3 alternatives to saying the sinner’s prayer with your kids

Altar-call

Writer Cindy Brandt recently shared three very good reasons why she hasn’t prayed the sinner’s prayer with her kids. For those of us who grew up evangelical, praying the sinner’s prayer was a Very Big Deal. In my church, when someone was assessing your spiritual state, one of the first things they wanted to know was, “How old were you when you asked Jesus into your heart?” It was almost a competition: the younger you were at the time, the better.

The sinner’s prayer was supposed to give assurance of salvation, an easy way of knowing if you were in or out. But the pitfalls Cindy identified are real—which is why I’m not praying the sinner’s prayer with my kids, either.

So what can you do instead? Here are three ideas for parents who want to nurture their kids’ faith without relying on the sinner’s prayer:

1. Enchant your kids with the goodness of God’s world.

The premise of the sinner’s prayer is that your identity is chiefly and overwhelmingly characterized by sin. You’re not a person. You’re not an image-bearer. You’re not someone who struggles with sin or who’s affected by sin. You’re a SINNER.

It’s the very first line of the prayer, the very first thing you say to God—at least according to the script proposed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is arguably the closest thing evangelicalism has to an official form of the sinner’s prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will. In your name, amen.

When we lead our kids in the sinner’s prayer, the first thing they say to God is the opposite of what God first said to us.

Good.

Good.

Good.

Good.

Good.

Good.

Very good.

That’s the Cliff Notes version of Genesis 1.

That’s the first thing God said to his creation.

God’s very first words to us were not a curse but a blessing.

Yes, a lot happens after Genesis 1, but it does not erase the first part of the story. It does not change where the story began—or where we should begin with our kids.

The first thing our kids should know is that the world is good because it’s made and loved by God.

That’s the other thing the sinner’s prayer gets wrong: not only does it start with a faulty notion of our identity; it completely sidesteps the rest of the world. It makes sin and salvation about me and myself.

Growing up, I was taught that “saving souls” mattered more than nurturing life. The prize of salvation was escape—liberation from this body, evacuation from this world…which is just going to burn anyway.

This is not the story Scripture tells. And it’s not the story we should tell our kids, either.

All things hold together” in Christ. “All things” will be reconciled to God—yes, even “things on earth.”

We should help our kids fall in love with a world that God thinks is worth saving. We should nurture their sense of wonder, imagination, and inquisitiveness.

The other day, my daughter asked if we could go for a walk in the woods near our house so we could experience the colors of fall together. This is one of the holiest, most sacred things she’s ever asked to do.

Yes, there is evil. Yes, there is brokenness. But that is not the whole story. Instead of teaching our kids that they’re utterly evil, or that the world is utterly worthless, let’s help them see themselves—and the world—as God does.

2. Assure your kids of the constancy of God’s love—by demonstrating the constancy of yours.

Fear-based tactics, like the sinner’s prayer, might deliver a short-term result. (Really, how hard is it to scare a five-year-old into saying a prayer they think will keep them out of hell?) But the long-term results are rarely as satisfying.

That’s why many kids end up praying the sinner’s prayer over and over. As Cindy writes:

I was taught praying the prayer would become the mark of assurance, our get-out-of-hell card. I remember praying it with as much sincerity as I could muster, hoping God hears and receives it. Then I remember praying it again, and again, and again. If praying the prayer was supposed to be reassuring, it certainly did not work on me.

When you introduce fear as a motivator, that fear never goes away. The solution offered—in this case, a loosely scripted prayer—might provide temporary relief. But that fear will come creeping (or storming) back eventually. A God who is willing to throw five-year-olds into hell for lack of saying a few magic words might just as easily throw you into hell for doing something bad after you said them, or for not saying them fervently enough, or not being able to remember exactly when you said the prayer.

The sinner’s prayer becomes a talisman—and not a very good one—a cheap substitute for the real basis of our assurance: the character and nature of God.

The best way to show our kids who God is and what he’s like is to love them the way God does. Most of us do this intuitively—even though we are far from being perfect parents. We tell our kids, “There’s nothing you can do to make me love you less.” We tell them we love them because they are, not because of what they do.

And when we show it, day in and day out, they get a glimpse of what God is like.

If God is the author of love, and if this is the best way to love our kids, then why would we expect God’s love to be any different? The best way to assure our kids of the constancy of God’s love is to love them with the same constancy. As Cindy writes, “Assurance of God’s love doesn’t come packaged in a tidy little prayer, it is delivered through consistent provision of tender care by the children’s caretakers.”

3. Treat your kids as full members of the community of faith.

A third problem with the sinner’s prayer, as identified by Cindy, is that it elevates belief—often a cheap, unformed belief—over belonging. It disrupts the natural timeline of a child’s spiritual journey, forcing a decision on kids before they’ve even had a chance to “count the cost” of being a disciple. (After all, isn’t that what Jesus told us to do before following him?)

The answer, of course, is not to impose an even heavier burden on our children. It’s not to raise the threshold of belief even higher. The answer, I believe, is to give kids a place to belong as they work out their faith.

The problem is that in many of our churches, we inadvertently marginalize our kids instead. It’s just easier to send them off to “children’s church” than to find ways to make the main worship time meaningful for all ages, together. A certain amount of age-appropriate programming is a good thing. But if we wait till our kids are fully grown to welcome them into the “real” church or to upgrade their membership to full status, then we’ve waited too long.

As Methodist pastor Tom Fuerst writes:

From the time my generation was born, we were thrown in the nursery with other babies. Then we went to children’s ministries with other children to be entertained while our parents when to “big church.”

Then we had middle school ministry. Then we had youth group. Then we went away to college and we found a church with a stellar college ministry.

It wasn’t until we graduated college that we were actually expected to be a part of the intergenerational community called “church.” We’d been segregated by age for the first 22 years. And you not only allowed this, you encouraged it.

And now you’re wondering why we don’t want to go to church. Now you’re wondering how to reach us to make us a part of the church?

I’m sorry, but you never really valued us being part of a church before.

We need to show our kids they matter, that their presence matters, that our communities are not quite whole without them. This means creating new ways of “doing church” together. It means welcoming their participation as equals, alongside the adults. At the altar, at the table, at the baptismal font. In the sanctuary and in the fellowship hall. When we pray and when we wrestle with the Scriptures. And, above all, when we serve.

This is, after all, the way it was always done. Children of the first covenant (well, the boys anyway) were marked by circumcision—a sign of their full belonging—before their brains could formulate a single thought about God. The sign of belonging changed with the arrival of a new covenant. It was no longer limited by your gender or your identification with a certain group. But the sign is still a gift that is given before it can be grasped.

Our children need to belong before they believe. There will, of course, be more to their journey than this. The path they take might be more circuitous than we’d like—or take them places we didn’t expect they’d go. But the best thing we can do is not try to rig the outcome in advance by coaxing them into praying the sinner’s prayer. It’s giving them a place to belong, to be loved, and to experience the goodness of God.

Photo by Jake Guild on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

22 thoughts on “3 alternatives to saying the sinner’s prayer with your kids

  1. I never told my children or grandchildren they were sinners. We find that out soon enough on our own. I appreciate what you wrote here; speak about God’s love for us and show children the beautiful things of nature, they will grow up appreciating who God is.

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  3. But we are a sinner. And the reason we need to accept Jesus is because he covered our sins.
    I’ll go back and read your article again, but unless I missed it, you don’t address that we need to ask for forgiveness in order to be saved. That is really a big thing to leave out.
    I think we obviously need to show children of God’s love and goodness, but if this article is related to leading children to salvation, you must not leave out that we are sinful. We are and we must understand and confess so.

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    • As I say in the post, yes there is evil. Yes, there is brokenness. We are all both victims of sin and complicit in it. But that is not all there is to be said about us, nor is it where the biblical story begins. If we’re going to tell the story well, we must tell the whole story—not just the part where it all goes wrong.

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      • But as it pertains to our salvation, we absolutely must be aware that we are sinners. Supposedly this article would be about becoming a Christian. How shall we be saved if we do not recognize we are sinners in need of our Lord as Savior? It is misleading to children (and also adults) to say that admitting our sin isn’t necessary in the process. It is crucial.

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    • Kel, where do the Gospels say we have to ask for forgiveness to be saved? Both John the Baptist and Jesus said ‘repent’, which means to change your mind and direction and identify with the message of the kingdom of God.

      The Father already offers ‘forgiveness’. We don’t have to ask for it; we just accept it.

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  4. Thank you so much for this post. As one who was “saved” in a baptist church I have struggled with how to present “the gospel” to my young daughters in a more formal way (without using the inaccurate gospel that the sinner’s prayer communicates). However, I think there is a missing component here. I agree that much of the message of scripture is best demonstrated by the way we live. However, that is a life-long process. Since the question the sinner’s prayer begs is that of commitment, how do you recommend rightly teaching the commitment part? For better or worse, the most compelling aspect of the sinner’s prayer is the “moment” that occurs upon completion. Almost like a sign of “salvation”. Do you think baptism can be a legitimate substitute?

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    • That’s a great question! I think for many people, the “moment” might be a more gradual experience, while others can point to a single, definitive moment when they decided to become a follower of Jesus. Either way, I think making a conscious choice of some sort is important. Some people might express that choice in the form of a prayer—and that’s great. For others, that choice or “moment” might be expressed by going through the process of confirmation in their church. For me, one key is that people need to know what they’re signing up for when the moment comes. We need to do a better job presenting the gospel in all its fulness—not the “ask Jesus into your hear so you can go to heaven when you die” gospel.

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  5. I personally am not a big fan of the 123 repeat after me (all most magical) prayer. The article has a few good points; but much of the Theology is not accurate. For example; the fear of God is the beginning of many good things according to the Provers. Here are a few examples:

    Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
    7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

    Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)
    10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

    Proverbs 14:27 (ESV)
    27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.

    In your first point you mention the following, “You’re not a person.” (due to your/our sin condition). Umm- this is not what the Bible teaches! Scripture teaches that we are sinners in need of God’s amazing grace through the shed blood of the Lamb (a.k.a. Jesus the Christ our Savior and Lord). We have to know that we are sinners in need of a Savior in order to be saved in the first place.

    And no one I associate with would tell you that a five year old will go to hell if… The age of accountability may not be solidly established in scripture; but the teaching is Biblical. Please understand that I am not trying to be critical here! It is just that when an article is written along these lines it MUST be Theologically sound. Without solid Theology (the study of God) we are left to trust our feelings on matters, and feelings can mislead us. For example,

    Genesis 3:1-5 (ESV) (The Fall)
    1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
    He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

    Blessings to you from one very zealous pastor!

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    • There’s a big problem inherent to your comment, dear very zealous pastor – all the verses you quote aren’t about kids! What about considering first and foremost what Jesus Christ (because hey, we’re Christians, not Proverbers) tells us about kids? Did Jesus say “Let the little children say their sinner’s prayer and then let them come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”?
      You write “And no one I associate with would tell you that a five year old will go to hell if… ” – OK, but have you ever thought about how children interpret, how they read between the lines?
      Sorry, your comment makes me really angry, because I suffered from this kind of theology that first has to crush the self-esteem of a child in order to have a (youth-)pastor who can tell himself (and others) “I helped God save that young soul”.
      I was extremely hurt because as a child I absolutely never wanted NOT to follow Jesus! I “gave my life to Jesus” I don’t know how many times but had the impression that it didn’t work because I kept sinning (= I didn’t always behave like my parents wanted me to, that is to say I probably behaved like a normal kid).
      Your theology can be poisonous to little children’s minds and souls…

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  8. Great article! I don’t think children need to pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’. What they need is to learn to love and trust Jesus. I agree that following Jesus is a process–not an event, though there are likely to be a number of transitional events in the life-long process.

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  11. I stumbled on this blog while I was writing something to advise a friend who asked me about this. The parent is in the midst of a turbulent time in their own faith and while leaning ever more deeply on God’s grace they are not abandoning the practices of the Church they were raised in even though they are in a better Gospel-focused place now.

    So while I agree with Mr. WithoutBaggage as to the salvific act itself. I acknowledge the need to have something outward the little Christian can point to. I also acknowledge that the child will face some social pressure as will the parents. And of course, at some point, they will desire baptism. They aren’t Anglican so there was no infant baptism. They aren’t in a church that catechizes so there’s no ceremony there.

    It seems deeply Anglican to me – not to mention Pauline – to cover some action in grace and allow it recognizing that we are social and those things do matter.

    So I suggested this prayer. “Lord Jesus thank you for loving me and dying for me on the cross. I’m sorry that I have sinned but I’m grateful that you covered up my sins so that I can see your love for me. Thank you for coming into my heart. Even though I will sin again I promise to always return to you and your love for me so that we will always be friends.”

    Now, obviously, I’m still more reformed than you are so I suggested acknowledging the person’s sin without explicitly confessing the whole sin nature. But outside of that do you think this prayer is non-transactional enough to give a child a moment where they express some desire to trust Jesus without falling into the trap of promising to be good in order to get into heaven?

    Thanks for the feedback. Jim

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  12. Mark 16:16, “(mentions that) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Could water baptism save a person? Let’s meditate Acts 19:2-6. Acts 19:2-6, “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” From the above event, did they receive the Holy Spirit after John or water baptism (Acts 19:3)? No, they did not receive it since they only received it at Acts 19:6. Did they receive the Holy Spirit when Acts 19:5, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”? No, they did not receive the Holy Spirit even though they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. They only received the Holy Spirit Acts 19:6, “…when Paul had laid his hands upon them, (since it mentions that after he laid hands upon them), the Holy Ghost came on them…” As the Holy Spirit did not come upon them after John’s or water baptism (Acts 19:3) or baptism (Acts 19:5), it proves that water baptism could not save a person. There is no scriptural verse to support that God would grant the Holy Spirit at the time of laying hands except Acts 19:6. What If laying hands might not necessarily be accompanied with the receipt of the Holy Spirit & that only Acts 19:6 is the exception due to other reason, those people, who rely on laying hands to receive the Holy Spirit, might not be saved as a result of the Spirit does not come to them. Thus, the only source to receive the Holy Spirit & to have confidence with their salvation could only be through asking God to grant them the Holy Spirit by sinner’s prayer. We must not presume ourselves to have the Holy Spirit. Or else, we could regret eternally when Jesus would tell us He never knows us in Matthew 7:23.

    1 Corinthians 12:3, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God called Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” Could we use this verse to support that those people who call Jesus to be their Lord could have received eternal lives? No, it is not true since Matthew 7:22-23, “(mention that) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” As Jesus would mention to them who have called Jesus to be their Lord Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you”, it implies that they do not belong to God. Romans 8:9, “(gives the possible reason why they could not belong to God is they do not have the Spirit of Christ in them since It is mentioned that) …if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” The phrase, by the Holy Ghost, in 1 Corinthians 12:3 might possibly be interpreted as the Holy Spirit is outside their bodies to stimulate them to call Jesus as Lord instead of being interpreted as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to cause them to acknowledge Jesus to be their Lord. If that is so, it is irrational to use 1 Corinthians 12:3 to conclude that all the people who proclaim Jesus to be the Lord must be God’s saints.

    Is it true that those Charismatic people who could perform miracles in Jesus’ name belong to God? Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? & in thy name have cast out devils? & in thy name done many wonderful works? & then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” As the phrase, in thy name done many wonderful works, is mentioned in Matthew 7:22-23 with the phrase, I never knew you, it implies that Charismatic people could not proclaim to belong to God as a result of their miraculous work performed in Jesus’ name.

    Should Romans 10:13, “(be used to support that anybody who calls the name of the Lord could be saved since it mentions that) …whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”? How about Acts 2:21, “…that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We must not use these verses to conclude it without reading other verses in the scripture since Matthew 7:21, “(mentions that) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” As the phrase, Not every one…saith unto me Lord, is mentioned in Matthew 7:21 with the phrase, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, it implies that calling the name of the Lord might not be saved.

    Luke 6:46 & Matthew 7:21 demand all the people who call Jesus to be their Lord to obey His commandments. The following are the extracts: Luke 6:46, “…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, & do not the things which I say?”; Matthew 7:21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, & shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised from him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Could this verse be used to support a person could be saved through believing in Jesus’ resurrection? No, we must not isolate ourselves to this verse without reading other verses to conclude he could be saved through believing in Jesus’ resurrection without repentance of sin. This is by virtue of 1 John 2:4, “(mentions that) He that saith I know him, & keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, & the truth is not in him.” As the phrase, keepeth not his commandments, is mentioned in 1 John 2:4 with the phrase, the truth is not in him, it implies that a person, who would confess his mouth Jesus & believe His resurrection, does not have the truth to be in him if he refuses to keep God’s commandments. As the truth is not in him as a result of his rejection of God’s commandment, his salvation is in query. What if he refuses to confess his sin before God, could he be saved when 1 John 1:10 mentions that God’s word is not in him if he says that he has not sinned? 1 John 1:10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, & his word is not in us.” Sinner’s prayer provides a way out for a person to confess his sin before God & to seek God’s forgiveness of sin.

    The word, believe, as mentioned in Acts 10:43, Acts 16:31, Acts 15:11, Romans 1:16, Romans 9:33, Romans 10:10-11, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, Ephesians 1:13, 1 John 5:13, 1 John 5:10 & 1 John 5:1 must be accompanied with repentance & confession of sin as spelt out in John 12:46, “(that)…whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” The word, whosoever, in John 12:46 refers to anybody whether he or she has just first started to proclaim with his or her mouth to believe in Jesus. As the phrase, should not abide in darkness, is mentioned in John 12:46 with the word, whosoever, it implies that a person who has the hope to be born again must not abide in darkness before his or her conversion. The same is in 2 Thessalonians 2:12, “(that) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” A person needs to repent from sin in order not to live in darkness. He also needs to receive God’s cleansing of sin in order to have his sin to be wiped out so that he could be pure without darkness of sin in him. Forgiveness of sin is available through confession of sin before God as in 1 John 1:9, “(that) If we confess our sins, he is faithful & just to forgive us our sins, & to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    God is the one that does not tolerate sin. Isaiah 1:15-16, “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil:’ As the phrase, ye make many prayers I will not hear, is mentioned in Isaiah 1:15 with the phrase, your hands are full of blood, it implies that our God will not answer our prayer if we continue in sin without repentant heart. The same is in Micah 3:2, “(that) Who hate the good, & love the evil; …”, Micah 3:4, “Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings.” As God would hide His face from those people who love evil (Micah 3:2 & 3:4), do you think those people who proclaim in their mouth to believe in Jesus & yet continue in sinning without repentant heart could be saved?

    Jesus is the only source to salvation as spelt out in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, & shall go in & out & find pasture.” Salvation could only be activated through the receipt of the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). Other than the receipt of the Spirit of Christ, there is no way that a person could be saved. Praying sinner’s prayer provides a way out for people to ask to receive Jesus to be their personal saviour.

    Could Christians’ children be granted with salvation automatically? Ezekiel 14:20, “Though Noah, Daniel, & Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God , they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.”; Ezekiel 14:18, “Though these men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.”; Ezekiel 14:14, “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord.”

    Could a child commit sin? Psalms 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”

    What is our attitude to those people have been misled by false teaching? James 5:19-20, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, & one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from err of his way shall save a soul from death, & shall hide a multitude of sins.”

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  13. Repentance has been interpreted by some people as recognition that Jesus is the Lord instead of praying a prayer that acknowledges our sinfulness and to ask God for forgiveness of their sin. Discuss.

    In order to comprehend the word, repentance, let’s meditate 1 John 2:4, “(that mentions that) He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (KJV)” As the phrase, keepeth not his commandments, is mentioned in 1 John 2:3 with the phrase, the truth is not in him, it gives a significant truth that a person, who simply proclaims with his mouth to believe in Jesus and yet does not keep God’s commandment, would not have the truth in him. As the truth is not in him at the absence of God’s commandment in him, do you think he could be saved since 1 John 2:4, “(even calls him to be) …a liar…”?

    The same is mentioned in 1 John 2:3, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” As the phrase, we know him, is mentioned in 1 John 2:3 with the phrase, if we keep his commandments, it implies that we could only be able to proclaim to know God if we keep God’s commandment. Or in other words, we could not mention we could know God if we refuse to keep God’s commandment. Thus, it raises a query whether a person could proclaim to know God if he proclaims to believe in Jesus and yet insists not to keep God’s commandment since 1 John 2:3, “(comments that he could only declare himself to) know him, if (he) keep(s) his commandment.”. As he could not proclaim himself to know God due to he insists not to keep God’s commandment, could he be saved then?

    When Jesus was confronted by a person who requested him Matthew 19:16, “…what…shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (KJV)”, His immediate response towards the way to eternal life was Matthew 19:17, “…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The commandments that Matthew 19:18, “Jesus said, (are) Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not hear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” For instance, if the way to eternal life is simply to Matthew 19:21, “…come and follow (Jesus and to believe in Him without the repentance of sin)”, why should Jesus mention in Matthew 19:17, “(that his ambition to) enter into life (could only be met by) keep(ing) the commandments.”? Thus, it raises a query whether a person could be saved if he proclaims to believe in Jesus and yet insists not to keep God’s commandment.

    James 2:10-12 relate keeping God’s commandment to obeying them. James 2:10-12, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”

    1 John 1:6, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” As the phrase, walk in darkness, is mentioned in 1 John 1:6 with the phrase, If we say that we have fellowship with him…we lie, it implies that we must not walk in darkness in order that we could comment ourselves to have fellowship with Jesus. As we could not proclaim to have fellowship with Jesus as a result of our insisting in disobeying God’s commandment, could our faith save us? 1 John 1:6, “(even mentions that we) do not the truth” when we insist to walk in darkness.

    The word, Repentance, has been mentioned in Acts 8:22 to interlink with getting away from our wickedness instead of simply our recognition towards Jesus as Lord. The following is the extract: Acts 8:22, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” The same is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:21, “(that) …many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed (KJV).”

    The word, repent, is placed on the first word, in Acts 2:38 prior to phrase, ye shall receive the…Holy Spirit, to stress repentance is needed prior to the receipt of the Holy Spirit. The following are the extracts: Acts 2:38-39, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

    John 12:46, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” As the phrase, whosoever believeth on me, is mentioned in John 12:46 with the phrase, should not abide in darkness, it implies that a person who proclaims to have a genuine faith in Jesus is the one who does not abide in darkness. Or in other words, a genuine believer is the one who repents from sin and does not walk in darkness. It certainly rejects those people who simply proclaim to believe in Jesus and yet continue in abiding in darkness. Thus, faith and repentance from sin should not be separable. For James 2:17, “(mentions that) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

    Salvation is meant for those people who obey Jesus instead of those who simply proclaim to believe in Jesus and yet work contrarily against His commandment as mentioned in Hebrews 5:5, “(that)…Christ… (KJV)” Hebrews 5:9, “…being made perfect, he came the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” The same is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, “(that) …when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his might angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power:”; 1 John 2:17, “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”

    The word, love, in the scripture has been used to relate to keeping of God’s commandments. The following are the extracts: John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”; 1 John 5:3-4, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”; Romans 13:9, “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

    Our God is not a God that could tolerate sin. The scripture even mentions that His anger is upon people who commit sin and He would hide from them for their sin as mentioned below: Deuteronomy 31:17-18, “Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.” As God will hide His face from people if they continue in sinning, do you think He would hide His face from them who pray sinner’s prayer and yet continue in sinning without repentant heart? Do you think God would hide from those people who proclaim to believe in Jesus and yet continue in sinning? As God would hide from them, do you think they could be saved?

    From the above verses, it could come to the conclusion that a person who proclaims himself to believe in Jesus must not walk in darkness in order that he could proclaim himself to have fellowship with Him. Thus, it is a must for him to repent from his evil way in order that the truth could be with him (1 John 2:4). That is the reason why repentance of sin has to be proceeded prior to praying sinner’s prayer. As repentance of sin is a must in order to be saved, it has placed a query whether Catholics, who use rosaries to pray to Jesus and to stand around Mary’s statues to pray and to draw invisible crosses from foreheads to chests and from shoulders to shoulders, could be saved. This is by virtue to they have violated Exodus 20:4-5, “(that mention that) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (forming a invisible cross from head to the chest and from shoulder to shoulder) …Thou shalt not serve them” Even if they would have prayed sinner’s prayer and have acknowledged Jesus’ resurrection and have believed salvation is by God’s grace through faith, their salvation is in query since they continue in their daily sin without repentant heart.

    Does it mean that there must be some outward evidence of turning away of sin in order to consider a person to have genuine repentance of sin? No, it is not true since the scripture mentions that God sees the heart. As long as the heart has the desire to repent from sin, it is to be considered as repentance of sin. The following are the extracts: Psalms 7:10, “My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.”; Psalms 44:21, “Shall not God search this out? For he knoweth the secrets of the heart.”; Proverbs 21:2, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.”; Proverbs 11:20, “They that are a froward heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright way are his delight.”; Psalms 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: (Do you think God will hear a person’s sinner prayer if he has the mind to continue in sinning? How about he has his mind to be set at repenting from his sin. To him, God will hear his prayer since his heart has been set right before God since he does not regard iniquity in his heart.)”

    Faith is directed from a person’s heart towards God as mentioned in Psalms 62:8, “Trust in him; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.”; Psalms 95:10, “Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:”; Matthew 13:15, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are full of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

    Could a non-Christian be saved if he refuses to confess that he is a sinner? 1 John 1:10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” As the phrase, If we say that we have not sinned, is mentioned in 1 John 1:10 with the phrase, his word is not in us, it implies that God’s word is not in a person if he refuses to admit that he is a sinner. As God’s word is not in him if he insists not to admit that he does sin before God, how could he be saved then at the absence of God’s word to be in him? Thus, it would place a query whether he could be saved if he proclaims himself to believe in Jesus and yet insists that he is perfect before God without sin since 1 John 1:10 mentions that the word is not in him at the absence of his acknowledgement of his sin. Praying a sinner prayer provides a way out for a non-Christian to confess his sin before God to seek His forgiveness upon him. The reason is simply that he needs God’s cleansing of his past sin in order that he could be perfected. For 1 John 1:9, “(mentions that) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    A person’s faith in Jesus and repentance of sin and even water baptism could not cause him to be saved since salvation is only activated through the indwelling of Spirit of Christ in him. Or in other words, if he proclaims to believe in Jesus and has obeyed all the commandments of God and even to receive water baptism, he still does not belong to God if he does not have the Spirit of Christ to be with him. For Romans 8:9, “(mentions that) …Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

    Belief in Jesus might not be accompanied with the receipt of the Holy Spirit since Acts 19:2, “(mentions that) …Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard there be any Holy Ghost.” For instance, if belief in Jesus would automatically cause the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it does not matter whether they know the Holy Ghost since it would come to them automatically. However, a query about the uncertainty of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is placed upon believers as mentioned in Acts 19:2 since the phrase, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed, is mentioned. Believers must not presume themselves to have the Holy Spirit. Or else, they might be turned up to be rejected in the last days when they meet Jesus since Matthew 7:22-23, “(mention that) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” These people who call Jesus as Lord should have faith in Jesus and yet they will be rejected in the last day. The only reason that could explain why Jesus would comment to them that He does not know them is they are not God’s people since there is no indwelling of the Holy Spirit in them. The same is mentioned in Romans 8:9, “(that)…if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Praying sinner’s prayer provides a way out for a non-Christian since it directs him to ask Jesus to receive Him to be his personal saviour so as to secure himself with salvation since a person who proclaims to believe in Jesus might not be accompanied with the receipt of the Holy Ghost as mentioned in Acts 19:2. Nobody in this world could proclaim he has the right for the receipt of the Holy Spirit since he is a sinner. It is by God’s grace that He has given him the Holy Spirit when he prays sinner’s prayer. Salvation is not of the work of faith or repentance of sin or the full obedience of laws that anyone could boast but the result of the free gift of God by the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ to be in him to cause him to be saved. Thus, salvation is purely the work of God’s grace.

    A person who says sinner’s prayer to pray for the receipt of the Holy Spirit must believe he has received it after prayer. Or else, his prayer would be in vain since the Holy Spirit would not come to him as mentioned in James 1:6-8, “(that) …let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”

    Acts 5:32 mentions that the Holy Ghost is granted to a person who obeys God instead of those with rebellious heart to seek to go against Him. Acts 5:32, “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” As the phrase, the Holy Ghost, is mentioned in Acts 5:32 with the phrase, God hath given to them that obey him, it implies that the Holy Ghost would only be granted to those who obey God and that is why repentance of sin and turning away from evil deeds are needed prior to the receipt of the Holy Ghost. Thus, it has placed a query whether the Holy Spirit would come upon those people who proclaims to believe in Jesus and yet refuse to turn away from sin, such as, praying to idols & etc., to live in darkness.

    Could a person be saved if he proclaims to believe in Jesus and to repent from sin and even to have prayed to receive Jesus Christ as his personal saviour and yet he does not know Jesus’ resurrection? The phrase, unless ye have believed in vain, is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:2, “(with the phrase,) By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you,” Do you think what kind of Gospel that Paul stressed in 1 Corinthians 15:2 that we would turn up to be in vain if we do not uphold it? 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “(mention that) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” As 1 Corinthians 15:2 relates a person’s faith to be in vain if he does not uphold Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, could his faith save him? Thus, it gives a significant truth that a person’s faith must be strongly grounded with Jesus’ resurrection. Many Charismatic churches have tried to avoid sharing Jesus’ resurrection to their followers and only emphasize only belief in Jesus. According to 1 Corinthians 15:2, their faith would turn up to be in vain if these people who proclaim to be saved do not know whether Jesus had died for their sins and had risen on the third day. As 1 Corinthians 15:2 considers their faith to be in vain, how could they be saved then? Thus, the word, belief, in the scripture has to be accompanied with the acknowledgement of Jesus’ resurrection. Nevertheless, a person must have the knowledge about Jesus’ resurrection before praying sinner’s prayer.

    John 16:7 mentions that the Holy Spirit would come after the departure of Jesus. Or in other words, all the people as mentioned in the four gospels should not have received the Holy Spirit prior to the death of Jesus. The following is the extract: John 16:7, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

    Should a woman in Matthew 9:22, Mark 5:34 & Luke 8:48 be treated as receiving eternal life prior to Jesus’ death since He called her to be His daughter? It might not be true that this woman had been granted with eternal life prior to the receipt of the Holy Spirit if the reason for Jesus called her to be His daughter was merely He was the creator of her while she was in her mother’s womb.

    The word, save, might be used in the four gospels as merely the forgiveness of past sin that they had committed so that they would not be judged for the past sin that they had committed instead of referring it to they would have a place in heaven eternally. The following are the extracts: Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”; Luke 7:48, “And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.”; Luke 7:50, “And he said to this woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Note: Jesus told that woman in Luke 7:50 that her faith had saved her from punishment of her past sin. How about future sin that she could be judged between the time her sin be forgiven by Jesus and the time of her death. Nothing is mentioned she had obtained eternal life other than she had been saved from the punishment of her past sin, instead of future sin, through Jesus’ forgiveness of sin.

    The word, save, in the four gospels might be used in the four gospels to be interpreted as rescuing a person from his physical illnesses or death while on earth instead of being interpreted as obtaining eternal life. The following are the extracts: Matthew 8:25, “And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save: we perish.”; Matthew 14:30, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”; Mark 3:4, “And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.”

    Besides, Matthew 19:25-26 do not mention that the disciples had received immediate eternal life during their speech with Jesus prior to their receipt of the Holy Spirit. The following are the extracts: Matthew 19:25-26, “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved. But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” When Peter enquired Jesus Matthew 19:27, “…we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?”, Matthew 19:28-29, “Jesus said unto them, …ye which have followed me…shall sit in the throne of his glory… And every one that hath forsaken houses, …for my name’s sake, …shall inherit everlasting life.” The phrases, shall inherit everlasting life, and, shall sit in the throne of his glory, in Matthew 19:28-29 in future tense imply the disciples did not inherit everlasting life while Jesus was having His speech with them in Matthew 19:28-29. They should have received the everlasting life after the death of Jesus since the Holy Spirit could only come to them after Jesus’ departure as mentioned in John 16:7.

    Should Luke 23:39, “one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him” be treated as a saint of God when Luke 23:43, “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” As John 16:7, “(mentions that) if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you…”, it implies that the thief as mentioned in Luke 23:43 should not have received the Holy Spirit since Jesus had not died or had not departed from this world. As the thief was not granted with the Holy Spirit, he was none of His (Romans 8:9). Unless Luke 23:43, “(has been changed as) …To day shalt (Jesus be in you or the Holy Spirit be in you)”, it would then be justified that the thief had received the Holy Spirit when Jesus was having His dialogue with him in Luke 23:43. Despite nothing is mentioned that the thief belonged to Christ or he was filled with the Holy Spirit in Luke 23:43 since Jesus had not departed from the world during His dialogue with him (John 16:7), Jesus promised him to go side by side Luke 23:43, “(with) me (to) paradise (KJV).” Does Luke 23:43 imply that he was granted with eternal life since it is mentioned that he could be in paradise with him? It is hard to conclude it since Ecclessiastes 12:7 mentions that every spirit returns to God. The following is the extract: Ecclessiates 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” If the word, return, in Luke 23:43 implies temporary dwelling at paradise to be waiting for God’s judgment in the last day so as to decide what his final destiny should be, either to eternal condemnation or to everlasting living with God, Luke 23:43 could not be used to support that the thief could be saved with everlasting life since every spirit would return God there (Eccl 12:7).

    Nevertheless, it is irrational to extract any event from the four gospels prior to the death of Jesus to support that people could belong to God at the absence of the receipt of the Holy Spirit prior to the death of Jesus to counteract Romans 8:9, “(that mentions that) …if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

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