Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Altar Calls and Salvation

It is important to note that the practice of altar calls is a modern invention and was never practiced in the Bible or any New Testament church in the Bible. It is not found in the ministry of Jesus, His apostles, or even the church of the post-apostolic period. However, we do see Jesus and the apostles inviting men and women to be saved by believing and repenting, right where they stood or were seated, after they heard the Word - but never by means of the altar call. The method of altar calls came into practice about 300 hundred years ago, in America, which is some eighteen centuries after Christ!

There is nothing wrong with altar calls as long as they are kept in perspective and do not become sacred, or taught as a Biblical mandate. If neither Jesus nor His apostles employed the method and if they never commanded the method to be practiced by the church, then no requirement exists. In fact, a church which does not employ the practice (but instead encourages people to “believe” the gospel) is more in line with scriptural practice than churches which have adopted the use of altar calls.
Altar calls, like any other method, (i.e., signing a card, repeating a prayer, raising your hand, or singing “Just As I Am”), are man-made methods – not Biblical mandates. It is not a question of Biblical necessity but of modern custom and convenience that we use them today. So then, the altar call is not a matter of Biblical command or precedent. Our Lord does not require it of anyone at any time.
Question: But what about those who are saved as a result of an altar call?
Answer: Let’s be clear.  No one is ever saved “as a result” of an altar call. We are saved only as a result of the gospel. When people believe that a sinner must do anything other than believe and repent, it reveals that they have a mistrust, or misunderstanding, of the power of the Holy Spirit and the Preached Word.
God has made it plain that He saves sinners by means of His Word that is preached. Consider the words of the apostle Paul from I Corinthians chapter 1....
“Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (v.17)
“For the message of the cross… is the power of God” (v.18)
“…. it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (v.21)
The PREACHED WORD is how God saves people. In other words, Paul was confident (as should any preacher be) that God would save people by means of preaching/teaching the Word. Our problem today is that we don’t really believe that God’s Word ALONE is SUFFICIENT. It is a mistake to assume that the “come forward invitation” is more important than the taught Word of God. In truth, the most important part of the service is when God’s Word is being preached – not before and not after- and there is no need to invent a new means to help God save people; He already does this so well all by Himself. We are obliged, however, to trust Him to save people via the means He has promised to bless – the preached Word.
A Misunderstanding of the Role of the Preacher
The modern invitation system further reveals a misunderstanding of the role of the preacher. The preacher's duty is not to "get decisions.” His duty is to proclaim the good news and exhort men and women to believe in Christ. This is the means that God uses to save. We preach and God Himself uses the preached Word to prompt people to believe. These roles must never be confused.

God has never ordained altar calls as a means for salvation. For the most part, a wounded conscience, like a wounded deer, would rather be alone so that it may bleed in secret. Those under conviction usually prefer a solitary place to repent.

The role of the preacher is to preach the Word and exhort men and women to believe (have faith) in Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins. And that is enough. God is well able to do everything else.
PS - I have written a lengthy brochure on this subject and offer it in Seminar 101, "Discovering the PCC Family" and is available to anyone who asks.



Rob Hadding said...

Ron, Spot on.

Ron said...

Thanks Rob. Good to hear from you.