The Altar Call

          About a year ago my husband and I were looking for a church in our area, so I dragged him to the First Baptist Church about 12 miles from our home.  Everything was going pretty well until the end of the sermon; que sappy music, Just As I Am.  I am not exaggerating.  The pastor kept telling the worship team to sing it again, and they literally sang the song at least 15 times.  FINALLY, a couple went to the front to join the church.  I was thinking, “They went down so the worship team would STOP singing.”  OH MY WORD!  We left the minute after the pastor prayed the benediction, and needless to say we never returned.

               I was practically born at the Assemblies of God church.  During my lifetime I made so many decisions for Christ because I was never sure of my salvation.  I sinned all during the week, in one way or another, and every time there was an altar call I went down.

"An altar call is a tradition in some evangelical Christian churches in which those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church building. In the Old Testament, an altar was where sacrifices were made. So, the name "altar call" refers to a believer "offering" themselves on an altar to God, as in Romans 12:1:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.[1]

Congregations often sing a hymn, usually with a theme of invitation or decision, during the altar call.”

          The more moving the music is, the more likely it is that people will have their emotions moved to come to the altar. When I helped with the music I would choose the altar call hymns or choruses with the most beautiful melody and the most persuasive words to encourage people to make a decision for Christ.

               Now for the truth.  WE DO NOT MAKE DECISIONS TO FOLLOW CHRIST.  The truth is found in Romans 10:17, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ." And again in Romans 10:14, ESV "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" 

          THE ALTAR CALL is NOT in the Bible, anywhere.  The Apostles preached the Gospel, and then the hearers asked, "What must I do to be saved?"  

          Acts 16:14-15 says, "One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  And after she was baptized, and her household as well." 

          The jailer, after the earthquake in Acts 16, said to Paul and Silas in verse 30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” and they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.” Acts 31-33.


          In Acts 2:37-39, on that awesome day of Pentecost, we learn that after listening to Peter’s sermon the people "were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”  

           Peter had the perfect opportunity to answer the “What shall we do?” question by inviting everyone forward for an “altar call.”  Instead, he invited them to BE BAPTIZED!  The Apostles said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."  

           Confessional Lutherans believe that whoever has faith in Jesus Christ ALONE for the forgiveness of their sins WILL receive salvation as a FREE GIFT from God.  If someone were to receive the gift of Faith when they went down to the altar it would be BECAUSE they heard the Word rightly preached by their Pastor while sitting in the pews, NOT because they walked the aisle and kneeled down.

           Romans 10:13-16 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

               John 6:44 says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."

           John 14:6 says, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’"

           I have had a friend for 36 years.  I met her in Guam in 1980, and she is 17 years younger than me.  Recently she told me that she has never seen me so sure of my salvation and so at peace with God.  I told her that it is a marvelous thing to know that I can receive the gift of salvation through the body and blood of Jesus, through baptism, and through the Word.  I am overwhelmed each time I go to the Lord’s table to receive the bread and wine, knowing that I can have certainty of my salvation is the greatest gift ever.

-- Charlotte Gulley