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The Invitation

In the churches of Christ, it is a tradition to offer an invitation to come to Christ at each assembly.  Typically, this invitation is offered at the close of a sermon.  The preacher calls upon those who would respond to the invitation to come forward before the assembled church in order to express their desire and intention to serve the Lord.  It is hoped that the message preached will encourage any hearers who are estranged from God to seek reconciliation through Christ.  Those who respond are then helped by way of instruction, accommodation, and prayer as needed.

The invitation to come to Christ does not originate with the church or the preacher, but rather it comes from Christ Himself through His gospel.  It was Jesus who said in Matthew 11:28-30,

28"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

This invitation from Christ resounds in His gospel by which He calls sinners to come to Him.  Notice that Paul said to the Christians at Thessalonica, "It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2Thess. 2:14).  Indeed, the gospel call is Christ's invitation, and it is open to "all who are weary and heavy-laden."

Therefore, the church, which is Christ's body (Eph. 1:22-23), issues the invitation by the preaching of the gospel.  As the body of Christ, the church has inherited the mission given by Christ to His apostles when He said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15).  Every time the gospel is preached by the church, its message draws hearers to Christ.  In John 6:44-45, Jesus said,

44"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.  45It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.'  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me."

God the Father has given us His word in the gospel, and as the church teaches the gospel, it invites hearers to come to Christ.  This is the invitation of Christ's gospel.

In response to the invitation, hearers are urged to act in accordance with the gospel message.  For those who have never been redeemed from sin through Christ, the gospel calls them to faithfully obey the Lord for forgiveness.  Through the gospel, God has declared that "all people everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:30), and the Lord says, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16).  Faith, confession of Christ, repentance, and baptism are all part of the initial obedience to the gospel.  For those who have faithfully obeyed the Lord in the past but have since stumbled or fallen away, they are invited to be reconciled to God through Christ.  The Scripture says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1:9).

Do not confuse the tradition of offering the invitation with the invitation itself.  The Lord's invitation is open to every living person at all times, and it can be answered at any time.  No one has to wait until the traditional time during an assembly of the church to respond to the gospel's invitation.  Furthermore, it is not required for anyone to answer the Lord's invitation in front of the assembled church.  Therefore, let no one be intimidated or hindered from responding to the invitation due to fear or embarrassment.  For erring Christians, it has been suggested that their confession of sin and repentance should be as public as the sin itself.  This may be a good "rule of thumb," but it is not an established rule of God.  Foremost, let it be understood that Christians are to confess their sins to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1John 1:9).  Beyond this, the Scripture instructs Christians to "confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed" (Jas. 5:16).  This verse describes a mutual confession of sins from one to another, and it does not necessarily require a brother or sister to come forward before the whole congregation.  Certainly, the members of the church should be made aware that the erring Christian has repented for the sake of their fellowship and prayer, but there are several ways that this can be made known.

Unfortunately, many hearers neglect the Lord's invitation.  In Luke 14:15-24, the Lord taught a parable that shows the unworthiness of those who receive the invitation to His kingdom but excuse themselves from attendance.  Such persons do not see value of the Lord's offer, but instead they see only the burden.  Jesus was straightforward about the hardship that comes with His invitation, for He said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt. 6:24).  However, He was also straightforward about the reward when He said, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34).  How will you answer the invitation of the Lord?

Stacey E. Durham



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