The Truth About The Sinner’s Prayer

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"Dear Jesus,

I am a sinner. 
I repent of my sins. 
Please forgive me and save me by your shed blood; 
come into my heart. 
I want to receive you as my own personal Lord and savior.



Often the New Testament that one holds in their hand includes a written "prayer," such as the one above that, supposedly, when prayed, will result in the one doing so being saved. Such a "prayer" is often referred to as the "Sinner’s Prayer", and is used extensively by denominations as if it has its foundation within Scripture. As we consider this, it may surprise you that the New Testament Scriptures do not say anything about believing and praying in order to be saved.


Occasionally, one finds within the New Testament the phrase "calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13, et al), or one similar to it. However, a careful examination of the texts reveals that they do not teach "the sinner's prayer" as it is taught today by so many. Rather, it points to the necessity of one who wishes to be saved “calling” on the authority of the Lord for their salvation.


A careful study of the New Testament Scriptures reveals the following facts. A person is saved by grace, through faith (Galatians 2:8, 9) as they fully obey the gospel (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 5:9), which involves belief (John 8:24; Hebrews 11:6), repentance (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9), confession (Romans 10:9, 10), and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21). There is no New Testament record of one instructing an unbeliever   to pray "the sinner's prayer" in order to be saved, as can be seen by the following examples of what those who were saved actually did (Acts 2:36-41; 8:5, 12; 8:13; 8:26-39; Acts 9:3-18; 22:16; 10:1-48;  16:13-16; 16:25-34; 18:8). The simple facts are, no unbeliever in the New Testament was saved by praying "the sinner's prayer," as there is no record of anyone having prayed it.


It is, also, interesting to note that God does not promise to answer the prayer of an unbeliever, when that one is seeking to be saved. It is the desire of churches of Christ to speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where it is silent. Further, it is our prayer that you will carefully consider this matter in view of what the New Testament teaches, rather than what is taught by man.

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Robert Stapleton


It seems as if there is more confusion and controversy found related to the subject of     baptism than almost any other subject found within the New Testament. When an           examination of this subject is conducted, one readily realizes that the problem arises from the lack of acceptance of what the Scriptures say, more so than a lack of understanding. It seems that where God’s Word has been plain, simple, and understandable, man’s attitude has been that of rebellion. In relation to the subject of baptism, it is not so much a lack of being able to understand what God has said, but an unwillingness to accept His Word as  authority. One who loves God must be willing to accept His Word as it is. Jesus was quite clear concerning this as is seen in such passages as John 12:48; 14:15; 15:14, etc. Let us consider several New Testament passages of Scripture to see what God has said.


Mark 16:16: The statement made by Jesus in this passage is too plain to misunderstand! If one has a problem understanding this verse, about all he needs to do is to have a sixth grade English student explain it. Jesus, very plainly, says that for one to be saved he must believe and be baptized. To be lost he only needs to not believe. Notice Jesus states that faith and baptism equal salvation. Take any part of the equation away, and you destroy the equation. Consider the following. One and one equals two. Remove either part, and you  destroy the equation just like in removing baptism from the equation above.


ACTS 2:38: Following the first gospel sermon after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, Peter responded to the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). We note that Peter’s answer was very plain and simple, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38). For the sake of “argument,” let us assume one does not     understand what Peter was saying they were to do. To help here, all we really need to do is look to those who did hear and understand and see what their response to Peter’s words was. Note the words found in Acts 2:41, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized:…” This is much like someone crying, “Fire, run.” If you don’t understand what you should do after hearing the word “fire”, just watch and see what everyone else is     doing. In reality, anyone who is capable of reading the Bible is capable of understanding what Peter instructed them to do. The problem is not in understanding, but in the unwillingness of some to accept what is being said.


ACTS 22:16: As Christ appeared to Saul near Damascus, Saul asked the question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6 a). The answer is found in the latter portion of the passage, “…Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Later, in Acts 22:16, we see exactly what he was told to do, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” In      consideration of what Saul was told to do, we easily see that there was not much for him to misunderstand. He could have rejected, refused, or rebelled, but he could not have        misunderstood. There are those who presently claim that Saul was saved before he entered Damascus. However, if so, Jesus did not know it, as seen in what Saul was told to do, “…go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Likewise, Saul did not know it as seen from his actions in Acts 9:18, “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” If Saul was saved before his baptism, Ananias did not know it as seen in Acts 9:13-16. And,      finally, if he was saved on the Damascus Road no preacher today can not it as there is not one shred of evidence to prove it.

            Sometimes it is argued that Saul was saved after his arrival in Damascus, and before his meeting with Ananias. It is suggested that he was saved at the point of prayer, as he spent his time upon arrival in Damascus in such, “And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink…behold, he prayeth,…” (Acts 9:9, 11). However, what has to be kept in mind is this was not that which Saul was told to do in respect to what the Lord would have him to do (Acts 9:6 a). As such, anything other than what the Lord told him to do was done by Saul’s will and not the will of the Lord. Thus, it could not possibly result in his salvation, “Not every one 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.” (Matthew 7:21).


ROMANS 6:3, 4: As we consider this text, we note that Paul’s declaration is not the least bit difficult to understand. Paul simply, but plainly, points out that those who were now Christians at Rome had died to sin through their having believed, repented, and being buried with Christ in baptism. As we continue in the same chapter, we note that the Roman saints had yielded themselves to become servants of obedience, unto righteousness, and by doing such those who were once “the servants of sin,” had now   “obeyed from the heart” the “form of doctrine which was delivered” them (Romans 6:17, 18). By this statement, we see that Paul had no problem in explaining how they had been made free from sin. Likewise, the Roman Christians had no trouble in understanding what it was that they were to do in order to become Christians. They were to obey the “form of doctrine” given unto them. Thus, the issue was never, were they able to understand what they were to do, but would they do it. That same “form of doctrine” has been given to man today through the plan of salvation offered by the New Testament. As such, there is no difficulty in seeing what is to be done. The difficulty arises when people are unwilling to accept what is said.


EPHESIANS 5:16: Those who make up the New Testament church are those who have accepted the word and entered Christ by baptism, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,…” (1 Corinthians 12:13). The course of obedience outlined within the New Testament inducts one into Christ and as such, into His body which is the church (Ephesians 1:22,23). Thus, this “washing of water by the word” cleanses those who would enter the church. All who will take the time, and who are concerned with what the New Testament teaches, may easily understand what Paul has said. Once again, the problem arises not in understanding but acceptance.


It is God’s desire that “all come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), which would lead one to obedience in so far as baptism is concerned (Acts 2:38, 41). As such, He has been crystal clear in His explanation of His commands concerning what one must do in order to have their sins remitted. The teachings of the New Testament are understandable. If not, then God would be at fault for man’s condemnation for failing to provide an understandable plan. Thus, the issue isn’t, can we  understand what is commanded, but will we do what has been said?


In summation, it doesn’t do a bit of good to simply hear what has been said without proper obedience, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22).

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