Above the Sun: It takes more than prayer to save us

This may surprise you, but the popular “Sinner’s Prayer” that is practiced by a lot of denominations is found nowhere in God’s word. Yes, you heard it right. The “Sinner’s Prayer” is not in the Bible. There are no examples of anyone becoming a Christian by saying a prayer.

This is a problem for a lot of reasons including that many people over the years have gone to their graves believing that they were saved when they said this prayer. They had been told by well-meaning teachers that if they really believed the words, they had just prayed from the bottom of their heart, they were now saved.

God’s instructions still remain unchanged by anything or anyone including new religions, politics, cultural changes, or personal preferences. The apostle Paul is very clear on this issue.

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So, if we can find everything we need in the Bible to be thoroughly equipped to serve God, there is no need or justification for looking elsewhere or coming up with our own recipes for salvation other than that which is found in the Bible.

The same New Testament author, Paul, told the church in Rome that their “new life” in Christ could begin after (not before) they were immersed/baptized (Romans 6:1-11). In this passage, he compares baptism to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and the “new life” that follows.

In the story of the Ethiopian who was immersed by Philip, it was after (not before) they came up out of the water that the Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).

Peter said in Acts 2:38 that baptism is the point at which your sins are forgiven. This is also when God adds the “saved” to His church (Acts 2:41, 47).

In the story of Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion to Christianity, Jesus appeared to Paul as a bright light from heaven. They had a conversation (Acts 22:6-10). Imagine talking/praying to God and actually hearing Him respond! No wonder Paul repeated his conversion story so many times! Paul even asked Jesus, “What shall I do, Lord?” You see, even a direct conversation with Jesus did not save Paul or forgive his sins. Several verses later, Jesus commanded a man named Ananias to tell Paul: “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16, also Acts 9:1-19).

Many people have called on God for help, but as Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

A sincere prayer of repentance or turning to God is always a good thing. But from the beginning of Christianity, prayer alone does not save. Neither does confessing sins alone or even belief in God if you’re not willing to obey (1 John 1:5-10 and James 2:14-25).

In the end, it’s all about committing our lives to God, trusting Him, and obeying what His word says is required for salvation that gives us access to God’s amazing grace (Titus 2:11-14). 

Have a great week!

Barrett Vanlandingham is the Youth Minister at the Fort Gibson Church of Christ. Reach him at (918) 478-2222 or barrettvanlandingham@gmail.com.

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