Tag Archives: salvation
The preacher would end his sermon by saying “every head bowed and every eye closed.” I knew that the next few minutes would be spent listening to the pianist play “Just As I Am” on the piano while the preacher encouraged people to come down front and pray. At some point the preacher would inevitably say “if you want to be saved, repeat this simple prayer after me,” after which he would recite the “sinners prayer” from memory. Then, with every head bowed and every eye closed, the preacher would ask if anyone said that prayer. He would ask people that said the prayer to raise their hand while assuring them that “no one will see and no one will approach you.”
That might be a familiar routine to you. You also might be wondering what it is and why some churches do it.
First, let’s talk about the history of the altar call and how it came to be a sacred ritual in many churches today. An article at Christianity Today shares some of the history of the altar call:
While we may have good intentions for our efforts to comfort grieving parents, Christians must make sure that their intentions, efforts, and words are based solely on Scripture. There is no real comfort in telling someone what cannot be supported by Scripture. So before we tell parents that their child is now in Heaven, we need to examine Scripture to determine whether that is true or not.
The traditional, somewhat historical position can be summed up in a statement by Sam Storms, writing at The Gospel Coalition, when he says:
The view concerning man’s will is one of debate among Arminians and Reformed theologians. Arminians believe that man has the ability, the free will, to choose Christ. Reformed theologians believe that due to the bondage of the will to sin, man does not have the ability to choose Christ without the regenerating work and effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. This distinction has been the source of much debate between these two theological groups.
Before moving forward, it is important to understand that it is a universally agreed upon fact that man has a will and can make choices based upon that will. However, what is not true is that man has the ability to freely choose Christ based solely upon his own free will. Let me explain the difference.
In these verses we come to understand that the will of man is bent on evil and rejection of God. There is no one that will, of his own free will, choose God (Rom. 3:10-19). In fact, the human will is so captive to sin that no man has any desire for God and prefers the darkness over the light (John 3:19). This means that the idea of free will is true. But it also means that if given a choice man will always choose sin, the darkness, and always choose to reject Christ.
When given the choice between sin and Christ, man will always choose sin.
Regarding salvation God’s sovereignty is a critical aspect that is misunderstood by many Christians. Some choose to reject the biblical doctrine of election because, in their words, “it’s not fair.” But, as we will see, the doctrine of election and God’s sovereignty cannot be divorced.
Concerning election and God’s sovereignty, we understand that God freely elects some to saving faith in Jesus while others are destined for eternal destruction. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans this way:
Some would say that if we only make our churches cool enough, make them “inclusive,” or “approachable,” that people will come and will find Jesus. But this understanding of the Gospel and the purpose of the church is wrong. The Bible makes it clear that “no one seeks God.” (Rom. 3:11) Even more blunt than that is the truth that Jesus spoke when He told us “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) In these verses we have clear teaching that no one is seeking God, no one is looking for salvation in Jesus. In fact, no one has the ability to “find Jesus” unless the Father first draws that person. And Judas is a perfect example of this truth.
Judas was a devil.
The fact that God chose Abraham out of the many He could have chosen makes the concept of biblical election clear. This example also shows us that election is an act of God’s sovereign will, having nothing to do with the person being chosen (elected). Abraham didn’t petition God to be elected, God chose Abraham before Abraham chose God. But, and this is important, once God chose Abraham, Abraham then chose God. When God called Abraham to leave his country, Abraham obeyed. This is the perfect picture of election because God chose Abraham, then Abraham chose God, just as the American people choose their president and then the “president-elect” chooses the American people by accepting the position.
Many misconceptions about salvation exist today. Misconceptions such as “everyone can be saved” pave the way for massive evangelistic efforts that leave churches wondering, “what went wrong?” Other misconceptions, such as “man has no part in salvation” make it seem as though anyone that is saved is saved against their will. These misconceptions and others are creating confusion as to the nature of salvation and the part that God and man play in the process.
An article by John Reisinger at Monergism does an excellent job of explaining the process of salvation, including God’s part and man’s part in the process. I want to share it with you in the hopes of clearing up misconceptions and laying out the biblical process for salvation. The article starts by stating:
“God and man must both do something before a man can be saved. Hyper-Calvinism denies the necessity of human action, and Arminianism denies the true nature of the Divine action. The Bible clearly sets forth both the divine and human as essential in God’s plan of salvation. This is not to say, as Arminianism does, God’s part is to freely provide salvation for all men, and man’s part is to become willing to accept it. This is not what we said above, nor is it what the Bible teaches.”
And then there is the favorite Christian excuse: “well, if it leads one person to Jesus it’s okay with me.” What a cowardly, damnable position to take. I should know; I used to take that position. I used to be of the opinion that anything that could lead a person toward Jesus was a good thing. The problem is that when the thing you are using to lead people to Jesus doesn’t accurately reflect the truth of who Jesus is, you are leading people to a false Jesus, a false Gospel, and a lie. Furthermore, you are creating an idol. Anything, book, movie, or preacher that does not biblically represent Jesus is creating an idol for others to worship. For this reason, movies like The Shack are little more than heretical portrayals of God in need of rebuke by Christians, not support.
One of the biggest advantages of understanding the doctrine of election is that it makes sense of some of the most difficult passages in the Bible. Romans chapter 9 is no exception.
Romans chapter 9 is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible concerning election, salvation, and God’s purpose in it all. In this chapter we have a very difficult verse: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (v. 13). Making sense out of this verse is very difficult. How do we properly reconcile the God that loves all with a verse in the Bible that says God hated someone?
When taken as a stand-alone verse it doesn’t make much sense. That is proven by some of the terrible interpretations of the verse. Interpretations such as, “God loves the Jews but hates the Arabs.” Or, “God loved all the descendants of Jacob but hates all the descendants of Esau.” Or even, “God will bless the line of Jacob but will not bless the line of Esau.” All of these interpretations are wrong and do terrible violence to the text and its proper understanding.
When this verse is understood in proper context of the larger passage discussing God’s will, election, and salvation, it makes sense.