The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
November 11, 1990


1) Still Praying for Salvation? (Tom Edwards) 


Still Praying For Salvation?
by Tom Edwards

Perhaps the reason why many people do not come to the Lord is because they feel too ashamed to do so. As they pity themselves in their sins, they find it difficult to believe that God would be willing to forgive and receive them. It's as if they have forgotten the primary purpose for why God sent His Son -- in order to redeem SINFUL people.  As Jesus Himself states, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32).

There are some people today who actually believe that one must beg and plead with God in order for Him to save them. This is sometimes referred to as "praying through." I have heard of stories in which some people prayed and prayed for salvation, but it was not until after several weeks that they were able to "pray through" and receive it.

First of all, prayer is not how the alien sinner becomes a child of God. Nowhere does the Bible show that this is what the non-Christian is to do in order to be saved. Even after Peter, on the day of Pentecost, had quoted some of Joel's prophecy and ended by saying that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21), the people did not understand this to mean "just pray for salvation." They cried out "...what shall we do?" (Act 2:36). God's inspired response, given to them through the apostle Peter, is seen in Acts 2:38: "Repent and be baptized...." No mention did Peter or any of the apostles ever make about non-Christians praying a "sinner's prayer" in order to receive salvation.

People have it backwards today when they are teaching others that they must persuade God to save them. This was not the apostle Paul's mission; rather, it was to persuade people to accept God (2 Cor. 5:11).  If a person wants to be saved, he must simply obey the commands to become a child of God and live faithfully unto death (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:26,27; Rev. 3:10).

Sometimes Bible passages are misapplied. Certainly we would not think that Paul's instruction to the Corinthians about the proper use of spiritual gifts applied to the non-believers of his day. God has made provision for the Christian who falls into sin, and this we can read in several places in the Scriptures. For example, John, who was writing to Christians (1 John 3:2), states in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  John had written to the brethren, encouraging them that they would not sin, but if any of them would carelessly fall into transgression, they could seek God's mercy by repenting and praying for forgiveness (1 John 2:1).  John, therefore, is not saying in this verse that non-Christians can be forgiven and saved through praying a "sinner's prayer," as this passage has often been wrongly applied.

Prayer is actually a blessing for the Christian. Who else who has reached an age of accountability can call upon God as his Father and view himself as being God's child? The Bible shows me that it took the sacrifice of Jesus in order that I could be cleansed by the blood of Christ and become a child of God. Just last night as I was driving down the road, I noticed that much of the power had been out in Ashland.  Police were having to direct traffic, and the power shortage had caused somewhat of an inconvenience; but I kept thinking that there is still "power in the blood" -- a soul cleansing power that will never loose its strength, while ages roll.     

Christ shed His blood for every sinner. Not only the alien sinner, but also the Christian who backslides has a most serious need for the blood of Christ to wash away his sins. How one contacts the blood of Christ depends upon who the individual is. As the Bible shows, the non-Christian must believe, repent, acknowledge his faith in Christ, and be baptized; whereas the erring Christian (who already does believe and has already been baptized) must repent and pray for forgiveness.

Simon the ex-sorcerer is an example of one who had become a Christian and then soon sinned and had to remedy that sin through repentance and prayer. The context shows that Simon had already believed and was baptized with many of the Samaritans that Philip had been preaching to (Acts 8:12,13), but he soon became guilty of coveting the power the apostles had and even offered them money for it. For this reason, he had sinned. Rebuking him, Peter shows of the singularity of Simon's transgression: Acts 8:22 reads, "Repent therefore of THIS YOUR WICKEDNESS, and pray God if perhaps the THOUGHT of your heart may be forgiven you" (emphasis mine).  Here was an individual who had already obeyed the gospel plan to become a Christian, so now he is not told to be baptized again in order to have his sins washed away, but just to repent and pray.

Baptism is what puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:26,27); and because of this new position, the Christian has the right to address God in prayer.  The erring child of God who stumbles into sin must have a penitent heart towards his transgressions, for as the psalmist writes: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psa. 66:18).

Another misapplied passage is Revelation 3:20 where Jesus states: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." I have often heard this verse used among various denominations, including many of my old friends, as a passage that supposedly was for the non-Christian. Though the principle is true that Christ desires all to come to Him (2 Peter 3:9), this statement was made specifically to the church in Laodicea who had become lukewarm in their service to God; and the Lord was about ready to spew them out of His mouth (Rev. 3:15,16); but being the merciful Lord that He is, He gave them another opportunity to repent.

It's also interesting to note that we can read in the Bible of people who prayed to God prior to becoming Christians, yet were not saved by their prayers. Cornelius was a God-fearing man, who gave alms generously, and prayed continually to the Lord (Acts 10:1,2). This man also had a miraculous visitation of an angel sent from God. Yet, according to the Bible, he was still a person who needed to hear "words" (the gospel) whereby he could be saved (Acts 11:14).

Consider also the case of Paul. Prior to his conversion, he had been attacking the Lord's church out of his misdirected zeal for God. Paul was one who always tried to do his best in serving the Lord and maintained a good conscience in that which he did. While on the road to Damascus, Paul met Jesus Christ (the ascended Lord) and was soon made aware of how wrong he had been for persecuting God's people. Now he cried out, "...Lord, what do you want me to do?" (Acts 9:6). Jesus instructed him to go into Damascus and there it would be told him. Being blinded by the light, Paul was led into the city by those with him. On arriving, the Bible shows that Paul spent his time waiting for what "would be told him" by fasting and praying for three days. It's difficult to imagine this one who was always so concerned with doing what was right in the sight of God and then coming face to face with the fact that he had ignorantly been doing terribly wrong by persecuting God's people, that he would not have spent those three days in prayer asking, quite often, God to forgive him of all his wrongs. Yet, we find that his sins were not forgiven until he obeyed the command in Acts 22:16 to "arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." This is what Paul was told to do in order to have his sins washed away. If they had previously been washed away by simply accepting the deity of Christ, by being willing to serve God, or through all the praying that he had done, there would have been no need for Paul to "arise and be baptized" in order to wash away his sins.

By so doing, the text also shows that Paul was"calling upon the name of the Lord." Yes, believing, repenting, and being baptized is the way one is to call. As we already saw in Acts 2 with regards to Peter's quote of Joel's prophecy that "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved," the calling was not prayer. 1 Peter 3:21 in the Revised Standard Version states: "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ," The term "appeal" has been defined as "an earnest request on entreaty...to ask for help, support, mercy, etc....." This again is in harmony with God's word and shows that "Baptism saves," but not just by getting clean in the water. It saves as "an appeal to God for a clear conscience." Just as Namaan the leper was told to dip seven times into the Jordan River in order to be healed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5), we must obey God's command to be baptized in water to be healed of the disease of sin that has plagued our souls.  Through this means we contact the blood of Christ in which is the atoning power for all of our transgressions.     

We don't have to beg and plead with God to save us.  We must simply submit our lives to His righteous plan and walk faithfully down that gospel road that leads to the Lord's heavenly destination. Can we help you start walking by faith today by offering to you a free online Bible Correspondence Course?  If so, please send your request to tedwards1109@gmail.com.  Thank you.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

First published for the Tri-state church of Christ in Ashland, Kentucky, at 713 13th Street.

evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards