External, emotional, and even temporary spiritual movement do not necessarily imply internal conversion.
We must first be careful to present the gospel clearly – God, man, Christ, response. God is our holy Creator and righteous Judge. All people have sinned against Him, both in Adam as our corporate representative, and in our own lives individually. That sin deserves eternal death – separation from God in Hell. But God sent Jesus Christ to die the death we deserved for our sin and reconcile us to Him. And He requires that we repent of our sins – turn away from them – and believe in Jesus Christ’s divine righteousness and substitutionary sacrifice. When we do – and only then – God credits us with Christ’s righteousness, and begins to bring our character into conformity with His holiness.
No repentance, no belief, no confirming godliness – which adds up to no salvation.
1. The altar call too easily confuses the physical act of “coming forward” (walking an aisle) with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ” (repentance and belief).
2. This confusion deceives people about their spiritual state.
3. This confusion often obscures the requirements of repentance and belief.
4. This confusion encourages people to base their assurance on a one-time event.
5. This confusion brings false converts with false assurance into the church’s membership.
6. The altar call makes conversion look like a work of man, when in fact it is a work of God.
7. The altar call confuses people regarding sacred space [that the front of the church is more sacred than any other place].
8. The altar call confuses “coming forward” with baptism.
9. The altar call distracts Christians from the main point of the service.
What’s required for salvation isn’t walking an aisle. It’s repentance from sin and belief in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15). Initial repentance and belief – conversion – can happen anywhere, in the pew or in the pub.
The Bible tells us to base our assurance not on a prayer prayed or an aisle walked in the increasingly distant past. It tells us to look at our present and increasing love for others (1 John 4:8, 20), the present and increasing holiness of our lifestyles (Matt. 7:15-27; Heb. 12:14; 1 John 3:7-8), and the present and increasing orthodoxy of our doctrine (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 4:3; 1 John 4:2-3; 15).