December 2017 Newsletter - "Mighty Men Influenced by the Early Church Fathers" by Nathan Padilla
There have been many great men of God who have been used mightily by the Lord, especially when it came to birthing a new move or a revival. There is this understanding that they all had. They all knew the importance of the Early Church Fathers. They all were trying to go back to the power they walked in and teach what they taught. They knew there was something they had that the church lacks today. John Wesley was one of these powerful men of God who started a move in England, and he also came to America to minister to the English settlers in 1735 that helped shape the beliefs of Christianity in America. He helped build a foundation that was later to be known as the Great Awakening, at which George Whitfield praised him for the foundation he set for him to build on. So, what was it that he taught and understood, what was the foundation on which he built?
“Can any who spend several years in those seats of learning be excused if they do not read the Fathers, the most authentic commentators on Scripture, as being both nearest the fountain, eminently endued with the Spirit by whom all Scripture was given. It will be easily perceived, I speak chiefly of those who wrote before the Council of Nicea.” ~John Wesley “Advice to the Clergy” 1756
He had also written letters defending the Ante Nicene Fathers, mostly from men who didn’t understand what they were reading. And often these men were just reading a few words out of context and really couldn’t show evidence of their claims. In one of his writings he gives a treatise on “The Character of a Methodist” which he admits was influenced by reading Clement of Alexandria writing about being a perfect Christian. He was misunderstood in this treatise and replied to an editor of a Christian Magazine of his time attacking him. Here is an excerpt from his own writings:
"The occasion of his late attack is this: Five or six and thirty years ago, I much admired the character of a perfect Christian drawn by Clement of Alexandria. Five or six and twenty years ago, a thought came into my mind of drawing such a character myself, only in a more scriptural manner and mostly in the very words of Scripture: this I entitled, 'The Character of a Methodist,'”
“To the same effect I speak in the conclusion, 'These are the same principles and practices of our sect; these are the marks of a true Methodist'; that is, a true Christian, as I immediately after explain myself: 'by these alone do those who are in derision so called desire to be distinguished from other men.'” ~ Excerpt from Wesley’s Journal, March 5, 1767
Smith Wigglesworth was another man of God who knew of the Early Church Fathers. Being a patriarch of the Pentecostal movement, he grew up going to Anglican and Methodist Churches, as we can see above the Methodists and Anglican churches were heavily influenced by the Early Church Fathers. In one of his sermons which was about grace in the church, he speaks of the purity and power the Early Church moved in.
“When I think about the first Church, how God favored her, how He burst thru her, how He definitely spoke, how He transformed Christians and made them move with the power of apostles, that wherever they went they transformed lives - God did such wonderful things, and when I think of it, I think, that we should have something far in advance, and say: ‘Look up; your redemption draweth nigh!’ I want to take a perspective of what they were, and we must be. I am inwardly convinced of the power that awaits us, the installation of God’s movement right in our hearts.
I notice in the first Church it wasn’t possible for a lie to live, and I want you to keep in mind that there is a time coming when nothing of uncleanness will be able to remain in His little flock. The first Church was so pure God overshadowed it; He nursed it, brought it thru, and He has His hand upon us at this time. How do we know? The Lord hath laid the foundation which is an immovable foundation. It is built upon the prophets; it is built upon the apostles; it is built upon the Word of God, and the church will yet come into the fullness of the manifestation of the body of Christ.” ~Smith Wigglesworth “Great Grace Upon the Church” Sermon October 31, 1922
In the same sermon, he begins to convey the pattern we need to follow in receiving the Holy Spirit:
I cannot conceive of anything else but what the Early Church all received the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. And I believe today that we should press home to every soul the necessity of meeting the conditions and being filled with the Holy Ghost. ~Smith Wigglesworth “Great Grace Upon the Church” Sermon October 31, 1922
Mr. Wigglesworth also teaches about the gifts of the Spirit. He explains that it not good enough to just read the Early Church Fathers, but to also have the Baptism of the Spirit. They knew that being a Christian wasn’t an education. It was important to understand these teachings and have a strong understanding of the Word, but it was to coincide with being led by the Spirit.
“We read that in the early church they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. It is important for us also to continue steadfastly in these same things. For some years I was associated with the Plymouth Brethren. They are very strong on the Word, and are sound on water baptism, and they do not neglect the breaking of bread service, but have it every Lord’s Day morning as they had it in the early church. These people seem to have everything except the match. They have the wood, but they need the fire and then they would be all ablaze. Because they lack the fire of the Holy Spirit there is not life in their meetings.” ~Smith Wigglesworth “Concerning Spiritual Gifts”
Smith Wigglesworth understood that it had to have more than just studying the Word; you can be in the Word and following the word religiously and have no life because it’s not through the Spirit. Notice however that he didn’t discredit being strong in our understanding of the Word; it was that there was another factor that had to take place that he understood.
John G. Lake was an apostle whom God used to start a Pentecostal move in South Africa. After his stint in South Africa, he primarily preached on the West Coast and started the “healing room” movement. He was longing for an intimacy that the Early Church Fathers had with God. He was striving for a relationship and revelation that the Fathers had. He very well knew that they were more knowledgeable of the advance teachings of Christ after the resurrection.
“Not so with the Son of God. Not so the Lord Jesus. Why, Christianity began where philosophy left off. The crucifixion of Jesus was but the entrance into the greatest of His divine revelations. Jesus not only rose from the dead, but He determined in His own soul to take captive that power that had been captivating men and subjecting them to death’s control. So, Jesus entered into the grave. The early church was much more conversant (familiar with or knowledgeable about something) with this phase of the Lord’s victory than we are.
The literature of the early church fathers is full of the wonder of what took place in the life and ministry of Jesus after He was in the grave.” ~John G Lake July 15, 1920 Chicago, Illinois of Pentecostal Assemblies (Collection of his teachings).
William Branham was another powerful man of God who was used for revivals in the 1950’s. He gave accurate words to people, telling them their names and home addresses, and healings were manifesting during his ministry. He had angelic visitations and was given revelations about events that would take place and how the end time move would happen. He knew that the Early Church Fathers had to be restored to the church before the second coming of Christ. Not only that, in his own sermons he taught from the Ante Nicene Fathers. In his sermon on the seven churches in December of 1960 he reads from Volume 1 of the Ante Nicene Father and reads form Irenaeus. He wanted to make sure people took note of it.
“I might read from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume one, page 412, just a little quotation; if you want to put that down, volume one of The Ni--ice--Nicene Fathers." And on page twelve, and it's the... If you want the volume, it's the last part of volume three. You could might read the whole thing; there's several chapters of it, or several sentences. Now, I begin to read right at the last, about the last twenty, thirty verses of it. I won't read it all, but just part of it.” ~William Branham Sermon on “The Smrynaean Age”
He had a revelation reading their writings that the Early Church Fathers were manifesting all the gifts of the Spirit because of the apostolic teaching that Irenaeus was releasing.
"It was in Irenaeus' time that most of the apostolic church of France had all the gifts of the Holy Ghost." That was from him teaching. See? "Irenaeus' church members at Lyons (That's Lyon, France) spoke with tongues. It was not uncommon to see someone dead brought back to life. Healing was--healing was an everyday occurrence in all the evangelistic--evangelical churches everywhere. (That Irenaeus knowed how to teach.) Miracles were frequent. In fact, those churches were never without a miraculous manifestation of God's Presence either by vision, super-extension of the elements of nature, and a miracle, to remind the evangelical Christians of that day they were His beloved disciples.” ~William Branham Sermon on “The Smrynaean Age”
So, in this we see a pattern that these revivalists had something in common. They had an understanding of the importance of understanding the Early Church Fathers. These men of God came out of Methodist background then converted to Pentecostals. We can see the influence of what John Wesley had reached by the studying of the Early Church. New moves occurred, denominations were birthed, and revivals broke out because of this. If that happened, then what will happen at this end time move?