Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Was Acts 2 the first Altar Call?

Peter's Sermon in Acts 2

In my discussion on Altar Calls, I had some interaction with a brother on Facebook who disagreed with my take. He said this:

"I fail to see how an altar call is in itself substantially different than what happened at Pentecost."

Well, then. Was Acts 2 an Altar Call? I don't think one can really build such a case. Here are some very important differences:

1. No one was told to come forward in Acts -

They weren't invited up front. They weren't asked to close their eyes and lift their hands. They were commanded to repent and believe the gospel. 

2. No music was played

Often music is employed as a way of setting the 'mood'. There was not 'invitation hymn' in Acts 2.

3. v.37 - The Holy Spirit moved upon the hearers, not Peter's manipulation

The hearers are actually the ones who initiate the response to the sermon, not Peter! They cry out "What must we do!?" I'm telling you, that would be simultaneously startling and amazing if someone stood up during a sermon I preached and cried out "What must I do to be saved!?"

4. No one was told to pray a prayer or led in a prayer or to recite a prayer -

This is the end game of altar calls. Get the sinner to recite a prayer and then tell them that if they really meant it, they are saved. That's not anywhere close to Acts 2 methodology. Peter commands his hearers to repent and believe the gospel. 

Furthermore, he testifies to God's prerogative and sovereignty in salvation saying that "promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

5. The gospel was preached, they were told what to do, and it was left to them and God what would happen

Peter simultaneously calls the hearers to repent while letting them know that God must be calling them. Again, as I said in a previous post, we can't close the deal. That's the Lord's work in the sinner.

6. There was no concept of 'this prayer is the beginning of a relationship with God'  

That's problematic theologically on a few levels. We have to see that the initiating work of salvation is not our response but what God has already done in Christ and His application of that in real time by the Holy Spirit when He draws us. The point here being that one's calling on Christ is not what prompts God to begin a saving relationship. 

7. Because of the culture we've been raised in, I think we actually see people in Acts 2 "coming forward". 

I've heard men preach on Acts 2 who actually seem to think that's how it went down. This is a misunderstanding of not only the situation of Peter's preaching but also the point of the text as well.

The point being in all of this that Acts 2 is most assuredly not a proof text for altar calls. However, it is an amazingly beautiful encouragement of the power of God in the gospel and His willingness to save sinners! So, let us rest in that. Let's proclaim the gospel from the rooftops and compel all men without distinction to come to Christ in repentance and faith. Let us extol the mercies of God in Christ and share them the glories of the gospel and the reality of the wrath that remains upon them if they refuse to bow the knee to King Jesus. Trust in the work of God in the hearts of sinners, not in our ability to extend an Altar Call.

Keep laboring brothers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment