The Altar Call
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "All you do in evangelism, some say, is to call people to 'come to Christ', and you offer forgiveness. You call upon them to 'decide for Christ'. They generally go on to say that if you afterwards go to the other meetings you will learn a deeper doctrine, a profound truth; but in an evangelistic meeting there is only a simple message - it is "Come to Jesus; come to Christ, decide for Him. If you want forgiveness, here it is". Now as I understand [Romans 6:17], such teaching is not only dangerous, but utterly un-scriptural. That is why this matter is of such tremendous importance. That is not the message the Roman Christians had believed, otherwise Paul could not have drawn these great deductions from it. What then is it? 'The form of doctrine delivered them' was the full doctrine that Paul had been elaborating on throughout this Epistle to the Romans - nothing less. The message of evangelism is a message that starts with . . . . . . man in sin under the wrath of a holy God.
Paul starts with that way back in chapter 1, in verses 16, 17, and 18. "I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith. For (because) the wrath of God is (already) revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold (down) the truth in unrighteousness." That is an essential part of the message.
You can not skate lightly over and around sin in evangelism, and say to people "do not bother about repentance now. Come to Christ first, you can repent afterwards." No! The doctrine of sin is a vital part of this 'form of doctrine' [mentioned in Romans 6:17] that produces the amazing result. We all have to see ourselves under condemnation, bound for hell, hopeless and helpless in sin and under the wrath of god. We have to see the foul, terrible nature of such a condition, its slavery to sin and Satan, and the terrible end to which it inevitably leads. That is part of the message.
Then comes the utter hopeless of all human striving and effort to achieve salvation. It took Paul most of chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Romans to unfold this aspect of the doctrine. The Gentiles with their philosophy cannot deliver themselves, neither can the Jew, the man who boasted that because he had the Law a happy future was assured to him. 'No', says Paul, "you are no better than the Gentile. Knowledge of the law does not save; you have to keep the Law." So he concludes "that there is no difference; all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". The whole human race has failed. You cannot save yourself. It matters not at all how good and moral and excellent and religious you may be. This counts for nothing. Whether you are circumcised or not does not matter; and all mortality is useless in and of itself. Man by his own effort cannot save himself. Paul elaborates the teaching to remind them of it, and to confirm them in it.
This is all a part of evangelism. Evangelism does not consist in telling stories and playing on people's emotions, and then pressing them to a decision at the end without any true knowledge on their part of what they are doing. No, but it is the outlining of this 'form of doctrine', this message, this truth. Then you go on to tell them that from this complete hopelessness and helplessness and despair God has provided a way of escape: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood". That is the message, that is the "form of doctrine that has been delivered". That is the immediate agency that produces this great change.