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What Luther Says

Evangelizing The Evangelical: Revelation 3:20 Is Not About The Lost, Unbeliever

As a former Evangelical, I think I might start a new series called "Evangelizing The Evangelical" to help confess "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) to those who believe the things I once believed.

After all, the thought of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering from a lack of assurance due to a conscience that is never comforted by their works "In Jesus' Name!" brings back far too many bad memories.

It makes me think about how I wish I would've been exposed to the Lutheran faith a lot earlier in life and how that would've made all the difference given the Biblical, Christ-centered focus (not just who Martin Luther was, but what makes being a Lutheran different from all the other confessions of the Christian faith).

So, I can't think of a better entry for our first installment of such a series than to take a closer look at a popular Evangelical verse found in Revelation 3.

Revelation 3:20 (ESV) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

How many of you former (or current) Evangelicals out there know this verse by heart?

 How many of you former (or current) Evangelicals out there believe that this is Jesus referring to one's salvation?

How many of you former (or current) Evangelicals out there know that that's flat out wrong and a clear misreading of the text?

 I could go on for days about the Book of Revelation's role in my own faith formation over the past 10 years or so (and probably will do that some day, but not today).

I could also go on for hours about how a Christian bestseller, Crazy Love, written by Francis Chan devotes an entire book centered around this one verse, and how my local LCMS Church embarked upon a 6-week Small Group Bible Study based on this book last Fall (despite my pleas and protests).

Instead, I would much rather defer to the apologetics acumen of both Pastor Todd Wilken and Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller who discussed this very same topic on an old episode of Issues, Etc.

AUDIO: Revelation 3:20, "I Stand At The Door And Knock"

I really hope you take the time to sit down and listen to this 30-minute podcast closely, without interruption, and with your Bible open in hand, because it is one of the clearest confessions of the truth regarding what the Bible actually teaches as it pertains to this popular Evangelical verse.

Even more importantly than that, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this verse is not about what we can and must do for Jesus, but about what He can and has already done for us.

I like the footnotes my Lutheran Study Bible includes for this verse...

"the door" In this particular case, the image of Christ standing and knocking at the door may be related to the parable about the servants whose master is at a wedding feast (Luke 12:35-40). They are expected to be ready and waiting for him when he appears, with the promise that those servants whom he finds ready will be blessed.

"I will come...eat with him." Best understood as referring to both the Church's weekly celebrations of the Eucharist and the eternal, messianic banquet in Heaven (Isaiah 25:6-9).

Martin Luther on Revelation 3:20 said the following: "The righteous always act [in fear] as if the Lord saw them. But the ungodly walk along smugly, as if God had His eyelids closed and did not see them, even though He examines them, too, and knocks, warning their conscience, as Revelation 3:20 says." Luther's Works 10:99

"Hasten as a bride to meet Him / And with loving rev'rence greet Him. / For with words of life immortal / He is knocking at your portal. Open wide the gates before Him, / Saying, as you there adore Him: Grant, Lord, that I now receive You, / That I nevermore will leave You. He who craves a precious treasure / Neither cost nor pain will measure; But the priceless gifts of Heaven / God to us has freely given. Though the wealth of earth were proferred / None could buy the gifts here offered: Christ's true body, for you riven / And His blood, for you once given." Amen. Lutheran Service Book 636:2-3

In short, rather than allowing for the common misinterpretation of Christ's knocking on a person's heart, the context of Revelation 3:20 demands that Christ was seeking to enter this church that bore His name, but lacked a single true believer.

This poignant letter was His knocking. If one member would recognize his spiritual bankruptcy and respond in saving faith, He would enter the church.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, this is the kind of Bible study that I wish I had been exposed to some 10 years ago, because perhaps then I would've been able to avoid sailing the "Works Righteousness Waters of American Evangelicalism" for as long as I did (almost making a shipwreck of my faith; 1 Timothy 1:19) before I came to rest upon the "Saved By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, In Christ Alone Shores" of the catholic, historic, traditional Confessional Lutheran faith.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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