The beauty of autumn reminds us of activities that are generally associated with this time of the year.  Hunting season, football games, and for many southerners this is the time of the year to hold church revivals.  An out of town preacher comes to the community and presents the gospel message and somehow or another the out of town preacher speaks a little louder, tells better jokes, and maybe speaks with  more authority.  Everybody goes to the meeting and calls it revival.

What is revival in biblical categories?  What are some biblical examples of revival?  There are several examples of revival in the redemptive history of the Old Testament Church.  One of the prominent revivals occurred during the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34 and 35).  The Bible indicates that Josiah "did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David. . .  ." (2 Chronicles 34:2).  The performance of each king of Judah was measured against King David, the first king of the undivided Kingdom of Israel.  Josiah was reformed by the Word of God and God gave the Old Testament church a revival.   Revival in biblical categories is measured by human experience.  The revival that occurred in Judah during the reign of Josiah lasted throughout his lifetime (2 Chron. 34:33).  Has there been a spiritual revival in our land lately?  If so, when did it happen and how long did it last?  Why is revival so rare?  Is it possible to have a revival in my church or your church?   Yes, but something else must take place first.

Josiah purged Judah and Jerusalem of pagan and false worship.   During the process there was a cleansing of the temple and the high priest discovered "the book of the law" (the Bible).  Throughout redemptive history reformation always precedes revival.  Reformation refers to discovery or I should say the recovery of the truth from the Word of God.  The recovery of truth was significantly important in the 16th century reformation.  It was the recovery of the cardinal doctrines (reformation) that brought about revival (the practice of biblical doctrine).   When biblical truth is restored then the doors of heaven will be open to revival.  Revival will not take place unless truth is brought into the Christian experience.

The reformed church is being reformed by the word of God.  The reformed church is being changed by the Word of God and the power of His Spirit, so that wrong and corrupt beliefs are replaced by right and pure beliefs (reformation).   Likewise the reformed church after reformation will replace immoral conduct and  practices with godly conduct and practices (revival).   Do you want reformation and revival in your church?


The greatest revivalist since the apostolic times (to the mind of this writer) was Jonathan Edwards.  There were several outbreaks of revival during his lengthy stay at Northampton.  Today  his sermons would be considered academic sermons.  How could Edwards, who read his sermons and preached sermons without much expression, be God's instrument for revival?   In one of his post-revival sermons Edwards said, "When any professing society is as a city set on a hill 'tis a great obligation upon them to honor religion in their practice."  The obligation comes from the truth found in the Word of God.  It is the opinion of many that God granted revival because Edwards was an expositor of biblical truth.  It is the recovery of biblical truth (Reformation) that leads to the practice of biblical truth (Revival). 

What truth does the church need to recover?  First and most important they need to recover (or for some it may be a discovery) the authority upon which doctrinal or theological assertions may be debated.  Martin Luther called it "sola scriptura" which is a Latin phrase meaning "by Scripture alone."  Scripture is the final authority to teach the human race what they must believe about God and what God expects of them.  We are standing on the precipice of a neo-dark age because "Scripture alone" is no longer the final authority in the Protestant church.  The liberal theologians teach their students one gospel while the fundamentalists another gospel.  The antinomians preach one gospel, while the legalists preach another gospel.  The Calvinists preach one gospel, while the Arminians preach another gospel.  And the list is endless!  What is your authority to preach this gospel?  The answer is the Bible! 

Until the differences are resolved, reformation will never take place and therefore revival will not take place.  First, the individual Christian must resolve any internal struggles with the truth found in the whole counsel of God.  Once the truth of the gospel is recovered to the mind of an individual Christian, then reformation and revival may spread throughout the church.

This process is not easy.  Ministers will be the most resistant to reformation and revival.  It takes work, hard work, to draw out biblical truth.  Then it takes conviction, an abundance of it, to preach biblical truth especially when one has been saturated by tradition and has not studied classical Christianity.

Will reformation and revival come to our churches?  Yes, when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).   Search the Scriptures and pray that God will illumine your understanding of biblical reformation and revival.


The church is in great need reformation (the recovery of biblical truth) and revival (the practice of biblical truth).  The only authority for reformation in the church is Holy Scripture.  What we believe will not bring reformation.  What God believes will bring reformation!  You are commanded "not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).  Think God's thoughts after Him.  Have the mind of Jesus Christ.  The renewing of your mind will not automatically take place.   It is not like having a blood transfusion.  You cannot have the mind of God by looking in the want ads, or a Sears catalog, or by magic, but through serious and maybe even difficult inquiry into the Holy Scripture.

The 16th century reformation was preceded by a corrupt, but powerful and influential church.  It was through serious and agonizing inquiry into the word of God that provoked Dr. Martin Luther to stand against the most powerful church in the world.  The church had replaced the central teachings of Scripture with church tradition and the imaginations of men.  The modern evangelical church has fallen prey to the same error by replacing the central teachings of Scripture with church tradition and the imaginations of men.

The central doctrines of Scripture must be recovered.  Dr. Luther called these doctrines "cor ecclesia" or the "heart of the church."  These doctrines are:  1) justification by faith alone and 2) salvation by grace alone. 


Rugged individualism is the mark that characterizes American democracy.  "All men are created equal. . .with certain unalienable rights. . .[like] life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  Liberty and equality demands the structure commonly known as "of the people, by the people, and for the people." 

The 16th century reformer, Martin Luther, struggled bitterly with the concept of "bondage and freedom."  His flair for individualism provoked an internal battle, because despite his effort to free himself from sin, he found himself imprisoned to guilt and sin.  His study of the book of Romans revealed the answer; "Justification by faith alone."  But how did he obtain this declaration of freedom?  Luther said it was, sola gratia, by grace alone.

The collapse of the central doctrines of the Bible is wide spread in the contemporary evangelical church.  During the 16th and 17th centuries, the evangelical church realized and acknowledged that salvation came forth from an eternal and sovereign God.  His inscrutable will was worthy of absolute trust for eternal salvation.  Today the evangelical church has changed its theology and placed part of the process of salvation in the hands of fallen human beings.  Like the Roman church of the 16th century, the majority of the evangelical church of the 20th century teaches that humans can, at least, cooperate in their salvation.  The giants of classical Christianity have always taught that the human will is enslaved to sin and Satan, until God takes the initiative and by His grace alone gives new life so that the human will can respond to the call of the gospel.

Yes, we're all born equal.  At birth we are depraved sinners and just like the corpse at the mortuary, we are unable to raise ourselves from the dead.  We are given new  life, sola gratia, by grace alone.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).  God does not run a democracy.  His government is not "of the people, by the people, and for the people."  His government is absolute, sovereign, benevolent, and eternal.  Trust God, because He alone can free you from your prison and give you eternal life.


Where is revival?  Is it hiding from individual Christians and churches?  Maybe it will come next spring!  Revival may or may not come, but one thing is for sure.  It will not come because of extra church services, or because an out of town preacher convinces anyone to accept Christ, or any method that man may devise.   When revival comes, you can be sure that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Revival is a work of God's Holy Spirit, but it shows itself through the vitality and renewal of what Jonathan Edwards calls "Religious Affections."  He describes revival as a "renewed interest in the things of religion" [and a] vigorous upsurge of revivalism at the level of personal religion."  Revival is not theoretical.  It is an experience, not emotionalism, even though the emotions are affected, but more importantly the religious experience is visible and believable.  The manifestation of these criteria seem to be absent among the majority of evangelicals at the end of this century. 

Reformation (the recovery of Biblical truth) will always precede revival.  First, one must acknowledge the authority of Scripture.  The central teaching of Scripture states that a right standing with God comes by faith alone and that faith itself is a gift of God, as salvation itself is a gift from God. What is the primary means for announcing this gift from God?  The primary means is preaching the Word of God and preaching is the instrument of reformation and revival.

Richard Hofstadter in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, points out that "sermons are not producing any noticeable change in the lives of Christians in North America."  In comparing sermons today with the sermons preached 200 years ago in this country Hofstadter said, "Puritan sermons combined philosophy, piety, and scholarship. . . . The clergy assumed responsibility for a literate culture.  Such an assumption shows the gulf between the profound substance of Puritan sermons and some of the modern inspirational pep talks which pass for sermons." 

Preaching has moved from substantial reflections on the character and nature of God to a forum on "How to do things, have things, and be successful."  The "How to Gospel" has bankrupted the evangelical church.  The biblical gospel is almost extinct and is certainly offensive to the ears of most evangelicals.

"Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him" (Isaiah 30:18).  It is time to demand "sound preaching" as you long for God and He will grant reformation and revival in your life.