What About Confession at the Altar?

Irvin Himmel
Temple Terrace, Florida

Some man-made churches include in their services what they refer to as "altar call." Instead of inviting sinners to "obey the gospel" (Rom. 10: 16; 1 Pet. 4: 17; 2 Thess. 1: 7), they invite them to "come, kneel at the altar, confess your sins, and pray through."

The New Testament knows nothing of "altar call." On the day of Pentecost, when sinners asked what to do, Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). He did not tell them to kneel at an altar and start confessing their sins, praying for forgiveness. Take your Bible and read it for yourself.

When the people of Samaria were taught by Philip the evangelist, they believed and were baptized, both men and women (Acts 8:12). There is no hint that they feel on their knees before an altar to confess their sins and pray through.

The eunuch from Ethiopia learned about Jesus when Philip preached to him; he confessed faith in Jesus and was baptized (Acts 8:35-39). Nothing is said about his confessing his sins, going to an altar, or praying for the remission of sins.

Peter was sent to tell Cornelius and his house what to do to he saved (Acts 11: 14). They needed to hear the word of the gospel that they might believe. They were granted repentance unto life (Acts 15:7; 11:18). Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10: 48). In this example of conversion there is no altar, no confessing of sins, and no commanding sinners to pray through.

After the Lord appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, Ananias was sent to him in the city. The Lord told Ananias that he would find Saul praying (Acts 9:11). Despite his praying, his sins still had not been washed away. Ananias told him to arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). Until one calls upon the name of the Lord by submitting to him in baptism, sins are not remitted. A lot of modern preachers would have told Saul to keep on praying. Had he asked about baptism, they would have denied that it is necessary. Contrast this with baptism.

When Paul and his companions taught Lydia and her house, she was baptized, and her household (Acts 16:14,15). She was not told to go to an altar and start confessing her sins in prayer.

The jailor was converted by being taught by Paul and Silas, by believing and being baptized (Acts 16:25-34). There was no "altar call." He was not told to confess his sins and be saved. He was not urged to pray through and get the Holy Spirit. Paul and Silas did not preach what many modern preachers are presenting as the way of salvation.

The Corinthians were saved by hearing, believing, and being baptized (Acts 18:8). One who says, "I never heard of such teaching," obviously has not read the book of Acts. Some who claim to follow the Bible are not teaching belief, repentance, and baptism as the plan of salvation; they have substituted their humanly devised "altar call" plan.

Jesus told the apostles to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16: 15, 16). Now, take your Bible and see if that is what Jesus said. Your preacher may say, "He that believeth and confesseth his sins at the altar shall be saved," but you know that is not what Jesus said. Who gave any man, preacher or not, the authority to change Christ's plan of salvation?

Men say: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have come to the altar and prayed through have put on Christ." The Bible says: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:26,27). Which is right, the Bible or modern man? Both cannot be right.

Men say: Baptism doth not now save us. The Bible says: "Baptism doth also now save us" (1 Pet. 3:21). Again I ask, which is right? Will you follow man or the holy scriptures?

Men say: "We went to the altar, confessed our sins, prayed to God, and he hath quickened us together with him, having forgiven all trespasses." The Bible says: "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath be quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:12,13).

God's plan of salvation includes faith, repentance, and baptism. The Bible says nothing, absolutely nothing, about "altar call." Friend, have you obeyed the gospel?

TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 20, pp. 12-13
March 22, 1973