by Evangelist Junior Hill
For more than 50 years it has been my distinct joy to extend a public invitation at the close of most of the sermons wherever I have preached. I do that because I have an intense and burning conviction that it is spiritually correct and biblically commanded. I am honored to stand with a great multitude of other preachers across the ages, who have faithfully and unapologetically called those to whom they have preached to repentance and open confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. Billy Graham himself, arguably the best known preacher of this generation, so often said at the close of his own crusade sermons, “I am going to ask you to publically confess Jesus tonight because those whom Jesus called – He always called publicly.” And a careful reading of the Bible does seem to indicate that to be true.
While there are some who may honestly and sincerely ask, “Where is a public invitation to the preaching of the gospel ever seen in the Bible?”, a far more appropriate and accurate question might legitimately be, “Where in the Bible is a public invitation to the preaching of the gospel not seen?”
To suggest that those hot-hearted preachers of the early New Testament church never even bothered to call those to whom they preached to repentance and public confession of Jesus as Lord is both ludicrous and short sighted. Are we to actually believe that those excited firebrands who gladly laid their very lives on the line for the joy of proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord left their hearers with a lot of information -- but no invitation? Did they spend all their time telling those who heard them preach that Jesus could save them, but never got around to telling them that Jesus would save them if they were willing to repent and believe?
That kind of erroneous assumption not only demeans and insults the wisdom and compassion of those bold men who preached, but it clearly disregards the explicit biblical record that says otherwise.
Whether it be Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler, Peter’s stirring message on the day of Pentecost, Paul and Silas’ encounter with the Philippian jailor, Phillip’s meeting with the Ethiopian Eunuch, or Paul’s appearances before the Jewish synagogues, all of those encounters end with a report of some kind of response. And I find it intriguing and fascinating to see that the Bible specifically tells us what every one of those responses were. If none of them were even asked to respond, then why do you think the Bible would be so consistent and specific in telling us how they did respond?
When Jesus stood before Jerusalem, He sadly lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). In what surely must be some of the saddest words He ever spoke, Jesus grieves over the fact “they would not” come to Him. If they “would not come,” then the text plainly infers that they “could have come” -- and worse yet, that they “were invited to come - and should have come.” It is clearly an open rebuke to a hard-hearted generation who defiantly spurned His calls to publicly confess Him as Lord.
When that convicted multitude who heard Peter preach on the day of Pentecost cried out, “… Men and brethren, what shall we do?”, Peter boldly declared, “… Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost … And they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:37-38, 41).
While we do not know exactly what type of invitation Peter may have given – it is clearly obvious that those who heard his sermon were invited to make some kind of public response. Otherwise, how on earth would Peter and the other apostles even have known that “about three thousand souls” wanted to be baptized? The only logical answer to that question is that those convicted sinners must have made some open response acknowledging that they had repented, were publicly confessing Jesus as Lord, and desired to obey the command to be baptized. And why would they have made that sort of public declaration of their faith unless Peter had specifically urged them to do so when he preached?
But perhaps even more important than any of those questions is this: “Why would Peter have even asked them to do that? Why would he publicly challenge all those lost sinners that gathered that day at Pentecost to repent, believe the Gospel, and be baptized? He obviously did it because he had been with Jesus and he could never forget what the Savior had taught him. He was with Him when Jesus said to those who heard Him, “Come unto me all ye that that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Peter was there by Jesus’ side when the Lord spoke the parable of the Great Supper, and he surely remembered that the man who had prepared that supper sternly commanded his servant to “… Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
As a Hebrew living in that day, who was familiar with the common Greek language spoken in that culture, Peter knew very well what the word “compel” meant. It was the Greek word, anagkazo, which means “to urge or constrain.” In his Greek Dictionary Of The New Testament, James Strong says that the addition of the prefix, ana, to a Greek root word, often implies “repetition or intensity.” Thus the resultant translation of that compound word simply means “to repeatedly and with intensity urge or constrain one.”
As an obedient servant of the risen Savior, Peter was merely doing what Jesus had specifically told him to do when He spoke that parable. He was compelling men and women, boys and girls, to come to Jesus. And when a man of God is faithfully doing what Jesus asked him to do -- he’s always standing on solid ground.
Junior Hill began ministry at 19 as a pastor for 11 years before entering vocational evangelism in 1967, and has maintained a full schedule since then. He is a graduate of Samford University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where in 1995 he was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. The author of 17 books, Hill has served as first vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has conducted more than 1,700 revivals and numerous foreign crusades, and is a frequent speaker at pastors’ meetings, evangelism conferences, seminaries and state conventions across the United States.
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