Have You Accepted God's Gift of Salvation?
Once I believed in Jesus and had recognized that I was a sinner, I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me.
When we believe in God and value the death of Jesus, it is quite natural for us to trust those who have studied about God more than we have. Unfortunately, the men and women who have spent years studying God, even those who have earned Ph.Ds in theology, are still fallible, mistake-prone human beings. It is good to trust people, but I would ask you to be careful with whom you trust your eternal salvation. When seeking the answer to, “What must I do to be saved?” should we trust the teachings of men or of God? Of course, the obvious answer is trust the teachings of GOD!
Did that devout prayer you said on that life-changing day include your admission that you were a sinner, you needed forgiveness, and you prayed that Jesus would come into your heart? That prayer is often referred to as the sinner’s prayer, indicating that the person who said the prayer was a sinner, but after the prayer, he or she was saved.
The New Testament was completed a little less than 2,000 years ago. Did you know that the teachings of the sinner’s prayer started less than 500 years ago? What does that mean? It means that the sinner’s prayer does not come from the Bible. In fact, it wasn’t even popularized until the teachings of Billy Graham.
The good thing about trusting in the Bible is that it never changes! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). I encourage you to check the Bible for yourself. You will not find a single commandment or example in the New Testament that indicates a lost sinner’s forgiveness and his becoming a saved Christian through a prayer. Not one.
As you can imagine, advocates of the sinner’s prayer do not believe that salvation comes after baptism. They are convinced one is saved after he or she says this prayer to invite Jesus to come into his or her heart. They believe if baptism takes place after this prayer, the person is saved before baptism. Again, I ask you, do you want to trust in what the Bible says or what the teachings of men say?
Men say you have to say a prayer to be saved. The Bible never says that. Instead, Jesus says, “[U]nless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” We must believe in Jesus. Jesus also promises, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). Paul claims, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). We must believe in and confess Jesus. Jesus also says, “[U]nless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3). We must believe in, and confess Jesus. We must also repent of our sins. Jesus also claims, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). We must believe in, and confess Jesus. We must repent of our sins and be baptized. Notice that people who teach the sinner’s prayer, if they use Scripture, they only use one verse (Rom. 10:13). Psalm 119:160 says the sum of God’s word is truth. We must consider everything God has said, not just the one verse that seems to prove our point. For a more detailed look at the salvation found in the Bible, click here. For a more detailed look at what the Bible says about water baptism, click here.
The only Scripture reference I have been given on the sinner’s prayer is Romans 10:13, which promises, “[F]or 'whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.'” Does this verse mean that all you have to do is verbally “call upon the name of the Lord”? I hope not! If that is what the Bible means here, then there is an obvious contradiction in the Bible. Notice what Jesus warns: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21). Jesus claims in this passage that not everyone who verbally calls upon the Lord will be saved. So, is this a contradiction, or does Romans 10:13 have a deeper meaning than a verbal “calling upon the name”? Obviously, the latter.
It seems in the Bible that “calling upon the Lord” means “obeying God.” How did Zephaniah define “call on the name of the Lord”? Zephaniah 3:9 reads, “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder.” Zephaniah said that they called upon the name of the Lord by serving Him. Notice that Peter did something similar. In Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, Peter was preaching to a group of Jews who handed Jesus over to be crucified. Peter quoted Joel by saying, “And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). After preaching Jesus to them, those same Jews asked the same preacher, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter did not answer them, “Pray that God forgives you, and ask Jesus into your heart.” Instead, he answered, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). How were they to “call upon the Lord”? They were to obey His words (Lk. 13:3; Mk. 16:16). Notice the connection between the two sentences Peter says in Acts 2:21 and 2:38.
- Acts 2:21
- who calls
- on the name of the Lord
- will be saved.
- Acts 2:38
- Each of you
- be baptized
- in the name of the Lord
- for the forgiveness of your sins.
If someone believes that one can be saved through prayer, or a verbal “calling,” that person admits that there is a contradiction in the Bible. That is not possible since the Bible is whole, complete, and from God (2 Tim. 3:16). Instead, I would encourage that person to reconsider his or her evaluation of the Bible, and notice that God has a different plan of salvation than the thoughts of modern man. Pay attention to the conversion of Saul (who was later called Paul- Acts 13:9). The conversion story is told three different times in the book of Acts. First, it was told by the narrator, Luke (Acts 9), and then later twice by the apostle himself (Acts 22 and 26). Let’s put the details of them together. Although Acts 9 tells us about Saul’s conversion, we don’t know all of what was said and done. After all, we have 3 whole days summed up in one verse (Acts 9:9). After his conversion, as Paul was preaching to the Jews who thought Jesus was a blasphemer, Paul wanted to convince them why he was so zealous for Christ. The best way was to explain his past and tell the story of his conversion (Acts 22:1-16). This is the same story as Acts 9, but it fills in a few gaps of information. After Paul had seen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5), Paul fasted and prayed for three days (Acts 9:9-11). Notice, he was praying for three days. If prayer is all you need to have your sins washed away, the conversion would be finished. He definitely would have received forgiveness and would have become a Christian after three whole days of prayer and fasting, right? But instead, God sends Ananias to Saul to tell him what to do (Acts 9:10-18). After Ananias came to Saul, what did Saul do? “[A]nd he got up and was baptized” (Acts 9:18). Why was he baptized? What is it that Ananias said to him? Let’s go back to the conversion story in Acts 22. Ananias said, “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). He told Saul to be baptized. Why? To have his sins washed away. Even after three days of prayer, Saul's sins were not washed away. Obviously, prayer is not the way to receive initial salvation. Baptism is. However, after baptism, one must pray to stay in that relationship with God (Acts 8:22; 1 Thess. 5:17), but that is not how one gets into Christ and receives forgiveness in the beginning.
Again, we read, “[F]or whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). How do we “call on the name of the Lord”? The Bible says, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). We call on His name by obeying Him. “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).
So, does a sinner receive forgiveness through the sinner’s prayer? According to men like Billy Graham, yes. According to God, no. Is that how you were “saved”? If so, after taking a closer look at the teachings of the sinner’s prayer, do you see that God does not save people that way? God does not want us to simply verbally call upon His name. Remember Jesus’ words: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21). He wants our hearts, our obedience, and our lives (Heb. 5:8-9). If you trusted in the sinner’s prayer to save you, do you believe you are in danger because you didn’t trust in God’s plan of salvation? He tells us to believe in Him (Jn. 8:24), confess His name (Matt. 10:32), repent of our sins (Lk. 13:3), and be baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38, 22:16) for the forgiveness of our sins. Many people get baptized after they say the sinner’s prayer, but it isn’t the one baptism mentioned in the Bible (Eph. 4:4-5), because they’re getting baptized thinking that they’re already saved. Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
If you’ve said the sinner’s prayer to be saved, and then got baptized thinking you were already saved, do you understand that since this is not God’s plan of salvation found in the Bible that your baptism was not valid in God's eyes? You were just getting wet. There is only one baptism authorized in Scripture (Eph. 4:4-5). That baptism is for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16). In Acts 19, Paul is talking to a group of people who were baptized with a different baptism than the one that Jesus commanded. What did they do when they learned about the true baptism? Scripture says, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:3-5). God shows no partiality to people (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11). What He requires of one person to be saved, He requires of all. What He required then, He requires now. If you have not obeyed the commandments of the one baptism to receive forgiveness of your sins, you must answer God one question: “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16)!
If there is anything I can do to assist you in your walk with and/or obedience to Christ, please let me know.