Must Unity Precede Revival?

J. Gresham Machen was not persuaded as so many seem to be today that revival and reformation will come to the church only after all the churches in a city experience more “unity.”

That has always seemed backward to me. If the churches had deep unity in the truth and in the Spirit, that would be revival and reformation—amazing reformation! Unity of the kind we need is one of the miracles of God’s reviving and reforming work.

And even when great revivals have come, along with new unity there was new division.

In the mean time faithfulness to the gospel and love for people, no matter how controversial, is the path to reformation.

Here’s Machen:

Souls will hardly be saved unless the evangelists can say with Paul: “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed!” Every true revival is born in controversy, and leads to more controversy.

That has been true ever since our Lord said that he came not to bring peace upon the earth by a sword. Do you know what I think will happen when God sends a new reformation upon the Church? We cannot tell when that blessed day will come. But when the blessed day does come, I think we can say at least one result that it will bring. We shall hear nothing on that day about the evils of controversy in the church. All that will be swept away as with a mighty flood. A man who is on fire with a message never talks in that wretched, feeble way, but proclaims the truth joyously and fearlessly, in the presence of every high thing that is lifted up against the gospel of Christ.” (J. Gresham Machen: Selected Shorter Writings, 148)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.