Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Rev 3:20 (ASV)
I don’t want to expound this passage so much as to complain about its frequent abuse. This is one of my pet peeves, actually. Maybe once in my life have I heard this verse treated in its proper context – and I preached the sermon!
What I am referring to is this verse prominent place in evangelistic appeals, aka altar calls. Anyone with a smidge of Bible training knows context is king. But this verse somehow manages to evade submission to that principle. I haven’t a clue why.
First of all, the verse comes at the end of a letter to a church. So, the altar call usage is shot in the head right there. (Not to mention the fact that the altar call is an unbiblical practice to begin with!) It is not addressed to unbelievers. But that hasn’t stopped millions of preachers from violating one of the most basic principles of exegesis. Nor has it stopped song writers. Nor has it stopped painters.
Secondly, using this verse in the context of evangelism presents a very flawed image of Christ. Christ is presented to the sinner as some kind of limp-wristed weakling who is reduced to standing around knocking at people’s doors and pleading for attention. I remember the words to one of those despicable songs: “Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, Oh, how He wants to come in...” That kind of weak-kneed Christianity makes me sick. Christ overcame sin and death, but apparently He can’t overcome the impotent sinner’s resistance.
If we were to present the image correctly, we would have the sinner stacking up furniture against the door trying to keep out Christ who is riding a Sherman tank. All the resistance in the world didn’t hinder Christ from getting Saul on the road to Damascus.
“Oh, but man has freewill,” I hear someone object. Really? You mean that the masses of humanity who live in the vile clutches of false religion, alcoholism, drug addiction, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, hypocrisy, violence, theft, etc, all do so because they are free? That is the most peculiar notion of freedom I have ever encountered, to say the least. No, my friend, Scripture teaches that man’s will is NOT free, but is in bondage. The unregenerate person is not weak or sick; he is dead! (Eph 2:1) Not only do dead men tell no tales; they don’t open doors either.
In this post I don’t intend to show the error of free-willism or question the appropriateness of the altar call. I merely wish to ask preachers to STOP using Revelation 3:20 in reference to salvation. It has nothing to do with it.