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STICKS, STONES, SABBATHS, and SUNDAYS – 1st chapter preview

CHAPTER 1

WHEN WAS THE SABBATH COMMAND GIVEN?

 
To understand the Sabbath, it is of utmost importance to establish when God first commanded people to honor the Sabbath. There are two competing views on when God commanded the prohibition of working on the Sabbath. Some believe that the Sabbath was given to mankind as early as the seventh day of creation, and others believe that God did not give the Sabbath command until He descended upon Mt. Sinai. Choosing the correct start date for the Sabbath may seem like a minor issue to some, but, as we will see, the choice of a Genesis or an Exodus timing of the Sabbath command creates a tremendous theological difference.
 
Those who adhere to the Genesis start d    ate of the Sabbath believe that God commanded mankind to honor the Sabbath on the seventh day of creation. This view is held by churches that adhere to Covenant Theology.[i] Are they correct? Let’s begin by examining the primary passage from which they draw to see if such a conclusion can be reached.
 
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day, God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-3)
 
So, does this passage prove an early Genesis Sabbath command origination date? Does God’s completion of His work of creation on day seven mean that it doubled as a command that prohibited Adam, Eve, and all humanity, from ever working on day seven? What truths can be gained from this passage?
 
One could arrive at the fact that God completed His work of creation on day six and rested on day seven. I believe one could even conclude that Adam and Eve were to find their rest in God’s provision for them. In Genesis 2, we read of the beauty of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve enjoyed plentiful water, food, and ease of work. However, there was no command for Adam and Eve to refrain from work on the seventh day ever mentioned. There is also – and this is very important – no divine command in the creation account of Genesis to set apart the seventh day as a special day of sacrifice or worship. The existence of a seventh day in creation does not imply, much less establish, a moral and legal obligation. As pastor and theologian, Blake White has written:
 
It is one thing to say that the seventh day of creation set the precedent and basis for the later commandment; It is quite another to turn a foundation into a command. Christian teachers ought to have clear textual warrant to turn an indicative into an imperative. A command to obey the Sabbath is nowhere grounded in the created order.[ii]
 

SABBATH SILENCE

In fact, not only is such a command absent from the creation narrative, but it is also absent from the entire book of Genesis. The book of Genesis is a lengthy book covering over a 1000-year history of the first humans. However, we have no evidence that anyone held the seventh day as a special day of rest. The silence of the book of Genesis regarding the Sabbath never being commanded by God or kept by man is no small matter. If God had revealed that such a day was connected to the creation, then Moses, the author of the book of Genesis and the “law giver,” would surely have mentioned it. However, there is no mention of the Sabbath being commanded or kept by anyone in the book of Genesis. Why? Because God had not commanded anyone to do so. Think of all the people who are mentioned in the book of Genesis. Think about all the life details recorded for us in Genesis, yet there is no mention of anyone ever keeping the Sabbath or breaking the Sabbath. The Sabbath silence of the book of Genesis is an insurmountable mountain for those who strive to prove that mankind was commanded to keep the Sabbath from creation.
 
In the book of Genesis, Moses recorded Abraham’s life story, from Abraham being called by God to his death. Yet nothing is ever mentioned about Abraham keeping or breaking the Sabbath. God even made a covenant with Abraham, yet nowhere in the covenant is keeping the Sabbath ever mentioned or commanded by God.[iii]
 
The same silence regarding the Sabbath can be also said of his son Isaac, his grandson Jacob, and his great-grandsons. Consider Abraham’s grandson Joseph. We have fourteen chapters of detailed information about the life of Joseph, yet no mention of Joseph keeping or breaking the Sabbath. Long story short, from Adam and Eve (the very first humans) to all of those who followed: Cain, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, no one was ever recorded as treating the seventh day of the week any differently than the other days of the week. Why is there no mention of the Sabbath? Because clearly, God had not yet given it as a command to be kept.
 
So, if there is no Sabbath command in the entire history of mankind that Genesis covers, then when does God give the Sabbath command? The Sabbath silence of Genesis compels us to look to a later time for the giving of the command. Where do we look? The book of Exodus. The book of Exodus is the opposite of silence regarding the Sabbath. In fact, by comparison, it shouts and gives us absolute clarity as to when God gave the Sabbath command.
 
 

THE SABBATH IS ANNOUNCED

As you know, the book of Exodus opens with the people of Israel in Egyptian slavery. God calls Moses to go to the Pharaoh and demand that the Israelites be set free. Finally, after God sends ten plagues upon Egypt, the Pharaoh lets the Israelites go free. God removes the Israelites from Egypt and takes them out to the desert. It is at this time that we have the first mention of a Sabbath day rest being commanded by God. It occurred when Israel was hungry, and God supernaturally provided food for them.
 

On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.'” So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day. (Exodus 16:22-30)
 
Here we have the explicit, first mention of a commandment not to work (gather food) on the seventh day of the week along with the command to stay home. This passage shows that the people now were to treat the seventh day differently from all other days. There is nothing in the text to draw any conclusion that they knew this command beforehand and were just now beginning to start the habit again. This Sabbath command of God to Israel in Exodus is a new command from God.
 
This Sabbath command to stay home and cease from work was given to the Israelites as a precursor to the Sabbath rules that would soon be given as part of the covenant God would make with them. Soon, God called Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai and gave the terms of the covenant, which included the Sabbath regulations:
 
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. (Exodus 20:9-10)
 
What does this mean? God did not give the Sabbath commands in Genesis, but in Exodus. There is no mention of anyone ever keeping the Sabbath day in Genesis because such a command did not exist. God clearly gave the Sabbath command to Israel at Mt. Sinai.
 
The origination of the Sabbath command on Mt. Sinai can be further substantiated from the explicit statements provided by the prophets:
 
So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them my statutes and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live. Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not walk in my statutes but rejected my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; and my Sabbaths they profaned. (Ezekiel 20:10-13)
 
If we allow Scripture to speak and the words of Ezekiel to remain untainted from theological presuppositions, then it will tell us when God gave the Sabbath commands. God said that it was when “I led them out of the land of Egypt.” God stated precisely when the Sabbath commands were given. God’s own words through Ezekiel should remove any and all doubt as to when the command to keep the Sabbaths was given.
 
God also spoke again, through the prophet Nehemiah, and clearly announced when He gave the Sabbath commands:
 
You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. (Nehemiah 9:13-14)
 
According to Nehemiah, when did God give the Sabbath commandments? The passage provides the time stamp, not at creation but on Mt. Sinai. God made known to Moses all that pertained to keeping the Sabbath day holy. This scene begs the question to those who hold that mankind was commanded to honor the Sabbath since the creation, “Why would God need to make known something that was already known?” If this were a command since the world’s creation, then God would not have to make it known to the Israelites. The concept of keeping the Sabbath was new information that was given to Israel at Mt. Sinai as recorded for us in Exodus.
 
Summary: As a Christian, who or what is your ultimate source of authority for what you believe? Obviously, the correct answer is God and His word. This being the case, we have seen that God’s word emphatically states the time of the giving of the Sabbath. God has spoken, and to go against His revelation is not wise. So, as we begin this study, it is important to note the silence of Genesis, and the voice of Exodus, Ezekiel, Nehemiah, and God about the timing of the giving of the Sabbath. This is in perfect accord with Paul’s teaching that the Law (which included the Sabbath), did not come until 430 years after Abraham.[iv]
 
Why is it important to know when God gave the Sabbath command? First, because it is Biblical truth breathed out by God. Second, if people accept theology not rooted in Scripture, they can exalt theological systems as having more authority than God’s Word. Third, if you don’t know when the Sabbath was given, it will lead to tremendous confusion as you seek to understand your response to the Old Covenant Sabbath regulations.
 
 
 

[i] Covenant Theology is a framework for interpreting Scripture most commonly held by those who hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith. While both confessions contain much truth, I believe that they both share a common weakness in their view of the Sabbath.

[ii] A. Blake White, Obey the Sabbath: Rest in Christ (Abilene, TX: Canon Sense, 2020), 32.

[iii] Genesis 15,17: All Bible references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments: ESV. (Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2011)

[iv] Galatians 3:16-17

 

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Do You Really Know The Gospel?

 
     When professing Christians are asked about their salvation, their mind often goes to a time when they walked an aisle at church, raised a hand, made a decision, said the sinner’s prayer, were baptized or joined a church. While such activities are often relied upon as proof of salvation, the truth of the matter is that such activities are no guarantee of salvation. For instance, it is possible that a person could walk an aisle at church, raise a hand, make a decision, say the sinner’s prayer, be baptized, join a church and still be just as unsaved as a person who had done none of these things. Can people claim to be Christians, yet still be on their way to hell? The answer is, “Yes.” So, if these things do not provide the surety of salvation, then what does? This leads to some critical questions, such as “How can a person be saved?”, “How do you know if you are actually saved?”, and “How do I check on the salvation of others?”

 

      The Apostle Paul writes that the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…”[1] In other words, belief in the gospel is essential for a person to be saved. Whether a person has walked an aisle, filled out a card, raised a hand, said the sinner’s prayer, asked Jesus into their heart, or even whether or not he or she was baptized, is not the key to determine if one is genuinely saved. The key issue is belief, and the key belief must be the gospel. This means that belief in the gospel is not a secondary or tertiary matter when it comes to determining one’s salvation, it is primary. Since believing in the gospel is required for salvation, it is of utmost importance to know what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he used the word “gospel.”

 

      So, what is the gospel? Many have heard the word “gospel” and can put together the six letters that make up the word. However, it is not enough to just know the word, say the word, or spell the word correctly; we must know the message that the word gospel represents. More than just a word, the gospel is a message that is packed with the truth of God about His Savior. However, the details of the gospel message are becoming less and less known even by professing Christians. As the trusted theologian, Graeme Goldsworthy has written:

 

It is a matter for some concern that some books and study courses on evangelism seem to assume that every Christian is clear about what the gospel is, and that what is needed most is help in the techniques of explaining the gospel to unbelievers. Experience suggests that this assumption is poorly based and that there is a great deal of confusion among believers about what the gospel is.[2]

 

      Such “confusion” about the gospel is no small matter since it is the essential belief for one to be saved. But sadly, there are many professing Christians who take the liberty to change, and even replace, the gospel message with a message of their own. Usually, this is done somewhat unintentionally by taking too much information away from the gospel, or by adding too much non-gospel information to the gospel. Even though such false communication about the gospel may be inadvertent, it creates a tremendous problem for Christianity. J. I. Packer writes, “The result of these omissions is that part of the biblical gospel is now preached as if it were the whole of that gospel; and a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.”[3] Of all people, Christians, should not be the ones that are confused about the gospel or taking liberty with the gospel. We should be the ones who know it, believe it, proclaim it, and are adamant about preserving it. As R. C. Sproul has written, “This Gospel is the only Gospel: there is no other; and to change its substance is to pervert and indeed destroy it.”[4]

 

      Changing God’s message of salvation has dire consequences.[5] The result is the creation of manmade false gospels being believed and proclaimed as the one true gospel from God. Such changed gospels are not from God, and do not carry the “power of God for salvation.” If the wrong gospel is being presented, no matter how adamant a professing Christian is in sharing it, and no matter how sincerely someone believes in it, if it is the wrong gospel, then there is no salvation. Instead of saving, false gospels have the opposite effect.[6]As one of the most influential Christian writers of the twentieth century, A.W. Pink, wrote:

 

The ‘Gospel’ which is now being proclaimed is, in nine cases out of every ten, but a perversion of the Truth, and tens of thousands, assured they are bound for Heaven, are now hastening to Hell, as fast as time can take them. Things are far, far worse in Christendom than even the ‘pessimist’ and the ‘alarmist’ suppose.[7]

 

      What a dire summation of the state of professing Christians’ ability to articulate the gospel correctly. According to Pink, the vast majority of people claiming to be Christians are actually not Christians. These pseudo-Christians have heard and believed a gospel, but it is the wrong gospel, and it lacks the power of God to save them. What is more shocking is that professing Christians are the primary makers and propagators of the false gospels which lead people into false conversions and a false assurance of their salvation.

 

      Of all people, why would professing Christians want to alter the message of salvation? Most likely, they do not miscommunicate the gospel out of an evil desire to mislead others. Instead, the miscommunication appears to occur due to a general lack of knowledge about the gospel message they claim to know and proclaim. This lack of gospel knowledge then leads to the communication of a gospel which is inadequate or even distorted. Despite their good intentions, if professing Christians do not know and understand the gospel, then any attempt to convey the gospel to others will be insufficient.

 

      It is here where we find the source of the confusing, inadequate, and incorrect gospels that well-meaning Christians often proclaim; they just don’t know the gospel well enough to communicate it to others correctly. Good gospel communication requires a good knowledge of the gospel. If an individual does not personally know the gospel, then how can he or she share the gospel correctly with others? Knowing and understanding the gospel personally should produce clearer gospel communication. However, when the knowledge and understanding of the gospel are poor, it is a given, that one’s communication of it to others will be as well.

 

      With so many professing Christians proclaiming different versions of the gospel, it appears that the gospel is unintentionally being redefined to mean anything that a person wants it to mean. Far from being a set message delivered by God, for us to hear, believe, and repeat to others, there is now great liberty taken with the message. Such liberty has substantially clouded the definition of the gospel and, in many cases, created a gospel that is not even close to the original.

 

      Recently, I asked a group of Christians at a local collegiate Bible Study; “What is the gospel?” Sadly, as I expected, the answers they gave significantly varied. One said, “It is a way of life.” Another said, “It is asking Jesus in your heart.” Another said, “The gospel is all of God’s Word.” Still, another man began to explain that the gospel was God getting him through a painful divorce that he had just gone through. And another said, “The gospel is about doing what is right in life.” So, which of the students got the answer right, or is there even such thing as a right answer? In a room, full of professing Christian students there was not even a near agreement on the gospel, but even more concerning is that not one student seemed to be troubled by the differing definitions that were given.

 

      Similarly, the other day, a man knocked on my office door and introduced himself as an assistant to a well-known evangelist that was coming to Dallas to put on a massive evangelistic crusade at the convention center. The assistant was canvassing the area and distributing fliers to help increase attendance. As I spoke with him, I discovered that he had been on staff with this popular evangelist for five years. He spoke at length about the details of the massive evangelistic crusade and how they were hoping for 10,000 people to be saved. “Wow, that is a lot of salvations!”, I said. Then I asked the man, who apparently knew all about evangelism, “Well, if you don’t mind me asking, what is the gospel?” He replied, “What do you mean?” “Well,” I said, “you work for an evangelist, you are helping with an evangelistic crusade, and you are expecting 10,000 to be saved at the event. So, what is the gospel that will be presented at the convention center so that 10,000 people can be saved?” A seemingly easy question for a man who has worked for a major evangelistic organization for five years. However, the question sent him scrambling for an answer. And what he did next seemed to be a bizarre mental exercise of saying everything and anything Christian that he could possibly think of in his attempt to define the gospel. Unfortunately, he never landed on anything close to a biblical definition of the gospel. After quite some time of rambling, he finally stopped. Exhaustedly he replied, “Wow, I really needed that! It has been a long time since I’ve had to think about the gospel.”

 

      How could this be? I would like to say the problem of defining the gospel found with the group of college students and the staff member for the big-name evangelist were rare, but the more I ask professing Christians to define the gospel, the more I realize just how prevalent the problem of clear gospel proclamation has become.

 

      Can the content of the gospel message be whatever we determine it to be? Can each Christian make up his or her own gospel? While our relativistic culture would undoubtedly say, “Yes!” We, as Christians must say, “No!” As those who are to represent the Word of God correctly, we must understand that we do not have the right to create our own individual gospel message and call it, the gospel. The gospel is a far more precise message than many Christians are willing to admit. The gospel is a message that has been determined by God that we are to believe, and proclaim to others, as is and unaltered. We should not treat any important message with such subjectivism and especially a message from God Himself that involves eternal salvation.

 

      With that said, let me ask you, “What is the gospel?” Really, think about it for a moment. How will you answer this question regarding the foundational belief of the Christian faith? What will you say? What words will you choose to speak about salvation? For many professing Christians, such a question would cause much anxiety and even panic, but this need not be the case. The gospel can be known. We as Christians just need to do a better job of studying the gospel that God has made abundantly clear in His Word.

 

      Would you like to know and understand the gospel better? Do you want to be able to speak about the gospel to others correctly, without confusion? Would you like to be confident that the gospel that you are sharing is the gospel that is the “power of God for salvation?” In the following pages, we will explore each phrase of the gospel message that was given to the Apostle Paul to gain a better understanding of what he regarded as “the gospel of God.” By knowing the information of the gospel message better, you will be better equipped to communicate salvation to others in a way that is biblical, Christ-honoring, and God-glorifying.
 
Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder
Author of The Missing Gospel of Modern Christianity

 

[1] Romans 1:16: All Bible references are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments: ESV. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007)

[2] Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 81

[3] J. I. Packer, introduction, in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), http://www.the-highway.com/Death.html.

[4] R. C. Sproul, Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 100

[5] Galatians 1:6-9

[6] Romans 1:16

[7] Arthur W. Pink, Studies on Saving Faith (Memphis, TN: Bottom of The Hill Publishing, 2011), 12


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Are You Striving for Peace?

Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder
Author of The Missing Gospel of Modern Christianity
 
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

 

Comment: The first word of the passage is “strive.” To strive is to put forth great effort to achieve something.

Question: What does the author want these believers to strive to do?

Answer: To put forth earnest effort to achieve peace with everyone. This is not the generic pray for “world peace” that is wished for at a beauty pageant. Such peace is easily wished and hoped for. No, this is a real-life, daily, effort on your part to have peace with all of the people that you are in your life.

Comment: Striving for peace with everyone is not a suggestion but a command. Christians are to be makers of peace. Jesus even said that those who make peace are the sons of God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Comment: Striving for peace and making peace are extremely similar commands. Both put the effort on You to be the one who is doing the work to bring about peace in your relationships.

Question: What are you doing to strive and make peace with the people in your life?

Question: Are you returning anger with anger, sharp words with sharp words, gossip with gossip? That is not striving or making peace. Confess, repent, and seek peace.

Question: Who should we strive to have peace with?

Answer: Most likely, the author has in mind fellow believers.

Question: Can Christians have discord, disunity, and disharmony?

Answer: Most certainly, but this does not make it right. Christians should be exemplary in the peace we experience with one another since God commands us to do so. Paul writes the Corinthians several times about the church of Corinth not living in peace with one another:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. (1 Corinthians 1:10-11)

Comment: Quarreling and division is the opposite of peace and unity. Paul had to appeal to this church, to brothers (assumed believers) to stop such sinful behavior. Much later, Paul writes the Corinthian church again. Let’s see if they have fully obeyed and are keeping the peace.

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20)

Question: Were they striving for peace?

Answer: No. Quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder are not ingredients to making peace. Paul warned them that he was coming to visit them, and it was not going to be a sweet visit. He was going to call them out on their sin.

Application: Keeping the peace is not easy. It requires effort on your part, even if others are not putting in the work. As Paul wrote, “So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). The body of Christ is to be united, working together as one unit. As Christians, we should be putting great effort forth to live in peace with one another. Of all places on earth, the local church should be the example of harmony, unity, patience, selflessness, servitude, love, and peace. The local church flourishes when its members strive to be at peace with one another.
 

Soli Deo Gloria,

Trey Talley


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Altar Calls, Invitations, and a Whole Lot of Confusion

 
Dr. Trey Talley, Lead Pastor and Elder
Author of The Missing Gospel of Modern Christianity
 
 
So, have you ever wondered what is at the front of the church that is not at the back or side of the church for salvation? Truthfully, there is no square footage of a church that someone must go to be saved. God could save a person no matter if they walked to the back, side, front, or even remain seated. Yet, countless pastors and evangelist promote the front as the place to come to be saved as if it is a means of salvation. What does walking forward have to do with one believing the gospel of God? Does physical movement somehow aid in salvation? Is there some connection between being saved by Christ and walking forward while music is playing at the end of church service?
 
It is not just pastors and evangelists who use this terminology. Many professing Christians describe their salvation with such an action as “going to the front,” or “walking the aisle” as well. Such Christians often speak of their physical response of “going forward” as if such activity is an essential element of their salvation. For example, it would not be uncommon to hear a testimony like this, “I remember when I was twelve years old at Vacation Bible School. The pastor told all the kids to come forward to receive Christ at Vacation Bible School, and I did. That was the day that I was saved.” Though a person using this style of testimony is most likely attempting to share his or her salvation experience genuinely, he or she has failed to emphasize anything about the gospel. If this testimony is analyzed by the words shared, it would be easy for someone to assume that walking forward at church equals salvation.
 
This is a common mistake of Christians living in a “come to the front” era. In supposedly, telling others about our testimony, we often put the emphasis on the walk forward, instead of the message of the gospel. To an unbeliever, it would be easy for them to assume that “going forward” is what a person does to be saved. We must continually remind ourselves that both the words we use to define the gospel and the words we use to describe the proper response to the gospel are essential.
 
IS THE “COME TO THE FRONT” METHOD USED IN THE BIBLE?
 
While the altar call may be a widespread practice today, there is no scriptural support for such a practice. A quick search of the sermons of Christ and the Apostles shows that the whole “come to the front method” was never used. This methodology is entirely foreign to the Word of God. Many evangelistic sermons are recorded for us in the book of Acts, yet not once is there a call at the end to come to the front. The people are never told to come to the front for salvation; instead, they are told to believe unto salvation.
 
In his book, The Invitation System, Iain Murray presents the following points to consider regarding the high-pressure methodology of the “Invitation” as used in the modern church:
  1. The invitation system, because it represents an outward response as connected with ‘receiving Christ,’ institutes a condition of salvation which Christ never appointed.
  2. Because the call to come forward is given as though it were a divine command, those who respond are given reason to believe that they are doing something commendable before God, while those who do not are falsely supposed to be disobeying Him.
  3. By treating two distinct issues, ‘come to Christ’ and ‘come to the front’ as though they were one, the tendency of the invitation to mislead the unconverted in regard to their duty. The real issue is as stated in John 6:20 ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on him who he hath sent.’[1]
 
That being the case, does the “come to the front method” of evangelism add a non-biblical step into salvation? It is difficult to see how the modern emphasis on coming forward would not be seen as contributing in some degree to a person’s salvation. In fact, I have commonly heard preachers and evangelists say things like, “If there are 100 steps to your salvation, Jesus will take 99, but you must take the first one.”, or “Come now, Jesus is waiting here for you, all you have to do is come Him.” It is easy to see how such words could lead to the belief that walking forward is contributing to one’s salvation. Could such an invitation be seen as adding to the gospel? Could it even be adding human effort (works) as an essential component of the gospel? Some might not believe that “going forward” is that much work, but if it is contributing in any way even just one percent, how can that not be a mixture of God’s grace and human effort?
 
“OH NO, I WALKED FORWARD! AM I SAVED?”
 
No one is saved because he or she went forward during an invitation, but some are saved despite their going forward during an invitation. It is possible that some who “come to the front” have genuinely heard the gospel and believed in the gospel for their salvation. Perhaps they understand that walking to the front is not adding to their salvation or required for salvation at all. And maybe they have just followed the speaker’s appeal to walk forward now that they are saved. If their faith is in the Jesus Christ of Scripture, then they are saved no matter if they walked forward, backward, or just stayed seated.
 
However, it is also possible that a person could not have heard the gospel, not believed in the gospel, and still walked forward under the compulsion of the speaker, peer pressure of friends, or an entirely wrong view of what is needed for salvation. Clearly, such a person is not saved; instead, they have just gone for a walk and gotten a bit of exercise. The point is, that genuine salvation and “coming to the front” are not synonymous. It is entirely possible for a person to have one without the other.
 
As you reflect on your salvation, perhaps you too made a trip down the aisle. However, this does not mean that you are or are not saved. We should never look to a “come forward” event in our lives as proof of our salvation. It is good for professing Christians to, as the Apostle Paul says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Cor. 13:5).” Paul was not calling on the Corinthians to reflect on a time when they walked forward as a test of their salvation, but he is calling on them to make sure that they believe in Jesus Christ and what He has done to provide salvation.
 
SHOULD WE STILL INVITE PEOPLE TO COME TO THE FRONT?
 
It is possible that invitations, as done by many, should be abandoned altogether for the reasons cited above. However, if church leaders choose to continue to have an invitation, the words they speak during such a time must be carefully selected. The speaker should in no way lead the hearer to think that the act of going forward is an element of their salvation or that walking to the front has been commanded by God. An example of acceptable usage of an altar call might be one in which, following the gospel presentation, the speaker calls upon people to believe in the gospel for salvation. At which time he could address those people in this way:
 
Today, if God has revealed your sinfulness to you and has given you a desire to repent, and if you have believed in Jesus Christ for your salvation, then we would love to know about it. As a church, we desire to rejoice with you in your salvation and to talk with you more about what this means in your life. If today you were saved by the grace of God, feel free to come to the front as the music plays. However, you are more than welcome to visit with one of our leaders after church or call the church office to schedule a time to talk, but please let us know about your salvation and how we can help you to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Such an example serves to demonstrate that a request to come forward can be given without being viewed as a contribution to salvation. The coming forward is not commanded as a requirement for salvation, but it is merely an invitation for a new believer to inform the pastor and the church of their salvation. Does the person have to come to the front? By no means, and in fact, other options were given as to how the person lets the pastor, and the church know of his or her salvation.
 
Summary: There is no biblical support that a person needs to come forward to be saved. Many preachers and evangelists act as if coming to the front is a biblical command; however, Jesus nor His Apostles ever used such a practice. With such great emphasis placed on the visual act of going forward, many people tend to confuse their physical activity with the spiritual action of salvation. We, as Christians, should keep this in mind when we evangelize or share our testimonies with others. Even if we did walk an aisle, or go to the front, during an invitation, we must be careful that we do not make such an action a part of the gospel that we are proclaiming to others. The gospel’s call is not to walk forward but to repent, believe, and walk in obedience to Christ.
 
 
 
 

[1] Iain Hamish Murray, The Invitation System (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 26.


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1811 Shady Oaks Blvd.
Suite 105
Denton, Texas 76205
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