Paul's Passing Thoughts

Why the “Sinner’s Prayer” is NOT the Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 10, 2015

ppt-jpeg4Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to lead someone into salvation by reciting the “sinner’s prayer,” and there is a reason for that; it’s not the gospel. The following is a typical rendition of said Prayer:

“Heavenly Father, I come to you in prayer asking for the forgiveness of my sins. I confess with my mouth and believe with my heart that Jesus is your Son, and that he died on the cross at Calvary that I might be forgiven and have eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. Father, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead and I ask you right now to come into my life and be my personal lord and savior. I repent of my sins and will worship you all the days of my life. Because your word is truth, I confess with my mouth that I am born again and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

The great danger of something like this becoming an orthodox canned ritual to obtain salvation is fully realized in our day. As a recovering baptaholic, I have witnessed the falling away of most people who are “saved” by this prayer or responding to an alter call at an institutional church. Also, I have witnessed the lack of alarm following in response to this reality.

Why the lack of alarm? It’s the “prayer of faith” that saves and not the realty of it. Let me repeat that: It’s the “prayer of faith” that saves and NOT the reality of it. “It” being the reality of salvation itself. Salvation is a reality and not a mere mental assent to the facts of the gospel. However, no evidence of a new life is acceptable in Protestant circles because its gospel is a “believing only” definition of faith rather than a decision. The difference is major.

Note the structure of the prayer; it’s a disaster. Why? First of all, on the one hand, it calls for belief only rather than a decision, coupled with a commitment: “[I] will worship you all the days of my life.” Totally confusing. Is salvation by faith alone or not? “Repentance” is NOT a commitment, it is a change of mind—it is a decision to go in a different direction; specifically, from death to life.

And that is the crux: the new birth. Though the new birth is in the prayer, it is framed as something that you believe mentally only rather than something that you decide to accept as a gift. Salvation is a decision to accept the gift of the Spirit and His baptism. It is a onetime decision to follow Christ in death and resurrection, and this is only possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit otherwise known as the new birth. Salvation is NOT, I repeat, not… “Asking Jesus into my heart” or “Asking Jesus to come into my life.” No, no, no, and in fact, where are we told in Scripture to “ask” for salvation? We are told to “believe” (mental assent to the facts of the gospel) AND repent – a decision to follow Christ in death and resurrection, or a passing from death to life made possible by the Spirit, and “you WILL” receive the GIFT of God’s PROMISE concerning the Spirit (Acts 2:37-39). I hope you see the major difference here.

The correct gospel has an expectation of new life built in. It is a decision to die to the old self and become new with Christ who also received the promise of the Spirit when He resurrected Christ from the grave (Galatians 3:16). Christ paid the penalty for our sins, but without the promise of the Spirit, there is NO salvation. An overemphasis on some “receiving of Christ” in lieu of the promise of the Spirit is an ill advised gospel presentation (Galatians 3:1,2).

Salvation is a decision to accept a promise to all people. It is a repentance, not an asking. When one decides to turn from their old self to a new self made anew by the promise of the Spirit, they WILL receive the promise. This is EXACTLY what Christ was talking about when he said “follow me.” This is EXACTLY what Christ was talking about in regard to losing one’s life in order to find it. He was talking about the promise. He was talking about passing from death to life. He was talking about the new birth. He was talking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, the reality of Protestant professions that do not pan-out in large numbers is due to a canned orthodox gospel that exchanges a promise for an ambiguous “asking Jesus into my heart.” It redefines the promise of the Spirit and denies the reality of a literal passing from death to life.

This is why the “walk of the new man” is optional in regard to any great concern in the institutional church while the flippant truism “We are all just sinners saved by grace” plays in our minds like a bad song that we cannot get out of our heads.

By its fruit the tree is known.


3 Responses

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  1. Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on September 10, 2015 at 11:45 AM

    “Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to lead someone into salvation by reciting the ‘sinner’s prayer,’ ”

    Exactly! Salvation comes by faith (believing). And faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God delivered by one bringing it to them. A perfect example of this is found in Acts 10.

    “And as [Peter] talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together…Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”
    Acts 10:26-44

    Notice, that nowhere is it mentioned that anyone prayed a prayer. The Holy Ghost fell on them while Peter was speaking! That means they believed what Peter had told them and were convinced of it and decided to follow it, and they were born again in that moment!



  2. Christian said, on September 10, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    Now Paul you are beginning to sound like a neo Calvinist.


    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on September 10, 2015 at 12:44 PM

      Not really, a clock that doesn’t work is still right twice a day. One thing I didn’t do in the post is delve into the actual theology of the sinner’s prayer which is purely Calvinist. I can do that if people are intrigued by that statement. Neo-Calvinists have a problem with the sinner’s prayer because Arminians misunderstand its intentions; ie, they think it means God actually does a work IN the believer. Neo-Calvinism objects to Protestant Thomism which is really what sparked the Reformation. The sinner’s prayer has elements that the NC agree with; such as, the idea that we can only ASK for salvation and maybe we will receive it and maybe we won’t.


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