THE SINNER’S PRAYER
By E.R. Hall
Quite often in reading religious material or engaging in religious conversation with others, the reference is made to “the sinner’s prayer”. What is being referred to is the parable Jesus taught in Luke 18:9-14. By referring to this parable, many people would have you believe this is what a person must do to be saved. However, what was Jesus attempting to teach by means of this parable? Was it, what to do to be saved or was there another lesson He was teaching?
Verse 9 says, “And he spake this parable UNTO CERTAIN WHICH TRUSTED IN THEMSELVES THAT THEY WERE RIGHTEOUS, AND DESPISED OTHERS:”. Jesus concluded the parable in verse 14 by making the statement: “…for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” We, therefore, learn that Jesus is using this parable to teach humility. Humble-ness will avail far more in God’s sight than a high and haughty attitude.
All of us stand before God having sinned. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23). “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8,10). Realizing we have sinned, we must never approach God in any manner other than that of humility. Also, realizing that sin is the common lot of us all, we must not despise others.
Jesus said that both the Pharisee and publican had went up to the temple to pray. What is to make us believe that the Pharisee was a child of God and the publican was not? Nothing in the parable states this to be the case. In fact, from the parable it would be no injustice to conclude that both these men were children of God. Though publicans had the reputation of being greedy because of their profession of being tax collectors, this is not to conclude that all publicans were ruthless and covetous. One of Jesus’ apostles was a publican: Matthew (Matthew 9:9). Neither let us forget Zaccheus who was chief among the publicans (Luke 19:1-10).
There is nothing in the parable to teach us that the Pharisee was saved and the publican was lost. Both men were obviously children of God for both had went to the temple and both were praying. The point of the parable was that the Pharisee’s prayer was unacceptable to God because he exalted himself, he trusted in himself that he was righteous, and he despised others. The publican, on the other hand, was justified in his prayer for he had not exalted himself but rather realized he had sinned and always stood in need of God’s mercy.
Friends, this is not a prayer that alien sinners must/should pray in order to have their sins forgiven. Saul of Tarsus was praying when Ananias came to him to tell him what to do to be saved. However, the record does not reveal that Ananias told Saul to continue to pray until he had “prayed through” to salvation. Instead, Ananias said, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16).
In addition to people being told today to pray the sinner’s prayer, they are being told to pray their sins away. Friends, we do not find, in the Scriptures, where an alien sinner was ever told to pray their sins away but we do read where they were told to “wash away thy sins” by the act of baptism. Baptism is the final step which one must take in order to have their sins washed away and to be “in Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
Many teach sins are already taken away before baptism and a person is in Christ without ever being baptized. However, to find the basis of such teaching we have to turn to the doctrines of men for these are not things we can find taught in the Bible.
There is no “sinner’s prayer” that an alien sinner can pray and have their sins forgiven. As sure as “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, God has one plan of salvation for all. “He that BELIEVETH and is BAPTIZED shall be saved; but HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED.” (Mark 16:16). “…REPENT, and be BAPTIZED every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the REMISSION OF SINS,…” (Acts 2:38).
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