Many preachers say that if one realizes he is a sinner and prays the sinner's prayer he will be saved. The sinners' prayers may differ but usually contain acknowledgement of sin, of faith in Christ, and asking God to forgive them. Many radio and television evangelists give this as the plan of salvation that is acceptable to God. Many tracts are written on this subject and sample prayers are given in some Gideon New Testaments. We need to examine this. 1. In The great commission Jesus told the disciples to teach all nations and that people needed to believe, repent, and be baptized to be saved (Mat. 28:19; Mk. 16:15,16; Lk. 24:46,47). There is not one word said about an alien sinner praying for the Lord to save him. In the sermon on the Mount Jesus said, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Mat. 7:21). This teaches that God will not forgive in answer to the sinner's prayer but that He wants men to do his will. The will of Christ is found in the Great Commission requiring steps to be taken for one to be saved. 2. In the book of Acts we have many cases of conversion recorded. Not one of them were told to pray the sinners prayer to be forgiven. Someone may ask, Wasn't Simon told to repent and pray that the thought of his heart might be forgiven him? (Acts 8:22). Yes, but Simon is a case of an erring child of God and such an one is always told to repent, confess sins, and pray for forgiveness. Simon had believed, been baptized, and continued with the disciples for some time before he erred by trying to buy the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:13-18). Another may ask about the prayers of Cornelius being heard as recorded in Acts 10:1-4. It is not a matter of prayer being heard but of God forgiving in answer to prayer. Cornelius was told to send for Peter who would tell him "words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." (Acts 11:14). After he was taught he was commanded to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:48). It is safe to say that no alien sinner in the first century was ever told to pray for forgiveness. 3. Romans 10:13 states, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." However this is not a justification of praying a sinner's prayer. There are three questions asked about this in verse 14: "And how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" To call on the name of the Lord one has to have heard the word because "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom. 10:17). How did people respond to the gospel message preached to them? They cried out "what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) and were told to "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). According to Acts 2:21 this is calling on the name of the Lord to be saved. It is not a prayer. It is hearing, believing, repenting and being baptized. Paul knew this because Ananias came into the house where he was down praying and told him "And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16). Here is one praying the sinner's prayer and had been praying it for three days but was told that instead of tarrying around praying he needed to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins. You see the only way to get into the death of Christ is to be baptized into his death (Rom. 6:3). You do not get into the death of Christ by praying the sinner's prayer. In contrast you do have the blood to cleanse if, as an erring child of God, you confess your sins and pray for forgiveness (I John 1:7-9). The people who are preaching the praying of the sinner's prayer are mixed up on the teaching of the scriptures. 4. Jesus gave a parable in Luke 18:9-14 of a Pharisee and a Publican praying. The Pharisee told God how good he was while the Publican "smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." The Lord said he was justified rather than the Pharisee. Now this is not an example of conversion by the sinner's prayer. These were both children of God under the law of Moses and so fall into the category of erring children. Such are to repent and pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:22-24). God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34,35). The people of the first century had to believe and be baptized to be saved which are same things we have to do to be saved.
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