economic standing. These were combined with preaching the Word, repentance, and rededication. Certainly in the communion cycles there was the added and greater grace of the Lord’s Supper. Thus grace was heaped upon grace, perhaps the secret of their success in the face of such persistent opposition within and without the church. This may also explain why the camp-meeting tradition has been such a successful and enduring part of American Christianity.

The connection to the Feast of Booths was not understood, or at least publicly discussed, by even the staunchest defenders of the Scottish communion cycles. The anti-Semitic heritage of orthodox theology had closed their eyes to the possibility that imitating any of the ancient feasts could be an occasion of grace. Ultimately this theological gap exposed the communion cycle to ridicule and disintegration, so that without the comparison to the Feast of Booths the communion cycles were indeed regarded as unscriptural.

 

Paul’s Caution

Recent decades have seen an unprecedented upsurge of interest in, and appreciation of, the Jewish heritage of Christianity. Many Christian churches have experimented with celebrating a Christian Passover on Good Friday night instead of the usual somber vigil. My suggestion that there is a grace gained from celebrating the Feast of Booths (consciously or unconsciously) places this work within that ongoing movement.

However, we should also be aware that the “return-to-Jewish-roots” movement has a danger. We must begin with Paul’s warning to his churches not to be in bondage to Jewish traditions:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col. 2:16–17)

In this perspective, Augustine’s argument against the validity of Old Testament sacraments is an exaggeration of Paul’s warnings. The apostle’s revelation was that a dependence on the Jewish calendar and festival cycle for salvation or righteousness debases the effectiveness of the cross and is a legalistic bondage. But his words do not rule out the possibility that a person can freely receive a blessing of grace from the celebration of Old Testament feasts. After all, Paul himself kept a number of Jewish rites and rituals in his own personal life (cf. Acts 21:20–26; 1 Cor. 9:20).

In sum, our enthusiasm for the grace possibilities from the Christian celebration of Passover or the Feast of Booths must be tempered by Paul’s warning. The Old Testament sacraments may very well be eternally valid, but they are not critical for salvation or for the development of the mature Christian life. Rather, they must be seen as additional blessings available to believers of every era.

 

New Testament Revival in Jerusalem21

Turning to the New Testament, the book of Acts presents the great and seminal revival that began at Pentecost and that birthed the Christian church. The revival sequence of Acts 2 can be easily discerned to be sacramental. The disciples were waiting and praying in the upper room for the reception of the Holy Spirit in response to Jesus’ last command (1:4–5, 8). The Holy Spirit then descended in dramatic form, with wind and tongues of fire as outward evidence. All those in the upper room received the gift of tongues and presumably other gifts of the Spirit. Peter then stepped out to an assembling crowd and preached an anointed sermon, calling for repentance and proclaiming the lordship of Jesus.

As a result, the crowd was “exercised,” as Jonathan Edwards would say (Acts 2:37, “cut to the heart”), and they asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). After further urging three thousand were immediately baptized (2:41). Luke then describes the life of the revival community in Jerusalem:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42–47)

We should note certain characteristics of this prototype revival. The new Jewish-Christian community devoted themselves to learning God’s Word through the apostles. They continued public worship at the temple and had an unusually strong communal life, which expressed itself in the sharing of material goods and property. The divine presence was strong in their midst and manifested in every individual, feeling a special sense of awe and fear of the Lord, and in the constant working of miracles through the apostles.
 

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Category: Church History, Summer 2003

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook AnglicalPentecostal.blogspot.com

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