|Volume 21 Number 4 April 2019||
The man in John 9:31 said that “God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” His observation was absolutely right. If one is not willing to do what God says, one should not expect God to hear his prayer. Proverbs 15:29 declares, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayers of the righteous.” Proverbs 28:9 says, “One who turns away his ears from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” God speaks to us today through the New Testament of His Son, just as He spoke to the people under the Old Testament law through Moses and the prophets (Hebrews 1:1-2). He expects us to hear Him and heed Him. We speak to Him by prayer. Prayer is a privilege given to God’s children (1 John 5:14-15). However, if God’s Word is not regarded by us, our prayers shall not only be rejected by God, but they shall be an abomination to Him.
Amongst many errors preached in the name of the Bible, one that is preached most by denominational preachers is telling people to pray the sinners’ prayer and God will save them. In many cases, the preacher tells his listeners to “repeat after me” this or something similar, “Lord, I am a sinner, and I repent of my sins, please come into my heart and save me.” Then the preacher says, “If you prayed this prayer, you are now saved and a Christian.” Friends, there is nothing in the New Testament of the Bible that even resembles the foregoing as the way to be saved and to become a Christian. In fact, those who are made to believe that they are saved and became a Christian in this way are deceived. Furthermore, they continue to live with that deception until they obey the command of Jesus to be saved. The Bible does not teach that one is saved by prayer. Prayer is a privilege given to God’s children (1 John 5:14-15). One must first, therefore, become a child of God by obeying His commandments to receive the assurance that his prayers will be heard. To be saved from sin and to become a Christian, a child of God and a follower of Christ, the Bible teaches one must believe in Christ, repent of sins, confess Christ to be the Son of God and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins—as the following examples from the Bible show.
First, prior to going back to Heaven, the Savior, Jesus Christ, told His followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Then, he added, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). When Christ’s followers preached the first Gospel sermon about His death for the sinners, His burial and resurrection from the dead (1Corinthians 15:1-4), in the city of Jerusalem, in A.D. 33, the Scriptures say, people after hearing the message, “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…’ Then those who gladly received His word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:37-38, 41). Notice, Peter didn’t say to them to repeat after me the sinners’ prayer to be saved. Instead, he said to them to repent (that is turn away from all former beliefs) and be baptized for the remission or forgiveness of sins. When they gladly did it, that is, after they were baptized, immersed in water by the authority of Christ (Matthew 28:19), they were added by the Lord to them, to the number of the followers of Christ, that is the church of Christ (Acts 2:47; Matthew 16:18).
Thereafter, we read of Philip, another preacher of the Gospel, who came to the city of Samaria, a few miles away from Jerusalem. He preached Christ, and the Bible says when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized (Acts 8:5, 12). Of course, in preaching Christ to them, he told them what Christ commanded one must do to be saved. So, after hearing the Gospel message, they believed and were baptized, both men and women (not little children). Baptism is a command of Christ for those who believe in Him— people old enough to understand that they have sinned and need salvation from sin. Little children are safe (Matthew 19:14). Then, Acts 8, we read of Philip meeting with the treasurer of Ethiopia on the road going from Jerusalem to Gaza. Philip preached Jesus to Him. “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38). Again, no sinners’ prayer is mentioned here!
In fact, nowhere in the Bible do we read that anyone was ever told to pray to be saved. However, in every case, New Testament era people were saved when they believed in Christ and were baptized after they had repented from their sins. Even Saul, who later became the apostle Paul, a great Christian, had to do the same (Acts 9:17-18; 22:16). Also, the jailer and his household at Philippi did the same (Acts 16:30-33). One must first become a child of God by believing in Christ and by being baptized into Christ to put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27) to be assured that God will hear his prayer, because God does not hear sinners.
Do They See God or Gods?
Before Jesus ascended back to the Father, He charged His disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and remember I will be with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20). The influence of the Gospel has permeated much of the world, so much so that Paul could say of his day, it “was preached in the whole creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).
It would now seem many are wanting to leave the light of the Gospel for the darkness of sin again. A news report in The Telegraph relates, “Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age. Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago, but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.” Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, high priest of Asatruarfelagid (a group that promotes faith in the Norse gods), said, “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.” Out of a total population of 330,000, membership in Asatruarfelagid runs about 2,400. Iceland’s neo-pagans still celebrate the ancient sacrificial ritual with music, reading, eating and drinking, but leave out animal sacrifice (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/iceland/11385603/Iceland-to-build-first-temple-to-Norse-gods-in-1000-years.html).
Living in what has been called a post-modern or post-Christian era, such tendencies shouldn’t surprise us. Paul reminds us when we forsake God, the desire to worship and seek something beyond human experience doesn’t vanish. “Even though they knew God, they neither honored him as God, nor were they thankful. They were given to worthless speculations, and their senseless hearts were darkened. While they claimed to be wise, they were foolish, and exchanged the splendor of the imperishable God for images of the likeness of perishable man and birds and four-footed animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:21-23). Without the light of the Gospel, paganism returns, and the inventions of man’s heart replaces the revealed will of God.
No wonder Jesus exhorted us, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden; neither do men light a lamp and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand, and it gives light for all in the house. Therefore let your light shine before people that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16). Paul added:
The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the light of the gospel of the glorious Christ, who is the image of God, should not shine upon them. We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ the Lord, and ourselves your slaves for Jesus’ sake. The God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts with the light of the knowledge of the glorious God in the person of Jesus Christ. We have this treasure in clay vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:4-7).
How well does the light of Christ shine in your life? Can others see a reflection of Christ in you, or instead, do they see the world? To be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God (James 4:4). A godly life can open doors to discuss the beauty of the Gospel and the joy of life in Christ. Making a difference in others, and in our world, begins with each of us allowing the light of life to shine in us, and to allow the power of the Gospel message proclaimed for salvation (Romans 1:16) to accomplish its work. How about in you? “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, even as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).