Does God call you or do you call God?
By Dr. Ken Matto
(John 6:37 KJV) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
The subject we are going to discuss is called “decisionism.” In the majority of churches today and in evangelistic circles, when there is a meeting and a sermon preached, normally at the end of the meeting the preacher will call for people to make a decision to accept Christ as their personal Savior. This is known as the invitation and those who want to accept Christ are asked to come to the front, then when all are gathered, the speaker will lead the group with a small prayer, something called, "the Sinner’s Prayer."  The prayer normally consists of a confession of sin, a personal call for repentance, and asking Christ to be the savior of their life. These activities fall under the umbrella of "making a decision for Christ." I have been in meetings where the speaker asks everyone to bow their heads and he is the only one looking and then proceeds to do a long drawn out invitation. Basically, you will hear the term “anyone else” repeated about 50 times until someone else feels compelled to go down to the front. Whether that desire is from the Lord, or just a desire to shorten the invitation by giving the speaker one more notch on his spiritual gun belt, is yet to be seen.
The question we must pose is, “Is it possible for a person to make some kind of instant decision after a message and then accept Christ?” We must define what a decision is. This definition is from the Merriam Webster On Line Dictionary, “a: the act or process of deciding b: a determination arrived at after consideration.” The speaker gets up behind the podium on the dais and preaches a message. He then begins to ask people to evaluate the message and to determine in their own mind what they heard. As the speaker begins to make a small homily concerning the contents of the message, he begins to wind down with a compendium of the essence of the message. He then conveys to his hearers that since they have now heard the gospel preached, it is the utmost importance that they now act on what they heard. The speaker is calling for a determination after the people consider the message. He then declares that they must now make a decision concerning their eternal destiny. If they accept Christ, they will have eternal life from the moment they come forward and give their heart to Christ. Essentially, decisionism is the person making an on the spot decision about accepting Christ. However, the process which precedes the coming forward is quite subjective to the speaker’s ability to motivate people. When one looks at the Billy Graham Crusades in the earlier years or even Jimmy Swaggart at his height of popularity, these were two powerful speakers who had the ability to motivate.  The Billy Graham people have admitted they acknowledge that not everyone who came forward in the meetings became saved. Many were caught up in the moment. Decisionism is a flawed method and a very dangerous system to try and bring souls into the Kingdom with. The truth is that decisionism is a contrived technique and not a biblical system.
For the first 1800 years of the church, there was no such thing as decisionism when it concerned salvation. There have been debates between theological systems for hundreds of years where people make decisions concerning the materials they heard presented by the debaters. Decisionism for salvation was unheard of until the 1820’s when Charles Finney (1792-1875) introduced this method. Up until this time, when people heard a message which moved them, they did not do anything, because the Holy Spirit would convict them and then they would begin their Christian life. It was Charles Finney who preached that people have to make a decision. He was very heavy into free will and even believed that a Christian can actually lose their salvation in Heaven. Here is the quote from Finney’s Systematic Theology: “Saints in Heaven can by natural possibility apostatize and fall, and be lost. Were not this naturally possible, there would be no virtue in perseverance.” (Page 550) Finney even denied the blood atonement of Christ and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to those who became saved. Of course, if you do not believe that Christ imputes His righteousness, then a person would have to fall from Heaven, since they came in without a wedding garment.
(Mat 22:12-13 KJV) And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. {13} Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The truth is the believer is blessed with the robe of Christ’s righteousness according to the following verse:
(Isa 61:10 KJV) I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
Finney did not believe that Christ died for the sins of His People. He had come to believe that Christ just removed the hindrances which kept people from making those decisions to accept Christ. Based upon these beliefs held by Finney, I cannot see how this man could even claim to be a Christian. His belief system was one of an apostate unbeliever.  When we look at today’s evangelistic methods, we see the technique of Finney being used on a large scale. Probably, the best example of Finney’s technique being used today is that of Billy Graham who calls people to make a decision for Christ. Even his magazine is called “Decision.”  If you enter any church today which espouses the Arminian doctrine of free will, you will find an invitation being given at the end of the service for people to come forward and accept Christ. Normally, accompanying this, you would be in for a fifteen-minute call.
There is one great comparative mistake that those who believe in decisionism make. They compare those in the Bible who Jesus called in a public manner to those they are calling to accept Christ. In fact, you will hear Billy Graham say repeatedly, “Every person Jesus ever called, He called publicly.” The question that I have is, “which ones did Jesus call publicly that made a decision to accept Him?” I cannot think of anyone whom Jesus called that accepted Him as Savior. Let us look at some of those public callings in Scripture, which the decisionists make their comparisons to:
(Mat 9:9 KJV) And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
The public calling of Matthew teaches us that Matthew was instantly convicted to who Jesus was, and instantly followed him. There is nothing hinting of a decision to follow Christ.
(Luke 19:5-9 KJV) And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. {6} And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. {7} And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. {8} And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. {9} And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
Zacchaeus was called publicly by Jesus, and instantly he came down from the tree and stood before the Lord. When he stood before the Lord, he was so convicted that he was going to make amends for the evil lifestyle he led. Jesus then pronounces that Zacchaeus had become saved and pronounced him a child of Abraham. (Gal 3:29 KJV) And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. If you notice above in Luke 19:9, we see that salvation came to the house of Zacchaeus, he did not make a decision to accept Christ, yet he became saved because he was a predestined child of God whom the Lord came to seek and to save. (Luke 19:10 KJV) For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. This is how the Lord winds up his episode with Zacchaeus.
The Calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John
(Mat 4:18-22 KJV) And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. {19} And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. {20} And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. {21} And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. {22} And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
Here we see Jesus calling four of His disciples. All four were fishermen which made them equal to working men today. Now, if they had the ability to make a decision concerning following Jesus or staying with their trade, think on this for a moment. As fishermen, they would no doubt have been poor men, so they literally would have had to factor this element into their decision. Do they give up their livelihood to follow this man, or do they stay on the job? If you notice in these five passages, that all four of these men immediately left their profession and followed the Lord. There was no contemplating as to whether they had to make a decision on it or not.
(John 11:43-44 KJV) And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. {44} And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
Here we see a man who was dead for four days being raised to life. Lazarus is a great picture of a person being called out of dead sins into salvation. Before a person becomes saved, they are dead in their sins and then Christ raises them up to newness of life. This is the great biblical truth that the raising of Lazarus gives us. (Eph 2:5 KJV) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) Now when the Lord called Lazarus forth, did Lazarus sit in the grave and decide whether he wanted to come forth or not? Of course not, as the Lord called the others and immediately they followed, Lazarus immediately came out of the grave alive.
The practice of comparing the public callings of Jesus to decisionism is a false comparison. When Jesus called someone, the person being called didn’t stop to make a decision. There is no biblical precedent for decisionism. This method is a creation of man which makes him the final authority in salvation, and without biblical precedent, it makes it a false teaching and practice.
Another area where the decisionists get confused, is when Jesus would speak to the people or individuals to elicit a response from them. Jesus never spoke with an individual in rote terms to try and persuade them to accept Him as their savior. That is because that is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict the unbeliever. Let us look at some of these conversations which were responsive and not decisionist in nature.
The Blind Man
(John 9:35-38 KJV) Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? {36} He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? {37} And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. {38} And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
Jesus healed this blind man who was given the third degree by the leaders. Finally, the leaders would not accept the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, and they excommunicated the healed man from their synagogue. When Jesus heard that this man was thrown out, He sought him out and asked him if he believed on the Son of God. When Jesus revealed this to him, he responded by saying, “I believe.” There is nothing here to intimate that the man made a decision, instead, he responded to the Lord’s query. This man was able to respond and worship the Lord Jesus because God had qualified him and prepared his heart to hear and understand. There is nothing in these passages to indicate a decision.   Instead, it was a divine response.
(John 1:48-49 KJV) Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. {49} Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Nathanael had asked Jesus a simple question and the Lord’s response to his question caused a response in Nathanael concerning the divine Sonship of the Lord and His position as King of Israel. Nathanael gave a response of a saved person. There was no decision on Nathanael’s part as to whether or not he should accept the fact that Jesus was the Messiah and the King of Israel. Nathanael came to that conclusion based on a very short conversation with Jesus. This was because his heart, like the blind man’s heart, was qualified by God to hear and to believe in Jesus.
The difference between a decision for Christ and a response is night and day. Those who respond in truth to the message are those who have been spiritually qualified by God to respond to the message. Those who feel they have to make a decision for Christ, are not being called. A dead man cannot decide himself and has to be regenerated by God first. Then when God makes you alive unto Him, God calls you and you cannot refuse. Look at the way the Lord called Matthew and the four fisherman as His disciples. They immediately left their professions and followed the Lord. It was a Holy Spirit conviction which caused these men to immediately follow the Lord.
One of the most serious issues within decisionism or any aspect of soteriology, is, does man possess the ability to decide on salvation? The question may also be asked in the following manner, “Is man capable of deciding?” Salvation is a spiritual event and not an intellectual happening. When a person becomes saved, their physical body remains the same. The salvation happens in the spirit or the soul. A person becomes spiritually alive when they receive the Lord as their personal Savior. The first question which must be broached is, what is the spiritual condition of man prior to salvation? Once we ascertain that answer from the Scriptures, the answer to the other questions of ability fall right into place.
(Eph 2:1 KJV) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins:
(Eph 2:5 KJV) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
In the above two verses, we see the word “dead” used in both verses. The word dead is translated from the Greek word “nekrous” which carries with it the meaning of “lifeless, useless, dead.” So here we see two plain verses, which teach us that before salvation, a person is absolutely dead and lifeless. We must first realize that what is in view here is not physical death, but a person being spiritually dead. God is telling us that we were dead in sins, to wit, our life before salvation. Now, can a dead person make themselves alive? Of course, the answer is no. All of us have been to funerals and the guest of honor remains dead. Can a dead man choose his coffin? Of course, the answer is no.
In Scripture, we have an excellent example of a believer who goes from death to life. The example is Lazarus. We saw that before. Lazarus did not decide to come out of the tomb, he was summoned by God Himself who stood outside the tomb and called him. He then came forth in qualified response to the summons.
We see then that before salvation, a person is spiritually dead and absolutely incapable of making any spiritual decisions. So then how does a person come to Christ? The verse below says that a person will come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Doesn’t that constitute a decision?
(John 6:37 KJV) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Let us look further on in the same chapter and see if a person makes that decision.
(John 6:44 KJV) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Now, we gain a little more insight to the reason behind someone coming to the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not find a decision.  Instead, we find a drawing by the Father who leads the saved person to His Son. Before someone can come to the Lord Jesus Christ, God qualifies them by giving them the Holy Spirit who makes them spiritually alive.   In other words, the person has become saved. They are not making a decision, but a qualified response.
(Rom 8:9 KJV) But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
We see that a person cannot make a decision for Christ, even though it may look like the person is making a decision. However, the person is coming to the Lord Jesus Christ only because they have been spiritually qualified to do so. God draws them and then gives them salvation. There is nothing in view in Scripture whereby a person makes a decision and then is given salvation. In fact, the opposite exists, whereby a person is first qualified to hear the gospel by being given a spirit that is alive unto God. Notice in both Ephesians 2:1 & 5, we see that God is the one who quickens us from being spiritually dead. We can also see that the entire action is God’s, and there is no involvement by the person receiving the salvation, because they are totally passive.
Decisionism does not reflect outwardly that anything has taken place inwardly. Now, at the moment a person is making their decision, there may seem to be a certain piety on their face. True salvation does not emanate inward from the outward.  Instead, it emanates outward from the inward transformation. Making a decision is an outward act in which no inward transformation has taken place. Saying a few words like a "Sinner's Prayer" or even coming to tears is not a valid manifestation of true salvation. These are expressions of religious emotionalism, triggered by a response to the preacher, who is probably going on incessantly with his “anyone else” campaign. People sit under this manipulative method and some think that maybe God is calling them, and then when they raise their hand, they feel they have responded to God’s call, when in essence, they have responded to the preacher who is normally going for numbers. There is absolutely no precedent in Scripture for incessant calling to salvation by means of repetitive pleas. Many that respond to these pleas are back doing the same things they did before they responded. That is because there was no spiritual transformation in their life.
How many times have we heard this one? Almost every time you hear someone giving their testimony, they always start out by saying they got saved when they were very young, but walked away from the Lord. This contradicts the Bible in the area of God keeping His Saints. It says that the dead will of man is superior in force to God. This, of course, is the invention of the decisionist crowd who believe that they have the power and authority to control God and His salvation plan. I would be very frightened to believe that I have the authority to control God. Let me give an example of a radio program I heard almost on a daily basis. It is called the Christian Working Woman with Mary Whelchel. Now, many times she has some good practical pointers on living the Christian life in a tough arena called the job place. If you listen to the program for awhile, you will hear her say in many different instances, “I give God permission to be Lord of my life” or “I give God permission for this or that, etc.” This is the height of arrogance to believe that the clay controls the Potter! No human being, saved or unsaved, gives God permission to do anything! He is the Sovereign God of this universe, and no one tells Him what to do. Those who believe they became saved when they were young probably received a "parents salvation."  That is, they probably walked the aisle to please their parents, but never became saved. No one whom God truly saves can walk away from the Lord or lose their salvation. This is contrary to Scripture.
(Eph 4:30 KJV) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
(1 Pet 1:5 KJV) Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(Rom 11:29 KJV) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
(Rom 8:38-39 KJV) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, {39} Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(John 6:37 KJV) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
(Jude 1:24 KJV) Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
(2 Tim 1:12 KJV) For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
Why would God speak about keeping His children unto the day of redemption, which would either be the Last Day or the day of our home going, when He would allow a Christian to walk out of salvation any time they want. These and many other verses speak to the eternal security of the true believer. The only reason those people “walked away” from God is because they were never saved. Parents should never force their children to run down the aisle and make a decision.
Here is another decisionist method of manipulation. A person who believes they are saved responds to the preacher who asks if anyone wants to rededicate their lives to the Lord. A true Christian is dedicated to the Lord by means of the inward transformation which took place at the time of salvation. Those who need to rededicate their lives to the Lord should really check if they are truly saved. No true Christian can ever walk back into the world and then decide to come back when they feel like it. We saw that God keeps His people right up unto the end. If God says that He is going to keep His people through His power, then those who have walked away either as adults or children, were never saved to begin with, because they were never kept. God does not lie, and we better not create our own prideful systems of salvation which gives the notion that He does lie, especially when we saw multiple Scriptures which refute the idea that any true believer can walk out of salvation.
We have already seen a little bit of this test concerning those who claim to have been saved, and then walked away from the Lord. Time will show the difference as to whether a person has been legitimately called of the Lord or if a person made a decision. There is one easy way to distinguish a decision maker versus the truly called Child of God. Normally, the decision maker is running to the altar every week. Some time ago I heard a preacher speaking about our works and that we will not know if the works we do will bear fruit until we get to glory. So here he was telling us that there is a period of time involved in determining if our works would bear fruit. Then at the end of his message, he asked everyone to bow their heads and then he went into his “decision call.” Now, he believes that if a person says those few words of “acceptance” then they have become instantly saved. Now, why do our works need a period of time to determine their value, because a person says a few words bringing instant salvation, it is accepted as effectual salvation?
The bottom line is that when a person claims to make a decision for Christ, a time period is also needed to determine if that person truly became saved. Normally, one year will suffice, because within that time period, you will see if that person has a desire to grow or a desire to go. This is why it is imperative that there be a follow-up ministry in every church. This way, the progress of the person can be measured to see if their salvation was real or forced.
The following are three steps to salvation:
1. First, God named who He was going to save
(Rev 13:8 KJV) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
2. Secondly, He called those He was going to save
(Rom 8:28 KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
3. Thirdly, He drew those He was going to save
(John 6:44 KJV) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
These three steps were taken by God in the counsels of Heaven before the person who is going to become saved even knows. None of us know whom the Lord is going to save, and that is why we send forth the Gospel, so His Elect may hear. Now, these three biblical steps which are done by God shows us that those who are truly predestined for salvation will respond to the Gospel because they have already been named, called, and drawn. This is why those who have not been called cannot make any type of decision to “accept” the Lord. If God has not qualified someone to hear the gospel and become saved, then that person will NOT become saved. Plus, God has already named who is going to be saved from before the foundation of the world, and it is not a Guest Registry where He adds new names to it every day.
(Heb 9:16-17 KJV) For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. {17} For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
When we look at salvation in terms of a legal document, it brings up the Scriptures above concerning the Last Will and Testament. When the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the testator, died on Calvary, that was the completion of God’s salvation plan. The time period from Pentecost to the Last Day will be when God will be applying the contents of the will, which is grace, to all the beneficiaries which were named in the will. These were named before the foundation of the world because that is when Christ, in principle, was crucified (Rev. 13:8).
Now, let us ask a follow-up question. Is there a process to being saved on earth? The answer is no! Those whom God will save will be passive in their salvation and will receive it without any addition of any type of works. Trying to add any type of works to God’s salvation plan adulterates it. Even if those works are just simple works, like praying to receive Christ. That is because any type of work, no matter how trivial, would make man a contributing factor in their own salvation. This is why when the Lord went to the Cross, He scattered the sheep, so no one could boast that they had a part in the salvation plan of God. It is solely of God and given by God to His Elect in God’s timing. This is why those outside of the Last Will and Testament of the Lord Jesus Christ cannot make a decision for Christ, because they have not been named in the will.
Let us now follow up the follow-up question. Is there any process that the believer goes through? The answer is yes! It is the process of sanctification, which basically is the growth of the believer in grace after salvation. There is never a process to attain salvation but afterwards, we begin our growth toward God and away from the world. We begin to grow in our commitment to the Lord. The desire to grow in grace is a revealing tenet that a person has truly become saved. Rededication or making a decision proves nothing.
Decisionism is definitely a works gospel. If you remember, we spoke of the difference between a person making a qualified response and someone who is uncalled trying to make a decision as to whether they should accept the Lord or not. A person whom God has qualified to hear the Gospel will, at the appointed time, when drawn, come to the Lord for salvation. If a person who is uncalled hears a message, and then tries to decide whether they should believe it or not, then they are actually performing a work, because by acceptance of the Gospel, they are having a part in their own salvation. We have all heard the analogy, “God wrote out the check and signed it, but now it is up to you to co-sign it.” These analogies speak for themselves. If someone signs a check, they are working as they are signing. God’s salvation plan is totally of God, and man does NOT have the slightest part, except for the Elect to receive it.
In my years of preaching, I have used the altar call, but from a Sovereign Grace standpoint and not from a free will view. I must admit in my early years of preaching, I did call for a decision at a church where I filled in the pulpit, but only once. The altar call can be a valuable course of action whereby those whom with God is dealing with may take the step and come forward, so the leaders of the church may get them into a New Believers class. The altar call should never be used to try and manipulate people into an emotional response. It should be used to identify those in the congregation whom God might be dealing with. As with everything in life, there will be some churches that will have a Christian coming down the aisle every week, but something like this should not deter using a good tool to identify those who God may be calling or dealing with. An option should also be given, that if a person does not want to come down the aisle and if they believe that God has been dealing with them, then the pastor and elders should have a room set aside for those who may want to talk privately.
The altar call has been misused down through the years by the decisionists who believe that when a person comes forward and says a few words, then they are saved. We saw this as being an erroneous practice, which yields emotional responses. To get up and walk the aisle would constitute a works gospel, because by getting up and walking, they would be co-signing that check that God wrote. We also saw that the dead cannot make a decision. The only ones who come for salvation are the ones whom God qualifies to do so.
We have looked at decisionism and found that it really doesn’t exist from a salvation point of view. Only those whom God has qualified will respond to the Gospel. That is because they have been named, called, and drawn. Decisionism creates an army of those who think they are saved and are under a dangerous delusion which can end in one heartbeat. Decisionism was basically adopted by a heretical evangelist, Charles Finney, and then of course, whenever a heretic is found in Christianity, what do we do? We follow them instead of rebuking them! So many churches are adopting decisionism as a method of evangelism, which is resulting in people with false salvation beliefs. Because of this erroneous method, many are also walking around believing they are saved. This is one reason the Lord warns us:
(Mat 7:21 KJV) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Let’s just keep preaching Truth and let God do the saving. Believe me, it works!