Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / May 24, 2015

 If I were to speak of “the sinner’s prayer”, do you know what I would be referencing?

If you google “sinner’s prayer” you will likely come up with some variation of a prayer that goes something like this

Heavenly Father,

I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve to go to hell.

I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins.

I now receive Him as my Lord & personal Savior.

I promise to serve you to the best of my ability.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen

Many folks in churches quite similar to our own have come to accept

“the sinner’s prayer” as THE ESSENCE OF GOD’S PLAN OF REDEMPTION.

Many preachers conclude their Sunday sermons by urging others to “pray the sinner’s prayer” so that they might be saved.

I am convinced that most of these people are well-intentioned and that:

they love God deeply … they are humbled by God’s wonderful grace … 

they accept and realize that they are sinners … they understand the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross …

they desire to live for Jesus, worship and serve Almighty God, and love their fellow man.

If the truth be known, many who pray the sinner’s pray are just doing what’s they been taught.

There is much to commend the sinner’s prayer.

The acknowledgement of one’s sinfulness is important - - as is the recognition of the gravity of sin.

The focus on Jesus as our Savior and Lord is equally critical.

And it is also important to pledge oneself to serving God.

We applaud the good that we find in the concept of the sinner’s prayer.

Yet there is SOMETHING THAT IS NOT QUITE RIGHT about the sinner’s prayer.

It’s not that it just too easy, but rather, the problem is that it’s not thoroughly Biblical.

Parts of it are, but what concerns me is what it leaves out.

Regarding this, it is always best if us preachers would just stick to Scriptures - - just teach what the Bible teaches.

In the New Testament the book of Acts is a primary resource document for us to examine

as we ask the question, “what were first century believers taught about how to obtain salvation?”.

Salvation is not just a matter of BELIEF - - it is not just a matter of believing in God.

In his epistle (known by his name), James writes about the importance of faith & action, coupled together.

  Js.2:19 / you believe that God is one.  You do well; the demons/devils also believe & shudder/tremble.

James urges faith & action among those who are believers in Christ (on this point there is little disagreement).

  Js.2:14 / what use is it, my brethren. If a man says he has faith, but he has no works?

Can that faith save him?

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them,

‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary, what use is that?

But James also emphasizes the importance of works or actions in the early-on affirmation of our faith.  

  Js.2:21 / was not our father Abraham justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?

You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of his works, faith was perfected.

James concludes his argument by stating, “faith without works is dead” (Js.1:26).

Jn.12:42-43 states that “many even of the rulers BELIEVED in Him, but because of the

Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;

for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

Yet many have come to bristle and get quite animated and even offended when the

word “works” is connected in any way, shape or form with the word “faith”.

But such is not the case in Scripture.

The 2015 Pepperdine University Bible Lectures were titled, FAITHWORKS.

 Coupling faith & works is a completely Biblical theme.

Jesus concluded His sermon on the mount (Mt.5-7) with these words (Mt.7:21):

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven;

But he who does the will of My Father who is heaven.

Oftentimes words have a variety of meanings.

e.g., what does the word “run / running” mean?  My dictionary lists some 34 different meanings.

Footrace … Retreat (turn and run) … Quick trip (would you run to the store) … Swim/migrate (the salmon are running) …

Hasten (she ran through her mail) … Compete (his horse ran for the roses) or (he ran second) …

Operate (my cub cadet is running nicely) … Meld/Mix (tin must be hot for the solder to run) …

Spread (poison ivy ran all over the stone wall) … Snag (her hosiery got a run) … etc.

Such is the case when we use the word “WORKS” in a Bible context.

James was not speaking of meritorious works - - works whereby we EARN our salvation.

James was speaking of “works of o-b-e-d-i-e-n-c-e”.

Not “meritorious deeds/works” but actions whereby we comply with the will of God.

Martin Luther had a problem with the book of James because his misinterpreted the “works”.

He was a medieval priest in the Catholic church who protested the church’s teaching on indulgences.

As a fund-raiser (Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome), the church began selling “indulgences”.

For certain monetary donations, one could tap into a vast reservoir of the sinlessness and goodness of

Christ Jesus and thereby shorten the time a loved one had to spend in purgatory.

Luther knew the Scriptures well enough to know that this was not at all Biblical.

His protest helped to trigger a revolt that came to be known as the protestant reformation.

Subsequently, Luther locked in on Paul’s declaration of justification by faith (Rom.3:28).

Over time Paul’s emphasis got twisted somewhat to where it became, “justification by faith ONLY”.

But the apostle Paul was not opposed to legitimate and needful “works of obedience”.

Indeed, look at the way Paul’s epistle to the Romans is book-ended:  Rom.1:5 & 16:26.

Both verses employ the phrase, “the obedience of faith”.

In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul speaks of, “faith working through love” (Gal.5:6).


Now, let’s revisit Paul’s conversion.

Open your Bibles to Acts - - chapters 9 & 22

After Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the road to Damascus - - Saul later becomes Paul the apostle:

  Acts 9:9 states, “he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank”.

In a state of deep remorse, repentance and soul-searching, Saul was fasting.

  Acts 9:11 tells us further that Saul was praying.

According to the reasoning of many of our religious friends, the “sinner’s prayer” should have brought Saul salvation.

  Yet Acts 9:18 records that Saul arose and was baptized and his baptism was not just a postscript to his salvation.

What happened in Acts 9:18 is underscored in Acts 22:16.

A messenger sent by God, named Ananias, came to Saul and said very plainly,

“Why do you delay?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

When we objectively examine this verse in light of what is taught about the sinner’s prayer,

we cannot help but ask, “Did Paul not pray a sinner’s prayer”?

And if he did, why was it not effective in bringing him salvation????

Yet Ananias called for Saul to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins…”

Salvation comes when our sins are properly dealt with.

One last point and then we will conclude.

One “proof-text” that is often used to support the idea of the sinner’s prayer is Acts 2:21

And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

The apostle Peter spoke (quoted) these words in his sermon in Acts 2:14ff, yet his instructions to those who asked,

Acts 2:37 / “what must we do (to be saved)?” is to

“repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

“Calling on the name of the Lord” is synonymous with complying with the will of God.

Acts 22:16, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

Heavenly Father,

I know that I am a sinner and that I deserve to go to hell.

I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins.

Grant that I may call on Your name and come to know the salvation that comes through Christ Jesus.

Teach me and empower me to have “the obedience of faith”. 

I come to you with a penitent heart.  I eagerly confess Christ as My Lord and Savior.

Give me now the courage to enter the waters of baptism where my sins can be washed away.

Through Christ, the foundation and focus of my faith and of my baptism, I pray. Amen.

If you have not confessed Christ, what’s holding you back?

If you have not repented of your sins, what’s holding you back?

If you have not been baptized into Christ Jesus, what’s holding you back?

Christ has done his part.  He now calls us all to the obedience of faith!

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