Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

The Corporate Anointing

Day of Pentecost

"… and they were all filled with
the Holy Spirit." (Acts 4:31)

 

by Dennis Pollock

Anyone who studies the great revivals in the history of the church soon discovers that there is a strange and powerful “God-consciousness” that comes upon a church or community, or even nation that is in the throes of spiritual awakening. It seems as though God determines in such cases to fill entire communities with the Holy Spirit. The great Bible teacher Martin Lloyd Jones wrote: “I would define revival as a large number being baptized by the Holy Spirit at the same time; or the Holy Spirit falling upon, coming upon a number of people assembled together. It can happen in a chapel, in a church, it can happen in a district, it can happen in a country.”

Perhaps the foremost historian of revival, J. Edwin Orr, described this manifestation of God’s presence as a “divine radiation zone.” He described an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Ulster, Ireland where one student was under such conviction by the Holy Spirit that he could not concentrate on his studies and was sent home by his teacher. An older student who was a Christian went with him and shared with him the way to salvation in Jesus. The boy was soon born again and instead of returning home, he went back to his class and reported, “I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.”

Imagine the reaction in most American schools today if a young man made such an announcement to his teacher and classmates. He would be laughed out of the school. Yet in that climate of God consciousness which had swept like a powerful wind over the land, it immediately shook the class to the core. Orr writes:

These simple words had an astonishing effect; boy after boy rose silently and left the room. Going outside, the teacher found these boys all on their knees in a row along the wall of the playground. Very soon, their silent prayer became a bitter cry; it was heard by another class inside and pierced their hearts. They fell on their knees and their cry for mercy was heard in turn by a girl’s class above. In a few moments the whole school was on their knees! Neighbors and passers-by came flocking in, and as they crossed the threshold, they all came under the same convicting power. Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God.

A Transformed Mocker

Charles Finney saw this corporate anointing frequently in the cities where he preached. He describes a powerful spiritual awakening in Rome, New York. No one could enter this town without being awestruck with the impression that God was there in a strange and wonderful manner. He tells of a sheriff from nearby Utica who had heard of the revival in Rome, and had had a great deal of fun mocking and ridiculing the simple minded people that had been taken in by all this religious excitement.

One day the sheriff needed to go to Rome. He was glad to be able to visit there and see for himself what all the commotion was about. He rode there without any particular feelings until he crossed the old canal, about a mile from the town. Suddenly a strange impression came upon him, a mysterious awe that would not leave. This feeling continually increased the closer he got to the town. When he took his horse to the livery stable he noticed that the man working there seemed to feel as he did, both of them in such a state they could hardly speak to each other.

When he reached the hotel where he had business, he met with several other men who all seemed to be in a similar state. It was difficult for them to attend to their business, and several times the astonished sheriff had to rise from the table abruptly and walk over to the window to try to divert his attention in order to keep from breaking into tears. Hurrying through his business he quickly returned to Utica where he did not speak critically of the revival again. Indeed within a few weeks he had given his life to Christ.

In describing this corporate anointing Finney writes, “Many times great numbers of persons in a community will be clothed with this power, when the very atmosphere of the whole place seems to be charged with the life of God. Strangers coming into it and passing through the place will be instantly smitten with conviction of sin, and in many instances converted to Christ… While Christians remain humble enough to retain this power the work of conversion will go on, till whole communities and regions of the country are converted to Christ.”

It would be a serious mistake to believe that this spiritual climate found in classical revivals is irrelevant or unavailable to the church today. Most pastors who give serious attention to prayer and encourage their people in that direction know at least a measure of this anointing. It is that intangible Presence that makes worship more than just singing, sermons more than just speaking, and church more than just a social gathering. It does not do away with the need to prepare sermons, take offerings, serve communion, plan building projects, or encourage people to come to Christ. It simply makes each activity infinitely more powerful and God-filled than it would normally be. Conversions begin to occur without strain or clever schemes. Church growth usually occurs even without all the official church growth principles being in place.

This was the secret to the incredible success and growth of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts. It is the ingredient so desperately lacking in most churches today. Allow me to observe three points about this corporate anointing.

The Corporate Anointing is God’s Intended Climate for the Gospel. Houston has palm trees; Minneapolis has none. Arizona has cactus plants; New York does not. The reason for this has everything to do with climate. Certain plants thrive under the conditions produced by specific climates. In other, more hostile climates, they not only do not thrive; they cannot even live. God never intended that the gospel be presented in a dry climate, devoid of the soul-swaying influences of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is incredibly powerful. It is called “the power of God unto salvation.” The reason for this power is that it contains the seeds of the life of God within it. Peter writes, “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” Seeds are utterly impotent without water. You can set a grain of corn on a shelf for a lifetime and it will never germinate. It will sit on that shelf year after year, decade after decade looking just as it always has – hard and lifeless. Yet put the seed in the soil, add water, and something mysterious and wonderful happens. The apparently lifeless seed springs into action. It had life all along, of course. It simply needed watering for that life to be activated.

So it is with the gospel of Christ. Without the water of the outpoured Holy Spirit the gospel will never change a life. Sometimes that Holy Spirit influence is limited to an individual, but in times of spiritual awakening the Holy Spirit is poured out on great numbers of people and the gospel begins transforming lives wholesale.

The Manifest Presence of God should be the goal of every church. For businesses to succeed they must have a product that people either want or need. The church has a “product” that people desperately need. That product is God Himself. He is what we have to offer – His word, His forgiveness, His Spirit, His love, His Fatherhood. To make matters easier we are not selling Him; we are simply sharing the good news that through Jesus Christ He is giving Himself to them freely. Success should be a cinch in such a case, but the problem is that most people are oblivious to their need. On top of that they have an inbuilt bias that makes them resistant to the offer of salvation through Christ.

Too often we have tried to overcome this resistance through focusing upon externals. If the sinners won’t come to a normal church we will build one that doesn’t look like a church. If people won’t come to hear the preaching of the word, we will emphasize dramas and short motivational talks. If preaching the need for repentance doesn’t seem to be getting the job done, we will leave off the heavy stuff and major on personal fulfillment and achievement.

When sinners (in today’s jargon we call them “non-churched”) come to a church service, what they desperately need to find there is God Himself. A great big dose of God will go further than the finest multi-media presentation or the cleverest motivational pep talk. When people go beyond hearing about God and actually start feeling His amazing presence, they will find themselves strangely drawn to this One for whom they once had so little use. The problem with this is that although free, this Presence does not come cheap. There is a price to be paid – which brings us to the third point.

The Manifest Presence of God will always be the outcome when the Holy Spirit is pleased. It is the Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Trinity, who makes God known and felt in the earth and in the church. When a man and woman marry there is always a time of adjustment as they each learn what pleases and what irritates their partner. If they truly love their spouse they begin to eliminate those habits and ways that irritate them. Doing those things that please and delight their partner pays rich and lifelong dividends.

So it is with the church and the Holy Spirit. If we ever come to realize the terrible price we pay for grieving the Holy Spirit we would do anything not to offend Him. In like manner we would do whatever it takes to please Him. He is the breath of God that breathes life into the church. It is His presence that tenderizes the hard heart, His divine power that takes the most ordinary sermon and makes it life changing. When He is manifestly present in a church service it cannot help but be a success. Without that presence all our organizing, our beautiful graphics flashed on the screen, our cleverly honed jokes and our well-rehearsed music are stamped with a capital F for failure.

The Scriptures make it clear that the Holy Spirit is pleased when God’s people pray. He always seems to show up in power when there has been united, believing prayer. Unity and harmony also please Him. Heartfelt praise and worship bring His manifest presence. And above all, He loves it when Jesus Christ is preached, exalted, and worshipped.

Learning to please and honor our divine Partner in the gospel must become the priority of every Christian and every church if we are ever to see the much fruit Jesus promised us. It is the awesome privilege of God’s people to live in conscious communion with the Holy Spirit, and to be empowered by Him to minister to the world around us. As we press into Him we find His presence is sweet beyond anything the world has to offer. The more we experience Him the more we want of Him.

He is the strength of the church. He alone makes the weak become strong, and takes our feeble efforts and makes them an irresistible force that cannot be neither ignored. The ancient prophet, Zechariah, saw this thousands of years ago when he declared, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts.”

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