Wine and Wineskins

In the preface to his masterful book on revivals, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace says the following:

Concentration on reformation without revival leads to skins without wine; concentration on revival without reformation soon loses the wine for want of skins.

He’s dead on. Spiritual vigor (revival) apart from the truth (reformation) isn’t spiritual. Truth (reformation) apart from spiritual vigor (revival) is dead. Even the demons believe and they tremble. (James 2:19)

I came across this quote as I was thumbing through my notes on his book while searching for sermon material, and I want to add something to the quote: reformation must precede revival. The altar must be built according to God’s commands before he will honor the altar with his fire. By reformation, I don’t mean you need to hold to the specifics or Reformed theology. No, I simply mean that you need to preach what was the central doctrine of the reformation– justification by faith. This is one of the common threads through all true revivals. Regardless of the denomination (pentecostal, presbyterian, baptist). True revival is built on justification by faith– a focus on faith in what God accomplished in the cross of Christ.

If there is to be any wine of the spirit it will only be contained in the wineskin of a true understanding of justification.

Also, buy Lovelace’s book. It’s hefty but rich.

 

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: Dynamics of Spiritual Life by Richard Loveless

4158UwZNr8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Having experienced the Jesus Movement first hand, Richard Loveless set out to fill a gap in evangelical scholarship, a theology of spirituality; specifically, an historical and theological analysis of renewal and spiritual dynamics. Loveless’s historical overview of renewal movements in the evangelical church, and his section on the primary elements of renewal are invaluable.

Lovelace, Richard F. Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, ©1979.

I’ll be going back to this well for years to come. Here are a few quotes to mull over:

Concentration on reformation without revival leads to skins without wine; concentration on revival without reformation soon loses the wine for want of skins.

Revival, in his [Jonathan Edwards] understanding, is not a special season of extraordinary religious excitement… Rather it is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which restores the people of God to normal spiritual life after a period of corporate declension.

But perhaps the root cause of the decay of evangelicalism in America was the replacement of the old comprehensive concept of revival, with the post-Finneyan machinery of revivalism.

Justification is the perfect righteousness of Christ reckoned to us, covering the remaining imperfections…sanctification is the process of removing those imperfections.

Paul… considered the gospel to be a transcultural message of repentant faith in Christ designed neither to bind people to a form of culture alien to their own, nor to eradicate the distinctive features of their own culture.

Apparently if the church has not fully appropriated the life and redemptive benefits of Jesus Christ, it will inevitably be subject to two forms of re-enculturation. Either it will suffer destructive enculturation, absorbing elements of its host cultures which it should discern and suppress as unholy, or it will try to re-create once again the Old Testament protective enculturation, fusing itself with certain aspects of Christianized culture until the gospel is thought to be indissolubly wedded to those cultural expressions.