Summary: The Book of Acts records a number of mass revivals. In the years following Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven, His Church went forth and preached the Gospel, accompanied by supernatural spiritual gifts, signs, and wonders. Thousands were brought into the kingdom of God in short periods of time. This mass evangelism occurred consistently in Acts, and we’ll look at some thrilling instances to inspire us to ask the Lord to “repeat them in our day” (Habakkuk 3:2).
Note: Individual, personal revival is also wonderful to experience. But our focus today will be on periodic large-scale ingatherings of souls the biblical way. Lord, repeat them in our day!
A few years ago my wife and I were at a missions conference of ISOM, the International School of Ministry. ISOM is the world's largest video Bible School. The featured speaker was the German evangelist Reinhard Bonkke. Laboring primarily in Africa, this Spirit-filled preacher of the Gospel has received over 78 million salvation decision cards in response to his ministry. Yes, you read that right — 78,000,000 souls led to the Savior Jesus Christ!
Brother Bonnke said one thing that stirred my heart deeply. Describing his ministry in a few short words, he said that he preaches Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is exactly what Acts records the disciples of Jesus doing in the first century, sometimes seeing entire towns turn to the Lord (Acts 9:34-35). In our day brother Bonnke, like the early Church, has ministered the Gospel of Jesus Christ with Holy Ghost power and has seen multitudes of healings and miracles, along with seeing thousands baptized in the Holy Spirit in many of his meetings.
Let’s look at some of the revivals, the great moves of God, in the Book of Acts. We’ll see a consistent pattern: the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached and was accompanied and confirmed by supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul won converts and planted churches that way. He said of his ministry, “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5, NASB). If we follow that biblical pattern today, we too can see large ingatherings of souls to the Lord, even as the early Church did. To build our faith for this, let’s take a walk through the Book of Acts. We will see Christ-centered, Word-preached, Holy Spirit-empowered ministry. And that is exactly the kind of ministry the Lord is prepared to grant to His Church today.
Before Jesus left His apostles and ascended back to heaven (Luke 24:45-53), He commissioned His followers to go forth and preach “repentance for the forgiveness of sins…in His name to all nations” (47). Even though He had personally trained them for 3-1/2 years, He told them, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
So all Jesus’ training of them had not fully prepared them to go forth and minister after He returned to heaven. What was missing? The “power from on high.” And that leads us to our next Scripture (Acts 2:1-4), where those same apostles (and more than 100 other disciples) were baptized with the Holy Spirit and went forth to (1) preach the Gospel in (2) Holy Ghost power. And that is exactly what they did, as we will see below. And that is also exactly what Reinhard Bonnke has done — preach the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit — and has in that manner led 78 million souls to salvation in Jesus Christ in our day! This is a pattern for us — (1) preach, teach, testify, and share God’s Word in every way we can, and (2) do that with the power and anointing that come in the mighty baptism with/filling of the Holy Spirit.
Just as Jesus had prophesied to them in Acts 1:5-8, they were filled with ("baptized with," 1:5) the Holy Spirit. The biblical evidence of this mighty Spirit baptism was that they began to speak in other tongues by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. We see this same speaking in tongues as evidence of believers being baptized with the Spirit in Acts 10:44-47 and Acts 19:1-6.
As the 120 disciples spoke in various Spirit-given languages that they did not know naturally, an astonished crowd gathered. Peter arose and preached to them the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. The result (vs. 41)? Three thousand were saved and baptized in water! Seven weeks earlier Peter had denied Christ three times. But immediately after receiving the Pentecostal “power from on high” that Jesus had promised, Peter boldly preached an anointed message that turned 3,000 souls to Jesus Christ.
Notice the presence of the two key elements of our study today: (1) Peter preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and (2) the people saw the amazing power of the Holy Spirit, who had come upon the 120 believers and empowered them to speak in other tongues. The result? Thousands saved!
Now filled with the Spirit, Peter and John stopped before a crippled man begging at the temple gate. Peter boldly declared, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” And the man did, astounding the onlookers. Again, as at Pentecost, newly Spirit-filled Peter powerfully invoked the name of Jesus Christ in ministering divine healing to the crippled man, and his healing demonstrated the power of that Jesus whom Peter preached (4:1-2). The result here? Thousands more saved! (vs. 4:4)
The pattern is beginning to emerge — there can be large harvests of souls when the Word of the Lord is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Jerusalem the Spirit-filled apostles continued “with great power … to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (4:33). Confirming their anointed preaching, they “performed many signs and wonders” (5:12) and ministered healing to many who were sick (16). The result of this biblical word-and-power ministry was that “more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number” (14).
The Scriptural pattern for massive ingatherings of souls is seen here once again — they preached Jesus Christ in the confirming power of the Holy Spirit, with signs, wonders, and healings. Again, remember brother Bonnke’s simple comment concerning the tens of millions he had led to the Lord in Africa: he preached Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. He did not need to invent new, “modern” methods. No, he simply did what the early Church did. He ministered the Gospel of our Lord in the Holy Ghost power that comes in the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Philip and the other scattered disciples “preached the word.” Philip preached Christ in Samaria. Crowds of listeners “heard Philip and saw the signs he performed” — signs that included casting out demons and healing many who were paralyzed or lame. The result of his word-and-power ministry? “Samaria accepted the word of God,” and there was great joy in that city.
The apostle Peter traveled to a city called Lydda. There he encountered Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for 8 years. He said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up!” And he did! The result? “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”
What caused two whole towns to embrace the Lord? Quite simply, as we are seeing from Acts 1 on, once more Peter declared the name of Jesus Christ in the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. The name of our Savior Jesus Christ, ministered in the anointing of your personal Pentecost, can equip you with this same soul-saving power.
From Lydda Peter had been summoned to nearby Joppa, where a Christian widow named Dorcas had died. Ministering in that same Holy Ghost anointing he had received at Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter said to the dead woman, “Tabitha, get up.” And she did! The word of this miracle spread all over Joppa, with the result that “many people believed in the Lord” (42). The fact that they “believed in the Lord” makes it clear that Peter (and possibly other believers) had spoken to the people about the Lord Jesus.
Another great soul harvest for Jesus (“many people”) occurred as a result of a notable miracle that pointed people to the Lord. The word-and-power pattern led multitudes to Jesus in the first century, and it will still do so in our 21st century.
The apostles Paul and Barnabas reached the city of Iconium and went to preach in the Jewish synagogue. There they “spoke effectively … and a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.” Their successful soul-winning ministry in Iconium included not only speaking boldly for the Lord, but also performing signs and wonders (3). While some resisted (vs. 4), others did receive their preaching and sided with the apostles.
One more time, what was the environment in which “a great number believed”? It was their “speaking boldly for the Lord” and seeing that Gospel message confirmed supernaturally by signs and wonders. There is no way that we in our day can improve on this consistent biblical pattern for large ingatherings of souls.
What Jesus did in the first century He’ll do in our 21st. He is the “same today” as He was then. He is the one and only Savior in every century. His Gospel is as powerful today as when Peter and Paul preached it. He was the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit 2,000 years ago (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33), and He is the “same [Baptizer in the Holy Spirit] today.” And His Great Commission — to preach the Gospel in the Spirit’s power to all nations (Acts 1:8) — is valid for the entire Church Age (Matthew 28:19-20): “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We today have the same Savior Jesus, the same Gospel of His grace, and the same Holy Spirit to empower us to deliver it and see it confirmed with spiritual gifts, healings, signs, and wonders, even as in the early Church.
As the world around us seems to be going “from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:13), don’t be discouraged. God has not lost control. If we believers will return to the biblical pattern — the Gospel preached and taught and testified in Holy Spirit anointing and power — God can turn multitudes from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to new birth through Jesus Christ as a son or daughter in the family of God.
Please hear my heartfelt appeal to you. If God's Word has stirred your heart today, pursue at all costs to be filled with the Spirit of God. Press in to receive the heaven-sent power found in the biblical baptism with the Holy Spirit, with the Scriptural evidence of speaking in tongues. Take to heart the apostle Paul's command to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). And as the apostle further exhorted, press in to be used in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit — "Eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 14:1) ... be "eager for gifts of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 14:12) ... "be eager to prophesy" (1 Corinthians 14:39) ... "eagerly desire the greater gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31). Are you eager? for God's glory? for a harvest of souls unto Jesus? for the kingdom of God to grow and fill the earth with God's glory? Then cry out to God in the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)
Pray to see these things in the Lord’s Church and in your life and ministry. Let your appeal to the Lord be that of the prophet Habakkuk (3:2): “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known.”
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.