“Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Examine everything carefully. Hold fast to what is good.”—1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
Recently pastor John MacArthur, a cessationist who does not believe in the gifts of the Spirit today, held a conference attacking those who practice supernatural gifts and manifestations, calling it “Strange Fire.” By MacArthur’s definition, the experience of one of the most godly and respected holiness leaders of a century ago, Andrew Murray, a Dutch Reformed minister, would be strange fire.
Had God not changed Andrew Murray’s mind, Murray might have become known as the preacher who tried to stop a revival. He and his father and other ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church had been praying for revival in South Africa for many years, but when it arrived he could not recognize or accept it as being from God. One evening in 1860 Murray was hurriedly summoned by one of his elders to the church he where he pastored. The whole congregation had spontaneously begun praying fervently and loudly all at once, totally out of character for a staid, reserved Dutch Reformed church.
He tried to exercise his ecclesiastical authority, commanding the congregation, “People, I am your minister sent from God. Silence!” But the people paid no attention to him and kept on praying emotionally and boisterously. Finally, out of frustration Murray declared, “God is a God of order, and everything here is confusion,” and stalked out of the building.
The prayer meetings continued in spite of Murray’s efforts to stifle them. Horrendously, some people even appeared to faint, what today is sometimes called “falling under the power of the Spirit.” At a later meeting where he tried to quiet the people, a stranger approached him, advising, “Be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here. I have just come from America, and this is precisely what I witnessed there.” He was referring to the revivals led by Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, and Phoebe Palmer in 1857-1859.
This testimony confirmed to Murray the genuineness of the revival. His father, a Dutch Reformed pastor who had prayed for revival for many years, came to visit and assured him, “Andrew, my son, I have longed for such times as these, which the Lord has let you have.” From that point on, it transformed his way of thinking about the work of the Holy Spirit, and Andrew supported the revival, which yielded remarkable and lasting results. So the preacher tried to resist what he perceived as religious fanaticism, became one of those fanatics himself.
Murray would go on to lead other revivals, promote the holiness movement of the Spirit in South Africa, and teach and model a life of faith, respected by people of all theological streams and denominational backgrounds. His teachings and writings have been respected throughout the Christian community for more than a century. His accomplishments demonstrate his life of faith:
- Because of the leadership he displayed and his dynamic, anointed preaching, in the providence of God two years after the revival, at the age of 34, he was elected as Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa.
- As a result, he was able to stem the encroaching tide of liberalism and lead his denomination to renewal.
- He authored more than 30 books, many of which continue to be republished and foster an enduring impact a century later. Murray’s classic books Absolute Surrender, Abide in Christ, and With Christ in the School of Prayer were born out of revivals such as this.
- Due to strain on his vocal chords, he became ill and lost his voice, unable to preach for two years. Yet he experienced miraculous healing and complete restoration of his voice. He then became one of the primary advocates of divine healing by faith in his generation, writing another classic book entitled Divine Healing.
Excerpted from Moving Mountains: Lessons in Bold Faith by Paul L. King (order at http://www.paulkingministries.com)