In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “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 [will dine] with me.” The crucial phrase for our purposes is “I shall come in to him.” This text has often been taken as a text offering salvation to a lost sinner. Such a view is based on two assumptions: (1) that the Laodiceans, or at least some of them, were indeed lost, and (2) that the Greek εισελεύσομαι πρό means “come into.”

Both of these assumptions, however, are based on little evidence. Further, the resultant notion is anything but clear. To invite Christ into one’s heart is hardly a clear picture of the gospel.

Regarding the idea that those in the Laodicean church were not believers, note that in the preceding verse, the resurrected Lord declares, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” Here φιλέω is used for “love”—a term that is never used of God/Jesus loving unbelievers in the NT. This φιλέω is applied to the Laodiceans here, for the verse concludes, “Be zealous, therefore, and repent.” The inferential ‘therefore’ connects the two parts of the verse, indicating that the Laodiceans are to repent because Christ loves (φιλέω) them!

The second assumption is that εισελεύσομαι πρό means ‘come into.’ Such an assumption is based on a less than careful reading of the English text. The ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, for example, all correctly render it ‘come in to.’ (Note the space between the prepositions.) The idea of ‘come into’ would be expressed with είς as the independent preposition and would suggest a penetration into the person (thus, spawning the idea of entering into one’s heart). However, spatially πρό means toward, not into. In all eight instances of εισοέρχομαι πρό in the NT, the meaning is ‘come in toward/before a person’ (i.e., enter a building, house, room, etc., so as to be in the presence of someone), never penetration into the person himself/herself. In some instances, such a view would not only be absurd, but inappropriate (cf. Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 16:40; 17:2; 28:8).

What, then, is this verse is affirming? First, it is not an offering of salvation. The implications of this are manifold. Among other things, to use this text as a salvation verse is a perversion of the simplicity of the gospel. Many people have allegedly “received Christ into their hearts” without understanding what that means or what the gospel means. Although this verse is picturesque, it actually muddies the waters of the truth of salvation. Reception of Christ is a consequence, not a condition, of salvation. Second, as far as the positive meaning of this verse, it may refer to Christ having supremacy in the assembly or even to an invitation (and, consequently, a reminder) to believers to share with him in the coming kingdom. Either way, it is not a verse about salvation at all, for the Laodiceans were already saved.

Does this mean that those who have come to faith in Christ via Rev 3:20 are not saved? This answer needs some nuancing. First, if they have truly put their faith in Christ, and they understand that he alone can save them from their sins, then of course they are saved. The problem is that many people cling to the symbol but never understand the reality it is intended to represent. Hundreds of thousands of people have “invited Christ into [their] hearts,” thinking that a mystical experience is what saves them. Then, they go on their merry way, living their lives as they did before. If you were to ask them, “How do you know that you are going to heaven?” they would respond, “Because I invited Christ into my heart.” But if you probe, there is nothing beneath the shallowness of that reply. They did what someone told them to do, but never really embraced the Savior.

What then should we say when we are trying to lead someone to Christ? I think a better picture is simply what the New Testament uses as its normative word– πίστι/πιστεύω. The noun form (πίστι) can be translated ‘faith,’ ‘belief,’ or ‘trust.’ The verb can be translated ‘I believe,’ ‘I have faith,’ ‘I trust.’ In some contexts the object of belief is emphasized (namely, Christ); in other contexts, the kind of belief is emphasized (namely, a genuine trust, an embracing). Thus, πίστι has this twofold force of content and conviction. To be saved, one must have the right object of faith (content); and one must truly put his trust entirely in that object (conviction).

If it causes us some measure of panic to have to use other than Revelation 3:20 when we share the gospel, keep in mind that the earliest Christians did not have this verse. Revelation is the last book of the Bible to be written. How was it possible for Peter and Paul and James to ever see anyone get saved without this verse? They never had it! But if I read the book of Acts correctly, they had a measure of success in sharing the gospel even in spite of this handicap.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    66 replies to "Inviting Jesus into your Heart (Dan Wallace)"

    • Susan

      OMG, I’m so excited that you’ve written on this, Dan! It’s so helpful to have a careful examination of this text from the Greek…and an explanation of the context/recipients of, this call to repentance by Jesus.

      Wow, I’m listening to the radio right now and realizing that Phillip De Courcy is speaking from Rev. 3 today. Currently he’s addressing the topic of “confessing Me before men”…..the declaration of the gospel. I wonder if he’ll make it to v.20….(nope, not today)

      Anyway, I think that it’s so important for the church to re-examine the way that the gospel has been presented over the past few decades and the carnage which has (in some cases) occurred because of it, in the form of spurious conversions. R.C. Sproul has been doing an excellent series on this subject for the past few days (radio). Here are links to two of the 4-5 messages which deal with false vs. true conversion:
      http://www.ligonier.org/rym/broadcasts/audio/the-duty-of-pursuing-assurance/
      and, http://www.ligonier.org/rym/broadcasts/audio/false-assurance/

      My husband and I have just listened to the entire series because he was a false-convert for many years. He is still asking the question, “Was I a believer for the past 25 years or only for the past two”. This series is very helpful. My husband had gone forward at an evangelistic meeting 25 years ago and ‘prayed a prayer’ but lived a life devoid of fruit evidencing the spirit for the next 21 years.

      If you have questions about this topic DO listen to this series (Google Sproul’s website to find the rest)

    • phantom

      It seems most things that are variously represented as prerequisites for salvation actually are results of salvation. I swear I’m becomming more Calvinist every day…….

    • Steve Martin

      Inviting Jesus into your heart is like inviting Him to come and sit in your septic tank.

      What would He want with our hearts?

      He is inviting us into His heart!

      He wants to give us His heart. That is a much better deal.

    • Susan

      “Reception of Christ is a consequence, not a condition, of salvation.”
      Dan, that’s another concept I’ve been thinking through. You are the first person I’ve ever heard make this distinction. This makes sense. Typically there is a big emphasis on ‘receiving Christ’….like it’s all up to us, when in reality I see it as having everything to do with a movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual. The Holy Spirit brings about illumination and understanding so that a person CAN believe in Jesus, who he is, and the significance of his death and resurrection, AND the Holy Spirit convicts a person of their sin and rebellion against God, thus bringing a person to the point of Repentance.

      Dan, could you perhaps write another piece on Repentance? I know that you have told me that it means ‘to change one’s mind’. Is the concept of conviction of, and turning from sin also packed into that?

      If the two things necessary for salvation are belief and repentance then that should somehow be the direction of our presentation of the gospel, (right?)….and “repent!” was often spoken in the form of a strong command. How do you present this concept to a not-yet-saved person?
      How do you bring home the concept of sin and false belief about Jesus and then bring the discussion to some sort of call to repentance?….rather than “just pray this magic prayer”.
      I just would like to follow your thought processes, Dan…in action (since I know you to be one who is always available to preach the gospel to any individual whom God’s Spirit brings your way). Take me with you! I want to tag along. I want to avoid ‘canned’, truncated gospel presentations. I realize that we tweak the message a bit as we *listen* to the individual we are sharing with…but I’m always wanting to pick up on good verbiage for these conversations.

      As you know God is constantly schooling me on this subject and I still have SO much to learn!

    • Susan

      Steve, your comment made me CRACK UP!

    • Steve Martin

      Susan,

      Thanks 😀

    • Steve Martin

      The Holy Spirit leads us to repentance, also.

      When we preach Christ, say to a person who’s just lost his job, or in the middle of a divorce, the law is already acting upon them. The law is not just, “have you ever stolen a paperclip/ have you ever told a lie”etc..

      So then a person being hammered by the law (life), can be told the good news, that Christ is FOR him/her.

      Relate how life has hammered you, and what it means to know that Christ is FOR YOU. And that Christ died for, and loves them, and forgives them all their shortcomings and in all they ways they have mishandled their relationships, and their lives.

      No decision required. The death on the cross was the decision.

      When someone places a requirement of ‘acceptance’, or a ‘decision to be made’, then they have just turned the gospel…into another law.

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      As you are probably aware there is a dispute among some in the Christian faith about the nature of salvation and repentance in the Lordship vs. Free Grace vs. somewhere in between debate. I had a discussion a few days back with someone who was obviously better educated in the original languages then me (or at least his knowledge seemed to indicate so) concerning the meaning of repentance. Since it relates to the Gospel and how we share the Gospel I am wondering if you could comment on the meaning of the Greek word used here (μετάνοια I believe).

      Thank You.

    • Michael T.

      Dr. Wallace,

      As I’m sure you are aware there is a debate within the Evangelical/Fundamentalist community regarding what exactly is required for salvation and what salvation looks like within in Lordship vs. Free-Grace vs. somewhere in between debate. The other day I had a discussion in the context of that debate with someone regarding the Greek word used for repentance here (μετάνοια I believe). I honestly have virtually zero knowledge of Greek myself. Since it effects the Gospel and how we share the Gospel I am wondering if you could comment on the meaning of that word.

      Thank You

      • trudy

        I love this picture what is the name of it and who is the artist.

    • Warren Lamb

      Thank you, Dr. Dan, for this timely post. This has been a contention of mine for along time, and I have had many conversations that have ended with me being called a “Pharisee”, and worse, for “legalistically demanding” that people do more than “ask Jesus into their hearts”.

      When we examine the Gospel, especially Matthew, we see that Jesus did not preach “receive”, but “repent”.

      And Peter, whom you mentioned, when asked by those who heard his message at pentecoost, announced to those inquiring about what they must do to be saved, said, “Repent…”

      Being an old Jarhead, the understanding of that term for me came when another old Gyrene said, “Picture it as ‘to-the-rear, march!’ You don’t just turn around, you actually advance in the opposite direction.”

      Perhaps some of the confusion has arisen from the wording of John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

      Again, thank you for the scholarly examination of this doctrine that has too long given a false sense of eternal security to too many.

    • C Michael Patton

      Best I have ever been able to find is Rom 8:10; 2Cor 3:5; Col 1:27. But I am not sure the issue as Dan has described is about whether or not Christ is “in” someone, but the formula of asking Christ into our heart that becomes somewhat of a evangelical personal litergical tradition that is void of meaning and, often, unable to communicate faith.

    • C Michael Patton

      Oh, there is also Romans 8:11.

    • […] and misrepresentation of the text in John’s Revelation. You can read the full article here. Wallace’s thoughts are important for Christians to understand because he eloquently points […]

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Thanks, folks, for the good responses. I should point out that the Greek did not show up properly. I’ve asked Michael Patton to fix it. I appreciate the suggestions about writing a blog post on repentance. Something to think about.

    • Hodge

      Good words, Dan. I’m wondering if you think we should emphasize that someone is saved after the point of baptism, not because baptism saves someone, but the commitment/trust/conviction to follow Christ seems to be made publicly at this event. It certainly was emphasized for that reason in the NT (I’m thinking in Acts specifically), although it is not necessary, since one can trust in Christ without the event, as we see in Acts 10:44-48 (cf. however, that Peter urges them to be baptized right away); but it may be that the early Church saw this event as the time in which the commitment took place. Before that, one might have the type of faith in content that is gained from a supernatural experience with Christ, but does not necessarily have salvation until the commitment is made. I think the Fathers may have seen it this way, and perhaps the Reformers as well. Augustine himself has a religious experience that he views as being from the Spirit, but doesn’t seem to talk about himself as being saved until he commits himself to Christ at his baptism event. In other words, I’m wondering if our quick proclamation that someone is saved because they had an experience or prayed a prayer may run counter to that of the NT and the Church throughout the ages (perhaps it’s more puritanical or rooted in mysticism to some degree)?

    • Dave Z

      I have been noticing more and more that while Jesus often said “believe in me,” he was also pretty fond of “follow me,” which carries somewhat different implications.

    • Susan

      “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matt. 10:37-38

      I heard MacArthur say recently, (as a somewhat tounge-in-cheek dare) that if we added that passage to our alter calls maybe there wouldn’t be so many false conversions.

    • pilgrim

      For me, Rev 3:20 was important (along with Eph 2:8-9) in my own conversion. I was raised Roman Catholic and visually reminded often that Jesus was still on the cross. In reflecting back, Rev. 3:20 really underscored the resurrection of Jesus which is an important part of the gospel preached in the book of Acts.

    • Michael T.

      Hmm that was weird my post didn’t show up the first time so I rewrote it and now both showed up – oh well.

    • Susan

      Michael, same thing happened to me when I posted that silly little chart on another thread. I just wanted to see if it would work to cut n paste it, then I was going to delete it…..but it didn’t show up till much later…too late to delete!

    • Jeni

      LOVED the article!! And some of the comments were almost as good as the article. I am passing the article along…thank you! Really appreciate this blog.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Hodge, you raise an interesting question about assurance of salvation—whether we should offer it to someone at the point at which they believe or only after they are baptized. On the one hand, the pattern we see in the NT is that people were baptized immediately after they put their faith in Christ. There was no catechism class, no new members class, no “I need to make sure that you are truly saved before I baptize you” class. And the Great Commission places baptism before teaching. We tend to turn this around nowadays. I believe that baptism is a means of sanctifying grace, which implies that we should encourage those who profess faith in Christ to get baptized as soon as they can.

      On the other hand, WE can’t give anyone assurance of salvation any way. I don’t know if you’re saved, or even if Michael Patton is saved. I only know my own heart, and often not even that very well (since I do such evil things and think such perverse thoughts that surprise even me!). Assurance of salvation is not a third party affair. All we can do is say, “If you have truly trusted in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and believe that God raised him from the deaad…, then you can have assurance of salvation.” But I see no reason to withhold this information from a new convert until he or she is baptized. Instead, I would encourage such a person to get baptized as soon as possible, so as to make his/her confession a public matter, seen by witnesses.

    • Hodge

      Thanks Dan. That leads me to another question along the same lines then. If baptism is an act of sanctification rather than the event where one exercises faith (conviction faith in your article above, what I would call commitment or covenant faith) as a result of a religious experience (i.e., the HS drawing men to see the truth in what is said in the gospel), would you then see the baptism in Acts 2:38 as something reflective of one who is already saved? In other words, would you say, as it seems commonly held, that eis here is “in view of” salvation, and what would you say to someone who sees eis as that which works toward an ultimate end or goal? I think I remember you addressing this in your grammar, but I must confess I’m too lazy to get up and walk across the room to check it. 😉

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Hodge, I think you’re thinking of Acts 2.38, not 2.24. And, yes, I do address it in my grammar–and I’m too lazy to get it and paste in the discussion!

    • Lisa Robinson

      Michael T and Susan, sometimes and quite randomly, comments fall into the spam queue. Every so often I go fishing them out, which is why you all’s comments suddenly resurrected. The fact that it does this randomly to regular posters is a mystery, at least to me anyway.

    • Ken Pulliam

      Dan,

      You are obviously correct about Rev. 3:20 not being a soteriological passage. However, I note that you avoided the question of lordship salvation.

      You say : If you have truly trusted in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and believe that God raised him from the dead…, then you can have assurance of salvation. The key word in your statement is truly . This, in my experience, is what caused many introspective people trouble. They often wondered if they truly trusted Christ. Perhaps their level of faith, being imperfect as everyone’s is, was somehow not true. Thus, many people struggle with the assurance of their salvation and feel the need to trust Christ again and this time really mean it. Of course, this brings up another issue that you did not address and that is the so-called “sinner’s prayer.” Must a person pray in order to be saved?

    • MarK

      Dan,

      Do you think that in Rev 3:20 Jesus could be speaking to the professing church, not the true church. Much like when he addressed Israel, he addressed believing Israel and the huge majority that were unbelievers. He still called them Israel and loved them, yet they did not have faith. He often called them to repent because of his great love for them. It seems we may be seeing something similar in Revelation. He addresses the true church but also a church that claims to be his, but really is not. He callsthem to repentance. They know the facts and outwardly appear to belong to him, but do not. What do you think?

    • Susan

      I see, Lisa. In the case of that last little one you fished out for me I’d have to say that it belonged in the spam file, but thanks.
      In fact, it would be great if God would always send my worst comments to ‘spam’ You then, could be my own personal ‘spam editor’! Fix-um or delete-um. And, just be thankful you’re not as lazy as those guys…..

    • Hank Caskey

      Your post is an important reminder to me of the importance of understanding scripture in context and not misusing scripture to present something that it isn’t teaching. This is the essence of what false teachers and false prophets so often do.

      “What then should we say when we are trying to lead someone to Christ?”

      I have listed the short quotation from your blog post above because it is one of many Christian sayings we so casually use. I doubt that this is something we actually do; lead someone to Christ. Rather, I suspect Christ draws someone to Himself and may use our faithful presentation of His word to accomplish that.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Susan, that’s the problem. Sometimes they go in because the commentor has decided to delete the comment. Sometimes they go in arbitrarily. I suppose with more time and less attention to other things on my plate, I might be better at discerning which is which and fix everything up 😉 But for now, please forgive the oversight.

    • Hodge

      “And, yes, I do address it in my grammar–and I’m too lazy to get it and paste in the discussion!”

      LOL. touche. 🙂

    • Lisa Robinson

      Well I will do you one better, I actually pulled out the grammar and opened to the page in the prepositions section where Acts 2:38 was discussed, but then was too lazy to read it 🙂

      See Susan, I get lazy too 😉

    • […] Inviting Jesus into your Heart – Dan Wallace explains how this approach is hardly a clear picture of the gospel with a Revelation 3:20 Greek lesson. […]

    • Susan

      Ha! Yeah, but you got off your butt 😉 (or did you?)
      I guess I can forgive you, this time. I suppose, if you start fixing my comments I too might get lazy!

    • Brian

      Ken wrote: “Of course, this brings up another issue that you did not address and that is the so-called “sinner’s prayer.” Must a person pray in order to be saved?”

      A couple of years ago during a rather moving Sunday evening service, a young man (late teens) pulled me aside, concerned that he had never “prayed the prayer of faith.” This got me to thinking a lot about this issue. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that it’s not whether you have “asked Jesus into your heart” or said a prayer with certain words, but it comes down to this:

      Do you believe that Jesus died to take the punishment your sins deserved, that He rose again victorious to give eternal life, and are you trusting in Him and His work as opposed to your own efforts to reach God, with the consequent life-change (because your desires change as a new creation)?

    • Susan

      3)

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      I was discussing this very issue with a pastor in the States via goodreads.com. And I sent him Dr. Wallace’s similar post on bible.org, and the pastor said that he does not agree with Dan Wallace. If one does not agree with a humble scholar, I do not know what to say!

    • Marv

      I was discussing this very issue in regard to my 9 y/o son’s upcoming baptism. I’ve always avoided the “invite Jesus in your heart” expression, though I’ve heard it from other young people.

      However…

      “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:19-20)

      I frequently see verses misused in terms of what they are saying, but in such a way that is saying something that is validly expressed elsewhere. A Christian is both in Christ, and if we believe what Jesus says, He is in the Christian.

      So to come to faith is to come to be in Him and Him in you. Praying for forgiveness and to welcome this kind of relationship with Christ, well, the expression “inviting Jesus into your heart” is ultimately not all that far out of things.

      As for the spacial aspects of eiserchomai pro, of course, in the way this is thought of, the door is “the door of your heart.” So the fact that it does not indicate coming into the person him/herself rather than into a room where the person is may not be as decisive as all that.

      So the point is, yeah, it’s misusing the text, and results in a substandard expression of trusting in the good news, but it stays close enough in bounds of salvation imagery elsewhere that it is not overly noxious.

    • Jordan

      I once heard the Director at Joshua Wilderness Institute, Rich Ferreira, give a short seminar, sampling one of the programs in the institute called “Viewing the Bible With a Middle Eastern Mindset.”

      He began by showing us a common picture of the Ten Commandments, 5 on one half, 5 on the other. No one could guess what a Middle Eastern Christian would find wrong with the image. Ferreira explained that a)the tablets were written on both sides–front and back–as clearly noted in Exodus 32, and b)I quote from a website: “the full Ten Commandments was replicated on two duplicate tablets. This would follow the Hittite tradition of making two copies of each treaty: one for the Hittite king and the other for the vassals.”

      Basically, God was saying “Here are two copies of our covenant–take yours, and because you mean a lot to me, take my copy, too (and put it in the ark of the covenant)”.

      Up until Jesus time, a priest had to enter The Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood and whatnot to make sacrifice to God. Now, I’m just saying what Ferreira told us, to see what you guys think. He said that a common misconception people believe is that when Jesus died and the curtain was torn, it was so that anyone could go to God. He said that really, it is not we who now go to God, but God is released from the curtain and now He can dwell in his people.

      He tied this back to Moses. All God has ever wanted to do is dwell with his people; He gave Moses his special copy to be in the ark of the covenant. Now, Jesus has died, and God can come dwell among us when we believe.

      He said he believed that God is in us in a very real way–to the point that if a Christian is around a non-Christian, the non-Christian is around God at that moment because God dwells in the Christian.

      What do you guys think?

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Folks, thanks for the excellent dialogue, questions, comments, etc. I’m getting ready to go speak at the first-ever Accordance Seminar in Mesquite, TX, so have to be brief.

      Ken, the reason I use the word ‘truly’ is not to emphasize how much faith a person has but to indicate that only genuine faith saves. This, in my view, implies a work of the Spirit. The parable of the sower is programmatic here: although three seeds are said to respond, only one is said to understand and be productive. John 15 is similar: only the branch that bears fruit is ‘in me.’ I recently gave a message at Voyagers Church in Irvine, CA on Romans 3.21-26 (called “The Divine Electrolux”). If you have a chance, you might want to listen to it, since it addresses the issue of how much faith is enough to be saved. It’s at feed://www.voyagers.org/sermons/podcast/.

      MarK, I can’t agree with you on this text. The specific use of phileo, followed by the inferential oun, leads me to believe that the Laodiceans are, to a large degree a group of genuine believers but are not living for the Lord as they should. Nowhere else is phileo used in the NT to speak of God’s or Christ’s love for unbelievers.

      Marv, I appreciate your point, but I have to disagree to a certain extent. Yes, the NT plainly teaches that Christ indwells the believer. But it does not happen because the sinner asks Jesus into his heart; it happens because the sinner puts his faith in Jesus. And even though there are texts that speak of Christ in us, Rev 3.20 is not one of them. To imply that ‘heart’ is in view and these are unbelievers is to distort the meaning of the passage.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Jordan,

      If I understand you correctly, I think you are making a categorical error by assigning the reception of the indwelling Holy Spirit with the reception of Christ in our heart. The Holy Spirit indwells the believer upon conversion and baptizes the believer into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Holy Spirit marks the believer as God’s own possession (Romans 8:9) and bears witness to the testimony of Christ (John 16:13-14). So in a sense, the Holy Spirit is received by the believer but that should not be construed as receiving Christ as the means of justification. Rather, it is achieved because of justification, which is generated by belief in Christ as Dr. Wallace notes in his comment above.

    • Jordan

      Daniel B Wallace, I know the youth pastor, Joey, at Voyagers. Not sure if you do, but interesting that we share similar location.

      Is it too fine of a distinction to say Christ dwells within a person not because they asked but because they put faith in Jesus? It seems to me that this stuff is occuring more at once and that temporal priority isn’t really that big of a priority. We have been justified and now Christ comes into us…Christ comes into us to justify us. Perhaps it best not to take the mystery away from this. And regarding the septic tank comment, remember that whatever Jesus touches becomes clean, and He surely got some weird looks when he went around cleansing lepers. Ultimately this isn’t what was presented in the original post though.

      Lisa, I see what you are saying. Perhaps he did not distinguish clearly. I was reading Brother Lawrence and he talks about drawing inward to speak with God…connecting with God who is in him. If one member of the trinity is in us, is not the whole God being in us (therefore Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in us)? If we pray for the Holy Spirit to be in us and we sing the lyrics “Christ in me, the hope of glory” and not limiting the Father to have His place, it doesn’t seem too far off to me to say in a general sense that God dwells in his people.

    • Lisa Robinson

      If one member of the trinity is in us, is not the whole God being in us (therefore Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in us)? If we pray for the Holy Spirit to be in us and we sing the lyrics “Christ in me, the hope of glory” and not limiting the Father to have His place, it doesn’t seem too far off to me to say in a general sense that God dwells in his people.

      Yes and no. To be sure, if God is one in essence but distinct in persons, then God the Holy Spirit does indeed dwell within believers. But you are not accounting for the functional differences assigned to each person of the Trinity. Even though Romans 8:9 uses Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ interchangeably, it does not negate the fact that the Spirit serves a specific function in relation to God the Father and God the Son, which can be identified in John 16:13-15, for example. The functional difference can also be identified in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Did the Father or the Spirit die and resurrect? No.

      So the function of the Spirit is to convey the command of the Father through the testimony of Christ. He makes the believer alive and equips the believer to respond to the father appropriately because of the believer’s position in Christ, which the Spirit affects. In a sense, God dwells within his people through his Spirit, which is equal in essence but not identical in purpose. But I don’t think we can say that inviting God the Son into our hearts is the same thing as inviting residence of the Holy Spirit, which is an automatic occurrence upon belief in the Son.

      Also, I don’t believe scripture ever tells one that they must ask for the Holy Spirit as a means of salvation. The only exception is in Acts 19:2, a tricky passage to be sure. But here Paul is equating reception of the Holy Spirit with belief in Christ and this group were most likely not believers (although I know there is debate on that).

    • Jordan

      Makes good sense, that each has a different function. Just to clear up, you don’t think it’s heresy to sing “Christ in me”? Or else I would have to apologize for playing that song haha.

      Not to limit the entire function of each member, but to continue wrestling with this “in me” idea…if Christ can be in us, and if the Holy Spirit can be us, can the Father serve a purpose as designated by the Bible IN US?

    • Lisa Robinson

      Jordan, I see in Colossians 1:27, John 15:5 and Romans 8:9 that it is not inconsistent to say Christ in me. The issue though is what does that mean. Isn’t it that Christ is taking up residence through the Spirit? Again, I don’t think that suggests that because Christ takes up residency in the believer through the Spirit, that it is accomplished through an invitation for Jesus to come into one’s heart. Rather Christ takes up residency through belief in Him by the work of the Spirit.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Lisa, you are articulating things better than I could. I appreciate your solid theological thinking. And Jordan, I appreciate your questions and probings.

      I’ll comment on one thing as an entrée into a larger discussion. Jordan, you said, “We have been justified and now Christ comes into us…Christ comes into us to justify us.” I’m not so sure I would agree with the second proposition. I know that some good and godly scholars do think so. But as I see it, justification is logically prior to indwelling. Significantly, Paul’s letter to the Romans—which comes as close to a treatise on soteriology as we have in scripture—speaks of justification (3.21-26) immediately after addressing our sin (1.18-3.20). The “in Christ” language is developed later. Paul first speaks of our redemption as being in Christ (Rom 3.24), then, when he launches into a discussion of sanctification, he says that we should consider ourselves to be “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6.11). Is this saying that we are in Christ? Not very clearly. Paul summarizes his argument in 6.23—“the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”

      The first time in which Paul speaks unequivocally of believers being in Christ in Rom 8.1—“there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It seems that Paul is saying that if we are in Christ we are not under condemnation. This does not mean that being in Christ comes first, just that being in Christ is the reality which guarantees no condemnation.

      What is at stake is part of what theologians call the ordo salutis—that is, the logical order in the steps of salvation. Perhaps the major question along these lines is this: Which comes first, conversion (our believing the gospel) or regeneration (God’s making us alive)? I would personally argue that these events are simultaneous temporally but that there is a logical priority involved. And again I insist, to ask Jesus into one’s heart muddies the clarity of the…

    • Susan

      Dan, I posted this article on Dan Kimball’s fb wall. I know that he’s been giving some thought to reevaluating the presentation of the gospel message, wanting to avoid some common mistakes of the past, so I thought he’s appreciate this one. His response:

      Dan wrote:
      “Hey Susan! Just read it. Very good article!! I always love reading anything Dan W. writes.”

      I’ll let him know your sequel: *Repentance* is coming, and I’ll be sure to send it 😉

      Lisa, I just arrived home from celebrating mom’s b-day….was reading through comments in my inbox thinking, I’d post a comment to you: “Gosh, Lisa, you in seminary or something?!”
      ….but I see that the master teacher has taken note (!)

    • John

      The Book of Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 deal with the church ages, from the time of Paul, the angel (messenger) to Ephesus (dealing with the Gentile Christian Eras) to our Age (Laodicea). Wherein Acts 15:14 is being carried out, (a Bride of Christ) through out the ages.
      If you will notice, He deals with two type of people within those ages, complement and rebuke. He deals with both of them as one since they have identified themselves with Christ (Christianity), but they are the wheat and tares in the field of the Christian world. Throughout the ages Christ is walking among them, but in the Laodicean church age they put him out. (Since He IS the Word, they replaced HIM (Word) for there own Gospel. Carrying out Isa.4:1, wherein seven women (church ages) take a hold of Christ, but desire to do their own thing, but would like to be labeled ‘Christians’ so they wouldn’t be seen as something else then Christian.
      In this age, He is ousted out of His Own Church, and is now knocking and calling to individuals to have someone hear HIS Voice. Only His sheep will hear, and they will eat and dine upon His Doctrine, for their age.

    • Jason Hess

      This post is definitely one worth sharing. It seems like Rev. 3:20 has become a sort of old faithful when explaining to non-believers how to believe. And yet as you explain the context of the verse stands in opposition to how the verse is used in modern times. Great post!

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      John, the church age view of Revelation 2-3 is certainly a minority view among exegetes. I am aware of only one professor who actually holds to it. One of the biggest problems with it is simply that no matter how people have tried to construct church history, the seven ages never seem to fit. They have to procrusteanize these chapters into church history! Another major problem is that this view would be meaningless to anyone in the first century–in fact, meaningless to anyone until the ‘Laodicean’ age. I would have to reject it as thoroughly implausible.

    • Blaine

      Fantastic explanation, and strangely coincidental, as I posted along very similar lines yesterday before I had seen this. Thank you so much for sharing these clarifying insights.

      http://theverticall.blogspot.com/2010/09/dont-accept-jesus.html

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Two problems Mormonism for me 1) object of path is to become God which is absurd. Best Christians can do is try to live Christ-like.
      2)Proposed history of North America is profoundly illusionary with regard to all recorded history. OT and Acts are not fiction except Creation/Adam Eve, Jonah, and Noah. I think anyone that quotes Revelation in any debate ought to consider that its author obviously ate too many mushrooms or peyote and its inclusion as part of canon is just as crazy as well.

    • D. Brent

      I know you would probably disagree with me on a number of theological issues (but that’s ok). I’m not a Calvinist and I am not one who has promoted the “Believer’s” or “Sinner’s” prayer as a response of faith to Christ. Personally, I believe 1 Peter 3:21 suggests that baptism is the prayer/plea of a good conscience before God–that the very act of baptism is itself a prayer. (This is not a work any more than a prayer is a work–it is merely a response of faith.)

      It has always intrigued me that folks could ask people to do something as a faith response to God that is not even mentioned in the Bible (e.g., “the Sinner’s prayer”) either by way of a command or even as an example of someone in the Bible doing it. Seems to me like binding something that is not found in the text.

      I agree completely with your understanding of Revelation 3. We too often are fond of proof-texting. This is much like using Matthew 18 (“Where two or three are gathered in my name…”) as a proof text to say when we gather for corporate worship Jesus is present. The text has nothing to do with corporate worship but rather coming together to make a decision re: reconciliation. Jesus is basically saying “I’m with you in this!” (sorry to digress).

      Thank you for a great post.

    • John

      Carl
      If you notice Rev 1:1 you will notice that the Author is Jesus Christ! Therefore your claim of Jesus Christ having eaten too many mushrooms or peyote and is crazy as well, is absurd.
      I suppose one with a view of the Bible in the way you presented it in the above post has a better solution for that of humanity than it now has. Maybe your way is better than that of the way the Truth and the Life’s way!
      Please present something worth getting excited the world over, as does the bible. If it takes precedence over the bible, maybe it will have converts unto it, of those that are seeking after Eternal Life!

    • Tom

      Dr. Wallace,
      Thanks for your article today. Very insightful and helpful.

      It would be interesting to hear your thoughts about Revelation 3:15-16 as well. It seems that most people often take these verses to mean that we need to be “hot” or “on fire” for God instead of being “cold” towards him. Wouldn’t that be an incorrect reading of those verses?

      Did Jesus mean that hot and cold water are BOTH good things based upon Laodicean geography? (i.e. Cold water refreshes and hot water keeps one warm; lukewarm water harvests bacteria and is thus bad.) It would seem to be wrong to use these verses to encourage Christians to get “on fire” for Jesus as they are often used. But I would love to hear your take on that.

      I don’t mean to derail the discussion. Perhaps an idea for a future article.

    • […] scholars around and his book “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” is a classic. I saw this small blog post from him today and I thought I would share it. It is on the text of Revelation 3:20 and its misuse […]

    • Pete Morris

      I’ve looked and my fingerprints are not on any part of my salvation; neither justification or scantification or glorification. God does it all. Glory to God in the Highest. All creidt to His name. Jesus called me to life and like Lazerus I came out of the grave. Praise and glory to His name.

    • Carl D'Agostino

      Re # 54 John , 2:23 I would offer not consistent with the Jesus dynamic: “And I will kill her children with death.” Why would the children of any evil woman be automatically sentenced to hell and murdered by Jesus? 3:5 “…and I will not blot out his name from the book of life.” So if the rest of us don’t get a A on God’s report card is our damnation achieved by relegating us to non existence? 2:5 “and do the first works.” 2:13 “I know thy works…” 2:26 “… and keepeth my works.” 2:2″”I know thy works.”A lot on works here! You said your fingerprints are not on your salvation(suppose that’s grace alone thing) but works stuff seems to imply that “grace not without good works” good suggested compromise thing.See Anne Hutchinson Antinomian Controversy.2:7 “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life…” So there is an elect? So some will not be sanctified to be justified(or vice versa) and there is not assurance- what good is trying? Not all will eat of the tree of life and if I fall short, my alleged Saviour condemns me to eternal death? Author refers to those who are Jews or not Jews and seems like this salvation is for Jews only. 2:9″ I know the blasphemy of them which they say are Jews, but they are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. “Seems exclusive to this Italian Presbyterian. Would be consistent with Peter’s position that Messiah exclusive property of Jews as opposed to Paul re universal availability of Jesus to all. And all the candles, beasts, stars,storms, pits and furnaces, seem pretty pagan and like the travels of Jason and the Argonauts or the Odyssey. I did not mean to suggest the New Testament invalid, John or that anything takes precedence. I don’t have a different way. The part of Revelation that is not debatable is when Jesus says I am alpha and omega. My dispute is that Revelation(alone) seems to have been written by Edgar Allen Poe and not divinely inspired through it’s author.

    • Jeannie Mestres

      Thank goodness, Christ doesn’t come into our hearts, because mine is unfit for Him. It’s bad enough that He knows what’s in there!

    • Pastor Bruce

      Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right. – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

    • Carl D'Agostino

      If we can invite Jesus into our hearts that means we play a role in being saved. So it is not by grace alone. Yeah, I accept “faith not without good works.” So are we predestined to be lost in he sense that predestination refers to the one’s that don’t invite Jesus? I suppose that makes sense but no one should be damned if Jesus comes for all. I think the reverse is substantive too: “Jesus is the one that does the inviting.”

    • […] Dan Wallace- Inviting Jesus Into Your Heart […]

    • gary

      Isn’t it odd that if the Baptists and evangelicals are correct that their “born again experience” is the true and ONLY means of salvation, the term “born again” is only mentioned three times in the King James Bible? If “making a decision for Christ” is the only means of salvation, why doesn’t God mention it more often in his Word? Why only THREE times? Isn’t that REALLY, REALLY odd?

      Why is it that the Apostle Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, NEVER uses this term? Why is this term never used in the Book of Acts to describe the many mentioned Christian conversions? Why is this term only used by Jesus in a late night conversation with Nicodemus, and by Peter once in just one letter to Christians in Asia Minor?

      If you attend a Baptist/evangelical worship service what will you hear? You will hear this: “You must be born again: you must make a decision for Christ. You must ask Jesus into your heart. You must pray to God and ask him to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart, and be your Lord and Savior (the Sinner’s Prayer). You must be an older child or adult who has the mental capacity to make a decision to believe, to make a decision to repent, and to make a decision to ask Jesus into your heart.”

      It is very strange, however, that other than “you must be born again” none of this terminology is anywhere to be found in the Bible! Why do Baptists and evangelicals use this non-biblical terminology when discussing salvation?

      Maybe it’s because…making a “decision” for Christ is NOT the manner in which sinners are saved!

      Gary

      Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

    • gary

      Thank for you for your response.

      Don’t you think it is important to have a specific event that you can point to and say: “THEN, is when God saved me!”?

      We Lutherans do NOT believe that baptism is mandatory for salvation. All the saints in the OT, the thief on the cross, and many martyrs have died without baptism. We believe they are saved and in heaven. It is not the lack of baptism that damns someone to hell…it is the lack of faith/belief that damns one to hell, as Christ states in Mark 16:16.

      Many evangelicals think that Lutherans believe that salvation must come through Baptism. This is flat-out wrong! Baptism is one of several “when”s of salvation. It is always the Word of God that saves. (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). A sinner can be saved sitting in church listening to a sermon; listening to a Gospel program on the radio; or reading a Gospel tract. Baptism is NOT mandatory for salvation.

      However, Baptism is God’s mark upon us that he truly has saved us. We belong to him. Unless someone intentionally fakes believing, fakes repenting, and fakes a genuine desire to receive Christ’s “mark” in baptism, the person being Baptized DOES receive Christ’s mark stating: YOU, child, now belong to me.

      In the evangelical conversion, you have two viewpoints, Arminian and Calvinist. The Arminian believes that he is saved when HE makes a decision to have faith and believe/repent. The problem is that when HIS faith is ebbing low, he begins to question the sincerity of his “decision”: “Did I really do ‘it’ right?” His salvation was partly dependent upon HIM!

      The Calvinist, on the other hands, believes that he is either born the Elect or he isn’t. There doesn’t need to be any specific time of conversion, as long as at some point in his life, the Calvinist declares to the world his faith and belief—he IS one of the Elect. However, ask many Calvinists when they were saved and they will give you a…

    • gary

      At the age of nine I prayed to ask Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior. I loved being a Christian. I loved Jesus and I loved the Bible. I used to love witnessing to non-believers and loved defending my belief in (the Christian) God and orthodox/conservative Christianity. Then one day someone challenged me to take a good, hard look at the foundation of my beliefs: the Bible. I was stunned by what I discovered.

      1. The Bible is not inerrant. It contains many, many errors, contradictions, and deliberate alterations and additions by the scribes who copied it. The originals are lost, therefore we have no idea what “God” originally” said. Yes, its true—Christians can give “harmonizations” for every alleged error and contradiction, but so can the Muslims for errors in the Koran, and Mormons for errors in the Book of Mormon. One can harmonize anything if you allow for the supernatural.

      2. How do we know that the New Testament is the Word of God? Did Jesus leave us a list of inspired books? Did the Apostles? Paul? The answer is, no. The books of the New Testament were added to the canon over several hundred years. Second Peter was not officially accepted into the canon until almost the FIFTH century! So why do all Christians accept every book of the New Testament as the word of God and reject every non-canonical “gospel”? Answer: the ancient (catholic) Church voted these books into your Bible. Period.

      There is nowhere in the OT or the NT where God gives men the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word. If Second Peter was really God’s Word, the entire Church should have known so in the first century.

      3. Who wrote the Gospels? We have NO idea! The belief that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is based on hearsay and assumptions—catholic tradition. Protestants denounce most of the traditions of the Catholic Church but have retained two of the most blatant, evidence-lacking traditions which have no basis in historical fact or in the Bible: the canon of the NT and the authorship of the Gospels.

      The only shred of evidence that Christians use to support the traditional authorship of the Gospels is one brief statement by a guy named Papias in 130 AD that someone told him that John Mark had written a gospel. That’s it! Papias did not even identify this “gospel”. Yet in 180 AD, Irenaeus, a bishop in FRANCE, declares to the world that the apostles Matthew and John and the associates of Peter and Paul—Mark and Luke—wrote the Gospels. But Irenaeus gives ZERO evidence for his assignment of authorship to these four books. It is well known to historians that it was a common practice at that time for anonymously written books to be ascribed to famous people to give them more authority. For all we know, this is what Irenaeus did in the case of the Gospels.

      The foundation of the Christian Faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If the story of the Resurrection comes from four anonymous books, three of which borrow heavily from the first, often word for word, how do we know that the unheard of, fantastically supernatural story of the re-animation of a first century dead man, actually happened??

      Maybe the first book written, “Mark”, was written for the same purpose that most books were written in that time period—for the benefit of one wealthy benefactor, and maybe it was written simply as an historical novel, like Homer’s Iliad; not meant to be 100% factual in every detail, but a mix of true historical events as a background, with a real messiah pretender in Palestine, Jesus, but with myth and fiction added to embellish the story and help sell the book! We just do not know for what purpose these books were written!

      I slowly came to realize that there is zero verifiable evidence for the Resurrection, and, the Bible is not a reliable document. After four months of desperate attempts to save my faith, I came to the sad conclusion that my faith was based on an ancient superstition; a superstition not based on lies, but based on the sincere but false beliefs of uneducated, superstitious, first century peasants.

      You can pray to ask Jesus into your heart 10,000 times, but if there is no evidence for his Resurrection, then odds are that he is dead. And if he is dead, he can’t hear your prayers. Sad, but the truth.

Leave a Reply to Michael T. Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.