Editor’s Introduction -- By: Jonathan Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 01:1 (Winter 1992)
Article: Editor’s Introduction
Author: Jonathan Armstrong

Editor’s Introduction

John H. Armstrong

On the 31st day of October, in the year 1517, around 12:00 noon, a relatively unknown Augustinian monk nailed upon the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, Ninety-Five Theses. These theses, meant to stimulate debate and discussion concerning abuses in church practice, were not particularly revolutionary. The issues that would later be discussed, and concern the life of the church right down to the present time, were not even on the table yet! But this first move lit the candle that would not go out. Of his theses, Luther later stated, “I allowed them to stand, that by them it may appear how weak I was, and in what a fluctuating state of mind, when I began this business. I was then a monk and a mad papist, and so submersed in the dogmas of the Pope that I would have really murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope.”

In our day another great apostasy has taken place. A great departure from the gospel has plagued churches across almost every line. What is needed?

The answer now, as then, is a great recovery of the truth, a vital reformation joined with a genuine outpouring of God’s Spirit upon the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. revival! God brings about reformation when His people return to the Word of God as their sole source of doctrine and practice. Revival attends the prayer and cry of a church, pleading for showers from heaven to fall again, as in better times. It is the sovereign work of God, given most often at the darkest times in the life of the church and society at large. The result is a renewed and powerful church and multitudes of converts born in a season. In a very real sense, one cannot separate these twin concerns. Men like Richard Baxter, who is looked at in some detail in this issue, saw these truths as virtually synonymous. Reformation undertaken without the power of the Spirit can lead to cold formal efforts at recovery, while revival without reformation can produce new forms of doctrinal confusion and

theological extremism.

Today we are confused about both of these truths. We associate reformation with a mere change in creed, or an adjustment in some moral area, both of which may be badly needed. We associate revival with an entirely different movement, known since the middle of the last century as “revivalism.” This term “revivalism” refers more to human efforts at evangelism and church renewal than the sovereignly granted heaven-rending phenomenon of revival. Often in the Old Testament we see the people of God undertake, in prayer and renewal of covenantal loyalty to God, wide-scale reformation. We also see the “fire” fall as they wait before Jeh...

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