The danger of the Sinner’s Prayer revealed

An Example of the Sinner’s Prayer:

Dear God, I know I’m a sinner.  I know my sin deserves to be punished.  I believe Christ died for me and rose from you grave.  I trust Jesus alone as my Savior.  Thank you for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

I can remember early in ministry looking for the Sinner’s prayer in Scripture, and when I couldn’t find it, I was shocked.  I can also remember being terrified early in my ministry that I would get the sinner’s prayer wrong whenever I attempted to point sinners to Christ with it; for, if I got it wrong, regardless if they prayed it or not, they would still be lost!  This mentality is wicked, for it adds to the gospel of Christ.  By believing that sinners cannot be saved without the Sinner’s Prayer (see above), we communicate that the Sinner’s Prayer is essential for salvation, even though the Bible knows no such reality.  In his dissertation on the subject, Paul Harrison Chitwood warns us of the Sinner’s Prayer:

This ethical consideration for evangelism applies to usage of the Sinner’s Prayer in much the same manner as the first.  When a prayer is the supreme goal of a witnessing encounter and based upon that prayer we determine our success or failure in leading lost souls to conversion, we run the risk of allowing that prayer to become a stumbling block.  On the one hand, we may as [Jim] Elliff charges, bring people to “believe in the efficacy of a prayer and not the efficacy of Christ’s work.”  When we do so, the prayer becomes a stumbling block to that person’s salvation, the chief stumbling block indeed.  On the other hand, we may communicate to people who have not prayed the prayer that they are lost and without praying the prayer they cannot be saved.  I refer back to the incident recounted by George Martin in which a pastor had a young boy repeat the prayer again to be certain he had done it correctly so the church family could, in good conscience, acknowledge the boy’s salvation.  We also recall Leonard’s comments, “At the slightest doubt, simply pray the prayer again and settle it.  Lots of people repudiated earlier events—childhood professions dimmed by age, aisle walking without understanding, praying the prayer without meaning it, or praying the wrong prayer.”  It may very well be that we have indeed “enthroned” the Sinner’s Prayer to the point that it has become a stumbling block instead of a stepping-stone as a method in evangelism (pg. 122-123).

When pastors, evangelists, church leaders, etc. make the Sinner’s Prayer necessary for salvation, they add to the gospel; and thus, make it twice as hard for someone to truly trust in Christ (It is no different than making baptism necessary for salvation).  In other words, in trying to simplify the gospel, we’ve actually added to it, possibly eliminating the gospel in the process; for, if your hearer(s) trust in the prayer instead of in Christ, they are doomed for hell while possessing [false] assurance of their salvation.

Return to the Bible friends!  Do not add to the gospel.

R. C. Sproul on abortion

Sproul-Portrait

Dr. Sproul’s book, Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue, was re-released on its 20th anniversary. You can read the foreword, table of contents, and first chapter here. Here are links to an older online video series from Dr. Sproul on what he calls “the number one ethical issue that this nation has ever faced.” What […]

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The basic problems with paedo-Baptist theology

I agree that the household texts (all of them, in fact, with the exception of Lydia’s household in Acts 16) affirm the baptism of believers/disciples, and that none of them affirm or assert any form of infant-baptism. The major problems I see with paedo-baptism include: 1. Implementing a hermeneutic that is not generally reformed. 2. […]

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Calvinism vs. Hyper-Calvinism

“Remember… while some Arminians are Armenians and some Armenians are Arminians, Armenians and Arminians are two very different groups. Second, while it’s true that some Calvinists can be a bit hyper, that doesn’t make them Hyper-Calvinists.” – Justin Taylor It is indeed unfortunate that a man’s name (John Calvin) has come to be associated with […]

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Don’t equate historically early with theologically accurate

Beware of imputing advantage to antiquity. Seventy years after the death of Jesus the churches had neither the collected New Testament nor a living apostle. It was a precarious and embattled time. Neither the experiences nor the teachers of the first 300 years of the church are as reliable as the finished New Testament. The […]

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Advice for theological students and young pastors by Kevin DeYoung

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Kevin DeYoung details 45 things that he wishes he knew whenever he first started in ministry.  It’s important to read the counsel of wise men that have come before or have more experience than us, for “those that do not know the past are doomed to repeat it.”  In other words, let us learn from […]

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Calvinism is the only basis for evangelizing the lost

God’s sovereign election is the only basis by which any believer has confidence to evangelize the lost. We do not know who the elect are in this lifetime, but what we do know with certainty is that there are elect out there. Has God ever revealed to us why we should evangelize the lost? Indeed […]

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A classic illustration of God’s sovereign electing freedom

prison bars

Often it takes an illustration to help non-Calvinists break out of their categorical and cultural assumptions about the precious truth of predestination. The following illustration has floated around in Calvinist circles for many years, and has been very effective: You have 100 criminals on death row. They are all equally guilty and deserving of death. […]

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My top 5 books on Calvinism

The writing of books on Calvinism and Arminianism appears to be endless! So where shall we begin? Here are my recommendations. (1) Perhaps the most comprehensive treatment of issues related to Calvinism, together with a fair and objective response to Arminianism, is the two-volume set titled, The Grace of God and the Bondage of the […]

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Human responsibility does not imply human ability

Human responsibility is dependent on an objective entity (God’s law), not a subjective entity (human moral ability). Human responsibility relates to a moral standard. It does not imply a so-called free will. If a teenage boy gets drunk and runs a red light, is he no longer responsible because of his condition? Yes, he is […]

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