What Does the Bible Say About... The Sinner s Prayer?

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1 What Does the Bible Say About... The Sinner s Prayer? INTRODUCTION. A. Throughout this year, we have addressed several questions which often arise in Bible studies with people outside of the church. One such question pertains to the sinner s prayer. Quite often, people will question us as to why we do not teach the sinner s prayer in regards to being saved. B. With this lesson, we will spend some time looking at the subject of the sinner s prayer and trying to determine if such a prayer for salvation is taught in God s word. I. WHAT IS THE SINNER S PRAYER? A. The sinner s prayer is quite simply a prayer by which one confesses the name of Christ, asking Jesus to enter into his or her heart. 1. Many evangelical denominational churches will teach those lost in sin to sincerely say the sinner s prayer in order to be saved. It should be noted the sinner s prayer is a modern, twentieth century, evangelical tool. You will not find a reference to religious groups teaching the sinner s prayer as a means of evangelism prior to the twentieth century. 2. Consider the following example of the sinner s prayer : Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen. (http://www.allaboutgod.com/become-a-christian.htm) B. The proponents of the sinner s prayer stress that people are not saved by the prayer. Most churches which teach the sinner s prayer are very careful to emphasize the fact that a simple prayer alone will not save. The proponents of the sinner s prayer stress a person must truly believe in Jesus Christ while repenting of their sins. II. OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE SINNER S PRAYER. What Does The Bible Say About the Sinner s Prayer? Page 1

2 A. Observation #1: The sinner s prayer is not found in the Bible. 1. On March 1, 2012, a Southern Baptist Calvinist named David Platt made some controversial comments about the sinner s prayer. David Platt said, I'm convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we've sold them as the gospel, i.e. pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life. Platt continued, saying, Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase, 'accept Jesus into your heart' or 'invite Christ into your life'? It's not the gospel we see being preached, it's modern evangelism built on sinking sand. And it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls. 2. While David Platt s warning stems from his Calvinistic belief, he does make a few solid observations: a. There is no such prayer taught in the New Testament. b. The Bible never uses the phrase, Accept Jesus into your heart. c. The Bible never uses the phrase, Invite Christ into your life. d. This is a modern evangelical method of attempting to bring people to Jesus Christ. B. Observation #2: The sinner s prayer limits one being saved to a series of expressions: 1) An expression or recognition of one s sins, 2) an expression of belief in Jesus Christ, 3) an expression of a willingness to repent of one s sins, and 4) an invitation to Jesus to come into their heart. 1. Expression or recognition of one s guilt of sin. With this point, we have very little difference of understanding. Before any person can be saved, he or she must believe in or recognize their guilt of sin. The 3,000 people in Acts 2:36-37 believed they were guilty of sin. 2. Expression of one s willingness to repent or turn away from sin. We see in the New Testament the necessity of repenting or turning away from one s sinful life. However, such repentance is not simply expressed but applied through obeying Jesus Christ. The 3,000 people in Acts 2:38-39 obeyed the command to repent and be baptized. They turned away from sin, turning to obedience to Jesus Christ. (cf. Acts 2:41, 47) 3. Expression or confession of one s belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God. What Does The Bible Say About the Sinner s Prayer? Page 2

3 The New Testament teaches the need to stand ready to confess one s believe in Jesus Christ. However, one s belief in Jesus Christ is not simply expressed in a prayer, but in completely following Him and His commands. While the 3,000 who were saved in Acts 2 never said we believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, their belief in Jesus was clearly manifested by their obedience to the truth which the apostles taught that day. (Acts 2:40-41, 47) 4. An invitation to Jesus to be their personal savior or an invitation to come into their heart. Jesus does not become one s personal savior simply by request or invitation. The lost soul must come to Jesus in humble obedience. Peter s response to the question, What must we do? was: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) Those 3,000 people were saved because they humbled themselves to Jesus Christ through repentance and baptism. C. Observation #3: The sinner s prayer puts faith in a gospel teaching that is incomplete. 1. It is true a person needs to believe in Jesus Christ as the son of God. (John 3:16; Mark 16:16; John 8:24) 2. It is true a person needs to recognize his guilt of sin and make the decision to repent, to turn away from sin. (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19) 3. It is also true a person needs to be willing to profess their belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God, being unashamed of Him. (Romans 10:9-10) 4. However, the gospel of men which advocates the sinner s prayer and the salvation steps referenced in the prayer overlooks a part of Jesus teaching on salvation, namely baptism. a. Jesus defined the gospel as this: He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16) b. On the day of Pentecost, Peter and the apostles told over three thousand people to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. This promise of forgiveness of sins, as well as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, was for all who turn to the Lord. (Acts 2:21, 38-39) c. The sinner s prayer teaches a person can have Jesus abiding in him before being baptized into Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27) d. The sinner s prayer has a person being raised with Jesus through What Does The Bible Say About the Sinner s Prayer? Page 3

4 III. faith before being buried with Jesus in baptism. (Colossians 2:12-13) e. The sinner s prayer has a person being saved without water baptism. (1 Peter 3:21) 5. A person can only be saved by the grace of God when that person believes in Jesus Christ and fully turns his life obediently towards Christ, submitting to all of Jesus commands regarding salvation. PASSAGES OFFERED IN DEFENSE OF THE SINNER S PRAYER. A. The proponents of the sinner s prayer use a handful of scriptures to support the use of the sinner s prayer in evangelism. Consider a few examples: 1. The prayer of the publican. (Luke 18:9-14) a. Many people will use the prayer offered by the publican as the first sinner s prayer and therefore a supportive example for saying the sinner s prayer today. b. Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt. This parable was not able salvation or being saved. (vs 9) c. Jesus told this parable at a time when the Law of Moses was still in effect. This parable suggests both the Pharisee and the tax collector were in the same standing regarding being able to pray to God; both were seeking justification by God. (vs 14) d. The Pharisee was guilty of sin, but was unwilling to acknowledge his sins. However, the tax collector was willing to humble himself before God, acknowledging his sins before God. (vs 13) 2. The statement of the thief on the cross. (Luke 23:39-43) a. Some people suggest the thief s statement to Jesus is the same as the sinner s prayer. b. The thief asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered into His kingdom. The thief did not ask for forgiveness of sins. The thief did not confess Jesus to be the son of God. Neither did the thief believe that Jesus had arisen from the grave. (cf. Romans 10:9,10) c. Our salvation is found in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We cannot be saved as the thief. 3. Jesus statement in Revelation 3: What Does The Bible Say About the Sinner s Prayer? Page 4

5 IV. a. Some people believe the sinner s prayer is a means of opening the door and letting Jesus into their heart. b. Jesus statement, hear my voice and opens the door was written to Christians who were no longer serving the Lord. (3:15-18) c. Jesus instructed these brethren to be zealous and repent. (vs 19) d. Hearing the voice of Jesus and opening the door would be the same as hearing the words of Christ and obeying His commands. (cf. John 14:15) e. Simply saying a prayer expressing partial obedience to the gospel is not the same as hearing Jesus and opening the door. 4. Jesus statement in Matthew 11: a. Some people believe the sinner s prayer is a means of coming to Jesus, inviting Him into one s heart. b. Jesus did not tell command multitude to pray to Him, asking Him to come into their hearts. Jesus taught the people to come to Him. (vs 28) c. One can only truly come to Jesus by accepting all which Jesus taught and surrendering to all which Jesus taught. 5. Paul s statement in Romans 10:6-13. a. The proponents equate the sinner s prayer with a person calling on the name of the Lord. b. However, the context does not paint the picture of a prayer for salvation. Paul is explaining the fact that salvation is available to anyone is willing to believe and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ. B. While there are plenty of examples of people praying to God, and examples of people asking God to forgive their sins, there are no Bible passages supporting the idea of a person saying any type of prayer resulting in the salvation of their souls. DID THE MAN FROM ETHIOPIA SAY THE SINNER S PRAYER? A. The story of the man from Ethiopia shows the gospel s plan of salvation in action. Here is what took place. (Acts 8:26-39) 1. The man from Ethiopia was reading Isaiah. (Acts 8:26-28) 2. Philip approached the chariot and asked the man if he understood what he was reading. The man of Ethiopia was reading from Isaiah 53:7-8, a prophecy concerning the Messiah. (Acts 8:29-33) What Does The Bible Say About the Sinner s Prayer? Page 5

6 3. The man of Ethiopia asked Philip, I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man? Beginning at this point, Philip preached Jesus to the man from Ethiopia. (Acts 8:34-35) 4. While we do not know the word for word details of what Philip said, we do know what Jesus commanded and the actions taken by the man from Ethiopia. (Acts 8:36-38) 5. The result: The man from Ethiopia went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:39) B. In the account of the man from Ethiopia, we see: 1. A man who heard the word. (cf. Romans 10:17) 2. A man who believed. (cf. Mark 16:16) 3. A man who was baptized. (cf. Mark 16:16) 4. A man who went on his way rejoicing because he was saved. (cf. Mark 16:16) CONCLUSION. A. In order to find salvation, people must look to the Bible and not to the teachings of man. 1. The Bible teaches that we must believe in Jesus Christ, turn away from our sins, confess our belief in Jesus Christ, and be buried with him through baptism. 2. No teaching of man, including the sinner s prayer will bring a person to the point of salvation. B. Let us all remember to seek after that which God has taught through His word. C. Let us use His word to lead others down the proper path to salvation. What Does The Bible Say About the Sinner s Prayer? Page 6

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