Is it Wrong To Ask for an Overt Response? (Part 2)

July 26, 2010 at 9:09 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 3 Comments
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In a backlash against what is perceived as the “manipulative altar call,” I have heard it said that, “The old preachers used to instruct their listeners to go home and get right with God.”

Maybe so. But before the old preachers did that, the even older preachers demanded an overt response by commanding men to repent and be converted.

In Luke 13 Jesus responds to the questions of the Theodicians by telling them to repent, or else they will perish. Maybe He told them to go home first, before they got right with God, but the Bible doesn’t say that. In fact, later in the same Chapter He says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.

If people are being told that a formulaic prayer is the thing that saves them, then I would say that formulaic praying that makes the prayer itself the object of faith is unbiblical. However, demanding an overt response from the hearers of the Word of God (even lost hearers) is clearly Biblical.

Stating that leading lost sinners in prayer, or calling hearers to an altar for prayer or counseling, somehow means that God is too weak to save during these events is unbiblical. Folks who were regenerated by God as they said a “sinner’s prayer” are God’s Own children, redeemed by Him, predestinated from the foundation of the world unto salvation, elect, secure, and irrevocably bound for Heaven.

Try to catch the Biblical view of God’s sovereignty and power.

For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

II Corinthians 8:3-5

God is powerful enough to make men speak of “their” power and them being “willing of themselves” while it is still “by the will of God.” If you can acknowledge that men respond, then you are just a short step away from admitting that God wants men to call other men to respond actively and overtly.

Men are totally depraved and without hope, apart from Christ. Regenerated saints are called to preach the Gospel to these depraved sinners. When God opens the eyes of lost sinners, and shows them their sinful condition, the regenerated believers are to try, in the power of God’s Spirit, to bring these lost folks to Jesus. That’s what Andrew did. We don’t know if he ever preached a sermon or taught a lesson, but we know he brought people to Jesus. Why did the people go with Andrew when he said, “Come with me to meet Jesus?” Why did they “respond?” Because God ordained it and because God made them want to come. You can call it “monergism” or “synergism” or whatever – I don’t care – neither of those words are in my Bible. Andrew bringing people to Jesus, the Apostles demanding a response, people responding, and God saying it is all of Him – those are all in my Bible.

According to the Bible God saves people in His Own power, and He is the One Who keeps them saved, and His Own power empowers them for service. The same principle is at work both in God calling lost sinners to repentance and in God calling His saints to service. I chose II Corinthians 8:3-5 because of the close proximity between God’s will and men “giving of themselves” to the Lord in the same passage of Scripture. I could give plenty of examples of this in the Bible. I believe these Verses are talking about true Christians, not lost unregenerate people, but it’s the same principle, the same God, the same power. I hear people say, “Lost people can’t give themselves to God,” and it’s true – unless God calls them to do it (and He does.) But by the same token, saved people can’t give themselves (or anything else) to God without God’s power, either. God’s will is for people to respond. God calls whom He will to respond. He calls us to call people to respond. And some of them do respond. You can’t get more overt than that. These folks in II Corinthians 8 weren’t just raising their hand or praying a prayer – they were giving money! (Or at least material possessions.)

“How do we get a dead sinner to respond actively and overtly to the Gospel?” is the wrong question. We don’t “get” them to. We command them to – we tell them to – we even “beseech” (Bible word) them to.

We are commanded by God to deliver the Good News with reverence and passion, and the people who hear it from us, spiritually dead though they may be, are responsible for responding.

We are to demand that lost sinners repent, believe the Gospel, and be converted “right there on the spot.” If they walk away, we are to keep praying. (I would argue it’s okay if we even chase after them – certainly Paul covered the same ground more than once in his missionary journeys.) But if God has quickened them, and they say, “I want to know more about this repentance, this belief, this conversion” then we can either say, “Sorry, God will have to do a work in you, I’ve preached and now I’m packing up my box of ‘death to the sinner’s prayer’ and ‘death to the altar call’ quotes and leaving.” Or we can say, “Good, I would be glad to show you from God’s Word more about the salvation of God, and, by God’s Spirit, I will even (gasp!), help you in prayer to call upon the Lord to be merciful and to regenerate you.” One time, the Apostles demanded a response to the Gospel “right there on the spot” and about 3000 souls were saved in that same one day.

Concerning the 3000 who were saved in Acts 2:41, whose Word did they receive? Was it the Apostles’ or God’s?

It was both.

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Romans 2:16

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Romans 16:25

Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

II Timothy 2:8

God is amazing enough to cause men to be stewards of His Word, and to even inspire men to call it their own.

Were the folks in Acts 2:41 saved because the Apostles demanded them to do so?

Yes, it was “because” the Apostles demanded a response, and it was because God ordained it. Not only that, He proclaimed it in the Old Testament, and He decreed it from the foundation of the world. Every one of us has a very finite view of cause and effect because we’re not God. God has an infinite view of cause and effect. This is the Truth as God explains it in the Bible, not the way it is popularly explained in the words of men when they rail against “sinner’s prayers” and “altar calls” and “decisionism.”

God has commissioned His church to preach the Gospel and press hard for a response. Death to canned prayers? Amen! Death to sinners praying that God would be merciful to them? Not amen. The Bible condones sinners praying that God would be merciful to them. Death to calling for an overt response to the preaching of the Gospel? Not amen. Jesus and the Apostles called for an overt response to the preaching of the Gospel.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

Matthew 11:12

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Luke 16:16

They responded and they acted. If God approves of sinners “pressing,” He surely approves of them praying as they press.

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  1. […] gracious enough that people respond to the preaching of His Own Word in His power. Do they respond? Oh yes they do. Do they get the praise for responding? Oh no they don’t. It is a small view of God that says […]

  2. […] the Lord in Children’s Ministry 20. Is It Wrong to Ask for an Overt Response? (Part 1) 21. Is It Wrong to Ask for an Overt Response (Part 2) 22. Teaching the 3rd and 4th Commandments to Children (*) 22. The Lord’s Leftovers 23. […]

  3. […] Here, the Bible acknowledge that human beings have a “will” and that our will does exercise a certain power. […]


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