Sent: Saturday, May 01, 2004 12:59 AM

I have recently been surfing the Internet for articles which oppose public invitations. Yesterday, a brother referred me to one via email which I had not seen before. It was written by Pastor Fred G. Zaspel.

Brother Fred Zaspel is currently pastor of the Cornerstone Church of Skippack, Montgomery County, Pa. and is listed in the Reformed Baptist Directory. He previously pastored for 17 years (1985-2002) at Word of Life Baptist Church in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.

Brother Fred has a wonderful conversion testimony about his salvation which may be read on the Internet: I am excerpting a portion of that testimony here, and you can read the rest of it on the website:

I was born in the southern suburbs of Chicago where my father was starting a church. I could never begin to remember when I first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. My mother tells me that she explained the story of Christ to me while I was still in the hospital. Of course I have no recollection of that(!), but from my earliest days, when I was still so very impressionable, I knew it was right and good to love and obey God. And I knew that Christ was the only savior of sinners. My parents taught me in the ways of God, and it was in every respect a Christian home - one for which I am eternally grateful.

My earliest memory is from age two, in 1960, when we moved to Bartonville, IL - a suburb of Peoria, where my father was called as pastor of the Oak Grove Baptist Church. I heard him preach every Sunday and every Wednesday since before I could understand. In those days he gave an altar call after he preached. It was never the extreme practice of so many, but I saw many, many people step forward to talk to him about their spiritual concerns. It never really moved me much - the preaching or the altar calls - but somehow I knew that I too needed to do business with God. I knew it, but the thought really never bothered me either. I recall talking about these things in general terms with my parents in conversation, but I do not recall ever feeling lost. It was something I guess I knew, because I had heard it preached well enough and often enough, but somehow the thought just never bothered me. I did not rebel against it - in fact I would have told you in my childish terms that I had a very favorable disposition toward God and Christ and the Church and all that. But so far as my personal lostness was concerned, it was something I guess I would have admitted if asked, but I do not recall it bothering me.

I do recall one day my dad asking me, "Fred, when are you going to be saved?" Wisely, he never pushed me for any kind of decision, and the conversation did not continue more than just that moment or so. But it did get my attention. Sort of. At least it got me to think about the issue a bit. But I really was not all that bothered by it.

Until one day in 1964 - a Sunday morning, while my dad was preaching - I all of a sudden knew and felt that if I died I would perish in hell and deservedly so. Understand, I was only 6 years old, but I was suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed - crushed with an awful sense of my lostness. For the first time ever I saw my need of a Savior, and I knew that only Jesus would do. Only He had died for sinners, and only He could save me. And that day I began to look to Him. When the congregation stood to sing the "invitation hymn," I turned to my mother and asked if she would walk with me to the front. Before she could put the hymnal in the rack I had gone. I was desperate. I was shaken and torn to the deepest part of my soul. And that morning I knelt and did business with God. I told him I was lost. I told him I needed to be saved. I cannot emphasize enough how desperate and crushed and broken I felt. I understood and felt that I was lost. In later years I became acquainted with the Biblical doctrine of "irresistible grace." My own experience was such that I had no trouble understanding the doctrine, and I could scarcely have even questioned it - it matched my experience all too well. God had made me feel desperate, and no one in the world could ever have kept me back from going to Him. That morning I ran to Christ with all of my might. I knew that if I did not have Him as my Savior I would perish. With tears and with faith I begged God for mercy. I acknowledged in the words of a six-year-old my spiritual poverty and asked him to save me. I laid myself before Him in complete brokenness and submission. I knew and felt that I deserved hell, and I cried for rescue. I do not set up my experience as a model for anyone, but my conversion to Christ was the most dramatic moment of my entire life, and I have never got over it. God had overwhelmed me with the most awful sense of sin and judgment. And then, in a moment, he overwhelmed me with a great sense of His love and grace - and with a sense of my new-found safety in Jesus Christ. I went home with a solid and happy assurance of my good standing in Christ - a confidence which (I say this honestly) has never been shaken to this day. I didn't know much theology at that point - I was only six! But I knew that Jesus Christ was my Savior, and I knew that with Him I was safe and would be safe forever. God had saved me, and I knew it. And I was one very, very, very happy boy. Such a powerful sense of the love of God was so poured out in my heart and so filled it to overflowing, that it was more than a match for that awful sense of lostness. The subject of Christian joy has never been difficult for me to grasp at all. Ever after that day when I would read or hear from the Scriptures that statement about a Christian's "first love," I knew very well what it meant, even if I could not explain it. I cannot say it too strongly - when God saved me, he made me know it. And I loved it. I loved Him, and I knew He loved me.

And it was this experience, which I never got over, that God used to call me to preach. From as far back as I remember - before even a serious thought of preaching - the line from Wm. Cooper's hymn has been a favorite -

"E'er since by faith I saw the stream,
Redeeming wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die."

I am almost embarrassed to talk like this, because it seems to many so unbelievable that a six-year-old boy could experience all this and think like this. But I knew on that Sunday morning that my entire existence had been changed - my whole outlook, my whole life, my whole being was different. I had been born again. I had new life. I was a new creation in Christ. All these Biblical expressions were after that day immediately understandable for me, even if not explainable. Things would never be the same. I would never be the same, and I knew it. I had fallen in love with Christ. In that moment He became my unrivaled treasure.

Isn't that a beautiful conversion story?

But can you imagine, in your wildest imagination, that this same Brother Zaspel is now preaching and teaching against "the altar call," or what is known as the "invitation"? He was saved during an invitation, but now he is against them!

I printed out Brother Zaspel's article against invitations and read it recently, and it is surely a "speckled bird" in contrast to the above account of how he was saved -- saved during an invitation -- and yet in his article against invitations he alleges that an invitation "offers no help at all but ONLY HARM"!

Most of the arguments Brother Zaspel sets forth for his post-conversion opposition to the public invitation I have already commented upon in a former article in which I replied to similar arguments, ALLEGED DANGERS OF "INVITATIONS" [04/23/04], so I will not be repetitive on those. However, I do wish to comment on just a few items in Bro. Zaspel's article.

(1) He apparently has become an advocate of the "pre-faith regeneration" theory. This seems to be the essence of his following remarks:

Man "dead" in sins must be brought to life by God before He can do anything at all that is of spiritual good (Ephesians 2:1-5). These who believe unto salvation first were born of God (John 1:12-13). 

This is the same notion we have been refuting in our articles concerning James White. It is the same theory taught by Louis Berkhof and some other pedobaptists and has been adopted by some "reformed" Baptists. It is also taught by Hardshell Baptists. This theory has the lost sinner born again before he ever experiences the power of the Gospel applied by the Holy Spirit in the creation of faith. It has the sinner being a regenerated unbeliever.

There is no such creature. The one born of God is the believer, and one not born of God is the unbeliever (1 John 5:1). There is no such thing as an unregenerated believer, nor a regenerated unbeliever. When the Holy Spirit blesses the Gospel unto the creation of faith, then one has been born again, and not before. He that believes has life, and the unbeliever does not have life.

I think this "pre-faith regeneration" theory may lie at the root of Brother Zaspel's repudiation of the public invitation. He may have been sidetracked by reading Berkhof, or Sproul, or some other pedobaptist or semi-Pelagian who teaches that "command implies ability."

(2) He also misrepresents the views of Spurgeon. While Spurgeon had some remarks to make against some of the excesses, abuses, and misuses of various methods used in his day, he never once repudiated the "invitation system," raising hands, going to inquiry rooms, or the such like.

Brother Zaspel claims that Spurgeon "often warned against the invitation system." If he did, I have never read it. I have recently cited several instances of Spurgeon's views and practices on this matter, and to my knowledge he never once rejected either one or all methods of a public response to the Gospel. I have shown, for example, how he came to the defense of the evangelism of D. L. Moody.

(3) Brother Zaspel alleges that "Saving faith is not a decision that is made." The fact is, Brother Zaspel himself has given a testimony of his own conversion wherein he surely made a "decision." In his testimony he says, "For the first time ever I saw my need of a Savior, and I knew that only Jesus would do. Only He had died for sinners, and only He could save me. And that day I began to look to Him."

Then he asked his own mother to go forward with him: "When the congregation stood to sing the 'invitation hymn,' I turned to my mother and asked if she would walk with me to the front. Before she could put the hymnal in the rack I had gone. I was desperate. I was shaken and torn to the deepest part of my soul. And that morning I knelt and did business with God. I told him I was lost. I told him I needed to be saved. I cannot emphasize enough how desperate and crushed and broken I felt. I understood and felt that I was lost."

Now, if that was not the most important series of "decisions" Brother Zaspel ever made in his own life, it is beyond my comprehension of what it was. As much as he now has a distaste for the word "decision," HE MADE SOME DECISIONS! He decided he was lost; he decided he needed to be saved; he decided to ask his Mom to go with him to the front; he decided to do business with God, etc. Under the powerful influence of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, he made the decision of his life and eternity!

And how Brother Zaspel can now read Spurgeon and somehow close his eyes to Spurgeon's emphasis upon decision is surely an enigma. Has he never read where Spurgeon preached on "An Urgent Request for an Immediate Answer" (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 37, #2232), and he says, "Well," says one, "I am glad you have spoken to us; I will think it over." "No, friend," Spurgeon admonishes, "I do not mean that. I do not want you to think it over. You have had enough of thinking; I pray that God's Spirit may lead you to AN IMMEDIATE DECISION."

Did not Brother Zaspel feel the need of an IMMEDIATE DECISION, so strongly that he "ran to Christ," as he also says further on in his testimony?

You read that sermon by Spurgeon, Brother Zaspel, and then tell me that Spurgeon did not believe in the need for an IMMEDIATE DECISION to accept the Gospel and be saved.

Shame on you, Brother Zaspel! for repudiating the very method -- the public invitation -- by which the Lord in His wise Providence chose to extend to you his "irresistible grace" and bring you to make an eternal decision to run to Christ for salvation!

But you need not feel like the Long Ranger, Brother Zaspel. If you will ask around, I suspect that you will find that a whole lot of your anti-invitation brethen were also converted during a public invitation! -- Bob L. Ross

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