By Jim Mickells.
I got a little book in the mail a few days ago entitled, “The Path To Peace.” The subtitle said, “Finding Hope In A Troubled World.” It contained several articles, but a couple of things really stood out. One, on page 21, at the bottom of the page, there were the words, “My Acceptance.” It then said, “I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour; I ask Him to forgive my sins and enable me to live the new life of love, trust and faith.” “I am Christ’s; I have given myself to Him.” Many know this as the sinner’s prayer. It is taught in the religious world today that all you must do to be saved is to pray this prayer, asking the Lord to come into your heart and you will be saved. Is this what the Bible teaches?
When those Jews on Pentecost, from every nation under heaven (Acts 1:5), asked Peter what to do to be saved, he didn’t say pray the sinners prayer. They were told to, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The Bible then says, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptised; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). The Lord then added them to the church when they complied with His terms of pardon (Acts 2:47). They were not told to pray for forgiveness.
We read about the conversion of Saul in Acts 9, while travelling to Damascus to persecute Christians. After Jesus appeared to him, he asked, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (Acts 9:6). He was told to arise and go into the city and there it would be revealed to him what he must do (Acts 9:6). Over the next several verses, the writer reveals to us that Paul was blind, lead into the city by his travelling companions, without food and drink for three days, and praying (Acts 9:8-12). Ananias was instructed by God to go to this man, so that he might receive his sight and be forgiven of his sins when he followed the commands of the Lord (Acts 9:10-16). Ananias does what the Lord tells him to do, though in the beginning he was hesitant (Acts 9:13-14). The record in Acts 9 simply states that the scales fell from his eyes, thus receiving his sight, and that he arose and was baptised (v. 18). In Acts 22, Paul told his audience what Ananias had told him to do in Acts 9, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (v. 16). He had already been praying, yet we find him still in his sins. Baptism was the final step in receiving forgiveness, not prayer.
In Acts 16, we read of the conversion of the Philippian jailer. Paul and Silas are in prison, a great earthquake shook the jail opening the doors to all the cells (Acts 16:25-26). The guard is awakened from sleep, thinking that all the prisoners have escape and is about to commit suicide (Acts 16:27). Paul tells him to do himself no harm, for all the inmates are still there (Acts 16:28). This jailer falls before Paul and Silas, asking what he must do to be saved (Acts 16:29-30). According to many in the religious world, he should have been told to pray the sinner’s prayers, yet that was not what he was told to do at all. He was to believe on the Lord (Acts 16:31). They then taught him the word of God and he and his family were immediately baptised. No sinner’s prayer!
We have a case in the Bible were one was told to repent and pray for forgiveness though. Who was it? It was Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8. He had already been saved by the blood of Christ through obedience to the will of God and then sinned. Notice the record says that he believed and was baptised (Acts 8:13). We know that baptism is for the remission of sins, that is what the Bible says (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). So he was saved when he submitted to the will of the Lord. Yet, after he had been obedient, he tried to buy the ability to lay hands on others so they could receive the Holy Spirit, like the apostles (Acts 8:17-19). Peter told him that his heart was not right with God and that he need to repent and pray for forgiveness of the sin which he had committed (Acts 8:20-23). This is God’s law of pardon for the child of God who sins after becoming a Christian. No one in the New Testament who was not a Christian was told to pray for forgiveness.
The Bible says nothing about a sinner’s prayer. What we must do, is follow the word of God. If you are not a Christian, you must believe (John 8:24), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess that Jesus is Lord (Matthew 10:32-33), and be baptised for remission of your sins. God will save you and add you to His church (Acts 2:47). As a Christian, if you have sinned against God, repent and pray for the remission of your sins (Acts 8:22). God is merciful and willing to cleanse us of our sins when we obey Him.
Presented by the Cape Rd Church of Christ.