Revelation 3:20-21 (see also John 14:23)
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
Calvinists often say that it’s a “pet peeve” of theirs when people cite Revelation 3:20 in evangelism because Jesus was speaking to “The Church,” which was already saved, and hence, it’s not evangelical. However, most Calvinists also profess a “Lordship Doctrine,” and therefore I like to ask such Calvinists: (1) Do you, as a Calvinist, profess the “Lordship Doctrine?” (2) What does the Lordship Doctrine mean to you? (3) Do you believe that Jesus’ description of the spiritual state of the Laodiceans is consistent with what you profess about the Lordship Doctrine? Now the Calvinists are in a pickle, because to maintain that the Laodiceans were saved, simultaneously guts any meaning to their Lordship Doctrine, and now they have to make a difficult choice? However, this shouldn’t be difficult for Calvinists to understand, since many secular colleges once started out as Christian seminaries (like Princeton), and therefore it should not be puzzling how a Laodicean Church might have similarly devolved into something else. Once Revelation 3:20 is recovered in an evangelical sense, then the Calvinist is forced to deal with it in an individual sense, and which is also consistent with John 14:23. It should also be remembered that many in Israel had believed in Jesus, but yet Jesus nonetheless also denounced some of the Israelite cities (such as Capernaum and Bethsaida), which likely was reflective of the majority state. The majority state of the Laodicean Church was likely similar, without dismissing the notion that some were likely Christians.
If this is an “apostate church,” then is Revelation 3:20 an evangelical appeal? It seems that a Calvinist’s second favorite word (after “sovereign”) is “heretic,” and thus it is quite puzzling to see Calvinists so resistant to affirm that Revelation 3:20 is a message to the lost, for the purpose of salvation.
The context of Revelation 3:20 is the Lord’s address to the Church at Laodicea: “‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.’” (Revelation 3:14-19)
Not all Calvinists agree, though, that the Laodiceans were saved.
Calvinist, Francis Chan, comments: “As I see it, a lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there’s no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm’ are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.” (Crazy Love, pp.83-84, emphasis mine)
Chan adds: “From other references in Scripture (Colossians 2:1; 4:3, 15-16), the church at Laodicea appears to have been a healthy and legitimate church. But something happened. By the time Revelation was written, about twenty-five years the letter to the Colossians, the Laodiceans’ hearts apparently didn’t belong to God-despite the fact that they were still active as a church.” (Crazy Love, pp.88, emphasis mine)
If such Calvinists as Francis Chan, who profess the “Lordship Doctrine,” affirm that the Laodicean Church was primarily lost, then pointing out that they were a “Church,” becomes somewhat irrelevant, since if they were lost and “we will not see them in heaven,” then Christ’s appeal is made towards those who are perishing, and thus such Calvinists must concede that Revelation 3:20 is evangelical in nature, and if evangelical, then also individual, since buildings are not lost, but the people in the buildings.
MacArthur continues: “Christ’s offer to dine with the repentant church speaks of fellowship, communion, and intimacy. Sharing a meal in ancient times symbolized the union of people in loving fellowship. Believers will dine with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb (19:9), and in the millennial kingdom (Luke 22:16, 29-30).” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11, p.140, emphasis mine)
MacArthur writes: “The invitation is, first of all, a personal one, since salvation is individual. But He is knocking on the door of the church, calling the many to saving faith, so that He may enter the church.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11, p.140, emphasis mine)
But what does it matter if it is the door of the church, if the church was lost? For some unknown reason, it seems that Calvinists are trying to avoid having Revelation 3:20 be an evangelistic message.
Billy Graham comments: “God wants to change our lives--and He will, as we open our hearts to Him.”
When the Gospel is preached, man’s ears may hear your voice, but in their heart, they feel Jesus knocking. Revelation 3:20 is one of the most loving passages in the Bible. God takes the initiative, and does not force Himself. Few passages in the Bible are as treasured as this one, and, of course, is naturally another “problem verse” for Calvinism, like John 3:16. Calvinists seem to think that it portrays God as weak. Perhaps Irresistible Grace is more macho and powerful. For Calvinists, everything is about the “glory of God,” and which gets elevated above all else. Supposedly, that’s more reverential. I’m not seeing it, though. Calvinism seems to be more disrespectful to God, than anything else. Maybe God’s creative works were not solely driven by a need self-glory. Maybe instead God created man for the same reason that any parent has a child, that is, out of a surplus of love and a desire to enter into a loving relationship. Perhaps Calvinism simply doesn’t reflect God’s value system.
The problem with Calvinism is that irresistibility indicates something being forced, and Revelation 3:20’s knocking is inconsistent with the use of force. If anything, it’s the demons who try to force themselves on people, and so Calvinistic Irresistible Grace ends up casting the gospel into the image of what the demons do. Jesus knocks.
Gordon Robertson explains: “You can be that ‘anyone’. All you have to door is open the door, and you will realize that Jesus has been looking for you all along.” (Life Beyond the Grave Part II)
Billy Graham writes: “God has provided the only way...man must make the choice. Step four is for man to make his response to receive Christ. We must trust Jesus Christ and receive Him by personal invitation. The Bible says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock [Christ is speaking]: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him’ (Revelation 3:20). ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,’ writes the apostle John (1:12).” (The Enduring Classics of Billy Graham: The Secret of Happiness, Happiness Through Peacemaking, p.126, emphasis mine)
One Men’s Devotional explains: “God loves you individually and intimately; His is a love unbounded by time or circumstance. Christ’s love for you is personal. He loves you so much that He gave His life in order that you might spend all eternity with Him. Are you willing to experience an intimate relationship with Him? Your Savior is waiting patiently; don’t make Him wait a single minute longer. Embrace His love today.” (Journey with God, emphasis mine)
Gary Cohen and Salem Kirban comment: “The promise of this verse applies to ‘any man’ (Greek: tis, ‘any-man;’ ‘any-woman’--it is both masculine and feminine) and hence its offer goes beyond merely those who were at Laodicea at the turn of the 2nd century A.D. Christ is standing at the door (He is near to all, Acts 17:27); He is knocking (Greek Present Tense--He now is continually knocking--He is thus actively seeking us; He is making the initial overture). Christ’s voice is calling--This is heard in the preaching of the Lord’s Day, over the air waves, in the printed page, and from Christian’s who tell others of the Good News. Man’s part in salvation involves hearing Christ’s voice and opening his heart’s door. God’s part involves the initial call and then upon the opening of the heart in trust, it involves God’s entrance and continued abiding fellowship--‘I will come in…and sup.’ The promise is definite; if the door is opened the knocking one will certainly enter. This verse, in an allegory, puts for the identical truth found in Acts 16:31, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’” (Revelation Illustrated, p.80, emphasis mine)
Albert Barnes comments: “…he recognizes our freedom in the matter. He does not obtrude himself upon us, nor does he employ force to find admission to the heart. If admitted, he comes and dwells with us; if rejected, he turns quietly away - perhaps to return and knock again, perhaps never to come back. The language here used, also, may be understood as applicable to all persons, and to all the methods by which the Savior seeks to come into the heart of a sinner. It would properly refer to anything which would announce his presence: his word; his Spirit; the solemn events of his Providence; the invitation of his gospel. In these and in other methods he comes to man; and the manner in which these invitations ought to be estimated would be seen by supposing that he came to us personally and solicited our friendship, and proposed to be our Redeemer. It may be added here, that this expression proves that the attempt at reconciliation begins with the Savior. It is not that the sinner goes out to meet him, or to seek for him; it is that the Savior presents himself at the door of the heart as if he were desirous to enjoy the friendship of man. This is in accordance with the uniform language of the New Testament, that ‘God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son;’ that ‘Christ came to seek and to save the lost;’ that the Savior says, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,’ ect. Salvation, in the Scriptures, is never represented as originated by man.” (Parallel Classic Commentary on the New Testament, p.1125, emphasis mine)
Jacob Arminius explains: “All unregenerate persons have freedom of will, and a capability of resisting the Holy Spirit, of rejecting the proffered grace of God, of despising the counsel of God against themselves, of refusing to accept the gospel of grace, and of not opening to Him who knocks at the door of the heart; and these things they can actually do, without any difference of the elect and of the reprobate.” (Works of James Arminius, Vol. 2, emphasis mine) Calvinist, J.I Packer, explains: “…the new gospel has in effect reformulated the biblical message.…we depict the Father and the Son, not as sovereignly active in drawing sinners to themselves, but as waiting in quiet impotence ‘at the door of our hearts’ for us to let them in.” (Introductory Essay to John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ, emphasis mine)
Was Jesus being “impotent” at Matthew 23:37, when He stated: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling”? Calvinists like Packer use phrases like “reformulated,” as a way to suggest that Free Will is something brand new, as if the early Church did not fiercely defend Free Will against the Deterministic Gnostics. The fact is that salvation is presented in Scripture as an offer. The parable of the Wedding Feast at Matthew 22:1-10 shows that the invitation is indiscriminate: “Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.” If God wishes to present salvation as a gift, invitation and an offer, where is the wisdom in mocking it?
One Daily Devotional explains: “God loves you. In times of trouble, He will comfort you; in times of sorrow, He will dry your tears. When you are weak or sorrowful, God is as near as your next breath. He stands at the door of your heart and waits. Welcome Him in and allow Him to rule. And then, accept the peace and the strength and the protection, and the abundance that only God can give.” (Journey with God: For Men, emphasis mine)
This shows that what Calvinists otherwise deem as a weakness on the part of God, is actually a strength, as this demonstrates omnipresence, and with a sense of fatherly care. Those who otherwise do not know the person of God, scoff at such a concept:
First of all, the church is made up of individuals, and second, if it is an apostate church, then the message is evangelical, and therefore should be used in an evangelical setting.
This video almost sounds like the unbelieving Jews who would have said of Jesus, “I could never serve such a weak and humble Messiah, nor tolerate such a blasphemy as the great and glorious king of Israel being depicted as one suffering and dejected.” In other words, if Calvinists can reconcile a Savior who has voluntarily condescended and temporarily lowered Himself to be the servant of all men (Phillipians 2:5-8), why can’t Calvinists similarly reconcile a God who condescends to mankind in the operation of a participatory gospel, in the way that Arminianism describes? Arminians acknowledge that God could have chosen to operate the way that Calvinism describes (had God felt that there was any value in Calvinism), but that God sovereignly chose to do things through free agency, by being more glorified (and receiving more glory) in having a kingdom of people who chose to be with Him under adverse circumstances, which otherwise in Calvinism, would just be a kingdom of arbitrarily chosen individuals, in which He could have just as easily chosen others instead.
As far as what I believe, I believe that anyone (such as the thief on the Cross), has a warrant to believe in Christ, and that sanctification is a gradual process of growing into Christ-likeness, whereby the Holy Spirit transforms a person, and not that sanctification is a prerequisite for salvation, or else salvation is never attainable, since sanctification is a life-long process of dynamic spiritual growth. As for the Laodiceans, they may have once been a body of believers, but perhaps had changed over time into something else, such as how the once Christian seminaries of the northeast had transformed into the secular Ivy League schools of today.
I agree with much of this video, and a true Lordship Salvation is one that trusts in the Lord, rather than trusting in whether we have sufficiently made Jesus the Lord of our life. Adrian Rogers comments that he would not trust in the best 15 minutes of his life to get saved, much less the worst 15 minutes, but that it is only by trusting in Christ that we are saved.
The way that I understand salvation and sanctification is that there is a specific point in time when a person receives the “deposit” of the Holy Spirit, as per Ephesians 1:13, which occurs after having received the Gospel. That completes salvation, and begins a lifelong process of sanctification in which we “work out” (rather than “work for”) our salvation. (Philippians 2:12) With Arminians, the question is whether one can defect from God, through apostasy, such as by sowing unforgiveness, as per Matthew 6:14-15 and Matthew 18:23-35. Arminians conclude that it is possible to defect in such manner. As for the nature of faith, faith without a leap of faith, is just a pretense of faith, and not really faith. This is why I infer that James was not speaking of the works of the Law at James chapter 2, but was talking about faith being exercised into a living faith, in which James supplied examples of people (Abraham and Rahab) who stepped out in faith. Neither of those two had anything to do with the Law, as both preceded it.
For an additional article, see here.