This Week in AG History -- October 18, 1959
How should Christians respond to political and cultural crises? Assemblies of God evangelist Martin Luther Davidson, in a sermon at the 1959 General Council, encouraged listeners to learn from the example of the first-century church. The early church, he noted, endured significant persecution in a society rocked by political turmoil and moral decay. In the midst of this social upheaval, the church established its identity and experienced remarkable growth.
How was the early church able to overcome adversity? Davidson identified three characteristics of early Christians that he suggested “was the secret of their victory.”
First, early Christians overcame adversity because they were consecrated to Christ and His mission. They despised sin, they surrendered themselves to suffer for the sake of righteousness, and they stood firm in the faith. According to Davidson, “Those Early Church saints were strongly marked by a holy indifference to external adversaries.” Early Christians endured the most severe forms of persecution. “They scorned the violence of fire, the edge of the sword, trials of cruel mockings and scourgings,” he noted. Davidson prayed that God would give twentieth-century Christians the “steadfastness of faith” that characterized first-century Christians.
Second, early Christians overcame adversity because of their sincere “holiness of character.” Davidson defined holiness as the condition of a person’s character. He noted that holiness could not be achieved by wearing or doing certain things; holiness could only come from the sanctifying, indwelling presence of God. Davidson expressed concern that this biblical view of holiness was being replaced in some Pentecostal circles by either “legalistic ritualism” (emphasizing external actions over the condition of the heart) or “liberalism” (presuming that conduct has no relationship to the condition of the heart). Davidson admonished Pentecostals to retain the historic view of holiness, asserting that “anything less will fail is in these critical days.”
Third, early Christians overcame adversity because they were “unwavering in holy faith.” Unlike modern conceptions of faith as mere “positive thinking,” Davidson carefully described the principles of biblical faith. True Christian faith, according to Davidson, is grounded in the Bible, it trusts in the person of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and it provokes the believer to action.
Davidson encouraged Pentecostals to learn from early Christians, who “became intoxicated on the Spirit so much” that outsiders concluded they must be drunk with wine because they had no fear of man. “If the Church is to advance in these perilous days of universal crises,” Davidson concluded, “it must be filled with Spirit-intoxicated men” who demonstrate consecration, holiness, and unwavering faith.
Read Martin Luther Davidson’s article, “Forward in the Face of Crises!” on pages 3-4 of the Oct. 18, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Praying in the Holy Ghost,” by Normand J. Thompson
• “Deaf Students Prepare for the Ministry,” by Maxine Strobridge
And many more!
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.