Monday, June 16, 2014

Is the Sinner's Prayer biblical or not? by Tony Miano and Matt Slick

Is the sinner's prayer biblical?  Yes and no.  It is biblical for a sinner to pray to Jesus to forgive him of his sins.  It is not biblical to say someone is saved "because of reciting the Sinner's Prayer".  It is biblical to confess one's sins and ask for forgiveness and put trust, hope, and faith in Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. But, again, it is not biblical to give someone assurance of salvation based on reciting a prayer - on simply saying the words. Salvation is the work of God and the manifestation of that work is sometimes seen in people publicly confessing, even publicly praying to receive Christ as Savior.

So, we want to be clear that elements of the sinners prayer are biblical. However, we also want to be very clear that a person is not saved "because he prayed a prayer". Faith, assurance, and hope should never be placed in the prayer. Instead, faith, assurance, and hope should be placed in Christ via the proper presentation of the saving message which consists of presenting the Law (that we are sinners before God and deserve judgment) and the gospel (that only through faith and trust in what Christ has done on the cross where he bore our sins and died with them can we be saved from God's righteous judgment).  People must repent of their sins and believe the gospel.  That is what the Bible says.

Mark 1:15, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

1 Corinthians 15:1-4, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
Acts 16:30, "and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household."

What we are not saying about the Sinner’s Prayer

Many Christians have a prayer of repentance and faith as part of their conversion testimony. We know there are genuine, Christ-loving, born-again followers of Jesus Christ who will forever testify that someone shared the gospel with them and asked them to repeat a prayer, which they did, and they were saved. This article should in no way be interpreted or construed as an effort to bring into question one’s salvation because he “prayed a prayer.”

That being said, no one is saved because they “prayed a prayer.”  It is not reciting a phrase or the words of a prayer that saves anyone.   We are against formula salvation.  Those whom God sovereignly chooses to save (1 Peter 1:3; 2 Thess. 2:13) and draw to Himself (John 6:44) may pray a prayer - on their own or at someone else’s urging - as part of the first fruits of their salvation.

While there are many Christians who will testify, to the glory of God, that they prayed a “Sinner’s Prayer” the day God saved them.  But there are also people in the world who, as a result of being led in a false “Sinner’s Prayer,” are now apostate, they were false converts (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31). They have turned their back on Christ and have left the faith they thought they had, because they had never really come to genuine repentance and faith in Christ. They are and were false converts because they put their hope of salvation in "saying words", in "reciting a prayer", in "doing the christian prayer thing", instead of truly trusting Christ to forgive them of their sins against God.

The purpose of this article is not to discourage genuine Christians or cause them to question the authenticity of their faith because their conversion story includes a “Sinner’s Prayer.” Many people have truly been saved along with saying the Sinner's Prayer.  Rather, the purpose of this article is to warn Christians, to plead with Christians to preach the gosple biblically and if/when a person wants to trust in Christ and receive him as Savior, that it is done properly.

A Familiar Story: Sinner’s Prayer Evangelism

"So, do you understand what I've shared with you?"
"Is there any reason why you wouldn't want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, right now?"
"Umm. No. I guess not."
"Great. Then just pray this prayer after me. There's nothing magical about the words. What matters is the condition of your heart."
"Out loud?"
"Yes. Jesus said if you confess me before men I will confess you before my Father."
"Right here? Right now?"
"Well, it's up to you, of course. But what could be more important than making sure you're right with God. After all, tomorrow isn't promised to anyone."
"Great! Just pray this prayer after me. Lord Jesus..."
"Lord Jesus..."
"I know I'm a sinner..."
"I know I'm a sinner..."
"I want my sins forgiven..."
"I want my sins forgiven..."
"I don't want to spend eternity in Hell..."
"I don't want to spend eternity in Hell..."
"I want to be in Heaven with you..."
"I want to be in Heaven with you..."
"Please forgive me..."
"Please forgive me..."
"Come into my life..."
"Come into my life..."
"Save me..."
"Save me..."
"Make me a new creature..."
"Make me a new creature..."
"Be my Lord and Savior..."
"Be my Lord and Savior..."
"In Jesus' name, I pray..."
"In Jesus' name, I pray..."
"Praise God! Welcome to the family, brother!"

"Now, it's real important you start reading your Bible and praying every day. And you've got to start going to church. You need to be around other believers. You need to be discipled. You need to begin the life-long process of growing in your faith. And I'm here to help in any way I can."

Please not that we have underlined those parts of the prayer that are biblical. So, there are biblical elements to the sinners prayer but it is not the sinners prayer itself it saves and again, it must be made clear that it is not reciting the prayer that saves anyone.

It happens thousands of times every day around the world. It happens in one-to-one conversations between friends, relatives, and even strangers. It happens in pastors' offices. It happens via email. It happens in online chat rooms. A well-intentioned Christian shares the gospel with someone (hopefully a gospel that is consistent with the Word of God). The listener seems to understand and even seems emotionally moved by the conversation. The Christian, with eagerness and sincerity, asks the person if he wants to know Jesus as his personal Savior. If the other person responds favorably, then the Christian leads him in a "Sinner's Prayer."

The Sinner's Prayer, False Conversion, and Tradition

This is important.  Many Christians make the cataclysmic and unbiblical mistake of giving the other person a false sense of assurance of salvation, by asserting the person is saved because he prayed a prayer. So, many people walk away from such a conversation still dead in their sins, but believing what they've been told. "I believed what my friend told me, and I prayed a prayer. So, now I'm a Christian!"

It is unbiblical confidence in the "Sinner's Prayer" (instead of repentance and trust in Christ) that often leaves me thinking American Evangelicalism is much closer to Rome than she realizes. The reason is that like the apostate Roman Catholic Church, which holds up church tradition as equal or superior to the Word of God, American Evangelicalism sometimes does the same with her own traditions.

The "Sinner's Prayer" is a case in point.

My presupposition regarding it is an easy one to articulate. Simply put...

There is not a single verse or passage in Scripture, whether in a narrative account or in prescriptive or descriptive texts, regarding the use of a “Sinner’s Prayer” in evangelism. Not one.

However, proponents of the use of the "Sinner's Prayer" will cite several verses/passages of Scripture in a failed attempt to support the unbiblical practice. Here are several:

Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you."

Luke 18:10-14, " “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 “But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

Romans 10:9-10, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Revelation 3:20, "‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me."

A brief exposition of each of the above texts will show they should not be used to support the practice of the "Sinner's Prayer."

Continue reading: Does Matthew 7:7 support the Sinner’s Prayer?

1 comment:

    There are those who advance the position that, by saying, the Sinner's Prayer your sins will be forgiven and you will be added to the Lord's church. The question remains, can saying a prayer save anyone? Let us investigate that supposition.

    The typical sinner's prayer: "Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that you have died for my sins and arose from the grave. I now turn from my sins and invite You into my heart and life. I receive You as my Lord. Amen."

    The birth of the church of Christ was A.D. 33 the Day of Pentecost. How were they saved?

    Acts 2:22-41.....36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ---this Jesus whom you crucified." 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren what shall we do?" 38 Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    The events on the Day of Pentecost that lead to salvation.
    1. Peter preached the death, burial , and resurrection of Jesus.(Acts 2:22-35)
    2. Peter proclaimed Jesus as both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
    3. Men believed the message and were convicted of their sins and ask what they should do. (Acts 2:37)
    4. Peter told them to repent and be baptized (immersed in water) so their sins could be forgiven and they could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
    5. How were they saved? Act 2:40-41..."Be saved from this perverse generation" 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. (Notice they were not saved until they were baptized).


    What did they have to do to be saved?

    They needed to have faith: John 3:16, Mark 16:16
    They needed to repent: Acts 2:38, Acts 3;19 (repentance means to make a commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God).
    They needed to confess: Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:36-37.
    They needed to be baptized: Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:20-21.

    The apostles never taught the sinner's prayer as the terms for pardon.

    No one is questioning the sincerity of those who recite the SINNER'S PRAYER, the question is, can the SINNER'S PRAYER SAVE ANYONE?