Primitive, it comes from the latin word primitivus which comes from the word primus meaning first. The definition of primitive is then that which pertains to the beginning or to the origin, the original or first, for example, the primitive man would be Adam, he was the first man on the earth…or the primitive cell phone would refer to the big boxy type original cell phones or the phrase “primitive church” would refer to the original body or organization of the disciples of Jesus Christ as we find it in the Biblical Book of Acts.
With this in mind I now quote from the Great Controversy by Ellen White, quote: “Before the final visitation of God's judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” End of quote.
Near the time of the end of the world there will be a return to the practical living faith of the early apostles. Since we do not now meet this description let us travel back in time to investigate the lifestyle of the early apostles. What creates this distinction? What lifestyle practices would have been daily observed in the lives of the apostles? We see:
1) Service: The apostles were constantly engaged in service.
2) Evangelism: The apostles were spreading the good news to everyone everywhere.
3) Prayer: The apostles were praying all the time constantly: individually and in groups, and
4) Fasting: The apostles fasted frequently.
Is there a priority here? Service work is good, but service work without evangelism is meeting physical needs and not the spiritual ones. Evangelism is critically critically important but evangelism without fervent, constant, and united prayer is futile, for the success of evangelism is entirely dependent upon prayer (see 2 Thes 3:1 and Matt 9). Prayer is power, Prayer moves the hand of God, and Prayer is an essential that angels depend upon in order to help advance the Great Commission, but prayer is not everything. There remains only one discipline in the Christian faith that when combined with prayer not only causes the impossible to become possible, but guarantees it. What is it? To answer this question, let us suppose (and we can suppose because you and I are thinking people), let us suppose that we have an imaginary interview with the early apostles Peter, James, John, and Paul where they ask us to describe the condition of the church in the 21st century. As we are covering these points you can imagine the fishermen Peter blurting out “What! You don’t fast, how can you call yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ and not fast? Can’t you see the significance of fasting all throughout Scripture? How can you read the story of Esther, Jonah, Jehoshaphat, John the Baptist or Daniel and NOT be motivated to fast?” or maybe you can imagine the more intellectual Paul asking us “How can you ever expect to accomplish what we were accomplishing if you do not do what we did? If you want to finish the great commission then you must live as we lived, to the letter.” That is primitive godliness.