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

 
In the midst of all of this was a constant sacramental observance similar to that of the Old Testament revivals, except now the covenant signs were the ones mandated by their Lord. That they practiced immediate baptism is clear. Here there is no lengthy catechuminate as in the later centuries of the church.22 However the form or formula of baptism is not described and may have been, in its beginning at least, only in the name of Jesus, as is hinted at in the revival in Samaria (Acts 8:16).

The biblical pattern for renewing the people of God.

Similarly, the meaning of the “breaking of bread” is unclear. Biblical commentators are practically unanimous in declaring this to be a form of the Lord’s Supper. This was certainly an Agape meal, a love feast in which the new believers experienced and celebrated the Lord’s presence. For the Jewish Christians the words of institution may not have been as important as giving thanks to God for the elements—a pattern derived from the Passover and continued in Jewish fellowship meals of the times.23 The phrase “ate together with glad and sincere hearts” may also indicate that the love-feast element was predominant in the Jerusalem community over the more somber “memorial” of Christ’s death motif described in the Gospels.24 In any case, some form of the Lord’s Supper and baptism stood at the center of the Jerusalem revival.

 

The Wesleyan Revival as Acts 2

We can now understand that the Wesleyan revival was close in character and grace to the revival described in Acts 2. This is not surprising, for the Wesley brothers strove consciously to recreate “primitive Christianity” among their societies. Like the first Christians in Acts 2, the early Methodists experienced a deep presence of the Holy Spirit. The Wesley brothers preached an “apostolic” (evangelical) gospel, stressed small group fellowship, and practiced sacramental worship to the point of seeking to recover the fullness of the original love feast/Lord’s Supper. In addition, the Wesleyan revival incorporated the Old Testament sacrament of the periodic covenant renewal. About the only element of the Jerusalem church that the early Methodists did not practice was the community of goods. It must be noted, however, that their concern and charity to the poor followed the original apostolic intent. We will discuss further the fullness of the Wesleyan revival below (ch. 16).

With this biblical perspective we can also see that the Scottish communion cycles and the Wesleyan revivals presented the church not just with charming chapters of church history but with the high point of a revival mode. These older revivals re-created with deeper fidelity than modern revivals the biblical pattern for renewing the people of God.

 

PR 

 

Notes

  1. Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750–1858 (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), ch. 11, “The Illusion of a New Era.” This is not meant to imply, however, that Murray endorses a return to the Lord’s Supper as having a role in revival.
  2. The Reinhard Bonnke website is www.cfan.org, where one can follow the news of this amazing ministry.
  3. This section is based on the seminal article by Donald F. Murray, “Retribution and Revival: Theological Theory, Religious Praxis, and the Future in Chronicles,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 88 (June 2000): 77–99.
  4. The majority academic opinion of the past century has held that one author or editor was responsible for the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Some recent scholars have questioned this opinion and posited that the similarities in style and theological outlook are due to a disciples’ “school” or fellowship. The ultimate answer may be irresolvable this side of eternity. For the single-author opinion, which I have chosen because it in our case simplifies matters (and if wrong does no harm), I have depended on the work of the noted Old Testament scholar Peter R. Ackroyd, especially his recent work The Chronicler in His Age (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991).
  5. William M. Schiniedewind, “Prophets and Prophecy in the Books of Chronicles,” in The Chronicler as Historian, ed. David J. A. Clines and Philip R. Davies (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 204–24.
  6. Fortunately, the books of Chronicles has received recent favorable attention from Bruce Wilkinson’s best-selling work on prayer based on the two-sentence “prayer of Jabez” embedded within one of the Chronicler’s lengthy genealogies (1 Chron. 4:9–10). See The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 2000). This book has been ridiculed as materialistic and simplistic by liberal critics, but it is really an excellent work that demonstrates the simplicity and power of prayer. See Philip Zaleski, “In Defense of Jabez,” First Things 106 (October 2001): 10–12.
  7. For a study of the Old Testament description of the relationship between a person’s moral acts and the consequences in personal and national history, see Gerhard von Rad, “The Essentials of Coping with Reality” in Wisdom in Israel (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972), esp. 124–37.
  8. See also 2 Chron. 7:1–3.
  9. The whole idea of changing God’s mind seems to be heretical within classical Christian theology, based as it is on second- and third-century Hellenistic philosophy, but it has received much attention in the current controversy over “Openness Theology.” For an introduction to this topic, see the cover story of the May 21, 2001 issue of Christianity Today, “Does God Know Your Next Move?” Editor’s Note: See also the discussion continuing in this issue about God’s control and man’s freedom. The “How Much Does God Control?” dialogue began in the Spring 2002 (Vol 5 No 2) issue of the Pneuma Review.
  10. Many Old Testament scholars would agree with this; for example, see the work by William Johnstone, 2 Chronicles 10–36: Guilt and Atonement (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).
  11. The following section was informed by the seminal article by A. H. C. Van Eijk, “The Difference Between the Old and the New Testament Sacraments as an Ecumenical Issue,” Bijdragen 52 (1991): 2–36.
  12. One group, the Ebionites, attempted to be both Christian and Jewish, but they were considered heretical by both Jewish and Christian leaders. The Ebionites saw Jesus as Messiah, though not the divine Son of God, and rejected the writings of Paul. See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.27.
  13. In contrast, Paul’s writings reveal the rejection of Christ by the Jews as providentially necessary for the salvation of the Gentiles, and eventually “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11). The anti-Semitism of the early church must be considered yet another unfortunate byproduct of the delay in accepting Paul’s letters as Scripture. We noted earlier (ch. 1) that without Paul’s writings the early church created a theology of the Holy Spirit that was lacking a full understanding of the gifts of the Spirit.
  14. Clark M. Williamson. “The Adversus Judaeus Tradition in Christian Theology,” Encounter 39 (Summer 1978): 273–96; also Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner, eds., Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993). Anti-Semitism may date to the writing of the Gospel of John, when relations between the synagogue and church were already testy. Note the manner in which the term “Jews” in John’s Gospel is employed rather consistently in a negative way.
  15. Marcel Dubois, “Jews, Judaism and Israel in the Theology of Saint Augustine,” Immanuel 22/23 (1989): 162–70.
  16. A summary of this issue is found in Van Eijk’s, “The Difference Between the Old and the New Testament Sacraments.”
  17. Cited from John Francis Quinn, “Saint Bonaventure and the Sacrament of Matrimony,” Franciscan Studies 12 (1974): 101.
  18. Summa Theologica 3.66.2. The entire Summa is available from the web at www.newadvent.org/summa.
  19. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.21–23.
  20. It would be accurate but undignified to call John’s baptism the sacrament of “the big ear”; it is far better to give it a Latin name: the sacrament of the auris magna.
  21. The literature on the book of Acts and on the Acts 2 revival is extensive. Of the many excellent biblical commentaries I found particularly helpful the volume in the Anchor Bible commentary by Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Doubleday, 1998).
  22. In defense of the catechuminate (i.e., the lengthy preparation, including exorcisms, and instruction of the believer before baptism), the Jews in Jerusalem knew the moral law of God through the Jewish Bible, whereas the converts of the Roman Empire did not, and thus they rightly had to be morally instructed before baptism.
  23. Werner Elert, Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, trans. N. E. Nagel (St. Louis: Concordia, 1966), and the classic work by Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (Westminster: Dacre Press, 1945), ch. 4, “Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper.”
  24. For an excellent review of modern biblical research on the New Testament church’s practice of the Lord’s Supper, see John L. Boyle, “Practice of the Eucharist in the New Testament,” Worship 44 (May 1970): 289–91, and Myles M. Bourke, “New Testament and the State of the Liturgy,” Worship 44 (March 1970): 130–42.

 

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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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