The Sinners Prayer
In congregations throughout the world we sometimes find ideas that are taught as doctrine but cannot be found anywhere in the Bible (Matt 15:9). We should always strive to do as the Bible says. One important area which has been clouded by false teaching is salvation (Acts 2:37-38).
The first idea I want to investigate with you is referred to as “The Sinner’s Prayer.” The sinner’s prayer originated sometime during the Protestant Reformation movement. Billy Graham used his counselors to tell those who responded to his “altar call” to pray. His method of conversion began with a prayer from what is called his “Four steps to Peace with God” which began with a tract 50 years earlier.
There are a few passages some use in an attempt to teach the “sinners prayer.” However, upon dissecting the verses used, the truth becomes clear. There is no such support for a “sinner’s prayer” in the Bible. Let’s look first at John 1:12 which says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (NKJV). The believer has the right to proceed with his obedience which includes repentance, confession and baptism in water for or unto remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Rom 10:10, 1 Peter 3:21). Only believers have the right; obviously, a person does not have the right of becoming what they already are therefore this is proof that the act of believing alone does not produce salvation. Faith apart from works (of righteousness) is dead (James 2:26). The scriptures do not teach a “sinners prayer” in the idea that it is all that is required for salvation. No where does the Bible give a single example of a person being saved by faith until the faith involved reveals itself in action through obedience to God’s commands (1 Jn 2:4, 5:3).
A second common passage which is used is Romans 10:9-10,13 which says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’” (NKJV). Just because Paul does not mention every step of obedience does not mean it is not implied or understood. In many biblical examples of conversion not every point is brought out, that does not mean that particular step is not necessary or was not completed. No one would deny that those who desire to be called a biblical Christian will do what is required of them. “Calling on the name of the Lord” is the equivalent of gospel obedience. No one would deny that; those in Acts 2, Saul, the Eunuch in Acts 8, and Cornelius in Acts 10 all called on the name of the Lord. However, that is not all they did. These individuals called on the name of the Lord in that they believed, repented, and were baptized. Thus, to call on the name of the Lord is the same as a believer who repents and is baptized.
What about the occasions when a person was speaking to a messenger of God or to Christ Himself? They still did not receive salvation until believing, repenting, and being baptized. Saul met Christ on the road and spoke to Christ himself. However, Saul was not granted salvation. He was told to wait to be told what he “must do.” Cornelius talked to an angel of God but did he receive eternal life? No, he was told to send for Peter to hear what he “must do.” Why did these men not receive salvation at the point of talking to Christ or an angel of God? They were to OBEY God’s will and do what was required of them. “There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)…,” 1 Peter 3:21 (NKJV). What now saves us? Baptism, “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” We can know in all good conscience that Christ has washed away our sins in baptism and we now have a clear conscience when we appear in judgment. We are to be buried with Christ in baptism and to rise in newness of life (Rom 6:4). How can we be saved “through the washing of regeneration” that is become new cleansed servants of Christ, if we are not baptized for the right reason? I challenge you to search the scriptures! Is there an example of anyone ever becoming a Christian by a simple prayer? After all, we cannot put on Christ if we are never baptized for the correct purpose (Gal 3:26-27). We see faith is not alone it accompanies works of righteousness and works of obedience that brings salvation (James 2). Search for yourself to see if there scriptural support for something man has invented? Is the sinner’s prayer anywhere in the Bible? The answer is ‘no.’
Micah 6:8 “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
I like to believe that all of us would like to know just what the Lord requires of us. The Old Testament prophet Micha, by inspiration, gives an answer to this most important question.
God requires more than action (Micah 6:6-7). Proper sacrifices are not measured in quantity alone. Our sacrifices for the Lord must come from the heart. External action without the involvement of the inward man is not what God requires. Our Lord said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Samuel rebuked King Saul, “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). We can “go through the motions” of worship, yet it will not please God unless it is done with the proper attitude. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God requires that a proper attitude be coupled with proper actions.
God requires that men do justly (Micah 6:8). To do justly is to act in an appropriate way. To always do that which is right in the sight of God. God requires that we treat all men in a godly manner never mistreating any man. The apostle Paul emphasized this attitude in 1 Thessalonians 2:10, “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”
God requires that we love mercy (Micah 6:8). Notice the passage requires that we not simply SHOW mercy, but we are to LOVE mercy. The idea is that when motivated by love mercy will be genuine and meaningful. When we demonstrate Biblical mercy, we can expect to receive mercy (James 2:13).
God desires that we walk with Him (Micah 6:8). To walk humbly with God means that we recognize His authority and are willing to submit to Him. Walking with God is a difficult task for many in today’s world. Great men of faith have “walked with God.” Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:24) because he pleased God. The way to Heaven is attained when we walk with God.
God requires obedience with the proper attitude.
According to Romans 10:17, belief comes only when one first hears the gospel. Based upon that belief, one will then repent of any sin he or she has committed. The next step in the gospel plan of salvation is to confess Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of all. One must first understand the nature of Christ, follow the biblical examples set forth concerning confession, and understand why confession is necessary in order for one to be saved. In Matthew 16, there is recorded the institution of the church. Christ asked Peter who he believed Him to be and Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). While it is true that Peter confessed who he believed Jesus to be that day, this example may not be the best example for an authority to confess Christ today. There are, however, many other biblical principles, examples, and commands which show confession to be a necessary step in the gospel plan of salvation.
First, one must make sure not to confuse the confession of sin that is sometimes necessary and the confession which is the point of interest in this article — the confession of salvation. It is true that Christians make mistakes and commit sin from time to time in their individual lives. The way to take care of such is to confess it and repent and request forgiveness of it. This, however, is not to be confused with confessing Christ to be the Son of God or accepting Christ as a personal savior.
From John 1:1, one can appropriately conclude that Jesus Christ is eternal in nature. In Philippians 2, one learns of Christ and His nature. He was equal to God and humbled himself to come to earth and spend time (a lifetime) among men. He even subjected himself to dying as men die and in His case a cruel death indeed — the death of the cross. Why did He do this? Philippians 2:10-11 provides a good answer: “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The point Paul was making is clear: Jesus was God in the flesh (He is Deity) and every tongue should confess it. Is it essential to spiritual salvation? “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 10:8-9). Paul said, “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
There are also biblical examples showing some to confess Jesus as part of the gospel plan of salvation. The most notable might be the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. In verses 36-37, one sees the eunuch clearly confessing Christ: “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”
What is confession? It is simply standing up and proclaiming who Christ is? What is involved in making the confession? No doubt, a part of it is verbal in nature. Such was the case with the Ethiopian eunuch. Part of confession is for salvation as was the case again with the Ethiopian eunuch. Yet, in Acts 24, Paul is before the governor and makes an interesting statement: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” Confession is more than simply saying Christ is the Son of God. It is living a life that shows that belief. Confession is more than mere words. It is also actions. The actions one puts forth show whether he or she believes Christ to be the Son of God or not.
In this sense, confession is more than cognitive belief or the statement of cognitive belief. After all, if one believes in God, he might not be any better than the devils. James said, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!” Mark 3:11 says, “And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, ‘You are the Son of God.’” The devils and unclean spirits believed in one God and even believed Christ to be the Son of God but their cognitive belief and even their verbal statement of it did not save them. And it will not save anyone today. Confession is both said and lived. Paul confessed and continued to confess Christ to be the Son of God. The eunuch confessed Christ to be the Son of God and then changed His life accordingly. The writer of Hebrews said, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). Thus, confession must be kept or lived in life. The writer of Hebrews makes this point again in Hebrews 10:23 and then goes on to show that one way the Christian can keep his or her confession is by faithful attendance (Hebrews 10:25).
Finally, confession is a choice but only in this lifetime. The Bible teaches that all will come before the judgment seat of God one day. All will have to give an account of the deeds done in this life. Romans 14:10-12 says, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” The goal of each person should thus be to make sure that he or she does not wait until it is everlastingly too late to make the good confession.
Of course, this is not all there is to one spiritual salvation. As seen in this article, one must hear, believe, and repent of his or her sins. The Bible also teaches baptism and faithful living to be essential to salvation (Acts 2:38; 14:22).
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Have you stated it verbally? Do the actions you put forth in life show such to be the case?
In Titus 3:10-11 we have these words recorded there for us: "Reject a divisive man after
the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being
self-condemned." What do these words mean to us? Do we know individuals who are divisive?
Do we know a person who seems as if they are not happy unless they are stirring up trouble?
Sadly, there are some who feel that it's necessary to cause unneeded problems and heartache.
These individuals thrive on disputes and desire to see drama come from their efforts. These
people I personally refer to as "drama lovers." They do not seem happy unless there is a dispute,
a dispute in which they caused and are in the midst of.
These individuals are to be given only but a few chances to turn from their sinful ways.
Here we have it recorded as "after the first and second admonition." The word admonition can
be defined as a "mild but earnest rebuke." Here the idea is that it's done sternly but out of love
for the brother and for others who might have been affected by the ill done.
We see the words in verse 10 "reject a divisive man." The idea is to refrain from being in
fellowship with such a person. Being divisive means this person is causing disagreement or
hostility within a group so that it is likely to split. We are to reject such a person. Why wouldn't
we? Who would really want to be around a person with such an evil and selfish spirit? This is
just the reason we are to "reject" them.
As we continue to read in Titus 3:11, the Bible says "knowing that such a person is
warped and sinning." Notice the word "warped." The idea is a person who has deviated from the
right way or has a mind that is perverted or twisted. This is the perfect way to describe such a
person. Anyone who willfully seeks to cause division and heartache is "warped." This person has
diverted from the right way, and their thinking is no longer logical. They are only concerned with
their own desires and ideas. They only want to pull apart what is good, bring in their own way of
thinking and their own logic.
In verse 11, we also learn that the person is "sinning." Paul leaves no gray area here.
Such a person who is involved in these types of activities has been warped by their own desires
and is in sin. There is no other way to look at it. Nothing they do with their attitude and their
flawed way of thinking is right. They are in sin because of the problems they have created and
the problems that they desire to create.
We also learn in verse 11 that such people are "self-condemned." They bring judgment
on themselves. The punishment they must endure is a product of their own actions and no one
Since this person is doing this by their own will, on their own accord, they must pay the price for
their actions by themselves, Thus they are “self-condemned."
So what can we learn from this? Consider the words of Paul earlier in the chapter in verse
2, "to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men." These are
the qualities we are to possess, with the key words here being "to be peaceable." Those who are
being divisive are not being peaceable but are the opposite of such. We should rebuke the
divisive man and exhort the righteous man. The man who is speaking evil of no one, being
peaceable, gentle, and who shows humility with all men should be exhorted. Paul clearly shows
us who to exhort and who to rebuke. We should be mindful of the "warped" minded and be
striving to be those who are spiritually minded instead, seeking what God wills and not going
beyond such. Let's not be like the divisive man, but let's be the righteous man who is fair minded.
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