Monday, December 8, 2014

Do You Have To Recite the Sinners Prayer to Be A Christian?

I am often asked what I do at the end of an apparent good conversation with an unbeliever--especially when the person gives an outward expression of a desire to repent and believe the gospel. I am often asked, "How do you close the deal?"

The question itself is a tragic and unbiblical byproduct of one of American Evangelicalism's most cherished traditions--the "sinner's prayer." And let's be honest. That's all the sinner's prayer is: a tradition--a tradition created by sincere Christians who want lost people to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

Again, let's be honest. There is not a single verse or passage of Scripture, whether expressed in a command from Christ or one of the New Testament writers or expressed by example in one of the many New Testament narrative passages, that gives any credence to the belief that the "sinner's prayer" is biblical. It is simply not in the Bible.

Common Defenses of the "Sinner's Prayer"

"But I came to faith in Christ when I prayed the 'sinner's prayer!'"
That may have been the time you came to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, but it was not as a result of praying a "sinner's prayer."
"But I've seen many people saved who have prayed the 'sinner's prayer!'"
Your personal experiences and/or observations do not make what you've seen and heard biblical. No one is saved as a result of a "sinner's prayer," nor is the remembrance of the utterance of a "sinner's prayer" any assurance of salvation.
"You're wrong! What about Romans 10:9-10?"
Well, let's take a look at 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 will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
Even a cursory look at the text reveals there is no "sinner's prayer" to be found here.

Instead, look to John 3:16.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
It is as simple as that. Belief. Not reciting a sinners prayer. And conversely you can recite the sinners prayer until the cows come home, without belief it means nothing.

But what about Romans 10:10 ?

for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation
But this confession is not confession of sin. John Gill writes
This is to be understood not of confession of sin, though that is proper and requisite to be made, both with respect to the participation, and enjoyment of salvation, particularly pardoning grace and mercy, and to an admission to Gospel ordinances; but of confession of Christ, as appears from the preceding verse, which lies in a frank and open acknowledgment of what Christ is in himself, as that he is truly and properly God, the Son of God, the true Messiah, the Mediator between God and man, and the only Saviour of lost sinners, and of our faith in him, with respect to ourselves, to our pardon, justification, acceptance and salvation in him and through him; in ascribing the whole of our salvation to him, and giving him the glory of it; in declaring to the churches of Christ what he has done for our souls, and in subjecting ourselves to his ordinances. This confession must be made both by words and facts

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