What Altar?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Tom Butler, Nov 15, 2007.

  1. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2005
    Messages:
    9,031
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think we Baptists are often too careless with the language we use to present the gospel.

    One example is an invitation which invites people to "come to the altar" to pray or whatever. I suppose that's why it's referred to as an altar call.

    What altar?

    Do we not realize that an altar, designed specifically for a sacrifice, is not needed any more? The ultimate sacrifice has been made, has it not?

    So why do we even use terms like that?
     
  2. Scarlett O.

    Scarlett O.
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 22, 2002
    Messages:
    9,835
    Likes Received:
    115
    I think that an altar had other purposes than just sacrificing. Weren't there some times when an altar was built just to mark a specific place and time where God moved in the life of someone?

    Genesis 12 -
    7And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

    8And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. 9And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

    It would appear that Abram used this altar as a spiritual marker and called on God there.

    Perhaps the altar call is where people feel led by the Holy Spirit to some serious one-on-one obedience to God.

    Just my early morning ramblings.....
     
  3. David Lamb

    David Lamb
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2006
    Messages:
    2,982
    Likes Received:
    0
    I quite agree. And it doesn't only occur in the matter of presenting the gospel. How often do we hear people talk about getting married as "going to the altar"? If a man pulls out of marriage at the last minute, his intended wife is spoken of as having been "left/dumped at the altar".

    Another misuse of biblical concepts is when we talk about our church buildings as "churches", or as "the house of God".
     
  4. blackbird

    blackbird
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    Administrator

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2002
    Messages:
    11,898
    Likes Received:
    2
    The Old Testament altar made of earth----was a picture of "a better thing to come"

    The Old Testament altar pointed to the altar yet to come----The Lord Jesus Christ being THAT "better thing to come"----The Lord Jesus Christ IS Heaven's "Altar"----you meet God at the Altar of Jesus Christ!!!

    As a preacher/pastor---I never refer to invitation time as "altar call"---all that is in front of me from the pulpit area are steps leading down to the floor area--those steps are steps---so therefore there is never a "altar call" as you say, Brother Tom---you know that as well as I do

    But you and I do know that the Lord Jesus Christ is Heaven's Altar---He is the Altar of Heaven where one meets with God!!!

    Your Southern Baptist preaching friend,
    Bro. David
     
  5. Allan

    Allan
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2006
    Messages:
    6,888
    Likes Received:
    0
    Four things that made the OT Altar more the than just metal or stone.
    1. It was a place of active faith.
    ....a . Only those who believe and follow the Lord will come to such a place. It's a place where faith takes action.
    2. It is a place of public statement, acknowledging their depenancy upon God.
    ....a . A public profession by a display of action before the congration.
    3. A place that destroys self/pride and brings about humility.
    4. Where the altar was, there was worship, and it revealed God was moving in there midst, to those who stood near by.

    The Pictorial Encyclopedia of the bible, by Merrill C. Tenny says this about the altar. Quote "The covenant code (Exod 20:24-26) clearly recognizes a plurality of altars, implying that the object was an almost indispensable accompaniment of formal worship, and that sacrifice, which was inseparable from worship, and all forms of approach to the Deity could not be made without an altar." There could be no worship without a sacrifice and there was not sacrifice without an altar. Thus no relationship was possible without this simple but profound item.

    But you say Allan, that was the Old Testament and we are under the New. We no longer need altars to sacrifice. I tell you this and listen closely. Yes, we do need these altars, and more now than ever. The Old Test. is the physical representation of the spiritual aspect (New Test) - so in relation to this let me explain:

    Did you know that the altar of sacrifice was always out in the open? You could never and would never find this kind of altar inside. It was always outside for all to see that you were committing something unto the Lord. The only other altar mentioned in the Temple is the altar of incense, and it was in the Temple itself (the Holy Place) representing the prayers of the people. This is the most beautiful picture of a believer. Outwardly displaying a need but inwardly seeking the Lord. Not giving great prayers for all to hear, but being there for all to see. (Luk 18:10-14) And this will allow others to respond as the Lord leads them toward and or for us; thus we as a body can function and walk in Spirit and Truth in unity and fellowship/partnership.

    There are four spiritual things in the N.T. altar, that mirror the O.T. Altar.
    1. It was a place of active faith.
    ....a . Only those who believe and follow the Lord will come to such a place. It's a place where faith takes action. (James 2:14)

    2. It is a place of public statement, acknowledging publically our dependancy on God. IOW - A public type of Profession. i.e.
    ....a . Salvation -Rom. 10:9,10
    ....b . Repentance – I John 1:9
    ....c . Renewal -James 4:7-10,
    ....d . Declaration -Mat 10:32,33
    ....e . Help –I Peter 5:7, James 5:16 and Gal 6:2)
    (not that the above were all done at an altar but the public aspect is what I am bringing to bear, which is what the body privy to)

    3. A place that destroys self and brings about humility. (Mat 16:24,24 and II Cor. 5:15)

    4. Where the altar was, there was worship, and it showed God was moving in their midst (due to the sacrifice - Christ), to those who stood near by. (John 4:23,24, John 9:31, and Acts 1:8,12 + 2:1,2,41)

    Both the spiritual nature and symbolism are established in that the altar is the embodiment of the nature of God. It shows judgment and wrath without mercy. (someone must pay) It also shows His everlasting grace and mercy. (He paid it for me) and lastly it displays patience and love. (He waits for me to come in line with His will)

    These are just some of the reasons but I figured I would share them.

    Take it or leave it. But there is nothing in scripture against it nor specifically for it, and yet God still uses this means for His ends.
     
    #5 Allan, Nov 15, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2007
  6. Allan

    Allan
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2006
    Messages:
    6,888
    Likes Received:
    0
    Altars were made of many different things and had different shapes.
    The first offering had no altar
    The first altar was made of rocks placed together like a heep.
    The next altar was more elaborate and crafted over laid with Gold
    The next alter was ...et, et..

    I hope your steps are not a 'literal' altar since blood is a hard stain to remove :laugh: .

    It is symbolic much like we use the sybolism of the alter in marrage like brother David illistrated. The problem is when people make it out be something it has never been declared, mostly because they don't use it or like it. But not that it isn't specifically biblical.

    We ALL know Christ is our sacrifice but can you please show me where He is the altar?
    I just got off work and my brain isn't functioning with my 4 kids screaming around me at the moment :laugh: Not that it isn't there but would like a refresher if it is.

    Thanks.
     
    #6 Allan, Nov 15, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2007
  7. Joshua Rhodes

    Joshua Rhodes
    Expand Collapse
    <img src=/jrhodes.jpg>

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2003
    Messages:
    3,944
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well thought out, Allen.

    Our associate pastor refers to the altar all the time. Whenever I mention I just tell the congregation that they can come "down front" to pray or what have you. Thing is, they can pray where they are, too.
     
  8. Allan

    Allan
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2006
    Messages:
    6,888
    Likes Received:
    0
    You bet you can and it can mean just as much as the one up front.
    They BOTH have their place, but I have found the body functions in ministry when it knows the Lord is working upon and in His people.

    Arguments can be made for both sides, and neither are unbiblical. One might not be looked upon with favor of those who don't understand it's usage and meaning but it does not change the fact that God uses this means as much as the other.
     
  9. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2005
    Messages:
    9,031
    Likes Received:
    0
    Some of you do, but I doubt if many pastors distinguish between an invitation and an altar call. They are usually intermixed. I find that the call to come to the altar is sometimes used when there is no response to the invitation to salvation. It is a means of eliciting some, any, response. And too often, it is manipulative in its use.

    My original point is there is no altar in a New Testament church. No matter how symbolic it is, there is not only no altar, but there is also no need for one. We ought to measure our terminology as well as our methods of presenting the gospel against the scriptures. It it's not there, then we should recognize its use as human invention.

    At the very least we should bring both our methods and our terminology in line with NT practice.
     
    #9 Tom Butler, Nov 15, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 15, 2007
  10. PASTOR MHG

    PASTOR MHG
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2005
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    0
    Just to add a little to Allan's thought...

    We often forget that we are NT priests, and one of the functions of a priest is to offer up sacrifices. And for those of you who don't think that there are sacrifices anymore, that is not scriptural.

    Here are a list of NT sacrifices:

    Sacrifice of our Body...
    Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

    Sacrifice of Praise...
    Heb 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

    Sacrifice of Good works and Honorable Life...
    Heb 13:16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

    Sacrifice of Prayer...
    Rev 8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

    Now, I know these are not physical OT sacrifices, but there is nothing wrong with providing people with a public place to (altar as Allan described) bring these sacrifices. I think the hang up on using the word "altar" is just that... a hang up. That is how we describe it when we gather together. This altar (prayer bench, kneeling bench, platform, prayer room, yada yada yada) is a place where a saint can come and offer up these spiritual sacrifices. It is sybolic and at the same time a place where spiritual business takes place.

    Just My Thoughts
    MAx
     
  11. StefanM

    StefanM
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2004
    Messages:
    6,427
    Likes Received:
    72
    This is pure conjecture and may be completely inaccurate, but....

    Perhaps the language extends from a more sacramental understanding of communion? Perhaps the language from more sacramental churches who have a "sacrifice" in their celebration of the Eucharist has bled into Baptist circles over the years?
     
  12. TCGreek

    TCGreek
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2006
    Messages:
    7,373
    Likes Received:
    0
    1. Even after the ultimate altar sacrifice in Jesus, we find Paul using altar language in Phil 2:17 and 2 Tim 4:6--I take it to mean the sacrifice of surrender.

    2. But I do not find it as the language of what takes place in conversion.

    3. As a figure of speech, I personally see nothing wrong in using the altar-language, depending on the context.
     
  13. Timsings

    Timsings
    Expand Collapse
    Member

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2006
    Messages:
    585
    Likes Received:
    0

    My favorite misused term is "sanctuary". The place where Baptists worship is not a sanctuary. It is more properly called an "auditorium" or some other similar neutral term. "Sanctuary" suggests that there is something holy about the room or space where worship occurs. In the traditional Baptist understanding, that is not true.

    David, you're right about our use of "church". Several years ago, at a business meeting, we were presented a new policy about how to affix things (e. g., announcements, posters, fliers, etc.) to the wall of the "church". Pins, tacks, or nails, were not to be used to attach things to the "church". One of our members, Foy Valentine, then head of the SB Christian Life Commission, raised an objection. He said that, since the church is the body of believers, the new policy was technically talking about sticking pins into our members. We all got a good laugh out of it, and we changed the wording of the policy. :laugh:

    Tim Reynolds
     
  14. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2005
    Messages:
    9,031
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well and good, and I think we who are discussing all this understand it.

    But in all of my life, never ever have I heard anyone explain it as it has been explained tonight. Not from a pastor, not from a preacher, not from a Bible teacher. Maybe the pastor has thought it through, but none of mine have ever walked us through the "come to the altar" invitation. And I never really throught it through until about 10 years ago.

    For the most part, I suspect that when a call goes out to "come to the altar", the people who hear it don't have a clue as to its symbolism either.
     
  15. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2005
    Messages:
    9,031
    Likes Received:
    0
    One of mine, too. And Tim, you have to be sure to pronounce it properly, too. It is sank'----chu-arrrry.

    When I was a student at Union University, we non-preacher boys sort of made fun of the ministerial students who quickly learned that it wasn't God; it was Gawwwd. So instead of calling them mini-ster-ial students, we called them mini-STEEE-rial students.

    It is in that spirit that I suggest that we pronounce sanctuary very solemnly, as in "don't run in the sank'---chu-arry!"
     
  16. David Lamb

    David Lamb
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2006
    Messages:
    2,982
    Likes Received:
    0
    Here, it's "sank-cher-ree" or "sank-choo-ree". And "ministerial" is usually pronounced "mini-STEEE-rial" (or perhaps a bit more accurately, "mini-STEER-rial). To a "Brit" like me, the American pronunciation of "God" sounds like "Guard".

    Back to the topic: In liturgical denominations, the "sanctuary" is that part of the church building immediately surrounding the "altar", at the east end of the building. That fact alone is enough to cause misunderstanding of terms like "Sanctuary" (however you pronounce it :) ) and "Altar".
     
  17. LeBuick

    LeBuick
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2006
    Messages:
    11,537
    Likes Received:
    0
    Sancturary in my understanding is the place where God dwells (Ex 25:8 or there abouts). You could be theoritically correct about it not ordinarily being a sanctuary but I believe sanctuary is the correct term when the Church is in service.

    Mt 18:20 (KJV) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

    Why the play on words from you guys? I find nothing wrong with using phrases like kneeling before the altar or approaching the throne of Grace. Sounds more spiritual than come down to the raised part of the auditorium.
     
  18. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2005
    Messages:
    9,031
    Likes Received:
    0
    Aha, we kids in the American south were actually pronouncing ministerial correctly and didn't even know it. We thought we were being funny.

    And your second thought reinforces my own view aboud the (mis)use of "altar."
     

Share This Page

Loading...