The Danger of Attempted Duplication
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS,
volume 13, number 19, May 8, 2014
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, Acts 8:18.
Luke tells us that Phillip, after the dispersion from Jerusalem, went down to Samaria and began proclaiming Jesus to the Samaritans, outsiders as far as the Jews were concerned. Many signs and wonders accompanied Phillip’s ministry there. A man named Simon, who had been practicing magic was hailed by the people there as the Great Power of God. Simon undoubtedly enjoyed the accolades. The people were being baptized as they heard Phillip’s preaching and even Simon believed, was baptized, and continued ministering with Phillip. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard of the work of God amongst the Samaritans they sent Peter and John to them and they prayed for the Samaritans, that they too would receive the Holy Spirit, as the Jews did in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Peter and John laid their hands on the believers and they all received the Holy Spirit. Simon was impressed by this and he craved the same power the apostles had, so he offered them money to bestow on him the Holy Spirit’s powerful presence. In other words, he craved duplication. There is great danger in attempting to duplicate a work of the Holy Spirit.
In the evening service at the Newcastle, Emlyn Church on October 30,1904 a young Bible College student named Evan Roberts was convinced God had spoken to him. He must go back to his home church at Moriah and deliver a message. He asked permission from the President of the College and came home. He spoke on Monday night, October 31 to seventeen of the young people of his church and called them to do four things: 1) To confess all known sin, 2) To turn from anything questionable in their personal lives, 3) To obey immediately the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and 4) To confess Christ publicly. The Holy Spirit fell on their meeting, prompting the young people to confess sin and to repent. A revival came that spread rapidly throughout Wales, resulting in the conversion and transformation of thousands of people in the country. The methods of the revival, however, and the emotional breakdown its leader Evan Roberts, experienced cause some to question, to some degree, the authenticity of the revival. In April, 1906 at Azuza Street in Los Angeles, William Seymour, who had embraced teaching on the baptism of the Spirit and the subsequent sign of speaking in tongues from Charles Parham, a preacher of very questionable character, sparked a revival which lasted until 1915. Many historians point to this as the genesis of the Pentecostal movement that has swept the world in the last forty or fifty years.
In commemoration of the 1859 Welsh revival, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones of Westminster Chapel, London, preached a series of sermons on revival, calling people to seek God for another outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In February, 1963 at St. Marks Anglican Church, Gillingham, England, a number of people gathered for several nights of fasting and praying for revival. The people said they had experienced a gentle awareness of being filled with the Holy Spirit. David Watson, who had been the curate at St. Marks, also experienced the same thing in Cambridge, as did Michael Harper who worked with John Stott at All Souls Church, Langham Place, London. In April of 1963, Watson and Harper paid a visit to Lloyd-Jones at Westminster, relating to him what they had seen and experienced. Lloyd-Jones was encouraged by their report, suggesting that they had received the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” He encouraged Watson and Harper to “press on.” There was no emphasis on speaking in tongues at this juncture of their ministries. However, by the fall of 1963, a South African pastor, David du Plessis, came to England and convinced Harper, Watson, and others that the baptism with the Holy Spirit always resulted in speaking in tongues. From that point forward Lloyd-Jones distanced himself from the “neo-Pentecostal” movement. While Lloyd-Jones did not dismiss the possibility of tongues speaking, he was convinced that to say a certain mark of the baptism of the Spirit required it, was unbiblical. Lloyd-Jones and Phillip Hughes both believed something of the Holy Spirit was at work in the early days of the movement, but as time went on, as the leaders dismissed careful exegesis of the Scriptures and theological precision, they could no longer support it.
Okay, where I am going with all of this? Simon wanted the Holy Spirit and tried to buy His power. There is great danger in seeking to duplicate the work of the Spirit. There is no question that the 1859 Fulton Street Revival in New York City, which spread throughout the United States and into England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland was genuine. When church leaders see the woeful impotence of the church in their day, the inability to interest believer and unbeliever alike in the glories of Christ’s redemptive work, it is only natural to seek the power of the Spirit in other ways, to attempt the duplication of His mighty work. I suggest this is what happened in Topeka, Kansas on January 1, 1901 with Charles Parham, with much of what went on in the 1904-05 Welsh Revival, the 1906 Azusa Street revival, and the neo-Pentecostal movement of du Plessis, Watson, and Harper in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I am not saying these men were not Christians. I am not saying they were heretics, though Parham seems to have been one. However I am saying that in a desire to “make things happen” these men were guilty of trying to manufacture what only the Holy Spirit can do.
We in the Reformed Church are guilty of the same thing, it seems to me. We have tried Church Growth methodology, “Seeker Friendly” worship, Emerging Church liturgy, the hyper-grace idea of sanctification, and various forms of worship music to attract people. We all want desperately the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, but are we willing to pay the price to receive it? And what is that price? Earnest, heartfelt repentance where we humble ourselves daily before the Lord Jesus, running to Him for His grace. It is revival prayer. It is getting out of our comfort zones, to surrender willingly to Christ’s Lordship in every area of our lives. It is dying to self before our spouses, our children, our church members and officers. It is a willingness to really believe that apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:4-5). It is a confident faith in the God of answered prayer who said, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened to you,” (Matthew 7:7-8). It is moving past the formalism of whatever your worship style is. It is allowing the word of God and the theology we so enjoy pierce our hearts and move us to action. It is renewing our sincere belief in the power and glory of Christ’s effectual death, of sincerely saying, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
1. The Welsh Revival of 1904-05, by Eifion Evans, Evangelical Press of Wales, pages 80-88.
2. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship, John MacArthur, pages 21-27.
3. For a fascinating and informative look at this issue in more detail, I commend to you Iain Murray’s biography published by Banner of Truth entitled D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith, 1939-1981, pages 476-480.