Recently, the tattered, torn cloth of easy believism was draped once again over the shoulders of Southern Baptists by one of the young new lights shining among evangelicals—David Platt. He said in a “talk” excerpt at Verge 2012:
“Making disciples is the supernatural overflow of being a disciple. Proclaiming the love of Christ is the overflow of sharing in the life of Christ. And I’m convinced many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ. And a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the gospel, i.e. ‘pray this prayer’, ‘accept Jesus into your heart’,'invite Christ into your life’. Should it not concern us that there is no such supertitious [sic] prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase ‘accept Jesus into your heart’?
Of course, this isn’t news to those who’ve kept up with the many outrageous charges flung toward conservative Christians—particularly Southern Baptists—by next generation Calvinists. Paul Washer, a fiery Calvinist evangelist educated with our Cooperative Program dollars at work at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, boldly proclaimed that “the sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than anything on the face of the earth” which is why Washer states, “if there’s anything I’ve declared war on, it’s that [the sinner’s prayer]…” (approximately 54 sec. mark). How Washer knows how many are in hell because of the sinner’s prayer is extremely hard to determine.
More troubling is, not a shred of gospel evidence exists indicating evangelistic methods--no matter how faulty we judge them to be, even rightly judge them faulty to be--send anybody to hell. Rather, if I understand the gospel correctly, it remains a person’s own, unrepentant sin and willing refusal to surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior which condemns him or her to an eternal torment without God. If anyone would like to correct my inadequate understanding of biblical revelation, I invite them to do so.
Indeed it seems to me the last person in the world who would be concerned about faulty evangelistic methods would be Calvinists. Given their understanding of irresistible grace, it remains impossible that the elect could be spiritually deceived in so far as their regeneration-actual redemption is concerned. In other words, while the non-elect could be deceived into thinking they were saved but were not actually saved, the elect cannot be deceived into thinking they are saved but remain ultimately unsaved--an inconceivable proposition given Calvinistic terms. Another way to say it is, the elect—deceived or not—will ultimately be saved, and the non-elect—deceived or not—will not be saved. Hence, concern over faulty evangelistic methods, from the Calvinistic perspective, appears to be quite beside the point.
Getting back to Platt who claims the sinner’s prayer is “superstitious” and therefore not a phrase the Bible uses, one could just as easily ask Platt where the Bible employs the phrase, “Making disciples is the supernatural overflow of being a disciple”? If Platt cannot produce the phrase, should we be concerned Platt is selling us a false gospel? And, while Platt is rightly concerned that “many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ,” what proof, outside Platt’s raw assertion, that the many who are supposedly missing the life of Christ are missing the life of Christ because of the sinner’s prayer? Should it not equally concern us that men like David Platt are making bald assertions about why people are missing the life of Christ without any evidence whatsoever that his assertion bears tangible evidence?
Perhaps Platt has evidence to prove his assertion. Granted. Even so, what church can Platt offer us as a model which contains only those members who have not missed the life of Christ? Does Platt’s own church qualify? Do any churches now or in history qualify?
What seems obvious to me is, Platt is making public assertions more in line with some sort of Christian idealism than biblical truth (i.e. biblical realism). What is Platt proposing as a solution to the question he raised? That had we not employed the sinner’s prayer, all those in the church who have missed the life of Christ would now know the life of Christ? He doesn’t say. But it surely appears that Platt is implying that the woes in our churches are connected to our use of the sinner’s prayer. If so, if this is not pure naiveté, I do not know what is. Why we accept such spiritual naiveté as profound truth is another issue entirely. Perhaps our problem with people missing the life of Christ is not the sinner’s prayer but shallow preaching which unfortunately, I must judge, reflects popular but spiritually impotent sound bites like Platt’s.
Finally, for those who, from ignorance or other, strangely deny it is biblically taught to either receive or accept Jesus Christ into one’s heart, I offer the following quotes from various scholars and teachers. And, while this surely does not prove it is biblical to “accept” or “receive” Jesus into one’s heart (after all, each one of these teachers/scholars could be wrong), it does seem to demonstrate that the concern expressed by David Platt, Paul Washer, and others--who mainly, so far as I can determine, are new generation Calvinists--are raising an issue concerning which they must stand or fall on their own (all embolden added):
- “We cannot act spiritually till we begin to live spiritually…This being done, we begin to act spiritually, by taking hold upon or receiving Jesus Christ, which is the point now to be considered. The soul is the life of the body, faith is the life of the soul, and Christ is the life of faith. There are several acts besides saving faith, and in saving faith there are several acts besides the justifying or saving act; but this receiving act, which is our present subject, is that upon which both our righteousness and eternal happiness depend; by this it is that we are justified and saved: “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (John Flavel, The Method of Grace)
- Sonship to God is not, therefore, a universal status upon which everyone enters by natural birth, but a supernatural gift that one receives through receiving Jesus. (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p.181)
- He is the absolute Monarch of our soul. He is that perfect Husband who is the true Head of his mystical body, the Church, oh, that we more fully carried out, practically, in every thought, and wish, and action of our entire life, all that is implied in receiving Jesus Christ as Lord! Beloved friends, as I look round upon you all, and gaze into your faces, this question rushes from my heart to my lips,-Have all of you received Christ Jesus the Lord? Alas! I am sorrowfully persuaded that there are some of you who have not received him. He has knocked again and again, with that pierced hand of his, at the door of your heart, but you have not let him in…O poor souls, poor souls, how sad is your state in not having received Christ Jesus the Lord! Leaving out heaven and eternity for the moment, and speaking only of to-day, how wretched you must be in not having received Christ!… May God look down upon you now, not only with pity, as he always does, but also in the power of his almighty grace, and turn the heart of stone to flesh and lead you to receive Christ Jesus as Lord! That is all you have to do--to receive Jesus, as the parched earth receives the refreshing showers, and as the wilted lilies receive the reviving rain drops, and lift up their drooping heads again. That is all you have to do--to receive Jesus. A child can receive; the feeblest can receive; ay, one lying at the point of death, the sick man dying of fever may receive the cooling draught that is put to his lips. This is all that is asked of you--that you will receive Christ Jesus the Lord. Oh, that you would all receive him now. God grant that it may be so, and he shall have the praise. (C. H. Spurgeon, Lord’s Day Evening, August 3rd, 1873)
- The first instruction intended for us must he only hinted at, like all the rest. See what Christ is to us. He is the Paschal Lamb, not a bone of which was broken. You believe it. Come, then, and act upon your belief by feeding upon Christ; keep the feast in your own souls this day. That sprinkled blood of his has brought you safety: the Destroying Angel cannot touch you or your house. The Lamb himself has become your food; feed on him; remove your spiritual hunger by receiving Jesus into your heart. This is the food whereof if a man eat he shall live for ever. (C.H. Spurgeon, April 3rd, 1887)
- When I receive Jesus, he becomes my Saviour, so mine that neither life nor death shall be able to rob me of him. All this is to receive Christ—to take him as God’s free gift; to realize him in my heart, and to appropriate him as mine. Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS himself. It is true that he gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; he gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him. What a heartful Jesus must be, for heaven itself cannot contain him! (Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
- Let’s consider John 1:12: “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” The major premise: Anyone who receives Jesus becomes God’s child. (John F. MacArthur, Jr., Saved Without a Doubt, p. 9)
- Saving faith involves much more than simply acknowledging God. Even the demons fearfully believe that God is one and is all-powerful (James 2:19). True faith involves the surrendering of one’s sinful self to God for forgiveness and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (John MacArthur, Romans p.482)
- It is not that Paul’s salvation was imperfect or in any way deficient. From the moment he receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the believer is completely acceptable by God and ready to meet Him. (John MacArthur, Romans, p.391)
- The only way any person, no matter how outwardly moral and religious, can escape God’s judgment is to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, receiving in faith the provision He made on the cross by His paying the penalty all deserve (John MacArthur, Romans p.117)
- To receive Jesus by believing in him (3:36; 6:29) is to receive the bread of life, and to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus (an expression in which many scholars see an allusion to the Lord’s Supper) is to partake of eternal life (6:54). (D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996). 599)
- The way of the disciple is like that of Jesus—a way that leads through the acceptance of death (the flesh and blood of Jesus). Passover is marked by the death of the lamb, and the disciple is one who receives Jesus and is marked by his death. But that death was the way to the resurrection and the ascent of Jesus (6:62). (Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001). 274.
- Furthermore, when we receive Jesus by faith, his righteousness counts for us, as if we ourselves had lived the righteous life that God requires. (Philip Graham Ryken, D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller, Justification (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).
- Dear Father, thank you for sending John the Baptizer as the forerunner for your Son. Make me a forerunner in the lives of others to help prepare their hearts for receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Amen. (Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000). p.48)
- We can reasonably conclude, then, that all who have truly received Jesus are saved (John 1:12). (David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999). p.183).
- The forgiveness John talks about in 1:9 can be understood as parental or familial forgiveness, not judicial forgiveness. That is, we all receive judicial forgiveness one time when we receive Jesus as our personal Savior (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 5:6–11). (David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999). p.159).
- Those who have received Jesus Christ by faith have been baptized into Christ and are joined with him in a spiritual union in which they participate in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–4; Gal. 2:16). Water baptism is a physical picture of what has happened to us spiritually when we were spiritually united with Christ.(Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999). pp.44-45).
- It is the offer and demand of the object that determines in each case what a faith-commitment involves. Thus, I show faith in my car by relying on it to get me places, and in my doctor by submitting to his treatment. And I show faith in God by bowing to his claim to rule and manage me; by receiving Jesus Christ, his Son, as my own Lord and Savior; and by relying on his promise to bless me here and hereafter. This is the meaning of response to the offer and demand of the God of the Creed. (J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996). p.20).
- Only after receiving Jesus Christ as personal Savior can one have inner assurance of divine election. (Carl Ferdinand Howard Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority p. 87.
- Let me add before I move on that one wonderful thing did happen to Charlotte while she was in the children’s home. She received Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior, and God became her perfect heavenly Father. Since then He has been molding and shaping her into the beautiful godly woman, wife, and mother she is today. (Daniel Akin, God on Sex: The Creator's Ideas About Love, Intimacy, and Marriage, p. 33)
- Whoever “receives” Jesus the Son becomes a child of God (Jn 1:12–13; cf. the use of orphanos [“orphan”] in 14:18)…” (Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels p.228)
- Being now regenerate and able by the use of their freed will to choose God and the good, they turn away from their former pattern of living to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to start a new life with him. (J. I. Packer, Concise Theology : A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs)
- Paul’s Use of the OT in 2 Cor. 4:6. Although there is no direct quotation from the OT at 2 Cor. 4:6, Paul makes use of some OT motifs in this verse… just as God acted in creation, “whereby the darkness of the primeval world was banished by the light”...so now God shines “the light of the gospel” into the hearts of those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior. (G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, p.763)
- But perhaps it is better to think of this obedience as directed not to Paul personally but to what we might call the “gospel imperative.” Paul does not use the word “obedience” often, but when he does he often speaks about the general demand that accompanies the gospel: what Paul calls “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26; cf. also 15:18). By this phrase Paul indicates that faith (in Christ) is always accompanied by the call to obedience: that, to put it another way, accepting Christ as Savior is to accept him as Lord. This same general flavor of the word emerges in other texts (Douglas J. Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament commentary pp.434-35)
- To accept Christ as Savior is to give up all rights to oneself. Christians belong to Christ. Paul the apostle was the servant of the Lord. We who believe have placed ourselves at Christ’s disposal to be used as he sees fit. There is little room here for the mistaken idea that people can accept Christ as Savior without also allowing him to be Lord of their lives. (Robert H. Mounce, Romans, The New American Commentary, p.63).
- Many of them believed, accepting Christ as Savior. They were those who were “appointed for eternal life. (John B. Polhill, Acts, The New American Commentary p.308)
- You are “dead in your transgressions and sins” until you accept Christ as Savior and are converted (Eph. 2:11). (Thomas D. Lea, Hebrews, James, Holman New Testament Commentary, p.356)
- Read John 17:6–26 as Jesus prays for the people God will give him. If you have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, personalize this prayer by including your name where appropriate. (R.C. Sproul, Before the Face of God: Book 3: A Daily Guide for Living from the Old Testament, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Before the Face of God (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; Ligonier Ministries., 1994)
- The first point which we must make is that it is impossible even to begin living the Christian life, or to know anything of true spirituality, before one is a Christian. And the only way to become a Christian is not by trying to live some sort of a Christian life, nor by hoping for some sort of religious experience, but rather by accepting Christ as Savior. No matter how complicated, educated, or sophisticated we may be, or how simple we may be, we must all come the same way, insofar as becoming a Christian is concerned... . When we say a person is lost we usually think of evangelically lost, that he or she is a sinner and needs to accept Christ as Savior. (Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian Worldview. Schaeffer has dozens of references to “accepting Christ” as a scan through his numerous writings easily indicate)
- Jesus will return when God’s patience has ended, when the time allotted has expired, and when the last believer has accepted Christ as Savior. (Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude, New Testament Commentary pp. 333-34)
- Finally, what shall we say about the common practice of asking people to pray to receive Christ as their personal Savior and Lord? Since personal faith in Christ must involve an actual decision of the will, it is often very helpful to express that decision in spoken words, and this could very naturally take the form of a prayer to Christ in which we tell him of our sorrow for sin, our commitment to forsake it, and our decision actually to put our trust in him. Such a spoken prayer does not in itself save us, but the attitude of heart that it represents does constitute true conversion, and the decision to speak that prayer can often be the point at which a person truly comes to faith in Christ. (Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, p. 717)
So, yes. contrary to Platt and Washer, I was saved through expressing a sinner’s prayer.