Aside from the historic election of Fred Luter as the first ever African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, other good things came from this year’s convention in New Orleans. Perhaps one of the my favorites was a resolution on what is often referred to as “the sinner’s prayer.”
Here is the full text of the resolution, and my thoughts below:
AN AFFIRMATION OF A “SINNER’S PRAYER” AS A BIBLICAL EXPRESSION OF REPENTANCE AND FAITH
WHEREAS, The Gospel of Jesus Christ offers full forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God to anyone who repents of sin and trusts in Christ; and
WHEREAS, This same Gospel commands all persons everywhere to believe this Gospel and receive Christ as Savior and Lord (Mark 1:15; John 1:12; 6:25–52; Acts 17:30); and
WHEREAS, The Scriptures give examples of persons from diverse backgrounds who cried out for mercy and were heard by God (Luke 18:13; Acts 16:29–30); and
WHEREAS, The Scriptures also give numerous examples of persons who verbally affirmed Gospel truths but who did not personally know Jesus in a saving relationship (Luke 22:47–48; John 2:23–25; 1 Corinthians 10:1–5); and
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19–20, 2012, reaffirm our Gospel conviction that repentance from sin and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are necessary for salvation (Acts 20:20–21); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we affirm that repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord (Romans 10:13), often identified as a “sinner’s prayer,” as a biblical expression of repentance and faith; and be it further
RESOLVED, That a “sinner’s prayer” is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel (Matthew 6:7; 15:7–9); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we promote any and all biblical means of urging sinners to call on the name of the Lord in a prayer of repentance and faith; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we call on Southern Baptists everywhere to continue to carry out the Great Commission in North America and around the world, so that sinners everywhere, of every tribe, tongue, and language, may cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
I really love the wording in the resolution that “a “sinner’s prayer” is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel.”
We’ve needed agreement and codification on this for quite some time. Too often, when I’ve asked someone to describe their conversion experience, or to support that they are indeed a Christ follower, I’ve heard something like, “Well, at age 9, I prayed the prayer…”
“Prayed the prayer” has become accepted language in the SBC. It has always troubled me that, though each person is different, and each situation is unique, and God deals with every individual personally, we will hinge our salvation on the recitation of a one-size-fits-all prayer. And calling this a ‘prayer’ is being gracious. It is merely repeating words. For good measure many pastors and evangelists will at least say, “If you pray this prayer and mean it.” (Which I think adds to the confusion.)
But, I digress. Much more could be written on this issue, but I will refrain at this time. That’s a post for another day. For now, I am extremely pleased that the SBC has recognized that salvation by incantation is a real issue, and has taken steps to clarify and deal with it officially.