We have all heard or seen how this thing works. You have an articulate, well dressed, and good looking guy preaching a feel good message. After this message, that was intended to get at your feelings and emotions rather than equipping you for work and edifying the body, (Eph 4:11,12) he tells people to come forward and pray at the altar for their salvation. He may ask them to repeat the "Sinner's Prayer" to receive Jesus into their hearts. Some people do not even follow the man in prayer. Many are told after praying at the altar if they didn't feel the Holy Spirit in them they are not ready to receive salvation and they should try again another time. Sounds good, but this process is not found in our Bible. It is a man made tradition of receiving salvation.
So what about this altar that many people pray at to begin their salvation. Consider today's text. One word you do not see is “alone.” Therefore, there are other criteria to salvation!
“confess with your mouth” Early Christians were told to verbally denounce Jesus or they will be killed. This verbal confession could be a death wish. It carried much more weight than it does today! B. W. Johnson says it was a “a trial of faith of the severest kind.” You never hear of promise made in the Bible to a person with concealed faith!
“believe in your heart” That is, with all the heart. The belief must not be only a mental assent, but a belief that brings the whole man into loving trust and obedience to Christ. Such a faith is referred to in Rom 1:5, where the "obedience of faith" is described.
The Greek word in the New Testament that is translated altar comes from the root word “to sacrifice.” This word is always used when the Father is involved.
There is another word translated “altar” in the New Testament. Bomos (bow-moss) This word is referring to a pagan altar and literally means “an elevated place.” Acts 17:23 The original altar never was meant for a person to pray for salvation. It was used as and is defined as “a sacrifice.” If people today are praying at an altar IT IS NOT THE ALTAR OF THE LORD. IT IS A “BOMOS” ALTAR!!
People try to use Mt 5:23,24 to say there was an altar in New Testament. We must remember the dispensation that is in. When Jesus says that it is still the Old Covenant or the Mosaic Dispensation. That goes for Mark, Luke, and John as well. We come to Acts, which is telling us of the early church. In the early Church, New Covenant, or Christian Dispensation the first time we see the word altar is in Acts 17:23 and we already said that is a pagan altar. Later we read the mention of another altar in Heb 13:10 “We have an altar” this is said in reference to the Temple altar. The author of Hebrews is saying there is no need for that temple altar as we have Christ as our sacrifice!
The Greek word for altar is basically non-existence in the New Testament books pertaining to the Church. We said the physical altar was not needed in the New Testament Church. Now we will see why they are not needed!
1st 1Pe 1:18,19 CHRIST IS OUR SACRIFICE
2nd Heb 10:14 CHRIST IS A PERFECT SACRIFICE/OFFERING FOREVER AND FOR EVERYONE!
Therefore, it must be deduced that if there is no need for a sacrifice today as the perfect, unblemished, and final sacrifice has been made through Christ THERE IS NO NEED FOR AN ALTAR! CLAIMING THE NEED FOR AN ALTAR IS DISRESPECTFUL TO CHRIST AND WHAT HE ACCOMPLISHED IN THE CROSS!
The common thought behind the altar call is that the person is giving their life as a sacrifice to God at that moment. THAT SOUNDS WONDERFUL, but it isn’t biblical!!! Consider 1Pe 2:5 This verse doesn't say we are to offer a onetime sacrifice to God, rather that we are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices.” The sacrifices of the Christian are prayer, praise, good deeds, the consecration of our bodies and substance to God's service. “Acceptable to God” When offered in the name of Christ.
We are saved by grace through faith. We must have a working faith in order to receive salvation not begging at an altar. Consider Acts 16:31 Mere mental assent is not intended by “believe” here. Jn 12:42,43 These had belief, but it was hidden without a public confession of the Christ being God's Son. That is a dead faith with no works. That is grace without faith and it doesn't save!! Jas 2:26 says “faith without works is dead” PAUL DID NOT MEAN FOR THE JAILER TO HAVE A DEAD FAITH OR A BELIEF LIKE THE CHIEF PRIESTS!
This conversion, like all the others, ends with the new convert being immersed for the forgiveness of sin and to rise to walk in the newness of life! NO BEGGING AT AN ALTAR
Acts 17:30,31 This would have been a marvelous opportunity for Paul to expound salvation "by faith only" if he had ever believed or taught such a thing; but here he used "repent" in exactly the same manner as he often used "believe," that is, as a synecdoche for all of the things required of the alien sinner, namely, faith, repentance and baptism. Note too, that in the very strongest language possible repentance is set forth as invariably demanded and required of "all men everywhere." NO BEGGING AT AN ALTAR
Acts 8:37 Philip putting this confession in the Eunuch’s mouth show this was a common practice to him! NO BEGGING AT AN ALTAR
Acts 2:38 This verse shows the two fold reason for baptism or immersion. NO BEGGING AT AN ALTAR
Acts 14:22 Paul teaches the disciples that they must remain faithful “Through much tribulations” in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul taught them that they must expect trials and persecutions. We all have to bear the cross. HOW MANY PULPITS COMMUNICATE THAT TRUTH TODAY? NOT MANY! NO BEGGING AT AN ALTAR
It is plain to see that in this Christian Dispensation there is no need for an altar, where we beg for forgiveness of our sins. We all have sinned Rom 3:23 and forgiveness was provided for us through Jesus Rom 5:28 There is no need to beg at an altar for our forgiveness today. All we must do is submit to Jesus and his ways. Obey his words and be saved God's way that is laid out in our Bible, not the way a man says we must be saved!
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
Hear The Word- Rom 10:17; Acts 4:4
We Must Believe or Have Faith- Heb 11:6; Acts 16:31
We Must Repent- Lk 13:3; Acts 17:30
We Must Confess Christ Before Others- Mt 10:32; Acts 8:37
We Must Be Immersed Into Christ (Baptized)- 1Pe 3:21; Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38
We Must Remain Faithful- Rev 2:10; Acts 14:22