Baptism is the Sinner’s Prayer

It’s controversial. It may be the most controversial debate among Christians. To be saved does a person have to say “the sinner’s prayer,” or do they have to be “immersed” (IE., baptized)?

Personally, I had never heard of the sinner’s prayer until I began studying in Bible college. I grew up in church, was a part of Sunday School and youth groups, heard sermons and learned lessons from my parents and grandmother from the Bible and never once did I encounter the sinner’s prayer.

There’s a reason for that. The church I grew up in taught the Bible, not the doctrines of men. The Bible says nothing about a sinner’s prayer. The New Testament teaching about salvation involves a person coming to believe in Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins and their life of sin, confessing Jesus, and being immersed to be saved. There is nothing about saying a prayer.

Some past posts have dealt with this:

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/evangelism-is-what-it-is-or-is-it-what-must-i-do-to-be-saved/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/whats-the-bible-say/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/the-sinners-prayer/

If you click on the link “Salvation Stuff” on the left you will see several discussions about baptism. The real issue is what does the Bible say. The Bible says “Be Baptized” (meaning be immersed). I can’t find and no one has been able to show me where the Bible says to say a prayer for salvation.

When Jesus was baptized, he didn’t offer a prayer. I know he was sinless, but he was still immersed. Read through Acts,

Artwork entitled, "Difference of Opinion"

every conversion account involves baptism, but there in nothing about saying a prayer.

Recently, I received a comment about this from a reader. When some people he encountered learned he hasn’t said the sinner’s prayer, they question his salvation. You know, I might question theirs because they said a sinner’s prayer. The Bible says because you have believed in Jesus and repented, then be baptized. Were they baptized and why were they baptized?

The apostle Peter, the one Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to (Matthew 16:19), spiritually speaking (though he was implying that all the apostles had the keys), who preached the first sermon about Jesus Christ (Acts 2), he taught us that baptism is necessary.

In Acts 2, when the crowd asked what they needed to do to be saved, he said, “Repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Then after a few more words of encouragement, about 3000 people were baptized.

When Peter wrote the letter called 1 Peter, he wrote these words. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18-21).

Baptism now saves you. When you are immersed, you are appealing to God to save you because you have obeyed and followed the conditions God has set for your salvation. Your baptism in essence is the sinner’s prayer.

I believe the Bible, it is God’s Word, it is what I follow and teach, the Word of God. The Bible says be baptized.

Baptism is the sinner’s prayer!

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Boy Am I Blessed!

It is not hard to become a Christian. You hear the Gospel of Jesus and when you believe the Gospel, you have faith in Christ (Romans 10:14-17). Then when you have met the conditions (faith; Romans 10:9-10; repentance; Acts 2:38; confession: Romans 10:9-10, & baptism; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), then you are saved, God has saved you because you have identified with Christ through his death (that’s what immersion is for, cf., Romans 6:1-6). That’s the easy part, knowing what to do, but, it can be more difficult for some people to come to the point of belief, or repentance. It can be difficult to let go of what we already know and keep ourselves living in the that way which the Bible describes as sinful and worldly and idolatry.

Once I am saved, when I have become a Christian, well things are new. The Bible even calls it a new life (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16). I am not who I was. I have a brand new life, I start over. If I simply keep living the way I had before, then I am not different just a little older. But with salvation in Christ, with the Holy Spirit in my life, with God’s Word the Bible leading me, then I am being transformed, renewed (Rom. 12:2) into the likeness of Christ.

At least one time, when there was a huge crowd of people, Jesus taught them. In Matthew 5, he was on a mountain in Galilee and began to teach the crowds. He began with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-16).

Each “Beatitude” begins with “Blessed are…” meaning, “joyful are those who….”

This is what it is like to live in Christ, to be a Christian, to have life.

  • It is a joyful thing to realize you are poor in your spirit and you need God. It is joyful because God’s kingdom is in us; Mt. 5:3
  • It is a joyful thing to mourn that you are a sinner, because God’s salvation will bring you comfort; Mt. 5:4
  • It is a joyful thing to be meek. Gentle in character but firm in conviction; you will “inherit the earth,” fill it with joy; Mt. 5:5
  • It is a joyful thing to hunger and thirst for righteousness, because you will have; Mt. 5:6
  • It is a joyful thing to be merciful, you’ll get mercy back and from God; Mt. 5:7
  • It is a joyful thing to have a pure heart, you are going to get to see God because of it; Mt. 5:8
  • It is joyful when you are a peacemaker, that’s what the children of God do; Mt. 5:9
  • It is a joyful thing when people persecute you because of your righteousness, it means you are in the kingdom and people who hate God hate Christ in you and will try to insult and stop you; Mt. 5:10-13

This is spiritual of course. It plays out here in the material world with the sense that God’s kingdom is expressed in and through your life.

This is the character of those who are saved. Not one or another of the Beatitudes, but all of them together. It’s like the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It’s not one or two things, it’s all of them at once that make up the produce of your life.

Why am I blessed? I am blessed because I have salvation, I have God in my life and Christ is leading me by the means of his Spirit. I have heaven and a great reward, now and in the future (John 10:10, “life abundant”).

Boy am I blessed!

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This is What it Means to be Saved

You and I can talk all day about the conditions that lead to salvation and eternal life. It does need to be discussed. It IS important to know what must happen in your life and mine for us to gain salvation from God through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We’ve dealt with these conditions before here (click on Salvation Stuff in the menu to the left).

What has got to happen in my life, what are the conditions that make it possible for God to save me?

I believe in Jesus. John 3:16; Romans 10:10&11). I believe that God sent Jesus and that he is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead. This is the beginning of discipleship. Every person that has ever been saved were saved because they believed that Jesus is the Christ. They have faith in God and in Christ and in the things of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. BELIEF, that’s one.

I have to repent of my sin, Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30. If God is going to change me, because I am letting him, belief is opening the door and repentance is letting God in to clean out the mess that sin is. Repentance is as Gareth Reese says [“New Testament History, Acts,” College Press Publishing, Joplin, MO, 1976, page 145-147], “individual, inclusive, and indispensable.” Repentance is done by and found in individuals, and it is for everyone (inclusive) and salvation cannot happen without repentance (indispensable). It involves my intellect, knowledge of sin, a change in my emotions, I must feel the sense of guilt that I possess and be sorrowful for it, and it involves a change of my will, letting God take over my messed up life to make things right in my life. REPENTANCE is another.

I must confess Christ, Romans 10:10-11. If I have let change come into my life, it’s got to show. I have to say it. I have to let it out that I believe in Jesus and that I have made him my Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), that I belong to him, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. This is a continual thing. It doesn’t happen only once, it is constant. I belong to Christ, I declare that I am his by my lifestyle and my message of faith. CONFESSION, that’s a third one.

I must be baptized, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:16; 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is immersion. That is what the word actually means and it is the only form that the church practiced with the apostles. I must submit myself in humility to baptism in order that God will forgive me of my sins and give me salvation. It all happens when we come in contact with Jesus’ death and resurrection by our own death and resurrection. We are buried in baptism and raised from the water with new life. Pretty cool concept. A new life, a fresh start that propels me on my way to heaven. BAPTIZED, that a fourth one.

But is that what it means to be saved? Those are the conditions that make it possible for God to save us, but what it means to be saved is to be different. Not different for the sake of being different, but different as in changed and being formed into the likeness of Christ.

You were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Sin distorted that image (it’s in your soul). Sin corrupted the goodness that is in you, it robbed you of innocence as God is good and innocence, you have no righteousness, but Jesus brings the change that will restore you to God’s good graces. He is God come to earth (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 1:15–16). And when we are saved through Christ, we are renewed. He refreshes that original image of God that we possess.

That means how we live, think, and act is totally different from the ways of the world. We possess the goodness and righteousness of God and do right and good and kindness in this world. We live holy as God is holy, without sin, with the power of God. We are saved and eternal life with God the Father is our home. We get to be with God because when we have met the conditions in our lives, where our heart, mind, and soul are prepared to accept Christ, then God saves us.

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“I Believe!”

Yesterday was a very emotional day for me. See, I visited the teens in the residential counseling facility that I work with. I wanted to see them a couple of days before Christmas and share cookies and Christmas wishes with them.

About two thirds of the kids were gone for the holidays. I brought cookies, Christmas wishes and Christmas hugs.

I always go around and say hi to everyone and see how people are doing. Are they struggling? Are they having a great week? That sort of thing. As I was visiting with one young man, he showed me a picture he was working on. He told me he would like to give me the picture when he finishes. I thought that was really nice and told him thank you. He said, “You’re a part of my life and you mean a lot to me. You made me believe in Jesus.”

Now I get soft-hearted now and then, this was one of those times. This troubled young man, struggling with self-worth issues touched me deeply. I am so happy he believes in Jesus. I look forward to helping him move forward in his belief. I know it will bring healing to him.

That is one of the reasons I continue to invest myself in the lives of these teens. To see them change, to help them see God and learn about Jesus.

May God be blessed.

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The Uncomfortable Truth (Romans Pt 2)

I believe it’s pretty common, most people want or try to improve themselves. The New Year is a popular time for people to reevaluate their lives and resolve themselves to improving themselves in some way. Eat healthier, lose weight, develop stronger relationships, help the needy more, be more productive at work, etc.

I think we all want change that is desirable to ourselves as well as is beneficial to those around us. Isn’t that a good goal? Be better and make the world a better place.

We also rely upon others to make things better. In the past couple of national elections, the main reason America elected most of the candidates they did was to see our country become a better place, economically and socially, to put the biases and divisions behind and find a unity that might propel our country forward as not only the greatest nation it has been, but that it will become even greater.

There are organizations whose purpose is to benefit and improve the lives of others. They may be concerned with the planet, or with poverty, or with animals, or education, or any number of things.

We humans want to be better. How well we’re doing at that is a matter of opinion, but there is one uncomfortable truth that each individual must wrestle with, whether we like it or not. Here is the fact – we human beings are sinners!

Bad word. No one likes that word and a lot of us want to deny that is what we are. We weren’t born that way, we were born with the ability to learn and the free-will to choose and we learn to sin and we choose to sin which makes us sinners.

We all want to improve ourselves just like I already noted, but we cannot improve or change until we understand and admit that need. I can’t overcome being overweight until I consciously and emotionally admit that it’s not good and then I must have the conviction and determination that something needs to be done about it and so I’m grateful for Nutrisystem. Until I come to that point in my life, my weight will remain, or actually, continue to increase, even if only gradually.

We hide ourselves from God because we have sin. Sin never accomplishes anything positive. It actually separates us from God. We want to deny that, but it is true. Look at Romans 1:18

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of men” (sin and sinfulness) “who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (NIV)

We try to hide from our sin. Yet we are sinners and God will punish sin. Romans 6:23 says plainly, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NIV).

It’s not good. George Carlin (1937-2008) accused Christians of being the reason for the problems in the world. I will admit that some Christians have created problems in the world, and at the same time I realize that many who claim to be Christians do not represent God or the spirit of Christianity. I think that Carlin, and others like Bill Maher have lumped all people who claim to be Christians into one basket. That is dangerous. That’s like saying every Democrat is liberal or every Republican is conservative and interpreting the characteristics of each party on the basis of a few people. That’s not fair.

The problems in the world is sin. It always has been. Sin is a separation from God. Sin puts up a wall that keeps us from reaching God and keeps God away from our lives. We like the moral teachings of Jesus, we revel in the care for the weak, the crippled, and the poor that the Bible endorses, but just being moral, or being helpful doesn’t bring us close to God because sin has separated us from him.

The sad reality is that each and every one of us has learned to and has chosen to sin. A single white lie, disobeying our parents, stealing a dime from the kid sitting next to you in math class, any single thing was enough to build the wall. And the more we do things that are sin, it’s makes this proverbial wall higher, and wider, and even thicker separating us further from God.

All have sinned and come short of God’s glory” Romans 3:23 (NASB), or as “The Message says, “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us….”

We can’t please God in this way. We can’t get close to God with sin, in fact, he doesn’t hear our cries out to him in need or in thanksgiving unless we are repenting of our sin.

Another sad reality is, since we humans sin and seem to want to keep sinning, God has given us over to that sin and things continue to go from bad to worse in our lives and in the world. God will not force his will on us, but his desire is to have a close and intimate relationship with you and me.

The truth is uncomfortable, but it is not hopeless.

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The Weekend is About Jesus

This weekend is the anniversary date of when Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and died, buried, and rose again.  I call it Resurrection Sunday.  A lot of people call it Easter.

There are folks who look at similar pagan practices and assume that the Christian way of celebrating Easter is because we  borrowed and changed or Christianized their Easter practices.  To learn the truth about this, go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/holidays/easterborrowedholiday.html.  It explains the actual origins.

Now, I don’t have a problem with taking something pagan and converting it and reconciling it through Christ (cf. https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/wallys-restoration/ and https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/regeneration/ ). Isn’t that what has happened in our lives.  We were far from God, and Christ died for our sins and through Jesus we are reconciled to God.  We who were pagan* have been saved and changed through our faith in Jesus who died on the cross.

So even if we have taken a pagan holiday, or any number of pagan holidays and converted them to Christianity, how different is that from what God has done in our lives through Christ.

This weekend is about Jesus.  Unlike the celebration of Christmas, this is the actual anniversary date of the Passover night when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Romans on behalf of the Jewish leaders.  When Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate.  When the crowds wanted him crucified and Pilate on behalf of the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death and he was nailed to a cross and died 6 hours later.

This is the weekend that Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb, and three days later, on Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the dead, came out of the tomb and began to show people that he was alive and that death had no power over him, that in fact his death was necessary to bring victory over Satan, sin, and death.

Jesus lives!  And the evidence is beyond a shadow of a doubt that he came back to life.  This weekend is about Jesus, but isn’t every weekend about Jesus?

We celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, every week like the early church did because it is about what Jesus did on the cross.  We gather on the first day of the week because the early church did so in honor of Jesus rising from the dead on Sunday.

The Barna Research Group put out a study recently that shows that most Americans recognize that Easter is a religious holiday but few recognize its real meaning ( http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/13-culture/356-most-americans-consider-easter-a-religious-holiday-but-fewer-correctly-identify-its-meaning).

And baptism, according to Romans 6 particularly, we learn that immersion is about Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as our own.  It is in baptism that we come into contact with his death, burial, and resurrection.

I am baptized because of Jesus.  I worship on the first day of the week with God’s people because of Jesus.  I share in the Lord’s Supper, Communion every week because of Jesus.  I live life now because of Jesus.

It’s the regular Sunday School answer, “Jesus.”  It’s all about Jesus.  Let us celebrate the real thing for the real reason and honor the real Lord.

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God and he is my Lord and my God.”

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* Pagan in this sense is that we were not in Christ, but outside of Christ, alienated from God.

Challenged by the Bible

I am often challenged by scripture.  Challenged to learn and understand.  Challenged to live and prove.  Challenged to be who God would have me to be through his divine revelation, the Bible.

As I’ve stated before, I am a “biblio-theologian.”  The Bible speaks for itself.  I don’t follow a systematic theology (such as Calvinism, Arianism, Catholicism, etc.).  I let the Bible and God’s Spirit be the only rule in my life.

I might note that the Bible is the Holy Spirit’s tool.  He works hand-in-hand with what God has revealed to us and guides and directs us according to the truths and teachings of Scripture.

Here’s where the Bible has challenged me:

I am a sinner in need of salvation (Romans 3:10-18, 23)

God loves me and his greatest desire is to save me from sin and its penalty (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9)

God sent Jesus to pay for my sins, so that I don’t have too, he is my propitiation (John 3:16; Romans 3:24-26)

Through faith in Jesus being the risen Son of God, I receive salvation (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:1-2; Acts 4:12)

Faith involves believing in Jesus, confessing Jesus, repenting of my sin, being immersed in water, and living a life of holiness (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10;  1 Peter 3:21; 1 Peter 1:13-2:17)

But finding all this out and following through in faith is not all there is.  The Bible continues to challenge me.  Here’s how:

It challenges me to live in a holy, sin free manner (1 Peter 1:14-16; Romans 12:1-2)

The Word of God is like a double-edged sword

It challenges me to know and love God more (Matthew 22:27)

It challenges me to make Jesus known to others (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:21)

It challenges me to serve others (Galatians 513; Ephesians 6:7)

It challenges me to love others (Matthew 22:29; John 13:24)

It challenges me know and understand it’s truths, the hopes it presents, the help it provides, the joy it instills.

The Bible will, in the heart of those who will let it, challenge and change them, perfecting them into the likeness of Christ, our hope and joy, our Savior and friend, our Lord and provider.

All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart.  No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account”  Hebrews 4:12-13.

All scripture quotations are from Holman’s Christian Standard Bible

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