Date: June 27, 1999
Bible Text: Acts 4:1-4 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
Please turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 4. We’ve had revival in the lives of our people, and it’s exciting to me. If you have had revival in your life, will you please just make sure that you don’t coast spiritually. As I thought about that, I wanted to preach on the spreading of revival. How does it go from one man to a few dozen men and spread?
Let’s read verses one through four of Acts chapter four. “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of men was about five thousand.”
We’ll fill in the gaps, but let’s go down to verse 13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.”
The Spirit of God had been poured down upon a handful of people, men and women, and the result was that every person in the city of Jerusalem was aware of it. They had never seen such happenings. On the day of Pentecost alone, 3,000 were saved, baptized, and added to the church. Quickly another 5,000 were saved. And it multiplied until Luke had to give up counting, and he used the term “myriad” to describe the multitudes being saved. The enemies of God had to ask in verses 16 through 20, “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
The enemies of God had to admit that something out of their control was happening. This is our need tonight. This is our need in the day we live. We should not be satisfied with anything less. Our prayers, our Bible study, our lives should be pointed to this end until our enemies have to say, “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.”
First, tonight, I have a question: What are the secrets of spreading revival? I believe the major reason these in Acts saw revival is found in verse 13: “. . . they had been with Jesus. . .” Revival is the manifestation of the power and blessing of the Son of God among His people. The early disciples had been with Jesus, and the outside world couldn’t understand it—they knew something was happening and they had to do something about it, but they could do nothing to stop it. I think that’s exciting. Their lives were Christ-centered and Christ-controlled. And again, Luke says in verse 13, “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” My life itself is Christ. Wherever the apostles went, whatever they said, whatever they did, people could see Christ in them. That’s exactly what our lives ought to be like.
Christ was never neutral here on this earth. Wherever He went, He either attracted men to Him or antagonized them. They either accepted Him or they picked up stones and threw them at Him. An example of one of the many passages that would show this is John 10:19-21. “There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” We must remember today that the same God who caused these results in the New Testament, lives in us today. We worship that same God, and the same devisiveness should be seen in our Christ-centered and our Christ-controlled lives.
“. . .when they saw the boldness. . .” That’s what we need today. When we read what Peter said, we have to remember to whom he said it. His audience, the people he was preaching to, was made up of the most wealthy people of Jerusalem, the most intelligent, the most powerful men in the land. And yet Peter, a fisherman, spoke as their judge, not their victim. Think about it. This was the same crowd that had condemned Jesus to death. Peter was taking his life into his own hands, but he was bold. If there’s anything that spreads revival, it’s boldness.
Listen again to his words in verses 8 through 10: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.” He was telling them that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. No one else. There was no embarrassment, no apology. Just a statement to those who had crucified Jesus Christ 50 days earlier that He was the only Savior of men. Notice again verse 13, “Now when they saw the boldness. . .” Boldness. Not crudeness, but boldness. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.”
We’ve always been accused by intellectuals of being ignorant and unlearned. Even the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:26, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” You’ve got to humble yourself. They will call us ignorant and unlearned. God took Peter and John and confounded the intellectuals of their day.
The religious leaders said of Jesus in John 7:15, “. . . How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” If we don’t agree with them, they’ll call us ignorant. That’s how it always is. Don’t worry, don’t bend. We’ve been with Jesus. If we haven’t, then we are surely ignorant. The carnal Corinthians said of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 10:10, “For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” That just shows the shallowness of men trying to reject the truth. That’s what will always happen. Nobody wants to be told they’re wrong, especially when it comes to intellectuals. These religious people were of the devil. They were arguing for their eternity. It was their life; it was their belief.
We stand and say, “He is real! I have been with Jesus. He does teach me; He does guide me; He does empower me. He gives me a good marriage. He gives me children who are right with God.” Do you ever notice that raising children is the thing people fight with us about more than anything. Christians—independent, fundamental Baptist people say, “No, you can’t depend on God to raise them. . .” Why do they say that? Because they have to defend their failure. As you stand for God, don’t expect the world to stand with you. Don’t expect the liberal, the neo-evangelical, and even most independent, fundamental Baptists to stand with you or to stand with us. Because when we stand for what I’m preaching about tonight, it proves them wrong. Not that we’re trying to prove them wrong, but it does. During the years of the early church, the world painted God as a donkey holding a book. The Jesuit priests called the Puritans “blockheads.” But the early church had revival, and so did the Puritans. They can’t stop God. All they can do is talk. We must realize that others fighting us is part of revival and striving for it. The closer we get to Bible revival, the more the devil’s forces and backsliding Christians will try to hinder and discredit us. If they stood with us, there would be something wrong with us.
Secondly, what are the signs of spreading revival? In this chapter and all the chapters of Acts, we see miracles. The enemies of Christ had to ask in verse 16, “. . . What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.” Do you know what is our problem as a whole? We’ve narrowed down the operation of the Holy Spirit with our unbelief—even with our traditions and our organizations. You see, by our practice we say that the only way God’s work can be accomplished is through our schemes. We independent Baptists have announced by our decisions that you can’t depend on God for a good marriage. You can’t depend on God for good children. We’ve announced as a movement of independent Baptists by our decisions, by our lifestyle, that God cannot provide for our needs when we take care of His. He’ll not win souls if we’re bold, so we have to sneak around. God doesn’t really answer prayer.
If we’d only believe, we’d see the miracles He wants to show us. If we’d only stop limiting Him. Why don’t you just sincerely say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Then and only then will we see miraculous events take place through our praying. Then and only then will we see Him work through our preaching and our practice. Verse 21 says, “So when they had further threatened them; they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.” Thousands had been saved and the whole city had been troubled by the gospel. Nothing was happening in a corner, nothing was hid. Everybody was told, “Jesus is alive! And He’s the only Savior; He’s the only way. Jesus is changing lives.” Again I say, there was great opposition, hatred, and meanness. These are signs of revival.
Sometimes people will say, “It’s so hard to win somebody to the Lord here at Fairhaven because of our reputation.” Well, the devil says that to me, too, but you can look at it another way. I remember a guy quite a few years ago by the name of Roger Bass who was hired by some of the people in the community to harass us. He was the same man who harassed the police at the 1968 convention in Chicago. Remember the democratic convention as they threw furniture out of windows of hotels and took human waste and put it in the policemen’s faces? The same agitator was hired by people to provoke us. I can’t even explain some of the things that they did. There were letters to the editor in the Porter County newspapers. People would stop right here and go to the bathroom in broad daylight or have intercourse on the hood of a car in broad daylight. The sheriff called and told me that Bass wanted to incite us to retaliate and then video this to use against us. You say, “That’s terrible! What’s wrong with your church?” Nothing.
Don’t ever be embarrassed when the devil tries to stop us! Whenever we do anything for God, the devil is going to try to stop us. He will always have his own to try to discourage us. We are moving forward. As the pastor of this church for these almost 29 years, I tell you we are cleaner than we’ve ever been, we’re moving forward more than we ever have been, and the devil is not going to sit back and twiddle his thumbs. He will have his own to try to stop us. But look at the victorious exploits that follow. I thrill every time I read the words of Peter and John as they stood arraigned before the Sanhedrin. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
You see, here were men who knew they were on the victor’s side. And when you’re filled with the power of God, you know you are. I’m not saying you’ll never get discouraged. But they knew that nothing was going to hold them back. I can almost hear Peter saying, “John, look at what has been accomplished with the little that we’ve done! Look at the souls that have been saved. Look at the miracles. Let’s move on and see what God has in store.” And move on they did. Thousands upon thousands were saved and lives were changed. Let me remind you, Fairhaven, that our church has always seen much more done when we were totally dependent on God. I go back to when I was jailed, and I remind you of that time because it was the launching pad for what God did in this church. He was showing us how dependent we were. They tried to fix a case against us; however, we received a directed verdict in our favor which meant they had no evidence at all. It was all a fix. They were trying to shut us up. I was charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, aggravated assault and battery, because we believed in spanking. I was charged with two counts of libel—to try to shut me up. And the very first passage I turned to in the Bible as I sat in my jail cell that night was this passage. You talk about being excited, I read this passage and I said, “Whew!”
Then about 500 people started singing outside, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” I was like a monkey trying to climb the bars. I wished I had a trapeze to swing on. Practically speaking, we were bankrupt. The loan for this building was pulled. We lost 200 students out of the school. That’s a lot of money. Our bus ministry went to nothing. Nobody would visit our church. And we came to the place where we could do nothing. From the world’s viewpoint, we were ready to die as a church; but we struggled, believing in God and kept on going, trusting Him and doing everything we do now, only better. Then God exploded this place from 200 to 1,100 in one year. Now that is a miracle. Then from 1,100 to 1,600, and 1,600 to 2,000. The only reason that happened is we didn’t bend. We just did what God told us to do, and we kept on going. And with all my heart I believe we’re on a similar launching pad.
I can’t read the future, but I believe we’re on another launching pad. We’re praising God for our offerings being $50,000 in the black now. Some people would say, “Well, it’s the economy.” No, it’s not. The economy never affected us this way. Those who know what happened know we should be $50,000 in the red, not the black. We know it’s God. We’re praising God because we’ve had quite a few men really turn around and have something special happen in their lives. Don’t depend on the $50,000, though. That’s just God saying, “I’m with you.” This may not continue. We’re excited about the fact that we’re going to be debt free. I’m excited, but that’s a physical thing. I praise God for it, but listen, be excited about revival in peoples’ lives. That’s the important thing. That is something to be thrilled about.
Our church is cleaner than it’s ever been so that we can move forward and see victorious exploits. We can see souls saved. We can see families really strong with children given over to God. We can reach our community and many others. There’s nothing wrong with plans and programs and buildings, but I’d rather see the power of God manifested and be meeting in a storefront than to have the world impressed by our plans and building programs.
How our text contrasts with the pessimism and the defeatism of today! We have two of our evangelists here. They would tell you that everybody says it can’t happen today. Just this week I had a preacher say, “We cannot have revival; it’s impossible.” Well, in the flesh it is impossible. I didn’t argue with him. But the problem is if we go around saying it’s impossible, we hinder God. We make it impossible by our lack of faith, and I’m trying to have a church that says, “It is possible! I believe!” As a movement, we’ve relegated God to second place and grieved the Holy Spirit by our activities and our organization to the place where we don’t have a victorious outlook. We’re like some business organization. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have a fall push or have an office and people working in it; that’s part of the day we live in. But we must be totally dependent upon Him for any success. Let Him take control and lead to victory.
Thirdly, how far will revival spread? These believers lived in the Spirit and fellowshipped in the Spirit. They knew the fullness of the Spirit. Verse 31 says, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” There will never be a revival without the fullness of the Spirit. Please listen to me. I’m not talking to preachers; I’m talking to my church members. The question we must continually ask is, “Am I consciously filled, am I continually filled with the Spirit?” It was because Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost that he could preach for God. It was because Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit that he could suffer for God. It was because the Apostle Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit that he could rebuke for God. We need a freedom of the Spirit of God. Look at verse 31, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.”
The word “boldness” suggests a freedom—a fearlessness, a fluency. It does not suggest that we’re free to do what we want to do, but it suggests the freedom that allows God to do what He wants to do, that He has a freedom in us, and we have the power to do His bidding then. The Holy Spirit is as powerful today as He was in the day of Pentecost. We’re the difference. All He waits for is a church made up of men and women who are prepared to quit grieving Him and quit quenching Him. It’s not just your marriage being hurt or your kids, it’s the power of God. He’s waiting for us to quit quenching the power and quit holding Him back in order that He might fill us to overflowing and bring revival every place we go.
The sin of the Old Testament was rejection of Jehovah God. The sin of the New Testament was rejection of Jesus Christ. The sin of the church age is the rejection of the Holy Spirit. He’s the Person we deal with today. You see, we’re willing to go to church, and tithe, and do some work in the same way that people in the time of Christ were willing to go to the synagogue, and tithe, and do some work. But they rejected Him as Lord. And in our pride, we’re rejecting the Holy Spirit, and we’re refusing His power. We reject the Holy Spirit in our family as He convicts us of sin. Even in our service, we reject Him. We want to do it in our flesh. We want to do it our way. We’ve got our plans. And we wonder why we don’t have revival. Let’s pray for revival and give ourselves over to the Holy Spirit. You who have seen a turnaround in your life, don’t be proud. You could end up in a worse condition than you have ever been. Let’s make sure we’re right, and we stay right. And then I believe it spreads within a church. It has, and I want to see it more so.
The shame is that some of you are just crusty. It’s like you’re determined not to let God work in and through you. You’re going to prove yourself; however, if you stay in the flesh, you’ll destroy yourself. You say, “I know the Bible, and I know what I’m doing.” Your “I” will destroy you, your children, your marriage, your soulwinning—everything. You say, “I’m just made that way.” Change! “I’m just lazy.” Change! “I just gossip.” Change! Humble yourself before the mighty hand of God. Pride. Bullheadedness. Change! The Holy Spirit will tell some of you the preacher is “getting on you.” Change, or you’ll be by the wayside as we move forward. Revival could spread from our church to others. Maybe even to our missionaries on the foreign field. God wants revival, and He wants revival that spreads. In fact, real revival does spread.