Before we draw our conclusions together let us look at two paragraphs from a statement put forward in January 1995 by a group of Evangelical leaders at the invitation of the Evangelical Alliance.
Para 9) We do not believe that the church in the United Kingdom is presently experiencing revival. However, many have testified to an increased sense of manifest presence of God in recent months, and to empowered preaching and conversions. This enrichment has been observed in some measure across the evangelical spectrum. This encourages us to hope that we may be in a preparation for revival.
para 11) We readily endorse the classic test of a genuine work of God, as expounded by Jonathan Edwards:
Let us for the sake of our study also summarise those signs that provide no evidence that a work is by the spirit of God or not, and are indeed no signs at all. Therefore we cannot say, this is not the work of the Spirit of God;
If we take our criteria for distinguishing the genuine, that which is from God. We are required to recognise that our God is bigger and more powerful that we can imagine. That He is not constrained by denominational barriers nor restricted by either our understanding or our firmly held traditions.
As to this present phenomenon, the misnamed "Toronto Blessing". We can see that in applying our criteria for distinguishing and authenticating that the Spirit of God is at work, we will need to talk to individuals who have experienced or been touched by the particular happening. We must listen to the testimonies of these individuals and see if the evidence given is a true reflection of their lifestyle, we can do this by asking family, friends or workmates about the changed lifestyle. In other words we need to look at the fruit of their experience to identify and authenticate the work in general as that of the Spirit of God.
There has been a great temptation to judge this and other phenomenon by either it's root (the source of the teaching or introduction, i.e. it's history) and or it's shoot (the means or manner of the presentation, i.e. it's methodology) but Jesus taught us to look at the fruit (the consequence, product or result from such phenomenon). He said "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them." (Matthew 7:15-20).
Once it has been accepted by the application of the above criteria that the Spirit of God is at work, what is the fruit we should expect in the life of the individual over and above the criteria previously laid down. Paul the Apostle talks of the fruit of the Spirit to the Galatians, listing it as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is important to understand before we look at this list of words to note that they are the fruit of the spirit (singular) and not Fruits. Therefore we see that this word denotes 'the result or the consequence or the product of an ongoing relationship with and fullness of the person of the Holy Spirit. If we belong to Jesus Christ and live by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit these things will grow in our lives, producing in us the nature of Christ.
Therefore we can expect over and above the fruit that can be seen in the criteria we have applied there will also be a development, a ripening of the persons character in the nine areas listed above. They will show an increased level of activity and application of the virtue's that are displayed as a consequence of a deepening relationship with God the Holy Spirit. Let us now give the biblical definition of these words to help us identify this fruit.
FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Love. (KJV. love) The New Testament word for love is 'agape'. This word is not commonly used in classical Greek. Now love is a word with several meanings but in Greek there are four words for love. (a) Eros means the love between a man and a woman, it is love with passion in it. It is not used in the New Testament at all. (b) Philia is the warm love which we feel for our nearest and dearest, and more nearly represents tender affection. (c) storge means affection and is specially used of the love of parents and children. (d) Agape, the Christian word, is defined by William Barclay as "unconquerable benevolence". It means that no matter what a man may do to us by way of insult, injury, or humiliation we will never seek anything else but his highest good. It is therefore a feeling of the mind as much as the heart. It concerns the will as much as the emotions. It describes the deliberate effort, which we can make only with Gods help, never to seek anything but the best even for those who seek the worst for us.
Joy. (KJV. joy) The Greek is 'chara' and is the word that most often describes that joy which has its basis in religion. It is not the joy that comes from earthly things, and even less the joy from triumphing over someone else in competition. It is a joy whose foundation is God.
Romans 14:17 says "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit".
Nehemiah said "...for the joy of the Lord is your strength".
Peace. (KJV. peace) The Greek word 'eirene' had two colloquial
meanings. (a) It was the serenity which a country enjoyed under a just and beneficent (generous, good, kind) government of a good emperor. (b) It was used of the good order of a town or village, and villages would have an official who was called the keeper of the public peace. Usually the word stands for the Hebrew 'shalom' and means not just freedom from trouble but everything that makes for a man's highest good. Above all, peace is God's gift to man, achieved by Him at the cross of Christ. It is peace with God (Rom.5:1) and is to express itself both in peace of mind (Phil.4:6-7) and in a very practical peace between all those who know God.
Patience. (KJV. longsuffering) 'makrothumia' which is literally
makros = long and thumos = temper. It is that quality of self restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish. It is the opposite of anger, and is associated with mercy, and is used of God. It is that quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial, suffering or persecution. The word, generally is not used of patience with things or events but with people. It is said that patience made the Romans the masters of the world, meaning the romans persistence that would never make peace with an enemy even in defeat, a kind of conquering patience. In our dealings with people we should produce this loving, forbearing, forgiving, patient, attitude God has toward us.
Kindness. (KJV. gentleness) The Greek word is 'chrestotes' has a sense of honesty, respectability, kindness and clemency. The word is used of old wine in the sense of being mellow. Plutarch, the Greek philosopher says that it is far wider than justice. Christ's yoke is called 'chrestros' (Matt.11:30), that is, it does not chafe. The whole idea is of goodness that is kind, in fact that can only help. Lightfoot regards it chrestotes as a kindly disposition towards others.
Goodness. (KJV. goodness) The word 'agathosune' has a very similar to kindness. It is the widest word for goodness, it is defined as 'virtue equipped at every point'. It is a goodness that might, and could, rebuke and discipline. Jerome says it includes the sterner qualities by which doing good to others is not necessarily by gentle means. lightfoot regards agathosune as a kindly activity on the behalf of others.
Faithfulness. (KJV. faith) The Greek word 'pistis' is primarily, firm persuasion, a conviction based on hearing, and is always used in the New Testament of faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual.
The main elements of faith are. (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgment of God's revelation or truth. (2) a personal surrender to him. (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender.
In secular Greek it was the characteristic of a reliable man, a trustworthiness.
Gentleness. (KJV. meekness) The word here is 'praotes' and it has three main meanings in the New Testament. (a) It means being submissive to the will of God (Matt.5:5, 11:29, 21:5). (b) It means to be teachable, not to proud to learn (James 1:21). (c) Most often of all it means being considerate (1 Cor.4:21, 2 Cor.10:1, Ephes.4:2). It has been described as the mean between excessive anger and excessive angerlessness, the quality of a man who angry at the right time and not at the wrong time. It speaks of the self-control that only Christ gives.
Self-control. (KJV. temperance) The word is 'egkrateia' which Plato use of self-mastery. It is the spirit which has mastered its desires and love of pleasure. It is used of the athlete's discipline of his body (1 Cor.9:25), and of the Christians mastery of sex (1 Cor.7:9). Secular Greek uses it of the virtue of an emperor who never lets his private interests influence the government of his people. It is the virtue which makes a man so master of himself that he is fit to be the servant of others. For the Christian it is not so much self-control but rather control of self by the Holy Spirit.
The nine virtues that are the Spirit's fruit seem to fall into three categories -
We may still be left with questions that flow from previous teaching or our presumptions and suppositions, that may well have been of benefit in other spheres. Lets look at some typical presuppositions;
1. If this were God I would understand it.
All through out the Bible, God has revealed himself in ways that are difficult to understand, Jesus himself being the prime example, his own did not receive him. The Jews did not understand that God's purpose was that all nations should come to him, and that they had been chosen for special service not special position. Historically, God has moved in ways difficult to understand. For example, martyrdom has always been an explosive key to church growth. Remember we are not so much asked to understand God but to trust him, for we do not naturally understand God's thoughts or ways.
Isaiah 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
It would be easy for us to refuse a move of the spirit of God because we don't understand it, but is arrogance to say God can't do this in this way because I can't understand it.
2. If this were God I would not be afraid.
A divine visitations produced fear in people throughout the Bible. In the old Testament in Exodus 20
"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning."
and again in Daniel 10
Dan 10:7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.
and also in the New Testament in Acts 5.
"Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.
The fear is not the same fear as that which comes from Satan. 1 Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. The devil's fear robs us of faith and hope and renders us incapable of love. There is, however, a Godly fear that the bible says is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It is this kind of fear that is produced by divine visitations. It results in a more godly life.
3. If it were God, there would be no divisions.
There are two kinds of division, the first is where the kingdom of light clashes with the kingdom of darkness. This is seen in Numbers 11 when Korah was judged for his rebellion against Moses, and again in Acts 15 at the inclusion of the Gentiles. The second is recorded in Galatians 5 "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."
Historically the last move of God is the main persecutor of the present move of God.
4. God is always a gentleman and would never force anything upon us.
The bible seems to show us something very different. In Isaiah 46:11 God says "What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do." God caused Balaam in Numbers 23 to prophesy against his will. God also caused Saul and his men to prophesy instead of killing David. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus against his will, and Elymas the sorcerer was also blinded. In Acts 5 the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira was the ultimate in overriding someone's will.
5. If it were God, there would be little or no emotion involved
The bible clearly shows that our emotions are involved in our relationship with God. David danced, wept and fought. Peter wept, rejoiced and felt convicted. Jesus, himself is described as displaying emotions, the bible says he wept, was joyful and was angry.
Emotion comes from seeing reality (truth) clearly. When the Spirit of truth comes, we see things as they really are which opens up our emotional being. John White says "The lack of emotion is just as sick as being controlled by emotion"
6. If it's God, it would always be spiritual, tidy, and orderly.
Both the bible and history show us something different. Until Christ returns there will always be a mixture of the spirit and flesh. This is why we are told to pray that the kingdom would come. The disciples were rebuked for there mixed motives, they wanted great position while genuinely trying to serve Jesus. Paul rebuked Peter to his face in Galatians 2 for being in the flesh, but this did not discredit Peter's ministry. Paul and Barnabas split up over the issue of taking John Mark with them on the second missionary journey. Luke never tells us whether either Paul or Barnabas was in sin. The point is that the kingdom continued to advance despite the division in their ranks. John Wesley also had bitter disputes with other godly men over issues of doctrine.
Bill Jackson points out that "it always smells in a nursery", in fact the very nature of discipleship is trial and error. We have grace for our children as they learn to walk. Praising the good and reprimanding in love the bad is part of parenting. To refute a new move of God because those involved have not got everything absolutely right, is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Godly correctives on the other hand are necessary to keep that movement on course.
In 1 Corinthians 14:40 it says "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way". Lets us not so emphasise the fitting and orderly that we forget that everything was to be done this way. What is orderly anyway? Well in the Greek it means "to arrange, to draw up in order". Biblical order is that you build the fireplace around the fire, not vice versa. Function always precedes form. Therefore we need to provide a "free to fail" environment in order to learn.
Think of the new moves that came from the church by the Spirit of God that have transformed the world and the church. These new ways that did not fit the old order of things. Abolishment of Slavery imagine this in Paul's Rome, rights for women imagine the shock to Greek husbands who were commanded to love their wives. There are many, many times that God has initiated some great move forward through his church.
Let us, whatever our opinion on the "Toronto Blessing" or any other issue, apply to ourselves one further point from the statement of the evangelical leaders from which we have quoted earlier;
"Where we differ, we remain committed to evangelical unity, based on our common convictions and priorities under the Lordship of Christ. We confess that in the past this unity has sometimes been undermined by a failure to listen to one another, and by a readiness to caricature and denigrate those with whom we disagree. In this consultation we have sought to ask questions of ourselves and one another, without compromising the integrity of our conscientiously held differences."
Let us do like wise
All the material for this study came from the following sources.
The authentic marks of Christianity - Martin Lloyd-Jones
A different Gospel - Alan Morrison
Times of refreshing leadership conference - John Arnott, Carol Arnott & Ken Gott
Jonathan Edwards on Revival - Jonathan Edwards
The Impact of Toronto - Wallace Boulton
The Expositors Bible Commentary - Frank E. Gaebelein
What in the world is happening to us - Bill Jackson
The daily bible study - William Barclay