The heretical sinner’s prayer, and unbiblical altar calls, by Chaplain Bill Rhetts

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Bill 2The heretical sinner’s prayer, and unbiblical altar calls

by Chaplain Bill Rhetts, MA

Copyright © 2014
January 15th, 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapters

  1. INTRODUCTION
  2. PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
  3. THE ORIGIN OF THE SINNERS PRAYER
    Biblical history
    Church history
  4. THE PROPONENTS DEFENSE
  5. CONCLUSION
  6. BIBLIOGRAPHY/FOOTNOTES

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

          This article comes after much prayer, and biblical council. My intent is not to merely criticize others. Nonetheless, Biblical discernment involves the process of both biblical judging, and critiquing. Please know my heart, that I “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Over many years, attempts have been made by myself, and others, to speak with these pastors regarding their sinner’s prayers (Galatians 6:1). However these pastor(s) did not respond back, and/or did not provide a Biblical defense. Therefore it is biblically appropriate to write this article (Matthew 18:15-17).

The intent of this article is not to cause division within the body of Christ. Though Jesus was the Prince of Peace, He also knew there was a time to draw the line.  The Lord said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

This article is motivated by love for His church, and compassion for the lost. Eternity is a very long time. No one should ever make assumptions or speculations regarding another ones salvation; hence their eternal destiny. I was once one of those ‘believers’ that thought I was saved; later I learned I was not.

I pray this glorifies the Lord, and as others have said, may it “Edify the saints, and evangelize to those that ain’t.” As the Apostle Paul said, “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).

To avoid any confusion as to what a sinner’s prayer is, let me first and foremost define the meaning. A sinner’s prayer is a prayer that evangelists, pastors, or Christians use to “lead” or “win” a person to Christ, and/or to salvation. After witnessing, sharing Christ, or giving a biblical message, the Christian will then ask the nonbeliever if they want to become saved. They will then be asked to repeat a prayer; hence the ‘sinner’s prayer.’

The prayer will often sound as the following. “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will. In your name, amen.”[1] The Christian facilitating and leading the other person through that prayer, will often tell them that they are now “saved,” “born-again,” and/or “welcome to the family of God;” and they are now guaranteed eternal life in heaven.

Before we continue, it is very important that I make this very clear. I am not saying that every person that has repeated this sinner’s prayer is a false convert. I am saying that if they were born-again, it wasn’t because of that prayer. As Paul Washer, of HeartCry Missionaries Society said, “You were not saved because of the prayer, you were saved in spite of that prayer.”[2] I will expound more on this in my conclusion.

CHAPTER TWO

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

            Back in the year 1986, while attending a large church in Riverside, California, ‘Harvest Christian Fellowship;’ I listened to a message given by their Pastor. After his sermon, Pastor Greg Laurie told his congregation that if anyone wanted to become a Christian, and be “guaranteed eternal life in heaven;” then to simply come forward in an altar call, and repeat a prayer after him. After doing so, Pastor Greg then publicly told myself (and the many others in that altar call,) that we were all now “born-again.”

I later learned that being told you were saved for simply repeating a ‘sinner’s prayer,’ or ‘raising your hand’ at an altar call is not biblical; and is what I now call ‘theological malpractice.’ I believe Pastor Greg was sincere, and he meant well; but he was sincerely wrong. No one can tell me that I am saved; they can only tell me how to become saved. They can only point me to the Savior. You can only discern a person’s conversion to Christ by their fruits, repentance, and a changed life; but through a test of time. An alleged new convert must then be thoroughly discipled.

I even became part of a ‘decision making following up’ counseling team. My job was to contact the men (assigned to me) that filled out a “decision card” at their well-known Harvest Crusades. Each crusade seated anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 souls. I later telephonically contacted those men that went forward in that altar call. Many of them hadn’t a clue of what they did. Many of them told me they only walked forward and/or repeated the prayer, because their friend first walked forward. During that time, for five years I struggled with the legitimacy of my own 1986 sinner’s prayer / salvation. And no, it wasn’t the devil deceiving me.

That is why the ‘church’ appears to be so carnal today. Because many of those filling church buildings, are false converts. Like myself, they were told they were saved, when in fact many of them were not. Therefore, they’re really not part of the true biblical church. It is true that Christians are still sinners, but they should no longer desire to lead a sinful life. To know more about what are the evidences of salvation, please consider my video entitled, ‘The Bourne Identity of a born-again Christian; false converts, the sinner’s prayer, & the acceptance Gospel.’ [3]

However, despite what pastor Greg Laurie told me (and the others at that altar call,) five years later on November 14th, 1991, the Lord performed a divine intervention upon my life. As a Los Angeles Police Officer, God forced me into a situation where I was ambushed by 5 gang members. Interestingly, this occurred at a church. After this gun battle was over, I later came to know that the Lord truly saved me then. It was then that I biblically ‘called out’ to the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation, rather than repeat another man’s prayer. It was then that Christ saved me. Having said that, had I died between that 1986 altar call / sinner’s prayer, and that 1991 bloody gun battle; I would have gone to hell for an eternity. Think about that.

At the time of that church shoot-out, and when I wrote my original testimony; I had thought I was a ‘backslidden’ Christian. But the Lord ‘later’ made it very clear to me, through His Scriptures; that I was not saved at all. For further details, my testimony is online[4]

Are some souls saved during sinner’s prayers? The answer’s yes. However it seems the percentage of salvation is very low. Some pastors have later admitted that. My question is, did they tell the other remaining percentile that? Where are they today? Have any of them died? How many have perished and gone to hell?

There is only One that has the authority and power to actually connect you to our Father, who is in heaven. There is only One that is omniscient (all-knowing,) knowing when and if we are saved. That is the God Man – Christ Jesus. “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1st Timothy 2:4-6).

From the years 2000-2003 I attended a large church here in Redlands called “The Packing House.” Like the aforementioned Harvest Christian Fellowship, it too is a Calvary Chapel affiliate. [5] Oh they pack the sheep in alright. Their new building evolved into a mega-church, with an amphitheater style seating arrangement. Their individual seats are more comfortable than what most movie theatres provide. They even have movable arm rests, with built-in cup holders. I cannot confirm the price. But according to one former board member, the total costs for those fancy seats may have cost more than what most small churches pay for their entire building.

Their senior pastor, Pastor Ed Rea performed what was even worse than a ‘sinner’s prayer.’ Concluding his sermons, he stated the following, “Now close your eyes, and bow your heads. Now while no one is looking, if you want to accept Jesus into your heart; just slip up your hand!” When some did so, he then declared them all officially born-again. It is heretical to do such a thing. These unbiblical sinners prayers, and/or raise your hand roll calls, must be exposed and rebuked.

True there is a time and place for praise reports. But later we hear many churches or ministries seemingly boast about how many ‘they’ supposedly led to Christ, or how many were saved under ‘their’ teaching (if they were saved at all.) True, sinners are saved by merely hearing the Gospel message, but the pastor or preacher had very little (or nothing) to do with the salvation (1st Corinthians 3:5-15). All the glory must go only to the Lord. Man shouldn’t take even partial credit for Gods work. We must be careful when giving praise reports such as, “We had 29 decisions for Christ,” or “We led 9 to the Lord,” or “5 souls were saved today at our altar call.” They may not have been saved. And if they were, it was the Lord that saved them. These brag-a-thons will often times be later followed up with beg-a-thons, as they ask for money.

The Bible makes it clear, that “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

On February 28th, 2013 a concerned friend contacted me regarding a ‘raise your hand’ roll call at her church, a Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills. Her pastor, Jack Hibbs said something similar to this; “While your eyes are closed and our heads are bowed, if anyone wants to accept Jesus into your heart, just raise your hand.” Afterwards many people did so. The pastor told them they were all saved; and later wrote the following on his Facebook wall. “we are happy and thrilled to have seen 74 new souls enter the Kingdom this last Sunday. come Lord Jesus !!! [sic] [6]  Within two days, 14 of his Facebook friends ‘shared’ it, 543 ‘liked’ it, and 33 commented in the affirmative. Much of their comments were emotionalism.

No matter how solid the doctrine may be in a sermon. If you end it with a sinner’s prayer, that attenuates the sermon.

If a doctor misdiagnosed you, he could be sued, or disbarred for medical malpractice. If an attorney gave you bad legal advice, he could be sued, or disbarred for legal malpractice. Then could you imagine the eternal damage done by many pastors and Christians, who have committed this theological malpractice?

For five years I was one of those non-saved ‘believers.’ I was a dead man walking. That is why I take this subject matter very seriously. Eternity is a very long time, so we don’t want to get this wrong. My biggest regret, is not being able to re-contact every person that I’ve led thru a sinner’s prayer; regretfully telling them then, that they were saved (when in fact, I could not know if they were.) God is not concerned about local church growth (or numbers.) He’s concerned about salvation, and individual Christian growth.

To those of us in the ministry. We must always remember that we’re nothing more than a spoon His hand, and a sower of His Seed. While doing missions work in Las Vegas last year,[7] we visited one church on a Sunday morning, ‘First Baptist Church of the Lakes.’ The leader of their evangelism ministry, Chris Raymond stated, “We’re just a worm in His hand.” Oh how true that is.

The Christian is only a sower of the Seed, the results are Gods. He doesn’t need me nor you, but He wants to use us. It is even more humbling to know, that we’re all replaceable. Why do pastors, evangelists, or Christians utilize the sinner’s prayer? I will discuss that later in my conclusion.

CHAPTER THREE

THE ORIGIN OF THE SINNERS PRAYER

          In this chapter I will pin point the origin of the sinner’s prayer. I will investigate its biblical origin (if any,) as well as its historical background.

Biblical history

            Through the years I have asked many pastors and Christians, what was their biblical text to support their sinner’s prayer? In my next chapter entitled ‘The Proponents defense’ I will expound on that more, by giving a biblical analysis on the many verses they gave me. However in this chapter, I will mention the most popular verse that pastors use as their authority for using the sinner’s prayer. That verse, is Romans 10:9.

Pastor Ed Rea of The Packing House church cited “Romans 10:9”, as his basis for the sinner’s prayer. Or in his case, his close your eyes, bow your head, and raise your hand roll calls. Pastor Greg Laurie’s assistant pastor, John Douthitt told me that Romans 10:9-10, was Laurie’s biblical basis for utilizing his sinner’s prayer.

Let’s take a look at Romans 10:9-10. “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” [8]

Brethren utilizing these two verses as their basis for a sinner’s prayer is very problematic. Today we live in what I call a cut and paste society. Especially with personal computers in almost every home, it’s so easy to utilize a computer mouse to cut and paste, or copy and paste Gods Word out of context. Taking Gods Word out of its original context, is bad enough (which I’ve regretfully done in the past.) But to assure another person’s eternal destination over to one Bible verse(s), is again theological malpractice.

I’m going to zoom in on two words in this passage; to ‘confess,’ and to ‘believe.’ The word confess here comes from the Greek word homologeo, which means “to declare the same thing.” The word believe here comes from the Greek work Pisteúō, which means to have faith in, to respect, to entrust ones well-being to Christ, to commit to, and to put in trust with. I’ve never heard a pastor properly explain this at an altar call. Rather, they engage in what is called the ‘acceptance Gospel,’ or ‘easy-believism’ [sic]. It’s a counterfeit believism with no faith, no commitment, and no repentance. Did the sinner make a biblical declaration of faith in Christ alone? Or did he just repeat another sinner’s prayer?

Regarding the word to ‘confess.’ Commentator Gib Martin said, “It’s one thing to say the words, it’s another thing to confess them and to show what’s in your heart by acting accordingly.” [9]

The Criswell Center for Biblical Studies said, “The confession that leads to salvation is that which agrees with God in His judgment concerning man and His remedy for man in Christ.” [10]

Pastor John MacArthur said,

“This is not a simple acknowledgement that He is God and the Lord of the universe, since even demons acknowledge that to be true (James 2:19). This is a deep personal conviction, without reservations, that Jesus is that person’s own master or sovereign. This phrase includes repenting from sin, trusting in Jesus for salvation, and submitting to Him as Lord. This is the volitional element of faith.” [11]

Putting that verse in proper context, Dr. Jerry Falwell said,

“Paul had just made reference that the Gospel has been in the mouths of the Jews. Now he builds on that thought. He explains that the confession “Jesus is Lord” refers to the lordship which Jesus exercises as the exalted Christ. Salvation must entail faith in One who is Lord. Confession of the lordship of Christ presupposes the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Lord.” [12]

The Reformation Study Bible says, “Confess . . . believe . . . believes . . . confesses. In the parallelism of v.10 Paul reverses the order of verbs in v.9 and thereby indicates that heart-belief and mouth-confession belong together for justification (“righteousness”) and salvation.” [13]

Bear in mind that often these altar calls, which eventually lead to the sinner’s prayer; are fueled with emotionalism and sensationalism. Depending on whether the sinner’s prayer is inside a church, outside, or at a crusade, the following occurs (including but not limited to;) The lights go down, the music provides an emotional heartbeat, and the pastor couches his words (sometimes quoting more verses out of context,) as well as a variety of manipulative methodologies.

After they repeat that prayer, you might even see a spectacular display of fireworks, or congratulatory verbiage up on the high definition LED video screen. Do you really believe the dozens, or thousands of souls, that walked forward (or remained seated) to repeat a prayer, truly understand salvation based off that one passage? No one can truly know if they were saved, or not. The bottom line is there is no biblical origin of the sinner’s prayer.

Church History

Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875.)

I am confident in tracing the origin of the sinner’s prayer to the 1820’s, and no farther beyond. To be more exact even naming Charles Grandison Finney as the author and creator of the sinner’s prayer. Finney was a lawyer, but in October of 1821 he professed to have been saved. As a new believer himself, Finney then began evangelizing others. At that time Finney called his sinner’s prayer, the “prayer of faith.” Finney coined that phrase himself, using Mark 11:24 as his basis. [14]

Let’s examine Mark 11:24. Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Remember how I warned about the cut and paste theology? Finney was taking this verse out of context, asserting that whatever we pray for, we will get. I don’t mean to shift gears (topics,) but perhaps Finney was also the grandfather of what we know today as the word of faith, name it claim it, or prosperity Gospel movement. Let me make this very clear. We cannot manipulate God in our prayers. We cannot change Gods mind through our prayers, nor can we convince God otherwise. No doubt the Lord hears my prayers, and He answers them all as well. As others have said, sometimes His answer is yes, sometimes it’s no, and sometimes His answer is wait.

In that verse the Lord Jesus was saying nothing about salvation, or a prayer to get someone saved. To put this verse in its proper context, it was the lesson of the withered fig tree. According to Mark, Peter had just reminded Jesus that He had cursed the fig tree. Jesus was telling Peter that he had no faith, and if he had faith, he could move a mountain with his prayers. The Lord was using an extreme illustration to convince Peter otherwise.

Pastor John MacArthur expounded on that verse,

“This clause places no limits on a believers prayers, as long as they are according to God’s will and purpose. This, therefore means that man’s faith and prayer must be consistent with God’s sovereignty. And it is not the believers’ responsibility to figure out how that can be true, but simply to be faithful and obedient to Jesus’ clear teaching on prayer, as Jesus gives it in this passage. God’s will is being unfolded through all of redemptive history, by means of the prayers of His people. His saving purpose is coming to pass through the faith of those who hear the Gospel and repent.” [15]

It wasn’t enough for Finney to utilize his ‘prayer of faith.’ Finney was very dogmatic and legalistic about it. He actually shifted the responsibility of his unbiblical sinner’s prayer onto others. Finney wrote,

“Millions are in hell because people who profess to be Christians have not offered the prayer of faith [sinner’s prayer]. When they had promises right in front of them. They didn’t have enough faith to use them. Parents let their children, even baptized children, go to hell because they disbelieved God’s promises. Many husbands have gone to hell when wives could have prevailed with God in prayer and saved them. The signs of the times and the indications of God’s plan were favorable; the Spirit prompted desires for their salvation, and they had enough evidence to believe that God was ready to pour out a blessing.” [16]

I believe Finney was more ego-centric, and man-centric; than Gospel-centric. When man places that much emphasis and power upon themselves, they are becoming a protestant Pope. Finney claimed then that “millions” are in hell, because they were not led through his sinner’s prayer. I would ask Finney how many are in hell that thought they were saved, because they repeated a sinner’s prayer. Today’s popular bumper sticker reads, “There’s power in prayer.” Yes that’s partially accurate, but the power is in God, as He wills to answer those prayers.

Pastor Jeff Van Geotham was recently quoted in a documentary film,

“Remember: the bottom line of all this is that a conversation to Christ is best made when a person has a clear-eyed grasp of exactly what they are doing. Emotions can be fleeting, so it should be our goal to persuade the mind and the heart via an accurate, complete and Holy Spirit led and empowered presentation of the truth of the entire Gospel. It is not our goal to merely produce an emotional response.” [17]

Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899.)

Moody, a shoe salesman, was saved in the year 1856. He became the next well known evangelist to utilize the sinner’s prayer, which he modeled after Finney. Moody added an element to his outreaches called an “Inquiry Room.” The inquiry room was a designated place where potential converts could come for individual prayer and council. Pastor Paul Harrison Chitwood said,

“Still, Moody’s training of personal workers for the inquiry room stands as a significant marker along the process of the development of the Sinner’s Prayer. His methods naturally lend themselves to the gradual formulation of a standardized prayer that, along with other methods, can be easily reproduced.” [18]

Moody’s fellow laborers would ask the potential converts to repeat the sinner’s prayer, after their decision to accept Jesus into their heart. Perhaps this is where the phenomena of the ‘Acceptance Gospel’ began. More about that in my conclusion.

William “Billy” Franklin Graham (1918-to present.)

In the late 1950’s, Billy Graham rose to the level of a world renowned evangelist. Under the umbrella of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, Graham reached millions. Perhaps this is where ‘numbers’ seemed to become an important part of evangelicalism. After one of Graham’s crusades, they reported, “The success of Graham’s evangelistic ministry continues. One summary report from the four day Greater Louisville Crusade indicated a total attendance of 191,500.” [19] That same report concluded saying that “10,000″ or more “decisions” for Christ was made.

On my IPOC Ministries web site, [20] I welcome you to input the words ‘decisional regeneration,’ or ‘decisionism’ into the search engine. There you will find many sermons and videos warning against this watered down Gospel. Pastor Laurence A. Justice of Victory Baptist Church recently wrote the following,

“In a paper he wrote called “The Christian,” Billy Graham defends his use of the invitation system by resorting, not to the scriptures but to psychology when he says concerning the invitation, “Many psychologists would say it is psychologically sound.” Biblical practices do not need the endorsement of psychology! There is absolutely no biblical authority for this practice! Yet today virtually all evangelists and pastors and churches use the altar call or invitation system. Second, our church does not use the altar call or invitation system.” [21]

Brethren, if psychologists believe in Graham’s sinner’s prayers (or altar calls,) do you suppose the sinner’s prayer might be a bad idea? Paul Washer would agree, as he called it “psychological manipulation.” [22]

Bear in mind that Graham’s doctrine has not always been biblically sound. Many decades ago, the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was asked to support Grahams Crusades, but Martyn Lloyd-Jones wisely responded,

“I said I’d make a bargain: If he [Graham] would stop the general sponsorship of his campaigns – stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on the platform – and drop the invitation system, I would wholeheartedly support him and chair the [World] Congress. We talked for about three hours, but he didn’t accept these conditions.” [23]

Over the years Graham has revealed his ecumenicalism and religious pluralism. Even to the point of saying to Robert Schuller, on the Hour of Power show, that Jesus Christ was not the only way of salvation. [24]

On October 11, 2012, Graham personally met with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Graham then publically rendered his endorsement of Romney. Understandably, that is Graham’s personal right to endorse whom he pleases. But the part that I cannot accept, is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association stated that Romney had “Biblical values,” and that they removed ‘Mormonism’ from their list of ‘cults’ on their web site. [25]

Many of Graham’s sympathizers believe that his Christian ethics and theology, crumbled later only due to old age. I too once believed that. Fact is, this well researched scathing documentary film, ‘Billy Graham exposed, and documentary with documented facts,’[26] proves Grahams watered down Gospel began as early as the 1960’s. In this film you will see a history of false teachings. I do not agree with some of the contents of two of the photo collages, but the facts of their investigation remain.

Greg Laurie (1952 to present.)

With the failing health of the aged Billy Graham; many are asking “Who will be the next Billy Graham?” Personally I believe no man should be elevated to these hierarchies. Nonetheless, many people are supposing that Greg Laurie will be the next evangelical leader of the free world. Between Laurie’s church, his Harvest Crusades, radio show, and now his role as a televangelist; I believe Laurie may be leading more people through the sinner’s prayer, than any other evangelist.

Having said that, I believe the following is appropriate to discuss. The following paragraphs do stray from the topic of the sinner’s prayer. But I believe it is applicable, and too important to dismiss.

I believe Laurie has taken evangelicalism to another level, but not a good one. The Harvest Christian Fellowship, and its Harvest Crusades have become emergent. Laurie is utilizing carnal means to attract people, and to draw them in. The following is just a few of many examples. [27]

At a recent crusade they used a Christian band that crosses over, and men that cross dress. [28] Another of their singers is a rapper called ‘Lecrae.’ True Lecrae sings some Christ-centered music, but he also brings in much worldliness, darkness, and sin. [29]

I have appreciated some of Laurie’s Bible teachings, but why cater to the world? I say this without forgetting where I came from. Fully understanding that only by the grace of God, so go I. There is no perfect church (mine included.) Having said that, I know some Christians that attend Greg Laurie’s church that are ‘sold out’ for the Lord. But I also see a high percentage of attendees that are ‘sell outs’ to this world. Sadly the reputation of this church has deteriorated over the years.

While open-air preaching and evangelizing in this churches community, I often run into congregants from this church, that are inside worldly sinful places. Such as abortion clinics, bars, marijuana dispensaries, etcetera. I will even see vehicles parked outside of nude bars (that we witness to from the outside,) bearing Harvest Crusades bumper stickers on them. Brethren, this is the fruit of the sinner’s prayer. Just repeat that prayer, slap on that bumper sticker, feel good about yourself; and continue to sin just as you did before.

I will often ask those that professed to be believers, “How did you become a Christian?” They will respond saying either, “I accepted Jesus into my heart,” or “I repeated the prayer,” or “I went forward at an altar call.” Knowing that I too was once in the bars just like them, I mercifully plead to them. I pleaded to them to pray to God, and to examine themselves; to see if they are truly born-again (2 Corinthians 13:5-10).

The emergent will tell you, “Just repeat these words after me!” But John Bunyan said, “I’d rather have a heart without words, 10,000 times, than words without a heart.”

The Lord warned us about them then, and because of where I once was (the bars,) I desire to warn them now.

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” (James 4:4-5).

I encourage you to watch my video commentary on ‘Should Christians drink alcohol? Here is a biblical response, and why.’ [30]

CHAPTER FOUR

THE PROPONENTS DEFENSE

          In the previous chapter, I expounded on the most popular verse used to justify the use of the sinner’s prayers (Romans 10:9-10.) In this chapter I will share more of many other verses that the proponents use. Those verses are Acts 2:21, Rev 3:20, and Romans 10:10-13.

Let us look at the first verse which is inappropriately used for sinner’s prayers. Acts 2:21 says, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” However to put this one verse in its proper context, it must be understood in its context along with verses 17-21 (minimally.) As the Reformation study Bible says,

“The quotation is from the Greek Old Testament text of Joel 2:28–32 (3:1–5). Peter’s use of the words “in the last days” (cf. Is. 2:2; Hos. 3:5; Mic. 4:1; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet. 1:20; 1 John 2:18) makes explicit that Joel is referring to the last times promised by God. Peter interprets Joel’s words as referring to the new covenant in contrast to the former days of the old covenant (Heb. 8:7; 9:1).” [31]

Dr. Edward Hindson explained it this way,

“These verses are a quotation from Joel 2:28-32 in which the prophet announces the coming day of the Lord. Joel’s prophecy was given in the midst of a call to repentance from the nation Israel (Joel 2:12-14.) Peter quotes that prophecy in the same context.” [32]

Another Bible commentary says,

“Not everything mentioned in Joel 2:28-29 was happening that particular morning. The ‘Last Days’ include all the days between Christ’s first and second comings and is another way of saying ‘from now on.’ The great and glorious day of the Lord (2:20) denotes the whole Christian age. Even Moses yearned for the Lord to put His Spirit upon everyone (Numbers 11:19). At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was released throughout the entire world – to men, woman, slaves, Jews, Gentiles.” [33]

Having said that, these verses with the words “call upon” or “call out to the Lord,” do not mean the same as today’s modern day English. In verse 21 the words “call upon” comes from the Greek word epikalesetai, which means to ‘entitle,’ to ‘invoke,’ to ‘worship,’ or to ‘appeal.’ [34]

The next verse used in sinners prayer’s is Revelation 3:20, where Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Let’s put this verse into its proper context. In verses 14-22, Jesus was writing (talking) to the church of Laodicea. They were part of the lukewarm church. They called themselves Christian, but most of them were not saved. Some Bible scholars believe that none of them were saved. Nevertheless, many scholars wrongfully state that Jesus here was knocking on the doors of their individual hearts. That is incorrect. Jesus is clearly knocking on the door of their unbiblical church. Either way, this is not a biblical authority for a sinner’s prayer. Jesus wants us to come to Him on His terms, with a true biblical saving faith.

Another verse used to justify the sinner’s prayer is Romans 10:10-13.

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the  mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

To understand these four verses in context, we really need to keep the entire chapter together (along with chapter 9.) In chapter 10 the Apostle Paul was warning of Israel’s need to hear the Gospel, and Israel’s present rejection of the Gospel. Before I expound on each verse, let me first summarize this passage.

In verses 1-13, Paul told the reason for their rejection. That they did not feel a need for salvation (verse 1.) They were zealous for God (verse 2.) They were proud, and self-righteous (verse 3.) They misunderstand their own law (verses 4-13.)

Regarding verses 10 & 11. To avoid repeating myself, the words ‘confess’ and to ‘believe’ here, mean the same as the Greek words in Romans 10:9-10. Therefore please refer back to chapter 3; for the correct elucidation of these words.

Verse 12 is saying that the ‘whosoever’s’ can be either Jew or Gentile. Whosoever does not mean everyone on the planet. It means those whosoever the Lord saves, and/or those whosoever’s that biblically receive Christ as Lord.  It does not say ‘whosoever repeats this prayer after me.’ This passage is not man-centric, it is Christ-centric.

Regarding verse 13, the words to “call upon,” is the same as previously explained in Acts 2:21. Please refer back to chapter 4, for their meaning.

Bible commentator Warren W. Wiersbe put it this way regarding Paul’s passage,

“Everything about the Jewish religion pointed to the coming Messiah – their sacrifices, priesthood, temple services, religious festivals, and covenants. Their law told them they were sinners in need of a Saviour. But instead of letting the Law bring them to Christ (Gal. 3:24), they worshipped their Law and rejected their Saviour.” [35]

CHAPTER FIVE

CONCLUSION

          My investigative analysis of the sinner’s prayer, concludes that there is no biblical evidence to support such a prayer that would either, save, bring, and/or lead a person to salvation. Nor does it seal that deal, after calling them forward in an altar call.

Today’s emergent church puts more emphasis on decision cards, decisionism, and their own man-made sinner’s prayer; than they do the Words of Jesus Christ Himself.  Jesus foretold us in the Parable of the Sower, of His Synoptic Gospels, that some would receive His Word, and others would not. Some would even appear to have received the Word, but they did not. [36]

By examining the New Testament, never did Jesus, nor His Apostles utilize a sinner’s prayer in their evangelism efforts. Jesus did say something that you won’t hear in today’s churchianity [sic] – “go and sin no more.” Repentance has become a dirty ‘R word’ in the church. Fact is, there is no salvation without repentance (Acts 3:19). Jesus Himself said “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Jesus never told us to merely believe in Him according to our own English definition of believe. He did tell us to “repent and believe in His Gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Have we forgotten the parable of the Vine, and the command to abide to Christ? (John 15). Have we forgotten that we must be born-again from above, by the Holy Spirit? (John 3:3). Have we forgotten that a truly saved person will be a new creation in Christ? (2 Cor 5:12-21). Have we forgotten that Jesus said, that the way to heaven is narrow, and the way to destruction (hell) is wide; and that “many” will go that direction? (Matthew 7:13-14). Have we forgotten that with regeneration (Titus 3:5, 1 John 3:9, 2 Cor 5:17), and justification; that a progressive sanctification will follow (1 Cor 1:2, Colossians 3:1-10, Romans 6, 1 Peter 2:9)?

Have we forgotten that salvation involves each of the three persons of the Godhead, that salvation is the Divine work of the Holy Trinity. Salvation comes to others as the Father ‘chooses whom He elects.’ He draws them (gives them) to His Son for redemption (John 6:37-44; 17:2, 6, 9, 24). Christ then redeems them from their sins, through the redemptive work of Christ (John 10:15, Heb 9:11-28, Eph. 5:25b). And the Holy Spirit regenerates their heart, as He quickens them by His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 3:5-8, Titus 3:5-6, Rom 2:29; cf 2 Tim. 2:25, 2 Cor. 4:6, John 10:27, Acts 16:14, John 1:13). Notice that man had nothing to do with this salvific process, except for preaching the glorious Gospel (Rom 1:16).

The sinner’s prayer gives the lost souls a false sense of eternal security. I call this a ‘Crosswalk Christianity.’ As a Los Angeles police officer (LAPD,) I made an interesting observation regarding traffic fatalities. More pedestrians were killed while legally walking inside well-marked crosswalks, than other pedestrians that illegally walked in the middle of the roadway. What was the contributing factor? What was the causation? The answer is simple, but yet deadly. Those 18 inch white lines that are painted onto the asphalt, gave them a false sense of security. I challenge you to watch teenagers (and adults) crossing a crosswalk. The majority of them will never look to their left, nor to their right. Many of them are even texting while walking. That is exactly what the sinner’s prayer has done for the soul. It has provided many with a false sense of eternal security.

In all fairness it was refreshing to have recently heard a Bible teacher on Calvary Chapel’s KWVE radio station oppose, and question their use of the sinner’s prayer. Dr David Hocking stated, “And some of you with gray hair, knows this has been going on a long time hasn’t it? Just say the words brother and you’re in!”[37]

John Bunyan said, “Christianity: We can do it the easy way, or Gods way.”

Why do pastors still do this? Because Satan wants people to believe that their saved, when they’re not. But I believe there are many other contributing factors; here are four of them.

1) These pastors (or evangelists) are deceived
2) These pastors (or evangelists) are the actual deceivers
3) They believe what they’re doing is Biblical (as I used to), or
4) To fill their pews, to keep paying their large staffed payrolls, and mortgages.

We must repent from the sinner’s prayer heresy. We must repent from the ‘acceptance Gospel.’ Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus say “accept Me into your heart.” Could you imagine reducing the Lord of lords and King of kings, into a mere ‘acceptance?’ We don’t accept Him, He accepted us (John 6:44, 2 Corinthians 5:9, Romans 12:1). We don’t choose Him, He chose us (John 15:16). We love Him, because He first loved us (1 John 4:10). We didn’t “find the Lord” (as I used to say.) [38] I was lost, therefore it was HIM that found me. Even our repentance comes from the Lord (Acts 11:18, 2 Timothy 2:25).

Therefore we must repent from this false deity of ‘me, myself, and I.’ We must repent from forming Jesus into a figment of our own imagination (idolatry.) Instead we must submit to the image of Jesus, as the Christ. It’s one thing to become a ‘believer’ in Jesus. It’s another to have a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must repent from taking the popular ‘whosoever’ verses out of their context. I don’t want to have this blood on my hands. Just before the Apostle Paul was martyred, in Acts 20:25-31, he gave the following dying death declaration.

“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the ‘whole counsel’ of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” [39]

Our lip service at an altar call does not save us. We must never fail to teach the ‘whole council’ of the Word of God. Nowhere in the Bible is the sinner told to come forward to the pastor, nor to repeat the pastors’ prayer. In Luke 6:46-49 we are told to ‘come’ to Jesus, to ‘hear’ Jesus, and to ‘obey’ Jesus Christ.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.”

We must understand that a true ‘believer’ will not only ‘know’ God, he/she will also ‘obey’ His Word. As it says in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9,

“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”

Lastly let us close with the powerful words of Jesus Christ. He warned in Matthew 7:21-23 that “many” believers that were not truly born-again, would perish in hell.

“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. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”


[1] Billy Graham Evangelical Association, “Sinner’s Prayer,” http://peacewithgod.jesus.net/but-have-eternal-life/ (Accessed December 10th, 2013).

[2] Paul Washer’s “Shocking Youth Message,” http://www.theexpositor.tv/?p=2287 (Accessed December 12th, 2013).

[3] IPOC Ministries, “Bourne Identify of a born-again Christian,” http://www.theexpositor.tv/?p=5121 (Accessed December 10th, 2013).

[4] Bill Rhetts, “Testimony,” http://www.theexpositor.tv/?p=1616 (Accessed on December 12th, 2013).

[5] I am aware that sinner’s prayers are also common within many other denominations

[6] Jacks Hibbs. “Public figure page,” https://www.facebook.com/PastorJackCCCH/posts/539424416078832 (Accessed again on December 11th, 2013) [screenshot here]

[7] IPOC Ministries, “The Gospel Invasion of Las Vegas,” http://www.theexpositor.tv/?p=4947 (Accessed on December 12th, 2013.)

[8] New King James Version (NKJV)

[9] Gib Martin The Book of Romans, the smart guide to the Bible series (Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2007), 150.

[10] Criswell Study Bible (Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1979), 1336.

[11] John MacArthur The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2005), 1539.

[12] Jerry Falwell Liberty Bible Commentary (Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982) 385.

[13] Bible Gateway, “Romans 10:9-10,” http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%2010:9-10&version=NKJV (Accessed on December 12th, 2013)

[14] Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Revival (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers. (1988), 66.

[15] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2005), 1239.

[16] Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Revival (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers. (1988), 70.

[17] YouTube, “The Dangers, Results and History of Decisional Regeneration,” http://youtu.be/YGdovFDTCC4 (Accessed December 11th, 2013).

[18] Paul Harrison Chitwood, “Dissertation: The Southern Baptist Theological Seminar, December 2001,” 41.

[19] Trennis Henderson, “Graham Crusade Reaps 1O,OOO-plus Decisions for Christ,” Western Recorder, 26 June 2001, l.

[20] IPOC Ministries, “Search engine,” www.TheExpositor.tv (Accessed December 11th, 2013).

[21] Victory Baptist Church, “The Altar Call,” http://www.victorybaptist.us/show.wc?msgaltarcall (Accessed December 11th, 2013).

[22] Paul Washer, “Psychological Manipulation,” http://www.theexpositor.tv/?p=2631 (Accessed December 11th, 2013).

[23] Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 76.

[24] YouTube, “News clip,” http://youtu.be/f68IgZruyNI (Accessed on December 12th, 2013)

[25] Huffington Post,  “Billy Graham Launches ‘Biblical Values’ Ads After Meeting Mitt Romney,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/billy-graham-ads-mitt-romney_n_1983113.html (Accessed on December 12th, 2013)

[26] YouTube, “Billy Graham exposed, and documentary with documented facts,” http://youtu.be/OAyUO1dkgGM (Accessed on December 13th, 2013)

[27] Spiritual Research Network, Inc, “Calvary Chapel Alert For Pastors and Church Leaders,” http://www.spiritual-research-network.com/calvarychapelalert.html (Accessed on January 9th, 2014)

[28] Christian News, “Harvest Crusades invite crossovers who dress like women,” http://christiannews.net/2013/10/01/harvest-crusades-invite-to-crossover-band-who-dressed-like-women-questioned/ (Accessed December 11th, 2013).

[29] TFG Ministries, “Documentary on The truth about Lecrae, Church Clothes 2, Little Wayne, Don Cannon, & Andy Mineo’s Satanic Video,” http://youtu.be/qEjxfUK5r9A (Accessed December 11th, 2013).

[30] Bill Rhetts, ‘Should Christians drink alcohol? Here is a biblical response, and why, http://www.theexpositor.tv/?p=5082 (Accessed on December 23rd, 2013)

[31] Bible Gateway, “Acts 20:21,”www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%202:21&version=KJV (Assessed on December 12th, 2013)

[32]   Liberty Bible Commentary (Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982) 265.

[33]  Life Application Study Bible (Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1996) 1690.

[34] The English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament (Illinois: Crossway Publishers, 2006) 617.

[35] Warren W. Wiersbe The Bible Exposition Commentary, ‘BE’ Series (Illinois: Victor Book, 1989) 547.

[36] Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23; Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; Luke 8:5-8, 11-15

[37] Dr. David Hocking, “Is Your Faith Dead? James 2:21-26 – Part 2″, http://www.davidhocking.org/playmessage.php?message=20131220 (Accessed on December 20th, 2013)

[38] YouTube, “Missions Media, Cops with Faith,” time stamp 7:49, http://youtu.be/7__0CDrCTJU (Accessed on December 20th, 2013)

[39] New King James Version NKJV

When to scope-out, and mark a Christian by name

The born-again identities of a Christian

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