Question: Dr. Younce, I was saved several years ago in my home by trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior and have been baptized. In church, our pastor gives the invitation that "If you want to be saved, slip out of your seat and come forward to the front of the church." He makes me feel like I am not really saved, because I have never done this.
Answer: First, there is no Scripture anywhere that says you must come to the front of a church to be saved. This is a tradition that has crept into many fundamental churches, which now consider it to be scriptural.
Let me state, emphatically, that this practice is not biblical; and actually adds an element of works to the Gospel!
One Scripture, commonly used to support this practice is Matthew 10:32,33.
"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven (32)...But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (33)."
This Scripture says nothing about coming to the front of the church for salvation; but, is speaking of our service to the Lord, after we are saved. We find in verses 1-7 of this chapter that Christ is sending the Apostles out to preach, who were already saved. There was one impostor; but, that wasn’t the Lord’s fault!
In Verse 16, they were warned they would encounter men described as "wolves." Verse 17 tells them they would be scourged! They would be brought before governors and kings because of their preaching (V. 18).
In Verse 22, Christ promised them that they would be saved from being killed, as long as they remained faithful until their ministry was finished. Then in Verses 32 and 33, quoted above, Christ promises He will confess their faithfulness to the Father for rewards; or their unfaithfulness for loss of rewards in Heaven. These verses have nothing to do with salvation or the coming to the front of a church. This is service, not salvation!
Another Scripture passage used to support this extra-biblical practice is found in Romans 10:9,10. We will examine Verse 9.
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
The question is, “Saved in whose eyes?”
Every Bible student knows there are two justifications in God’s word. One is positional justification and the other is practical justification. Our positional justification; i.e., eternal life by faith alone, is found in Romans 5:1.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is justification in God’s eyes.
The Christian’s practical justification is before man. Many people lead very good lives; but, that does not mean they are Christians. People cannot look into a person’s mind and see if they have faith in Jesus Christ, and are a Christian. Only when a Christian confesses their faith in Jesus Christ, does a lost person justify them as being a Christian. Romans 10:17 explains,
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
When one makes a study of the Book of Acts, from Paul’s conversion on, you will find Paul witnessing to the lost—not the saved! Romans 10:9 has nothing to do with coming to the front of the church to be saved.
We are to confess openly to the lost that we believe that Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected for our sins. We, then, will be justified as being saved by those we have witnessed to; hoping they will receive Christ, also by faith, and be saved. This is the Christian’s practical justification; or testimony.
We continue with Romans 10:10,
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
The first part of the verse, “...with the heart man believeth unto righteousness...” is our justification before God. The righteousness spoken of here is Christ’s righteousness, placed to our account; with our sins (past, present, and future) placed to His account; and paid for by His death and Resurrection.
2 Corinthians 5:21 explains,
“For he hath made him (Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in him (Christ).”
Therefore I am,
“...found in him (Christ), not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9).
This is our salvation, our everlasting life, our position in Heaven, and our justification in God’s eyes.
Now, the last part of Verse 10.
“...With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Notice the word “MADE.” It is the Greek word “homologeo,” and is defined by Strong’s Concordance as “Acknowledgment by confession in the attitude of giving thanks.”
In Romans 10:10a we are saved and justified in God’s eyes. Now, in Romans 10:10b, we are giving thanks and confessing our faith to someone else. Our mouth confession is made unto salvation in the eyes of the one I am witnessing to. You can’t confess to something you don’t already have!
The summary of Verse 10, literally explained, is this: I believe that Jesus Christ died for me; and I am so grateful that I am going to Heaven on His (Christ’s) righteousness; and my sins were completely paid for on Calvary. I confess to others because I want them to know they can have a home in Heaven the same way I can. This is our practical justification in man’s eyes, to which the last part of Romans 10:10 has reference.
Romans 10:10 has nothing to do with the coming to the front of the church.
If we continue in the context we find Romans 10:13 states,
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
This is a direct quote from Joel 2:32 where “saved” is translated “delivered” from the Hebrew. This is not speaking of salvation; but, being delivered, or saved, from the persecution they were going to receive after they were identified as being a Christian.
Before Paul was saved, he consented to Stephen’s death. (Acts 7).
“And Saul was consenting unto his (Stephen’s) death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church...” (Acts 8:1)
After Paul was saved, he suffered great persecution for being a Christian. He testified to the Thessalonians,
“For ye brethren...also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: (14) Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us;(15)...Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved...” - 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
To the Corinthians he wrote,
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9).
Now, let us look Romans 10:13,14 together.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved (i.e., ‘delivered’). How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?”
Therefore, those who are believers in Christ, now have the privilege to call upon the Lord, to deliver them through whatever persecution they may endure. These verses have nothing to do with coming to the front of the church and confessing Christ.
Note: For more information on this subject, we have available the book entitled The Public Invitation, A Blessing; Or A Curse? by the author.