Friday, September 30, 2011

An Invitation to Salvation

Tim Nichols from Full Contact Christianity has posted a new blog article titled "Don't Give An Invitation!" and overall I think it's pretty good. While I'm hesitant to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" (as the saying goes) and completely do away with all gospel invitations in church - if for no other reason than I think that gospel invitations are inevitable when certain passages of Scripture are read in the assembly, i.e. an invitation is given by the Spirit when certain Scriptures are read - I agree that "in one sense"  they are not the biblical thing to do. Nichols is correct to say that many gospel invitations actually confuse the gospel and encourage individuals to doubt their salvation. Nichols writes:

"To this day, many churches will close every service with an invitation to come forward and receive Christ as savior - and woe betide the minister who fails in his duty to deliver a stirring invitation. The practice poses an obvious problem: 'Salvation is completely free. You don't have to do anything but believe Jesus. If you'd like to do that now, get up out of your seat in front of everybody and walk down here.' Concerned that the practice confused people by asking them to perform a work (walk the aisle) in order to receive a free gift, many churches have done away with the altar call in its common form. However, a great number of churches still close every service with an invitation."1

Nichols is highlighting a common practice in many of today's churches. I've personally sat through a number of Billy Graham style altar calls, and I agree that they do NOT promote the clear gospel or the assurance of salvation! These invitations tend to confuse the gospel message because salvation is in effect conditioned on walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or dedicating one's life to Christ. How contrary to the message of the Bible where the offer is simply look and live! One of the classic texts in this regard is found in the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapter 21, when it says:

"And the LORD [i.e. Yahweh or Jehovah, and so throughout] sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, 'We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.' And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he shall live.' And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived." (Numbers 21:6-9, NASB)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses this account from Numbers 21 to illustrate how to receive eternal life. Jesus declares:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [i.e. one-of-a-kind] Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:14-17, NKJV)

Zane Hodges writes: "Jesus means to say, He Himself will be lifted up on the cross, and the one who looks to Him in faith will live....So, in John 3, the issue is faith, or confidence, in Christ for eternal life. Will a man look to the Crucified One for eternal life, or will he not? The man who does, lives! By this very simplicity, the Gospel confronts and refutes all its contemporary distortions."2

The unsaved don't have to drag themselves down an aisle to receive eternal life, they simply have to look to "the Son of Man...lifted up" (John 3:14).3 Look to Him in faith and live!


ENDNOTES:

1 Nichols, "Don't Give An Invitation!," Full Contact Christianity blog, September 18, 2011 (accessed September 28, 2011).

2 Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1992), p. 147, italics his, ellipsis added. NOTE: Unfortunately in his later years Hodges departed from his once orthodox beliefs about the gospel. For more information see the article "The Cross Under Siege by Zane Hodges".

3 Also see: Jn. 12:32; 1 Cor. 1:17, 18, 23, 2:2, 15:3; Gal. 3:13.

1 comment:

Jonathan Perreault said...

Just to keep anyone from misunderstanding what I'm saying in this post, I'd like to clarify by quoting a helpful statement by Darrell Bock. Commenting on the gospel in 1 Corinthians in his book Recovering the Real Lost Gospel, Bock writes the following in the Introduction titled "The Gospel from the Hub to the Whole: More than Dying for Sin":

"In 1 Cor 1:23, Paul says that he preaches 'Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.' For some, this text and many others like it in Paul's writings show that the cross is the gospel. For example, Paul in 1 Cor 15:3-5 summarizes the gospel as the fact that Jesus 'died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas.' Once again, the cross is at the core of the gospel message. How can we suggest that the cross is not all there is to the gospel when Paul uses it, seemingly, as his summation?

When Paul refers to the cross in this early part of 1 Corinthians, the term cross functions as a hub and a synecdoche for all that Jesus' work brings. A synecdoche is a part that represents the whole. I mention one central thing to picture all of it. For example, if I speak of the Law and the Prophets, I am speaking of the whole Old Testament. If I speak of fifty head of cattle, I'm talking about fifty whole cows - heads, hooves, bodies, and tails - not just fifty heads. Likewise, when Paul speaks of the cross here, he is using the word as a synecdoche for the whole of the gospel."

(Darrell Bock, Rediscovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News [Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2010], pp. 3-4.)