Those who would destroy the Church have seen it gain new life

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6b)

My dear fellow workers in the Lord: Let me greet you by quoting First Corinthians 16:19, “The churches of Asia salute you.”

It is a great honor for me to attend the World Congress on Evangelism and to share in its vision and aspirations.

Surely it is a time for us Christians to have a worldwide missionary vision and strategy, not only because the gospel is for the whole world but also because the the world is becoming smaller and smaller and because the forces of evil are bolder and more rampant. We are confident that God in his faithfulness will meet us in some special way at this crucial hour in human history.

All of us know the situation in the Scripture lesson we have read this evening. The long period of Israel’s Babylonian captivity was over, and God had fulfilled his promise to his Chosen People “to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isa. 61:3). So “like them that dreamed, their mouth filled with laughter and their tongue with singing,” they returned to Jerusalem with bright vision and high hope.

On reaching Jerusalem, the Children of Israel gathered themselves together and began to build the temple. They laid the foundations with great rejoicing and with prospects of speedily completing the work. But no sooner was the work begun than adversaries, the Samaritans, rose against them and sent a letter of bitter accusation to the King of Persia. Seeing the smallness of their resources and the enormity of the undertaking, Zerubbabel and his people became discouraged and ceased from their labors. For a full fifteen years they did nothing.

It was in this hour of depression that God appeared to Zechariah, his prophet, in a vision of a golden candlestick with seven lamps and two live olive trees, one on each side. “Knowest thou not what these be?” asked an angel. Zerubbabel said, “No, my Lord.” Then the angel continued: “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who are thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” Commenting on this Scripture, John Calvin said:

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Here the angel bears witness … that the power of God alone is sufficient to preserve the Church and there is no need of other helps. For He sets the Spirit of God in opposition to all earthly aids; and thus He proves that God borrows no help for the preservation of His Church because He abounds in all blessings to enrich it. Further, by the word Spirit we know is meant His power, as though He had said, “God designs to ascribe to Himself alone the safety of His Church; and though the Church may need many things there is no reason why it should turn its eyes here and there, or seek this or that help from men; for all abundance of blessings may be supplied by God alone.”

Let us first of all observe that it is the Spirit of God alone who establishes his Church. It was on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon those who were in the upper room as a rushing, mighty wind and as cloven tongues of fire, that the Church was born. The city that had crucified Jesus was hostile and hateful to his newly born Church, and it is a miracle that the Church survived. Arrayed against it were hypocritical Pharisaism, secularistic Sadduceeism, the intolerant and idolatrous Roman government, and vain, humanistic Hellenism. The Church appeared as a lamb in the midst of wolves.

Yet the lamb survived. And not only did it survive; the Church of Jesus Christ grew and spread until at last it conquered all its foes and changed the course of history with its redemptive truth. How? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”


The story of the Jerusalen Church during the first century is the history of the Church throughout the centuries. Many thought that the last days of the Church had come when the Roman Empire fell, or when the fanatical Muslim army reached Europe. Nevertheless, despite these foes, the Church not only has survived but also created a Christian civilization.

During the modern era of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Church has had to face many new enemies in the form of natural science and humanistic philosophy that denied the supernatural and robbed Jesus of his deity. Yet in these times great revivals broke out in Europe and America that renewed and revitalized the Church and inspired God’s people to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. How? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”


Let me tell you how the Korean church was born. The first missionary of the modern era who brought God’s word to our people was martyred on the very day he landed on our shores. Robert J. Thomas, a Welshman, was a colporteur of the Scottish Bible Society who was working in China. He learned that the Korean language is based on Chinese and that the Korean intellectuals could read Chinese. And so, despite his enormous responsibility of getting the Scriptures to the hundreds of millions of Chinese, he determined to get God’s truth to the Koreans as well.

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Thomas secured passage on an American schooner, the General Sherman, that was sailing for Pyeng Yang, the large city in the north on the Tae Tong River. As the vessel neared Pyengyang, a bitter controversy arose with the native coast guard; the ship was burned, and all the passengers were killed. The death of one passenger was most unusual, however, for as this man staggered out of the water his arms were filled with books that he thrust into the hands of the Koreans who clubbed him to death. This is how the Bible first came to Korea, in 1866.

When Korea opened her doors to the world in 1884, Dr. Horace N. Allen, a Presbyterian missionary, came to the United States embassy as a physician. The Rev. Horace G. Underwood and the Rev. Henry G. Appenzeller, of the Presbyterian and Methodist missions respectively, arrived in Korea on Easter morning of the same year.

By the turn of the century enough missionaries had arrived to establish stations in the principal cities of Korea. New converts were organized into congregations, and various educational institutions were founded for their training. In 1907 the theological seminary graduated its first class, and in that same year—a historical and memorable date—the Korean Presbyterian Church was organized.

Political confusion and social unrest made the future of the church uncertain, however. In 1905 the Russo-Japanese war had been fought over Korea and after the conflict the country was occupied by Japanese forces. Embittered by this loss of their freedom, Korean guerrillas waged warfare all over the country. A violent anti-foreign storm, especially of anti-Americanism, swept across the land because the United States had formally recognized the Japanese annexation of Korea. Torn between two loyalties—to the American missionaries on the one hand and to their anti-American compatriots on the other—Christians turned in their dilemma to God. In his book Gold in Korea Dr. William N. Blair writes:

So it was that God compelled us to look to Him. We had reached a place where we dared not go forward without His presence. Very earnestly we poured out our hearts before Him, and God met us and gave us an earnest of the blessing that was to come. Before the meeting closed the Spirit showed us plainly that the way of victory for us would be the way of confession, of broken hearts and bitter tears.
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We went from those August meetings realizing as never before that nothing but the baptism of God’s Spirit in mighty power could fit us and our Korean brethren for the trying days ahead. We felt that the Korean Church needed not only to repent of the sin of discord and schism but needed a clearer vision of all sin, that many had come into the church sincerely believing in Jesus as their Saviour and anxious to do God’s will without great sorrow for sin because of its familiarity. We felt the whole church needed a vision of God’s holiness; that embittered souls needed to have their thoughts taken away from the hopeless national situation to their own personal relation with the Master. We agreed together at that time to pray for a great blessing, especially at the time of the winter Bible-Study class for men in Pyengyang.

The time for the Bible class came. The missionaries met every day at noon for prayer. Dr. Blair describes his own experience as follows:

Monday noon, we missionaries met and cried out to God in earnest. We had been bound in spirit and refused to let God go until He blessed us. That night it was very different. Each felt as he entered the church that the room was full of God’s presence. Not only missionaries but Koreans testified to the same thing. I was present once in Wisconsin when the Spirit of God fell upon a congregation of lumbermen and every unbeliever in the room rose to ask for prayers. That night in Pyengyang, the same feeling came to me as I entered the room, a feeling of God’s nearness impossible to describe.
After a short sermon, Dr. Graham Lee took charge of the meeting and called for prayers. So many began praying that Dr. Lee said, “If you want to pray like that, all pray,” and the whole audience began to pray out loud, all together. The effect was indescribable. Not confusion, but a vast harmony of sound and spirit, a mingling together of souls moved by an irresistible impulse to prayer. It sounded to me like the falling of many waters, an ocean of prayer beating against God’s throne. It was not many, but one, born of one Spirit, lifted to one Father above. Just as on the Day of Pentecost, they were all together in one place, of one accord praying, “and suddenly there came from heaven the sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”
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God is not always in the whirlwind, neither does He always speak in a still small voice. He came to us in Pyengyang that night with the sound of weeping. As the prayer continued a spirit of heaviness and sorrow came down upon the audience. Over on one side someone began to weep and in a moment the whole congregation was weeping.
Dr. Lee’s account, written at the time of the revival, gives the history of that night better than any words written later, however carefully penned, can do. “Man after man would arise, confess his sin, break down and weep, and then throw himself to the floor, beat the floor with his fists in perfect agony of conviction. My own cook tried to make a confession, broke down in the midst of it and cried to me across the room, ‘Pastor, tell me, is there any hope for me, can I be forgiven?’ and then threw himself to the floor and wept and wept, and almost screamed in agony. Sometimes after a confession, the whole audience would break out in audible prayer, and the effect of that audience of hundreds of men praying together in audible prayer was something indescribable. Again after another confession they would break out in uncontrollable weeping and we would all weep together, we couldn’t help it. And so the meeting went on until two o’clock A.M., with confession and weeping and praying!”
I wish to describe that Tuesday night meeting in my own words because part of what happened concerned me personally. We were aware that bad feeling existed between several of our church officers, especially between a Mr. Kang and a Mr. Kim. Mr. Kang confessed his hatred for Mr. Kim on Monday night, but Mr. Kim was silent. At our noon prayer-meeting Tuesday several of us agreed to pray for Mr. Kim. I was especially interested because Mr. Kang was my assistant in the North Pyengyang Church and Mr. Kim an elder in the Central Church and one of the officers in the Young Men’s Association of which I was chairman. As the meeting progressed, I could see Mr. Kim sitting with the elders back of the pulpit with his head down. Bowing where I sat, I asked God to help him and looking up I saw him coming forward.
Holding to the pulpit he made his confession. “I have been guilty of fighting against God. An elder in the church, I have been guilty of hating not only Kang You-moon, but Pang Moksa.” “Pang Moksa” is my Korean name. I never had a greater surprise in my life. To think that this man, my associate in the Men’s Association, had been hating me without my knowing it. It seems that I had said something to him one day in the hurry of managing a school field day exercise which had given offense, and he had not been able to forgive me.
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Turning to me he said, “Can you forgive me? Can you pray for me?” I stood up and began to pray, “Aba-ge, Aba-ge,” “Father, Father,” and got no further. It seemed as if the roof was lifted from the building and the Spirit of God came down in a mighty avalanche of power upon us. I fell at Kim’s side and wept and prayed as I had never prayed before. My last glimpse of the audience is photographed indelibly on my brain. Some threw themselves full length on the floor, hundreds stood with arms outstretched toward heaven. Every man forgot every other. Each was face to face with God. I can hear yet that fearful sound of hundreds of men pleading with God for mercy.
As soon as we were able, we missionaries gathered at the platform and consulted, “What shall we do? If we let them go on this way some will go crazy.” Yet we dared not interfere. We had prayed to God for an outpouring of His Holy Spirit upon the people and it had come. Separating, we went down and tried to comfort the most distressed, pulling the agonized men to the floor and saying, “Never mind, brother, if you have sinned God will forgive you. Wait and an opportunity will be given to speak.”
Finally Dr. Lee started a hymn and quiet was restored during the singing. Then began a meeting like to which I had never seen before, nor wish to see again unless in God’s sight it is absolutely necessary. Every sin a human being can commit was publicly confessed that night. Pale and trembling with emotion, in agony of mind and body, guilty souls standing in the white light of that judgment, saw themselves as God saw them. Their sins rose up on all their vileness till shame and grief and self-loathing took complete possession. Pride was driven out; the fact of man forgotten. Looking up to heaven, to Jesus whom they had betrayed, they smote themselves and cried out with bitter wailing, “Lord, Lord, cast us not away forever.” Everything else was forgotten; nothing else mattered. The scorn of men, the penalty of the law, even death itself seemed of small consequence if only God forgave. We may have our theories of the desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I have had mine, but I know now that when the Spirit of God falls upon guilty souls there will be confession and no power on earth can stop it.
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The Pyengyang Class ended with the meeting Tuesday night. The men returned to their homes in the country, taking the Pentecostal fire with them. Everywhere the story was told the same Spirit flamed forth and spread. Practically every church not only in North Korea, but throughout the peninsula received its share of blessing. In Pyengyang, special meetings were held in the various churches for more than a month. Even the schools had to lay aside lessons while the children wept out their wrong-doings together.
Repentance was by no means confined to confession and tears. Peace waited upon reparation, wherever reparation was possible. We had our hearts torn again and again during those days by the return of articles and money that had been stolen from us during the years. It hurt so to see them grieve. All through the city men were going from house to house, confessing to individuals they had injured, returning stolen property and money, not only to Christians, but to non-Christians as well. The whole city was stirred. A Chinese merchant was astonished to have a Christian walk in and pay him a large sum of money that he had obtained unjustly years before.
The new Korean Church was organized as had been planned. The first meeting of the new church was really a foreign missionary meeting. A Board of Foreign Missions was organized. The Presbytery laid its hands upon one of the first seven men to be ordained to the Gospel ministry, perhaps the most gifted man in the class, Ne Ke-pung, and sent him as a missionary to the island of Quelpart, south of Korea. The missionary spirit took possession of the whole church, especially of the young men in the college. The Pyengyang College and Academy students raised enough money to send one of their own number, Kim Hyung-chai, to Quelpart, to help Ne Ke-Pung.
Two years later another ordained man was sent by the Korean Church to Vladivostok in Russia, to preach to thousands of Koreans who had settled in that section. In 1912 the General Assembly of the Korean Church decided to send missionaries to China, having been invited to do so by the Shantung Presbytery in China. Three strong Korean pastors were sent, and a work was begun that has continued through the years with much blessing to the Chinese people and to the Korean Church.
The so-called Million Movement in 1909 and 1910 was one of the results of the revival. The Korean Christians made a serious effort to present the Gospel to the whole nation in one year. Tens of thousands of days of preaching from house to house were pledged by individuals. A special effort was made to place a copy of Mark’s Gospel in every house. The Bible Society printed a special edition of one million copies of Mark’s Gospel for this campaign, and over 700,000 copies were sold during the year.
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Thus the Korean church was born. How? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”


Now let me recount briefly what God has been doing in Korea since the Second World War. As you know, Korea was divided at the Thirty-eighth Parallel, and an uneasy truce separates Communist-dominated North Korea from the free South. How has this ceasefire armistice affected the church?

Before the Second World War the church was strongest in the north; fully two-thirds of all Korea’s Christians lived there. Because of the oppression, from the time the Communists began their occupation in 1950 many, if not most, of the Christians fled south. They fanned out in all directions, carrying the Gospel with them, establishing new congregations wherever they went.

Because of the suffering and destruction of war, Christians everywhere began to pray more earnestly than ever before. Early-morning prayer meetings sprang up in almost all churches. The whole church became prayer-conscious, and the Spirit of God moved mightily through these prayer sessions.

With the organization of the Korean armed forces, army, navy, and air force chaplaincies were formed. Since all young men are required to serve in the military, the youth of the land have been challenged for Christ through these Christian leaders. The effectiveness of this ministry is seen in the fact that whereas the percentage of believers among civilians is 7 per cent, in the armed services it is 15 per cent. Freed from the bondage of village tradition, these young men are at liberty to make their Christian commitment.

During the war vigorous evangelism was carried on among the 150,000 North Korean Communist prisoners; about 20,000 turned to Christ, of whom 150 are now in the Christian ministry.

As evidence of church growth that resulted from the suffering and misery of the war years and the peoples’ turning to God, there are today in the city of Seoul about 600 congregations, where previously there were only 30; Pusan now has about 200, where before there were only 12; Taegu has 170, where previously there were only 17. We could go on.

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We now have a church in almost every sizable community throughout South Korea. Although we Christians are still a small minority, a mere 7 per cent of the total population, we believe a bridgehead has been made. Our task now, as never before, is to go forward.

What about North Korea? While no direct information is getting through, reports indicate that aside from a few “showplace” churches permitted to operate in the larger cities as “evidence” to tourists of “religious liberty,” all other places of Christian worship are closed. It is dangerous to preach anywhere, or even to admit one is a Christian; but a faithful remnant is working underground as it did in Nero’s time. Many are confident that if and when pressure against the Church by the Communist government is removed, a large and devoted body of believers will emerge.

We believe the unification of Korea will come in God’s own time. When that day comes, Korea will certainly be a Christian Korea, for we know that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” How? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”


Now we are gathered here with a great burden on our hearts for the unsaved millions of the world. We are living in the latter part of the twentieth century, when history is moving rapidly in most mysterious ways. The great advancement of science and technology has brought a change not only in man’s mode of life but in man himself. Sometimes we speak even of “dehumanization.” Political, economic, social, and cultural revolutions are occurring in every continent and country.

Communism, with its atheism, materialism, and totalitarianism, now controls about one-third of the people of the world. Asia, the biggest continent with the largest population, is progressing politically and economically and is reviving its ancient, indigenous religions. In some Asian countries the door to Christian missions is being closed; and with secularism and worldly compromise sapping the strength and vitality of considerable areas of the older churches in America and Europe, the Church appears once more to many as a lamb in the midst of wolves. But, praise God, we read in the book of the Revelation that the Lamb will finally conquer all the cruel forces of heaven and earth. How? “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”

So, onward Christian soldiers! Let us march forward, for the Spirit of God is with us, ever conquering and to conquer!

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