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“And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:40,41).

IN OUR DAY, WHEN PEOPLE ASK “WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?” THEY ARE COMMONLY TOLD TO PRAY THE “SINNER’S PRAYER.” According to its advocates, this prayer is how one “accepts” Christ, based on the premise that “faith only” is the requirement for the forgiveness of sins. There are many versions of the prayer, but they all run something like this: “Dear God, I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for my sins and that you raised Him to life. I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

A couple of remarks are in order. First, our conversion to Christ should certainly be accompanied by fervent prayer. If there is ever a time when prayer is appropriate, would it not be on the crucial occasion of our turning to Christ as our Savior?

But it is simply not true to the Scriptures to say that a prayer like the Sinner’s Prayer is sufficient. We do not find in any of the conversions to Christ in the Scriptures anyone being instructed to pray such a prayer, as if that were all they needed to do to be saved.

But if we do not find in the Scriptures people being told to pray the Sinner’s Prayer, what do we find? As in our beginning text in Acts 2:40,41, the gospel called for a response, and those who responded did not merely pray; they were baptized. Beginning on the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem, when the gospel was first preached in its completeness, those who sought God’s forgiveness submitted gladly to the gospel’s command to be baptized into Christ. Their baptism was preceded by faith (John 8:24), repentance (Acts 2:38), and the confession of their faith (Romans 10:9,10). All of these were motivated by trust in God’s power to save them (Colossians 2:12) and backed up by a very serious commitment (Luke 9:62). To tell the sinner to do anything less than these things is to share something less than the gospel with him.

“In the New Testament, it was not by prayer that people became Christians but by receiving God’s forgiveness as they died with Christ in baptism” (Dee Bowman).

Gary Henry — +

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