My daughter received a Gideon Bible from the fair we went to a few weeks ago, and in that Bible, printed in the front is their take on how a person is saved. Under the heading, “All May be Saved” is a reference to Revelation 3:20 which reads:
“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.”
Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? Just don’t consider the context of this verse and it will fit about anything you want to make it fit. But I can’t just pick on the Gideons, because in my own tradition we have songs that take hold of the very same use for this passage. Just go to the Scripture index of the hymnbook “Songs of Faith and Praise” and look up Rev 3:20, there are four numbers listed there: 908, 919, 923, 945; all in the “Heaven’s Call” section of the book.
908 is the song “There’s a Stranger at the Door” and I remember singing this one as an invitation song imploring those who don’t know Jesus to “let the stranger in” and receive salvation.
919 is the song “Behold a Stranger at the Door” which I have not sung, but seems to be in the same category of the song above…Jesus can go from stranger to friend if you would simply open the door and let him in.
923 is the song “I Am Coming, Lord” which quite honestly doesn’t connect to the verse at all from a thematic or lyrical point of view. So, probably can put this one on the editors of the songbook and not the author of the song.
945 is the song “Kneel at the Cross” which I have sung a few times and never really connected it at all to a picture in the book of Revelation. I guess it might be the last line of the chorus, “Jesus will meet you there” that somehow connects to the verse, but seriously?
This is much better than I thought it would be when I first started writing this. The context surrounding Revelation 3:20 is a letter to the church meeting in Laodicea. So, My first assertion is that Jesus is indeed not a stranger to these people. My second assertion is that John is writing to a group of people, not one particular person. And my third assertion is that it should be quite embarrassing for Jesus to be knocking at the door of this church asking to be welcomed back into their midst…their fellowship. Therefore, this passage is not at all about “heaven’s call” or “personal salvation” but the Lord and Master of the church trying to get back in to a lukewarm church (You can reference an earlier blog post on that image!)
What this has to do with asking Jesus into your heart or for that matter “personal salvation…” I haven’t a clue. That is not the point of the passage, nor is it the intention of the author. I bring it to our attention because good-intending Christians sometimes make a bad habit of taking verses and passages out of context and using them as proofs for the most interestingly contrived arguments ever asserted. Of course, when persons who don’t profess faith or who come from a different group of Christianity do it, then we charge them with all sorts of things including false-doctrine and heresy. Yet, we must return to taking the Bible seriously, instead of perusing it like the comic section of the newspaper or the latest news apps on our phones.
How can this happen? How can a group like the Gideons who pour resources into Bible research and linguistic studies make such a glaring error? How can editors of a songbook take such a negligent approach to interpretation of the Bible in connection with lyrics? I would assume it is because an inaccurate understanding has become firmly fixed and so it has become “tradition.” And that is both the power and pitfall of tradition folks…which often, in this case and many others, continues to effect the life and practice of our faith. We need to read with humility, and when wrong may we have the courage to change our minds and come in better fellowship with him who stands at the door of our deeply traditional churches asking to be let in once again.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.