There are thousands of Christian churches out there. There are thousands claiming they can get you into heaven. There are thousands of gospels out there.
But the bible says there is only one gospel.
There just cannot be thousands of different gospel messages and they all be right. The truth is getting it right means everything.
It is possible to have different gospels.
Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of gospel than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other gospel than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. Gal 1:8-9
It is possible to be fooled.
You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Gal 1: 6-7
So what does that mean for the sinner’s prayer?
I have a confession. I didn’t even know what the sinner’s prayer was until my kids (who have a broad exposure to doctrine) told me about it.
I started observing. I started inquiring. I started studying.
Here’s what I found. There isn’t one specific sinner’s prayer. The idea is that you pray a scripted prayer and ask Jesus into your heart. It goes something like this:
“Jesus, I now realize I have sinned against you. Please forgive me of my sin. Please come into my life and change my heart. I want you to be my Savior. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.”
Then a pastor assures the sinner that she is now a Christian and saved.
Now we are talking about salvation here, like saved from HELL stuff. And since it’s possible to be fooled and it is possible to pervert the one gospel and that will result in God’s curse, I do not want to get this one gospel wrong. I don’t want to go to hell. I want salvation. I want to be saved.
So the question I have to ask myself is “Is the sinner’s prayer the one gospel?”
Let’s find out.
Paul, the most prolific teacher in the New Testament said:
The gospel comes from Jesus.
Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Gal 1: 11-12
The gospel of Paul didn’t come from any man. It came straight from the source, Jesus. I couldn’t find it or anything like it anywhere in the teachings of Jesus.
So where did it come from?
Turns out it started 500 years ago through the Puritan movement. Over a couple hundred years teachers like John Flavel, Thomas Boston and Benjamin Colman all encouraged their followers to receive Christ into their heart. That message evolved and was popularized by Billy Graham during the Christian crusades of the 1950’s. Millions of people were told, something like, “Pray this. Be saved.”
The facts are this: The sinner’s prayer did not originate with Jesus. It didn’t come from apostles. It is no where in the bible.
So how can a Christian message of salvation have no direct connection to Christ or the early Christian church or the Christian Bible?
So what was the gospel that Paul preached?
We know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. Gal 2:14-15
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless… Gal. 2:20-21
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes... And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. Gal 3:27-29
Let’s be people of the book.
Let’s check our facts.
Let’s not get the gospel of Jesus Christ wrong.
(Read the letter to the Galatian church in it’s entirety here).
You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. – The Apostle Paul