The Sinners Prayer is fairly common practice, especially among Baptist and Southern Baptist organizations wherein some evangelist will take people through a checklist; something like, “Do you know that you’re a sinner? Do you want to go to heaven? Do you believe that Jesus died for you? Do you want to accept him into your heart? Did you accept him into your heart?” So long as they answer yes at every station, the evangelist will declare them to be saved and that person will walk away thinking they have just purchased a sort of spiritual insurance. But what do the scriptures say? Is the Sinners Prayer Biblical?
The Sinners Prayer, if you look at the actual prayer, in and of itself, there is nothing really wrong with it, it is very nice and perhaps some people may come to know God by saying this prayer. The problem that I see with this doctrine is not the prayer, but the way the prayer is taught. Many organizations will teach this prayer as a method of regeneration, that if we recite the Sinners Prayer, then we are saved. So there is often an urgency to persuade people to simply recite it, and they feel as though a great victory has been won when they persuade people to do it.
It is very easy to get people to recite a prayer. I have spent a good amount of time talking to some individuals about Christ and if I wanted to, I could have told them to just recite the Sinners Prayer, and I can say that all of them probably would have. But they would not have dedicated their life to him, nor would it have changed their course. It is easy to persuade people to say a few words, but leading people to true conversion, to truly seek God, is another matter entirely.
Do You Know What Your Confession Of Faith Is Worth?
It may sound harsh, but I would argue that verbally admitting that Jesus is Lord is worth very little insofar as meriting salvation is concerned. Is it necessary for salvation? Absolutely, we cannot be saved if we do not believe in Jesus Christ. However there are many people who confess Jesus Christ to be Lord, but are not any more saved than the heathens and the pagans.
This is a point that Jesus Christ himself made clear, in that he said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord… and I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” Yes, despite that they openly acknowledged Jesus Christ to be Lord, despite that they said the Sinners Prayer, Jesus still held them in their sin and accused them of breaking the law of God.
Why would he do such a thing? He did because salvation does not come by confession, it does not come by chanting the words ‘Jesus’ over a baptismal tank or in a prayer. Salvation comes by faith alone in Christ, but the evidence that we have truly been converted is that we begin to grow and mature in grace and holiness. That is why he told them, “I never knew you,” because despite that they emphatically declared Jesus to be Lord, they did not truly have faith in him, they merely recited the Sinners Prayer.
Faith Without Works Is Dead
Confronted with a lack of holiness and presence of sin in a particular congregation within the early church, James wrote in James 2 that faith without works was dead. He was explaining here that if we truly have faith, it will be evident in our lifestyle; our faith is not a cherry on top of our life, but rather our faith is the very defining element of our life. When we are converted, we endure a supernatural transformation, a process in which God himself makes us a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), and James saw that the people in this congregation did not seem to be truly transformed.
So he wrote, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Thus James, seeing the lack of fruit in this congregation paralleled the words of Jesus, namely that a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, but rather only a bad tree can bring forth bad fruit. So the congregation, he determined, was a forest of bad trees and he sternly warned them against this behavior.
So faith without works is dead, and no bad tree can bring forth good fruit. Critics often try to say that this passage contradicts the writings of Paul, wherein he explained that Abraham believed in God and was justified. But upon a closer examination, there is no contradiction here. Paul was talking about the nature of salvation, that if we trust in God, we will be saved. James was talking about the nature of faith, that when we trust in God, good fruits will follow.
Thus he taught the doctrine of Lordship Salvation, which is to say that salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ. But the evidence that we have truly been converted is that we bring forth good fruit and strive against sin.
Living For Christ Is Not Easy
So I say again, people tend to treat belief in Christ like a cherry on top of a perfect life; they have everything they need aside from Jesus, and the evangelists might add something like and it will only take five minutes of your time. I submit that this is one of the most patent lies that we can tell, for belief in Christ will not take only five moments. It will take absolutely everything, but men do it because they are moved by the Holy Spirit and they want to honor God.
But it is certainly not taught as an easy thing in the scriptures. In fact the champion of our faith, Jesus Christ, was brutally crucified, and so the same with the early apostles. Jesus told us that because the world hated him, so they will also hate us. He commanded that we leave everything that we have to seek after him. He said that if he love our mother, our brother, our sister, our father, more than we love him, then we are not worthy of him.
Indeed, everything in life is vanity except for Jesus Christ, and once we realize that, we realize also that living for Christ is not easy.
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