Declaring War on the “Sinner’s Prayer”

I’m sick and tired of this “Sinner’s Prayer.” Just because it’s most convenient to use it…because most preachers fail to understand how painstaking salvation and genuine conversion really is, they relegate the Gospel call into “CHOOSING/DECIDING GOD.”

Blasphemy.

Should we not go to strenuous efforts for the salvation of men souls? Why deceive them that they have (instant) assurance of salvation?

No warnings?

No telling them of reality that if there is no change of heart, change of mind, change of spirit, then they are still unconverted, and they face the wrath of God?

A deception, a delusion is what we give them. A deception, a delusion is what they take home.

“Repent of your sins and believe the Gospel”, is the biblical call.

“Repent from your rebellion and hatred against God, and from all your sins that you have committed, that you have committed against Him alone, the thrice HOLY God, and believe that, in His grace and mercy alone, He can save such as you are!” That is the gospel call.

The doctrine of regeneration. Look at the Wesleys. Look what they had to face for a moment and my dear Whitefield.  What was he?  Everybody believed they were Christian, thoroughly Christian. Why? Well, they were baptized as infants, brought into the covenant. They were confirmed. They lived like devils.  Regeneration was traded for a type of credalism that was given authority by the religious leaders of the day.

And then here comes the Wesleys (and the Whitefields). No. It is not right with your soul. You are not born again. There is no evidence of spiritual life. Examine yourself. Test yourself to see if you are in the faith. Make your calling and election sure.i “Ye must be born again.”ii

Here in America because of the last several years, several decades of evangelism the idea of born again is totally lost. It only means that at one time in a crusade you made a decision and you think you were sincere. But there is no evidence of a supernatural recreated work of the Holy Spirit in your life. If any man, not if some men, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature.iii

And now it is the same today. What do we face? I will tell you what we face.  It is not a sort of infant baptism necessarily most of the time. It is not a high church confirmation by an ecclesiastical authority. What we face is the sinner’s prayer.  And I am here to tell you, if there is anything I have declared war on it is that.

You say. “Brother Paul…”

Yes, in the same way that infant baptism, in my opinion, was the golden calf of the Reformation, for the Baptists and the Evangelicals and everyone else who has followed them today, I will tell you, that sinners’ prayer has sent more people to Hell than anything on the face of the earth.

You say, “How can you say such a thing?”

Go with me to Scripture and show me, please. I would love you to stand up and tell me where anyone evangelized that way. The Scripture does not say that Jesus Christ came to the nation of Israel and said that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, now who would like to ask me into their hearts? I see that hand.”

That is not what it says.  He said, “Repent and believe the gospel.”iv

Now men today are trusting in the fact that at least one time in their life they prayed a prayer and someone told them they were saved because they were sincere enough. And so in their salvation if you ask them, “Are you saved?” they do not say, Yes, I am because I am looking unto Jesus and there is mighty evidence giving me assurance of being born again.”

No. They say, “One time in my life I prayed a prayer.”

And they live like devils.  But they prayed a prayer. And some of them… I heard of one evangelist who was coaxing a man to do that thing. Finally the man felt so uncomfortable the evangelist said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. I will pray to God for you and if it is what you want to say to God, squeeze my hands.” Behold the power of God.

Decisionism, the idolatry of decisionism. Men think they are going to heaven because they have judged the sincerity of their own decision.

When Paul came to the Church in Corinth he did not say to them, “Look, you are not living like Christians so let’s go back to that one moment in your life when you prayed that prayer and let’s see if you were sincere.”

No, he said this, “Test yourselves, examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith.”v

Because I want you to know, my friends, salvation is by faith alone. It is a work of God. It is a grace upon grace upon grace. But the evidence of conversion is not just your examination of your sincerity at the moment of your conversion. It is the ongoing fruit in your life. It is the ongoing fruit in your life.

Oh, my dear friends, look what we have done. Isn’t a tree known by its fruit? What 60%, 70% of America thinks it is converted, born again. We kill how many thousands of babies a day? We are hated around the world for our immorality. Yet we are Christian.

And I lay this squarely, the blame, at the feet of the preacher.

—Ten Indictments to the Modern Church, a sermon preached Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 at the Revival Conference in Atlanta, Georgia by Paul Washer.

Full sermon preview:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Paul Washer delivers a urgent appeal to the Christians and Churches in North America that many have been believing a false gospel and have false assurance of their salvation. He lists 10 indictments against the modern Church system in America. This is a historical urgent message, tell others and spread the message. We need a reformation and revival of a biblical standard! —Greg Gordon (Revival Conference Organizer)
Download the whole of this most Christ exalting sermon, in mp3, mp4, and in pdf.

Footnotes

  1. 2 Peter 1:10 []
  2. John 3:7 []
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:17 []
  4. Mark 1:15 []
  5. 2 Corinthians 13:5 []

16 Comments

  1. Yo, For the first time, despite the righteous anger displayed here, I fully, fully, undoubtedly agree.

  2. Rai

    Excellent article. Fruits of righteousness proves if one's repentance is genuine, evidenced by Zacchaeus, when he said: "Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." (Luke 19)Ever heard of a bleiever who have willingly done the same today?Notice that Zacchaues didn't just fold his hands and prayed: "Lord, I now accept you as my "personal" lord n savior, come into my heart and take control of my life from now on …" as many preachers would have "unbelievers" (which are unfortunately, more believers in ACTIONS than they) say, but instead in here we clearly see: the genuineness of this man's heart, WILLING to RE-form his DE-formed ways, DETERMINED to make REPARATIONS for the damages he'd done in the past (such as cheating people's taxes and etc) in a most natural, non-religious and outright manner—without the outward form and paraphernalia's of "godliness" and religious requirements which GOD in Heaven is SO sick at. (Isaiah 1:10-20). Sincerity is the word. That's why when you enter Heaven's gate one day, please don't expect alot of "Jews" and Christians" in there: according to how pharasaical theologians down here would have us believe. I tell you, expect alot of Samaritans, Atheists and Pagans who live like Christ (once accused a blasphemer and slave of belial)—not those who say they love Christ but don't live and love sinners the way He did, hence denying Him, not with their lips but with their hearts. (Ps. 14:1; Jer. 12:2 & Tit. 1:16)Beauty and wisdom as seen down here may not be the same thing up there. "For that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in God's eyes." (Luke 16:15)Just to be plain honest.GBU my friend n brother,Rai———————————–Quote:Theologians and scribes are just men, mere men, claiming to be servants of God—but they are definitely NOT God, and not all of them truly understands what GOD wants, for if they do, they wouldn't have crucified Him two-thousand years ago accusing Him in the MODERN vernacular: A Satanist. It takes more than just four years in Bible College to be a true theologian: and it's God's choice, even without men's approval.

  3. Paul Washer is right on. Iain Murray also does a good analysis the sinner's prayer and altar call in "The Invitation System" put out my Banner of Truth.

  4. Hello Karl! Thank you for visiting the site.Yes, Paul Washer said it so plainly and pointedly. If any single person would just be serious and face the text of Scripture as it is they would surely come to the same conclusion… unless of course they are blinded by their own fancies and traditions, which is the sad case for most.We need to pray for much, but we have our hope in our Sovereign God.Ah, Iain Murray has put out a lot of books but I've yet to get one myself. Lord willing I could sometime in the future. Thank you for the heads up bro.Grace and peace!

  5. tomwhite

    "Holding up an umbrella doesn't make it rain." – Oscar the Grouch.Likewise, The Sinner's Prayer, your belief, your repentance, your sincerity, your works, your faith, your ceasing of these things, your anything/nothing at all… nothing from your end saves you or causes you to lose salvation once you've got it. You may as well dance around in a suit and try and placate the pagan sky god to make him make it rain: it's the same basic idea: MAGIC.However, if you hear the truth and you get regenerated, you may naturally express belief, faith, repentance, etc.

  6. Hi Tom! Welcome to New.Demonstration. Thank you for commenting!Yes yes. Faith, repentance, and everything else is but a mere response to the regenerating work of the Spirit. We are not given any warrant whatsoever in Scripture or even in the expressed reality of Truth in experimental Christianity that salvation can be gained by the performance of actions on our part. In fact Scripture and even our own realities in human life reveal to us our utter inabilities and spiritual deadness. Thus it is an inescapable Truth that salvation and spiritual life can only be given as a supernatural work of the Spirit of God. And yet in arrogance there are many a people in pulpits today who would say and preach things to the praise of the glory of man's free-will and ability. It's nothing short of blasphemous idolatry. If we take seriously Paul's words in the letter to the Galatians we can very well rank such things so high as worthy of anathema.But let it never be so with us. Let us affirm what the living word of the living God reverberates even down through the ages. Salvation is "all of grace."

  7. Michelle Aguila

    After reading this, I must admit that I do feel even more lost. Someone posted on here Luke 16:15: And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.How do we know then when we ourselves truly want to serve God? It can't be an emotion of the heart because the bible says:The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:19).I understand that the sinners prayer cannot save me. That it is only Jesus dying on the cross who can do that. But every time I pray for Jesus to forgive me, I end up thinking minutes later, "did I really mean it?", "do I really want to serve Jesus?", "did I say that prayer because I want to avoid hell, or because I love Jesus".How will one know when they are truly saved? You stated that our actions and a single moment of sincerity cannot justify our salvation. Then can wanting to let go of your sins and really desiring to serve God be a fleeting lie of our heart?I don't mean to sound blasphemous at all. I just really want to know. But is it wrong to pray to God that even though our flesh is telling us that we don't need a Savior, the fact that we know we need one is the reason we are believing for Jesus to save us?Can the Lord eventually work in my heart to change my fears and doubts about hell? I guess it's just that when people ask me whether or not I really want God to forgive me and save me I honestly don't know what to say. Because if I say yes, I feel like something inside of me is lying and doesn't really want it. And if I say no, then I feel like I should just give up searching and walk away from God because it's the truth. Yet, when I feel like just walking away I find that I can't because I'm afraid that if I do that God will never come back and reach out to me again. Also, is it wrong to talk to one's parents and a close friend about issues like this? Or would it be considered trying to find justification for my current place right now in the sight of man?Thanks.

  8. Hello Michelle. Let me begin my reply by first welcoming you to N.D., and I want to express my thanks for your honesty in commenting. I know it isn't an easy thing to type out all those things.

    In your comment you asked a couple of questions, lots of good legitimate questions. Questions that I fear many or most fail to give a proper reply or response.

    Let me answer each of your questions. (Yours in italics)

    How do we know then when we ourselves truly want to serve God?

    13 “You are the salt of the earth, kbut if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
    14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and ogive glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:13-16)

    Concerning genuine Christian service to God, let me ask you, who is that person that genuinely serves God? Is it the man that tries so hard to serve in order to be Christian? Or is it the man who is a Christian that in turn serves? The answer would be the latter. In the matter of service it is because we are light, we are salt that we just can not help but give light. Because we are Christians that's why we can't help but live that way. It isn't a matter of gaining salvation by our service, rather it is but a mere response to what God has already did in our person.

    How will one know when they are truly saved? You stated that our actions and a single moment of sincerity cannot justify our salvation.
    Then can wanting to let go of your sins and really desiring to serve God be a fleeting lie of our heart?

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)

    Yes, there are many moments when striving for holiness can only be a fleeting lie of our hearts, that we just want to do it to escape hell and gain heaven. In the root of it is nothing but humanism. We just want to gain something better than the alternative.

    But if you are truly saved that won't be your primary motivation for holiness. Holiness to a saved person is in a present sense a response in gratitude to what God already did through Christ for us.

    How can one know when they are truly saved?

    The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom 8:16)

    The Spirit of God alone can reveal that. No matter what I say it won't prove your salvation, I the same sense nor can I convince you of your salvation. This is a very serious thing that everyone should take serious consideration of. And prayerfully and laborously make sure of.

    But is it wrong to pray to God that even though our flesh is telling us that we don't need a Savior, the fact that we know we need one is the reason we are believing for Jesus to save us?

    Dear sister, it isn't wrong at all to to trust and believe for Christ to save us! The question here that must be asked is, are you indeed trusting Him alone? Or are you trusting to see a changed life first before trusting Christ who does and actually save? It is a very subtle thing, but in our search for assurance and certainty, more often than not we lose sight of the Cross and what God has already accomplished through the Lord Christ Jesus.

    To where do you look at? To the evidence? Or to the Savior?

    Look unto Christ alone. He alone saves. Trust Him. He never fails. Even though all else seems bleek and all hope is lost, trust in Him. He is able to save to the uttermost! (Heb 7:25) The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Tim 1:15) Trust in Him that He is able to save such as you are, even as I am, vile, wretched sinners!

    I know and realize that it's a very hard thing to fix our eyes and all our trust and hopes to the Lord while we for the most part practically remain unchanged.

    But dear soul, if you truly see the deadness of your own soul, and the hopelessness of your own being…if you see yourself justly condemned before the law of God, without hope in the world…and if you finally see the reality wherein there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)…let me ask you, why do you even bother to seek such things? One of the distinguishing marks of spiritual deadness is apathy towards spiritual things. But those with Spiritual life respond otherwise. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (2 Cor 2:14)

    I am convinced that one of the first evidences of regeneration and saving faith is bothering at all about the true condition of a person's soul. If you are indeed spiritually dead you wouldn't care! You wouldn't struggle about your salvation. You wouldn't labor to find out and examine yourself if you indeed are in the faith. You wouldn't be struggling with sin, instead you would love it and live in it. You wouldn't be wanting to be holy and live holy, instead you would just grasp just enough of morality and go back into the world and love the world.

    Examine yourself in light of 1 John for he says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)” If you do come in line of what 1 John describes to be Christian, then rejoice for you are. But if you fail the test, continue to look unto Christ, for he is able to save. He does not fail to save. Jesus saves.

    I wrote this in response to a sister in Christ who was experiencing the same ordeal:
    I think this poem sums things up:
    “Intense the agony–
    When the ear begins to hear, and the eye begins to see;
    When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again;
    The soul to feel the flesh, and the flesh to feel the chain.”

    But it is only the living soul that feels such despondency. The absence of spiritual life won't feel depressed about not having Spiritual assurance. Is this not the same as Martin Luther's condition? Being at horror at each waking moment trying to do enough to cover his sin? And in one moment he realizes the truth that resides in “the just shall live by faith”.

    It is not in the looking for assurance, or the feeling of it. Neither is it looking for evidences of a changed heart and mind. Rather it is looking to Christ and Him alone. Putting all trust to Him that He is able to save to the uttermost in His own good pleasure.

    'Coz if you go on in life waiting for that moment of assurance, be careful that what you're seeking for is just the feeling of it, or the emotion of it.

    When the Bible speaks of assurance as the Spirit bearing witness, it is something more than understanding that Christ died for me. Rather it is the fixation in the thought that Christ died for sinners. And rejoice in virtue of that, that no matter how lost I am, or how unfeeling I am, Christ can save me.

    Glory not for the assurance of salvation. But glory even now that Christ can save, and does save from first to last.

    You should come to a point where you should stop looking to the law, and inwardly of how fallen and sinful you are.—that can only bring you to the foot of the Cross and no further. But you should begin looking to that Cross and clinging to it. That no matter how fallen, unfeeling and heavy the sinfulness is that you carry. The narrow way in Christ can carry even the heaviest of sinners.

    Look away from yourself and look to Christ alone.

    Can the Lord eventually work in my heart to change my fears and doubts about hell?

    In a sense your heart will be changed from an unfeeling and dead heart, to one that is spiritually alive and cares about spiritual things. (Ezekiel 11:19) But if what you're asking if your fears and doubts about Hell concerning your salvation, then yes, that too will change as the spirit bears witness upon your soul, and as you see Christ as infinitely more precious than all things.

    Also, is it wrong to talk to one's parents and a close friend about issues like this? Or would it be considered trying to find justification for my current place right now in the sight of man?

    I think it's best to talk to those people who you can be directly accountable with. What I mean is, people in your life who are spiritually discerning and mature that can guide you through your experiences and give you rebuke, exhortations, and Biblical guidance when the situation demands it. If your parents or your close friend qualifies then by all means go to them. If not them, then those mature in the faith in your local Church. In any case I don't think at all that it is an effort to justify yourself in the sight of men. I am more convinced that what you are doing now is a self-crushing thing that self-justification would never allow.

    Thank you for visiting Michelle. If you want to talk more feel free to reply here, or you can email me at: jm@newdemonstration.com

  9. MyPoorHusband

    Amen this a thousand times!!! My husband is actually beginning to speak at churches regarding this. He is not a pastor, but feels an urgency to preach/teach on this. Pray for him as he will no doubt meet some resistance, but pray that many, many people will hear the gospel for the first time-even if they've gone to church their whole life-and be saved!!!

  10. Sorry for not replying right away, sister. In all honesty I feel the struggle you both are experiencing concerning this issue, as I am myself pushing through with my own congregation. I too am not a pastor, and I have yet to step into seminary. So trust, that my prayers have been and is continually with you. O, that souls be saved! All to the praise of His glorious grace!

  11. MyPoorHusband

    That's nice of you to respond. :) Agree-O, that souls be saved and all to the praise of His glorious grace! I guess that's a RT. ;=)

  12. I guess it is.;D And please, do update me on how the endeavors of your husband is going. I find great confidence and encouragement from God's blessing the endeavors of other brethren, even though we are seas apart.Never, ever be discouraged dear Sister. We have our hope and joy in the unstoppable purposes of our sovereign God!

  13. MyPoorHusband

    He will be speaking in April at a Youth function that usually holds 300 people. Neither of us expected this. I'm excited because youth events usually use a lot of emotional pulling of the strings to elicit "conversions." I don't think these people (I know most of them well. I grew up with them) even realize what they're doing and have good hearts. Pray for true conversions and more speaking engagements!

  14. Hello Sister,I have been praying for you both. I hope things went well with your husband's speaking engagements! Raise the banner of Jesus Christ! You both are an encouragement to us who are striving for that same thing, genuine conversion and the lifting up of the supremacy of God and His Word! My prayers are continually with you and the brethren, the sheep of our Shepherd.

  15. MyPoorHusband

    Thanks, JM! That's is so kind of you to remember and even more kind of you to pray. :) My husband actually isn't speaking until April 2010, so feel free to continue praying. :)

  16. Ben

    JM,

    In your (as well as many others around the web) indictment of the “sinner’s prayer” – I read many good points about context and the examination of fruit, but I have yet to find a general consensus on what we can do as ministers to best adjust course and continue to be used by God to convert and save souls? (and yes, I don’t mean we are doing the saving, I merely mean executing the Great Commission)

    Are you saying we no longer should give an opportunity to the lost to verbalize or flesh out their conviction and encourage it’s progression into salvation? (Again, I’m not saying this means earning salvation, but to be a tool of God to bring about a decision of faith)

    If someone feels the conviction of their sin and decides Jesus is the way, but dies before they get baptized (I’ve read many who think baptism is an essential part of salvation) – in your mind do they miss out on eternal life with God?

    I have always had a healthy skepticism against those who recite a prayer and go on living like the nothing happened. They obviously aren’t a new creation. Your statement about those who go unchanged will face God’s wrath…totally on board with you.

    But please tell me how someone, after feeling genuine conviction from the Holy Spirit during a sermon or study, who with all their heart prays something like: “Jesus, I know I’m a sinner and I need you! Please be the Lord of my life. Help me to live for you. I don’t want to burn in hell – I want to be with you forever” – hasn’t just passed from darkness to light and become a Christian?

    Yes, we can with some certainly, discern the authenticity of their faith by their subsequent works. But how can we blanket-condemn a moment of acceptance if a person really believes the essential parts of Christianity?

    Listen, I’m not trying to prove you wrong. I’m always willing to “examine everything and hold on to the good”. I know that not everyone who recites a version of “The Sinner’s Prayer” actually means it. But I’m not going to let that fact necessarily and automatically lead me to totally abolish every type of salvation prayer presentation to the lost. I said it when I was 18. I meant it. I let it change my life. And now I know that I know…that I know…that my salvation is in Christ. To me, that’s enough to force me to challenge your agreement that “the sinners prayer has sent millions to hell”. The only thing that can send us to hell is refusing to believe what that prayer really means.

    I know this is an old post, I just happened upon it recently. I look forward to hearing back from you. In Christ,

    Ben

Leave a Reply

More in Biblical Evangelism, Defending and Contending, Herescope, Paul Washer (49 of 97 articles)