An Affirmation of a ‘Sinner’s Prayer’

Greg Strand – June 24, 2012 3 Comments

Ted Olson, “Southern Baptists Debate the Sinner’s Prayer,” reports on the SBC discussion/debate of the Resolution known as “An Affirmation of a ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ As a Biblical Expression of Repentance and Faith‘. ” This Resolution did pass, but the discussion did generally separate into Arminians who supported it, and Calvinists who had concerns about it. 

Here is the complete Resolution: 

AN AFFIRMATION OF A “SINNER’S PRAYER” AS A BIBLICAL EXPRESSION OF REPENTANCE AND FAITH

WHEREAS, The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers full forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God to anyone who repents of sin and trusts in Christ; and

WHEREAS, This same Gospel commands all persons everywhere to believe this Gospel and receive Christ as Savior and Lord (Mark 1:15; John 1:12; 6:25–52; Acts 17:30); and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures give examples of persons from diverse backgrounds who cried out for mercy and were heard by God (Luke 18:13; Acts 16:29–30); and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures also give numerous examples of per- sons who verbally affirmed Gospel truths but who did not personally know Jesus in a saving relationship (Luke 22:47–48; John 2:23–25; 1 Corinthians 10:1–5); and

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19–20, 2012, reaffirm our Gospel conviction that repentance from sin and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are necessary for salvation (Acts 20:20–21); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm that repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord (Romans 10:13), often identified as a “sinner’s prayer,” as a biblical expression of repentance and faith; and be it further

RESOLVED, That a “sinner’s prayer” is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel (Matthew 6:7; 15:7–9); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we promote any and all biblical means of urging sinners to call on the name of the Lord in a prayer of repentance and faith; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we call on Southern Baptists everywhere to continue to carry out the Great Commission in North America and around the world, so that sinners everywhere, of every tribe, tongue, and language, may cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). 

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

3 responses to An Affirmation of a ‘Sinner’s Prayer’

  1. It’s that sixth “whereas” that creates a problem, because they state a direct, indispensable identity between faith and praying a prayer.

    • Thank you for responding to this post, Jack. It is necessary/essential to confess Jesus Christ is Lord in order to be “saved.” But merely saying those words, or simply “praying a prayer” does not absolutely necessitate or lead to a change or transformation. That confession/profession/prayer may or may not be preceded by a new heart. If not, merely mouthing the words did not enact a change. It is the Holy Spirit that gives live to the heart and the words. It is not that one cannot say the words or the name that Jesus is Lord. But for that to be true, real, authentic, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. As Paul writes, “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

  2. Calvinistic Baptists have more in common with Lutherans than they think.

    When it comes to the conversion of an adult non-believer, Arminians, Calvinists and Lutherans are in full agreement: salvation occurs when the sinner believes. Baptism is not a mandatory requirement to be saved. We have theological differences on how belief occurs, but we all believe that the second a sinner believes he is saved. If he dies a second later, he will go to heaven. He is a Christian.

    Our significant denominational differences arise when we talk about the salvation of the infants and toddlers of Christian parents: how are these young children saved? What happens if, God forbid, one of them should die before reaching the age where they are capable of expressing a saving faith in Christ?

    The Arminian answer is this: God saves all infants and toddlers who die, even the infants and toddlers of non-believers. They have no hard proof from Scripture to support this belief, but they believe that King David’s comments about his dead infant gives them support for their position. Infants who die are “safe” in the arms of a loving God.

    Calvinists look at their children in this manner: Their children are either the Elect or they are not. Presbyterian Calvinists will baptize their infants to bring them into the “covenant” (whatever that is!) of the Church but do not believe that baptism has any salvific value. “If my child is of the Elect he will declare himself to be a believer when he is older.”

    A Calvinistic Baptist will not baptize his infant, but looks at Election in the same way as the Presbyterian Calvinist: My child is either of the Elect or he is not. There is nothing I can do but bring him up in the Faith and leave the rest to God.

    Lutherans believe that when God told us to baptize all nations, he meant to baptize ALL those who are of the Elect. Many Arminians and Calvinists assume that Lutherans believe that anyone we run through the baptismal font will get into heaven. Not true! Only the Elect will get into heaven. We baptize our infants in the HOPE that they are the Elect. Is it possible that some of the infants of Christian parents whom we baptize are not of the Elect and therefore will not be in heaven? Yes! But that is a mystery of God that we do not attempt to explain or understand.

    However, we believe we are to do our job of “baptizing all nations” (who are of the Elect) by baptizing our infants and we then leave their Election up to God. We then follow Christ’s command to “teach” them in the Faith as they grow up, but when they are older it will be their responsibility to nurture their faith with prayer, Bible study, worship, and the Lord’s Supper. If these infant-baptized persons abandon their faith and turn their back on God, they may very well wake up one day in hell! Baptism is NOT a “Get-into-heaven-free” card! Salvation is by God’s grace alone, received in faith alone.

    No faith—>no salvation—>no eternal life!

    The Calvinist position on the salvation of infants is very confusing to me. It seems to be a process. A specific event of salvation does not seem necessary for Calvinists. Is there any example in the NT of anyone being saved by a process? As much as I deplore Arminian theology, I do like the fact that they insist on a specific “when” of salvation. They are wrong, however, to believe that the “when” of salvation is based on THEIR decision when in reality it is based on GOD’S decision.

    If Calvinists agree with Lutherans that it is God who chooses who will be saved, and it is God who chooses when to save…which approach seems more Scriptural for the salvation of our children: God saves THOSE OF OUR CHILDREN WHO ARE OF THE ELECT in a one-time event in Holy Baptism OR he saves them in a nebulous, drawn-out process over a period of years? Unless, of course, Calvinistic Baptists believe that their children who are the Elect are born saved… I certainly hope that our Calvinistic Baptist brothers and sisters do not believe that the Elect are born saved as do some hard-core Calvinists.

    In truth, Lutherans and Calvinistic Baptists have quite a bit in common on the doctrine of Justification/Salvation: we both believe that God saves whom he wants, when he wants. We both do not believe in a “free will”. Our difference is that Calvinistic Baptists cannot accept that God would choose to give the free gift of faith/belief/repentance/salvation to infants, instead of waiting until they are older. And why?

    “Because an infant cannot believe!”

    But if we both agree that it is God who chooses us, not us choosing him, why do you limit when God can give the free gift of salvation? Is it possible that you are limiting God from saving infants just because it defies your human reason and logic to believe that an infant can believe?

    Since when is the Almighty God of the Universe limited to operating in the confines of human reason and logic??

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

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