Some churches historically have taught that water immersion is the dividing line between the lost and the saved. This means that a penitent believer remains unforgiven of sin until buried in the waters of baptism (Romans 6:4). Much of the denominational world disagrees with this analysis of Bible teaching, holding instead that one is saved at the point of “belief,” before and without water baptism. Consider some of the points that are advanced in an effort to minimize the essentiality of baptism for salvation. Read >>
1 John 3:4 NKJV says, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” Since sin is the violating of God’s Law, only God can forgive sin. Jesus said a miracle showed He had “power on earth to forgive sins” and then healed a paralyzed man instantly (Mark 2:1-12 NKJV). No Apostle or church of Christ was ever to “forgive sins,” but they preached Jesus Christ as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV). No one today has the right either to claim to forgive sins with “works of penance,” or make up their own rules on how to be forgiven by God with “a sinner’s prayer!” Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16 NKJV).
This is Johnny Polk, with “Words of Wisdom” brought to you by the Oneida church of Christ.
The apostle Paul says, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. A lot of the “faith alone” folks interpret this as referring to a Sinner’s Prayer. But that is not what Paul was talking about. There was no such thing as a Sinners Prayer in Paul’s day. Nor is it found in scripture. A few verses later Paul says, “but they have not all obeyed the gospel.” Some call on the name of the Lord and others obey not the gospel. Paul knew calling on the name of the Lord involved obedience. Why? When lost, Jesus told him to go to Damascus and he would be told what he must do. He did and Ananias found him praying and told him “Arise, be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” In Paul’s case, calling on the name of the Lord involved being baptized. So you “faith alone” folks can have your Sinners Prayer, I’m going to go Paul’s way. This is Just-A-Minute.
In this last article in this series on the sinner’s prayer we will address the question: What does the Bible say? It is not only important to know what the Bible says, but also to contrast the biblical answer with that which the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association gave.
It is interesting to note that on the following page (page 5, Living in Christ & Gospel of John) there are three questions, all related to how one knows. They are: How does one know he (she) is saved? How does one know he (she) is a child of God? How does one know he (she) has eternal life? The answer to these questions is settled with a simple reply. God said it in the Bible. This is not true, however, with the sinner’s prayer.
Since the sinner’s prayer is found nowhere New Testament, exactly what does the Bible say about “how to receive Christ”?
In the second article of this short series, mention was made of Peter’s words to those in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). It was there that Peter made plain to his hearers their guilt in that they killed the Lord’s anointed (Acts 2:23). Responding to the weight of their guilt, the crowd asked Peter what they needed to do to remove this guilt killing the Lord’s messiah. Peter replied: “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38, ASV).
This is a biblical answer to the question “how to receive Christ?” It is not a made up answer, but one that is straight from the words of the apostle.
Here is another biblical answer to “how to receive Christ?” “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12, ESV).
In these two biblical passages we learn the following things the Holy Spirit said one needs to do to “receive Christ.” They are: 1) believe the good news, 2) repent, and 3) be baptized.
That is a biblical answer, and one that is easily supported by Scripture. Why didn’t the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association give this Bible answer? It appears they desire to teach entry into Jesus by some other means than that by which Jesus said one must enter (cf. John 3:3-5).
My friends don’t try to enter by some other way than Jesus’ way.
In the two previous short articles on the “sinner’s prayer,” it was mentioned that the sinner’s prayer is not a teaching of the Bible wherein one becomes a Christian. It is the teaching of a great many people, but it is not the Lord’s teaching at all.
Now, what does one do if they feel they became a “Christian” by the sinner’s prayer? To begin, since the sinner’s prayer is not a teaching of the Bible it is biblically impossible for one to become a Christian in that sort of way. Whatever purity of motive might exist on the part of the one who prayed for Christ to “come into the heart” is not a sufficient biblical answer to being a Christian. Second, it is important to understand there are two equally important components to serving God; Paul identifies these as “sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:8). With regard to the sinner’s prayer, only one was satisfied. Now the other needs to be satisfied – that is, truth.
This is a hard matter for a great many people. It is hard because for a period of time they have lived with the strong conviction that Christ has been on their side, that their prayers have been heard, and they have come to believe that all of the good blessings they experienced are directly from God. As you can well imagine, it is a hard thing to be told you are wrong when you have lived with a conviction so long.
It is, moreover, a potentially fruitless matter to speak to their strong convictions as to whether or not their prayers were heard, and to the blessings they are convinced came from God. These things can be set aside for another day. It is not a fruitless matter, however, to speak to what the Scripture says. With the former it is an entirely subjective matter, but with the latter it is a matter of what God said, it is a matter of biblical evidence. How does one then begin to convince?
What does the Bible say? The Bible is rather clear, and this will be addressed in the next, and last, article.
More to follow; this is the third of four articles
Previously I mentioned a booklet, “Living in Christ & Gospel of John,” published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association wherein there are steps to salvation outlined for the reader of this booklet. I made the observation that of the steps set forth for the reader to consider there is scriptural support for most of the particular remarks made, but on the last step there is none. Mighty strange and unfortunate!
Though unfortunate, there is something good that comes from this that teaches us much. The sinner’s prayer, a standard teaching in the Protestant denominational world, is a teaching that has been conjured up by man and, thus, is not of God. If it was of God, then one can be sure the author(s) of this booklet would have included that alongside the remark. As it is, there is not!
In their “last step of the way” (if you will) in “how to receive Christ” there is a remark wherein one needs to pray a prayer asking Jesus into the petitioner’s heart. The prayer reads this way:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I ask your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from running my own life, and now I ask you to run it. I invite you to come into my heart and life [sic]. I trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen. (page 4)
The sinner’s prayer is misguided at best and flat out biblically wrong at worst! This is a teaching of man, and not of God (Matthew 15:8-9, 13-14). It is a serious matter and not one to be lightly dismissed. The biblical answer to “how to receive Christ” is not so difficult that one needs to make up an answer that is not in the Bible! “How to receive Christ” is exactly similar to the question that was asked of Peter in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. After hearing Peter preach, citing Scripture to support his points, after hearing Peter lay at the feet of the Jewish community the killing of the Lord’s anointed, they inquired of Peter what they need to do.
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-38, ASV)
Thus, those who desired to become Christian by the sinners’ prayer have tried to enter in through another gate (or door). There is no other gate, however. The gate they tried to enter in, they thought, was Christ. In fact, the gate they thought they entered through was not Christ, but a gate that belongs to another (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
More to follow; this is the second of four articles.
At a second-hand store the other day, I picked up a number of small booklets pertaining to the subject of religion. I check this particular store on a regular basis; sometimes I come across some really good finds that are really of great value to me. Most often, however, I come across books that have little value, so I pick them up with the intention of reading and writing a word or two about it.
Today, I am writing about such a booklet. The book is “Living in Christ & Gospel of John.” It is published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (2014). The intent of the book is to encourage one to be a Christian, helping a person study through the Gospel of John.
On page 4 of the book there is an introductory section titled “How to receive Christ,” and it has some useful information, but some unfortunate information also. In answering the question “how to receive Christ?” there are steps one must follow; I have numbered them at five (though the booklet has them numbered at four). They are: 1) recognize God’s plan (John 3:16), 2) realize one’s separation because of sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23), 3) respond to God’s remedy (Romans 5:8), 4) receive Christ (John 1:12).
What is of particular note in these four steps would be the outlining of thoughts in accordance with Scripture; it may be that some would dispute the application of a particular Scripture, but that is not my point, as much as the effort and evidence they think supports their point. This does not happen on the fifth step, which is the following remark: “Through prayer, invite Jesus to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit (receive Christ as Lord and Savior),” followed by a “prayer of commitment.”
With this approach, a prayer is worded that the reader is invited to repeat. This is known as the “sinner’s prayer.” This sinner’s prayer is a prayer given to the Lord as an answer to question “how to receive Christ.” There is no Scripture to support the giving of it as a correct biblical answer! Don’t miss this. In the earlier remarks on the page there is scriptural support for the answers, but none for this one. Might there be a reason for that?
More to follow; this is the first of four articles.
The sinner’s prayer most often finds its advocates in the corner of those who espouse the grace only and faith only doctrines.
These particular doctrines basically say that an individual can personally do nothing to “earn” his or her salvation, hence the need for repentance, confession, baptism and even faithfulness becomes a “fruit” of salvation rather than “seeds” which lead to it.
But isn’t it funny how those who teach that there is “nothing that a person can do to earn their salvation” also teach that the same person “must” say a prayer to be saved?
“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” (Romans 6:16-17)
Other than inserts written inside the front or back page cover of a Bible, the “sinner’s prayer” is completely foreign to the gospel of Christ.
Can you find sinner’s praying in the pages of the New Testament? Sure you can, but you won’t find the “sinner’s prayer” being said. Not one time can a person be found who is told to “pray this prayer” much less any prayer to be saved.
You will find people being told to believe (John 8:24), people being told to repent (Acts 2:38), people being told to confess (Romans 10:10), people being told to get baptized (Acts 22:16) and people being told to live faithfully even if it cost them his or her life (Revelation 2:10), but you can’t find someone being told to pray to be saved!
Is there anything wrong with saying a prayer before or after responding to the gospel call of Christ? You’d be hard pressed to convince me so – but the scriptures themselves have convinced me that it is wrong to tell someone to pray to be saved when they respond to the message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (Mark 16:15-16).
The sinner’s prayer is a dangerous stumbling block that can prevent a person with a genuine heart and genuine intentions from coming to the faith that has been once and for all delivered into the world for the saints of God (Jude 3). It clouds the heart. It confuses the mind. It strengthens ignorance.
To those who are teaching that the sinner’s prayer opens the door to the salvation provided by Jesus – stop! You have no right, no authority and no honest reason to be teaching others to the contrary.
To those who have been taught that you were saved by saying one version of a hundred different prayers, take it from someone who was once told to say the same thing as you – read through the book of Acts and through the New Testament epistles and see if anyone ever “prayed” themselves unto salvation.
If faith comes by hearing the word of God, and it does (Romans 10:17), and the word of God says nothing about the sinner’s prayer, then how can the “sinner’s prayer” be anything but a sin that’s being taught by those who do not know or obey the truth of the gospel?
“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:11)
“Want to be saved? Just believe! That’s all you have to do…well, maybe say the sinner’s prayer too; but other than that there’s nothing else to do…well, maybe repent, but that’s a work of the Holy Spirit and not you – so yeah, just believe because that’s all you have to do to be saved.”
I’m not trying to be hateful or even funny when I say the above “quote” is a summation of the comments and thoughts that one will hear from those in religion today who propose the avenue of faith only when it comes to salvation.
It’s unfortunate, but the doctrine of faith only has confused many people when it comes to their understanding of what faith is and does, and what a person must to do in response to the gospel of Jesus to be saved, and yet the doctrine of faith only is actually a very easy doctrine to correct when a person reads just a verse or two from John’s gospel.
In John 12:42 you’ll find a tricky situation for faith only advocates. There the Bible says, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in [Jesus], but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;”
Now if a person is saved by faith alone then we must ask if these people were saved according to the gospel preached by Jesus himself. For according to the gospel preached by some men and women today they were indeed saved. Unfortunately for those who teach the doctrine of faith only and for those who failed to confess Jesus, the answer to the first question is an obvious no (Matthew 10:32-33).
But they believed! They had faith! They had faith alone! And that’s the problem! They had faith that was alone!
And faith alone is a dead faith – “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17)
Don’t get tricked by those who teach that all you have to do to be saved is believe, for I believe John had something to say about that when he wrote John 12:42.
“Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 16:29-33)
There are many in the religious world who claim that Paul was “saved” on the road to Damascus. Then using the ole’ Damascus road example they teach that all a person has to do to be saved is believe in Jesus and say a prayer and then their salvation is secure. Anybody can stake a claim, but the deed of truth can be something entirely different.
Now, it’s definitely true that Paul met his Savior on the ole’ Damascus road but it’s not true that he received the gift of salvation from Jesus at that point. Paul was told by the Lord to keep traveling on the ole’ Damascus road and head on into the city and wait for instructions…he hadn’t arrived at his destination yet!
The man who couldn’t wait to get to Damascus was now going to have simmer there for a time while waiting for Ananias’ instructions, and Ananias wasn’t out there on the ole’ Damascus road – he would later meet a multi-day blind, fasting and praying Paul in a house on the street called Straight. It was there, on the street called Straight, that Paul would receive the heavenly instructions on what to do to begin his walk in Jesus as a Christian (Acts 9:18, 22:16).
If we want to reach our destination when it comes to the salvation found in Jesus we need to look to the street called Straight and not the broad way of the Damascus road. The street called Straight may be a little more difficult to find, but the scriptures make it clear that it’ll be worth the effort.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)