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An Exegesis and Application of Romans 10:9-14
for Soulwinning Churches and Christians
in Relation to the Question of the “Sinner’s Prayer.”
Very often Romans 10:9-10, and v. 13, are used by Christians and soul-winning churches at the end of the presentation of a plan of salvation. The verses are used to show the individual receiving the salvation plan that he must to pray to receive Christ as his Savior in order to be saved. He is told, based on Romans 10:9-10, that he needs to confess, that is, as v. 13 explains, pray, and also believe, and then he will be saved. Those who (correctly, Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3; Acts 20:21) believe in repentance include it in their presentation, and say that the sinner must, in repentance, believe, and pray to ask Christ to save him. If the lost sinner does pray, he is then given assurance of salvation with Romans 10:13.
The purpose of this study is to analyze the passage of Scripture in question to see if it really supports the “sinner’s prayer” methodology with which it is so commonly associated.
The book of Romans details the plan of salvation with unmistakable clarity:
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)
The sinner is justified when he in believes in Jesus Christ; at that moment Christ’s righteousness is imputed to him, and God is reconciled, so that Divine wrath no longer burns against him. When a lost man trusts in the Person and work of Jesus Christ alone to save him from sin, he receives perfect forgiveness, and is counted righteous for the sake of His Substitute. He also begins to grow in holiness (Rom 2:6-11; 6:1ff.; 12:1ff.) and his place in heaven is guaranteed (Romans 8:28-39). Scripture constantly contrasts the truth of justification by faith alone with attempts at salvation by works, which can not save or help save (Romans 4:1-8); attempts to mix grace and works, salvation by faith in Christ’s Person and work and salvation by human action, are a rejection of the gospel (Romans 11:6). Within the wider development of the book of Romans, chapters 9-11 constitute a theodicy, a justification of God’s ways with Israel, an exposition of the relationship of the Jewish people to the wondrous salvific actions described in the earlier portions of the epistle. The justice of God’s national setting aside of the sons of Jacob for the Gentiles until that future time when “all Israel shall be saved” is proven. Romans 9 shows that in the Old Testament, only the believing remant of Israel received salvation; Romans 10 illustrates the universal opportunity offered Israel to receive Christ, and Romans 11 presents the current and future history of Israel, including her national restoration. Romans 10:9-14 consequently deals with the offer of salvation to Israel; any Jew, just as any Gentile, who receives in faith the offer of forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ’s Person and work will be saved. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). However, most Israelites were “going about to establish their own righteousness,” and had consequently not “submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3), and so were unforgiven. Romans 10:9-14 is indeed a passage that deals with salvation.
The larger context of the Bible, including that of the book of Romans, and the immediate context of the tenth chapter of Romans (Romans 10:4), harmoniously assert the doctrine of justification by faith alone. What, then, does the Bible mean when it states “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”? An assertion that certain motions of the jawbone and tongue, and the consequent formation of words, was essential to receiving justification would contradict the uniform testimony of the rest of Scripture to salvation by faith alone—thus, Romans 10:9-10 cannot be making such an affirmation. However, numerous pieces of soulwinning literature published by those who believe in salvation by faith confuse the gospel through misuse of these two verses. Confession with the mouth is equated with prayer, and it is then stated that one must pray in order to be saved. However, the New Testament verbs for prayer, such as proseuchomai or deomai, are not present in Romans 10:9-10. The passage employs homologeo, which signifies “to confess,” not “to pray.” The verb pisteuo, “to believe,” is also distinct from “to confess.” Prayer is clearly a different act from confessing, and from believing, and believing is what the Bible states is necessary to receive justification. Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 speak of saints asking God for things in faith and receiving them, but such prayer by saints is clearly distinct from being justified by trusting or believing in Christ. Some assert that the confession and belief in Romans 10:9 are synonymous in this passage; the individual is seen as trusting in Christ when he prays to him and asks to be saved. It is true that the positive statement, “if you pray and trust in Christ, you will be saved” (although adding a condition to salvation that is not required in Scripture, and so confusing the gospel, as does “you cannot trust in Christ without verbalized prayer”) does not logically necessitate the converse, “if you do not pray, but trust in Christ, you will not be saved.” The latter is a false, heretical gospel, while the former can be reconciled with the essential truth of justification by grace alone through faith alone. Someone therefore can, by equating prayer, confession, and faith, reconcile Romans 10:9-10 with the the truth of salvation by grace through faith alone by claiming that confession and faith are synonymous. John R. Rice, in his sermon “What Must I Do To Be Saved?” makes and adopts a position similar to this one:
In the Bible there are many cases of sinners who prayed like the thief on the cross or the publican in the temple. In fact, Romans 10:13 says “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Many people believe that a sinner cannot be saved without a period of prayer, without consciously calling upon God. However, the Bible does not say that a sinner must pray in order to be saved. In fact, immediately following the verse in Romans 10:13 is an explanation which shows that calling on God is an evidence of faith in the heart and that it is really faith which settles the matter. Read it again. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” —Romans 10:13,14. The Lord encourages the sinner to pray, and the Lord hears and answers that sinner’s prayer, if that sinner trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation when he prays . . . certainly every one who is to be saved must believe. Prayer is evidence of faith. No matter how long one prays, if he does not trust in Christ, he can never be saved. If he trusts in Christ without conscious prayer, then he is saved already. There is just one plan of salvation and just one step a sinner must take to secure it. That step is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!”
Dr. Rice’s explanation has the benefit of reconciling this passage to other Scripture, and thus avoiding a false gospel of justification by the religious work of prayer. However, the fact that a false gospel is avoided does not mean that Rice’s explanation, which is commonly adopted by others, is indeed correct. The question of Romans 10:13 and the prayers of lost men will be examined below—Romans 10:9-10 will be considered first. One notes that the passage does not say, “prayer is made unto salvation,” but “confession is made unto salvation.” The verb rendered “confess,” homologeo, is found 24 times in 21 New Testament verses.[i] In at least 23 of these 24 verses, a believer’s public confession before men is in view, not private prayer. The sole likely exception, 1 John 1:9, unlike the other passages, does in fact deal with the Christian’s prayer to God for forgiveness and restoration of fellowship. The context and the use of the Greek present to indicate continuing action, however, make it clear that no reference to a lost man saying a sinner’s prayer is found in 1 John 1:9. Thus, no homologeo passage refers to a lost man asking God to save him and consequently receiving forgiveness. The specification in Romans 10:9-10 that the confession is “with the mouth” necessitates that the act referred to in these verses is actually confessing Christ with the mouth[ii] before men, not praying for justification. Christians who claim that prayer is found in Romans 10:9-10 typically affirm that, although the sinner’s prayer is the way one receives forgiveness, no affirmation that one must speak certain words with his lips or be eternally damned is made in Romans 10:9-10, since adding vocal prayer to the gospel is plainly a corrupting addition of the gospel of justification by faith alone. However converting Romans 10:9-10 into a declaration about prayer in the heart without words contradicts the plain affirmation of the verses that the confession under consideration is “with the mouth,”[iii] and spiritualization or dismissal of this plain Scriptural statement cannot be justified on sound principles of literal Biblical interpretation. The confession here referenced speaks of a public confession of Christ before men, similar to that mentioned in Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8; John 9:22; 12:42; Acts 24:14; or 1 Timothy 6:12. Such a confession is a mark of a true believer in Christ; it is a not a prerequisite to justification, but an aspect of the regenerate life that marks the saint of God. In the same way that every saved man purifies himself and does righteousness (1 John 3:3, 7, etc.), so the saint of God characteristically confesses his Lord before men. The confession in Romans 10:9-10 is not to “justification,” but to “salvation,” for it is not a prerequisite to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, but a surely appearing mark of conversion that typifies the saint’s life before his future and ultimate salvation[iv] at glorification; it is part of his progressive sanctification that begins at the time he believes the gospel and is positionally set apart for Christ, and that ends at his final and ultimate sanctification. Note that Romans 10:9-10 specify that with the heart one believes “unto righteousness,” namely, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification. The verses do not say “confession is made unto righteousness,” for “confession” is made unto ultimate salvation. Standing for the Lord Jesus before men cannot be a prerequisite for justification, “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom 10:4), not to every one that prays a sinner’s prayer or confesses anything with his mouth. Until a man has been justified by believing in Christ, his prayer is an abomination, sinful, unacceptable, and hated by God, just like all his other works, including confessing things with his mouth (Psalm 109:7; Proverbs 28:9; cf. Romans 8:8; 14:23; Titus 1:15-16; Hebrews 11:6). God hears the prayers of His people who have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Proverbs 15:8; 29, etc.). They only have a Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) who is able to bring their petitions before the Father. The “confession” of Romans 10:9-10 is not the petition to God of a lost sinner to receive justification, but the public testimony before men of the justified saint, a part of his growth in holiness, his progressive salvation from the power of sin.
It has been asserted that 1 Corinthians 12:3 supports the idea that the confession mentioned in Romans 10:9-10 is unto justification. However, 1 Corinthians 12:3 does not mention justification anywhere, and it appears in the context of spiritual gifts, and being led by the Spirit. It is true that the saints will characteristically confess Christ as their Lord, and certainly spiritual gifts, including those which ceased in the apostolic era, would also lead to the confession of Christ. To link 1 Corinthians 12:3 with Romans 10:9-10 to assert that confessing Christ with the mouth as Lord is necessary alongside, before, or after belief as a prerequisite to justification is to repudiate the uniform testimony of Scripture to forgiveness by grace through faith alone and force into God’s Word what is simply not there. Romans 10:9-10, alongside the testimony of all the Bible, teaches salvation simply by faith in Christ, not by prayer in any way, shape, or form. The Old Testament quotation in Romans 10:8 explains the order[v] of mention in Romans 10:9 of confession before belief.[vi] Romans 10:10[vii] details the actual order of events in the life of God’s people—belief (followed by justification) first, and confession as a mark of salvation second.
Famous classical commentaries,[viii] such as those by Matthew Henry, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, F. L. Godet, John Murray, A. T. Robertson, Robert Haldane, H. C. G. Moule, Henry Alford, Charles Hodge, and many others, correctly interpret this passage and do not equate confessing with the mouth with prayer. For example, Matthew Henry correctly states on Romans 10:9-10:
First, What is promised to us: Thou shalt be saved. It is salvation that the gospel exhibits and tenders–saved from guilt and wrath, with the salvation of the soul, an eternal salvation, which Christ is the author of, a Saviour to the uttermost.
Secondly, Upon what terms.
- Two things are required as conditions of salvation:–
(a.) Confessing the Lord Jesus–openly professing relation to him and dependence on him, as our prince and Saviour, owning Christianity in the face of all the allurements and affrightments of this world, standing by him in all weathers. Our Lord Jesus lays a great stress upon this confessing of him before men; see Mt 10:32-33. It is the product of many graces, evinces a great deal of self-denial, love to Christ, contempt of the world, a mighty courage and resolution. It was a very great thing, especially, when the profession of Christ or Christianity hazarded estate, honour, preferment, liberty, life, and all that is dear in this world, which was the case in the primitive times.
(b.) Believing in the heart that God raised him from the dead. The profession of faith with the mouth, if there be not the power of it in the heart, is but a mockery; the root of it must be laid in an unfeigned assent to the revelation of the gospel concerning Christ, especially concerning his resurrection, which is the fundamental article of the Christian faith, for thereby he was declared to be the Son of God with power, and full evidence was given that God accepted his satisfaction.
- This is further illustrated (Ro 10:10), and the order inverted, because there must first be faith in the heart before there can be an acceptable confession with the mouth.
(a.) Concerning faith: It is with the heart that man believeth, which implies more than an assent of the understanding, and takes in the consent of the will, an inward, hearty, sincere, and strong consent. It is not believing (not to be reckoned so) if it be not with the heart. This is unto righteousness. There is the righteousness of justification and the righteousness of sanctification. Faith is to both; it is the condition of our justification (Ro 5:1), and it is the root and spring of our sanctification; in it it is begun; by it it is carried on, Ac 15:9.
(b.) Concerning profession: It is with the mouth that confession is made–confession to God in prayer and praise (Ro 15:6), confession to men by owning the ways of God before others, especially when we are called to it in a day of persecution. It is fit that God should be honoured with the mouth, for he made man’s mouth (Ex 4:11), and at such a time has promised to give his faithful people a mouth and wisdom, Lu 21:15. It is part of the honour of Christ that every tongue shall confess, Php 2:11. And this is said to be unto salvation, because it is the performance of the condition of that promise, Mt 10:32. Justification by faith lays the foundation of our title to salvation; but by confession we build upon that foundation, and come at last to the full possession of that to which we were entitled. So that we have here a brief summary of the terms of salvation, and they are very reasonable; in short this, that we must devote, dedicate, and give up, to God, our souls and our bodies–our souls in believing with the heart, and our bodies in confessing with the mouth. This do, and thou shalt live. For this (Ex 4:11) he quotes Isa 28:16, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed; ou kataiscunyhsetai. That is,
[a.] He will not be ashamed to own that Christ in whom he trusts; he that believes in the heart will not be ashamed to confess with the mouth. It is sinful shame that makes people deny Christ, Mr 8:38. He that believeth will not make haste (so the prophet has it)–will not make haste to run away from the sufferings he meets with in the way of his duty, will not be ashamed of a despised religion.
[b.] He shall not be ashamed of his hope in Christ; he shall not be disappointed of his end. It is our duty that we must not, it is our privilege that we shall not, be ashamed of our faith in Christ. He shall never have cause to repent his confidence in reposing such a trust in the Lord Jesus.
Handley C. G. Moule[ix] writes:
“Faith” is “unto righteousness”; “confession” is “unto salvation.” Why is this? Is faith after all not enough for our union with the Lord, and for our safety in Him? Must we bring in something else, to be a more or less meritorious makeweight in the scale? If this is what [Paul] means, he is gainsaying the whole argument of the Epistle on its main theme. No; it is eternally true that we are justified, that we are accepted, that we are incorporated, that we are kept, through faith only; that is, that Christ is all for all things in our salvation, and our part and work in the matter is to receive and hold Him in an empty hand. But then this empty hand, holding Him, receives life and power from Him. The man is vivified by his Rescuer. He is rescued that he may live, and that he may serve as living. He cannot truly serve without loyalty to his Lord. He cannot be truly loyal while he hides his relation to Him. In some articulate way he must “confess Him”; or he is not treading the path where the Shepherd walks before the sheep.
The “confession with the mouth” here in view is, surely, nothing less than the believer’s open loyalty to Christ. . . . It is the witness of the whole man to Christ, as his own discovered Life and Lord. And thus it means in effect the path of faithfulness along which the Saviour actually leads to glory those who are justified by faith.
John Murray[x] writes:
We are not to regard confession and faith as having the same efficacy unto salvation. The contrast between mouth and heart needs to be observed. . . . Confession with the mouth is the evidence of the genuineness of faith and sustains the same relation which good works sustain. . . . In verse 10 the order is inverted; faith is mentioned first and then confession. This shows that verse 9 is not intended to announce the order of priority whether causal or logical. Obviously there would have to be belief with the heart before there could be confession with the mouth. This verse is explanatory of the preceding.
Frederick Godet[xi] writes:
“[W]hile faith suffices to take hold of the finished expiation, when this faith is living, it invariable produces profession. . . . [When the] idea of salvation is analyzed[,] it embraces the two facts: being justified and being saved (in the full sense of the word). The former is especially connected with the act of faith, the latter with that of profession. . . . There is in [Paul’s] eyes a real distinction to be made between being justified and being saved. We have already seen again and again, particularly in chap. 5:9 and 10, that justification is something of the present; for it introduces us from this time forth into reconciliation with God. But salvation includes, besides, sanctification and glory. Hence it is that while the former depends only on faith, the latter implies persevering fidelity in the pforession of the faith, even to death and to glory. In this ver. 10, Paul returns to the natural and psychological order, according to which faith precedes profession. This is because he is here expounding his thought, without any longer binding himself to the order of the Mosaic quotation.
Romans 10:9-10 says nothing about the lost praying and asking God to save them. It demonstrates that one is justified by imputed righteousness upon believing in Christ, and that one who has been so justified will confess Christ before men during his life, an evidence of that new nature without which no one will enter heaven.
Romans 10:11 (cf. Isa 28:16) provides contextual support for the view just mentioned. The “for” which begins the verse demonstrates that proof is here given of the declarations of the preceding verses; 10:9-10 cannot declare that confession is needed as a supplement to belief for justification, or that confession is a necessary means whereby justification were obtained, for 10:11 deals only with belief. Those who believe will enter God’s eternal kingdom, and thus not be found “ashamed,” but all unbelievers must stand without imputed righteousness at the future bar of judgment and be condemned. One who has believed in his heart will also not be “ashamed” to confess Jesus with his mouth before others; it is something that the justified one will do, a mark of his conversion. The view that Romans 10:9-10 refer to praying to obtain justification, rather than confessing Christ with the mouth after justification, does not deal with Romans 10:11. It is noteworthy that many of the tracts that quote Romans 10:9-10 to support prayer for justification leave out verse 11.
The calling of Romans 10:13, just like the confessing of Romans 10:9-10, is a part of the Christian lifestyle, not a prerequisite to justification. The point here is that salvation is offered to all Jews or Gentiles (10:12) without discrimination; all those that are calling upon Him, that pray to Him and love Him because they have been justified, will go to heaven. Since Romans 10:13 quotes the Old Testament, it is demonstrated that salvation was available to all at that time as well. Although confessing with the mouth has nothing to do with prayer, here the calling does indeed deal with prayer, but it is the prayer of one who has already been washed in the blood, not the prayer of the lost to obtain justification. The significance of calling on the name of the Lord is made clear by a comparison with its other appearances in the Old and New Testaments and the immediate context; Romans 10:13 is a promise that those who pray to their Lord (an inevitable characteristic of the life of the righteous, Job 27:10, and a mark of the new birth which the ungodly lack, Psalm 14:4; All believers will call on the Lord as a mark of their lives, just as they will characteristically do good works, Romans 2:6-11; 1 John 3:7; Ephesians 2:8-10) will be ultimately saved; the prayer involved is post-justification and pre-glorification. The Bible teaches that the saint has been saved from the eternal penalty for sin in justification (Acts 16:31), is being saved from sin in his daily walk in progressive sanctification (Philippians 2:12), and will be saved from the presence of sin in the fullness of his salvation at glorification. Furthermore, such a saint will be saved in the sense that he will enter into the millennial kingdom (which is what Joel 2:32 deals with; the verse will be analyzed below.) All three of these aspects occur in the redeemed soul—one who claims to be justified, but in whom God works no progressive sanctification over time and so is not being saved, has not been saved or justified, and will not be saved or glorified unless he truly repents and believes. The future, post-justification use of the word salvation appears in verses such as Romans 13:11; Lu 1:71; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Corinthians 3:15; and 2 Timothy 4:18, and, as we have already seen, in the immediate context of Romans 10:9-10, is what is in view in Romans 10:13. This is conclusively proven by Romans 10:14, which specifically states that it is impossible for those who have not already believed (and consequently been justified,[xii] Rom 10:4, etc., to call on the name of the Lord. “How then shall they call (future indicative) on him in whom they have not believed (aorist indicative)?” Only believers are able to call on the Lord, according to the immediate context of Romans 10:13! The verse has nothing whatsoever to do with the lost asking God to save them. The fact that whosoever truly prays to God shall enter His kingdom is a comfort to the believer, but it does not prove that the lost are justified by prayer. Whosoever receives a child for the glory of Christ’s name (something only a saint can do) receives the Savior (Mark 9:37), but this does not prove that the way a lost man is converted and justified by helping children. Whosoever gives a cup of water to a disciple out of true love for Christ (and only the saints have true love for Christ) will surely be rewarded (Mark 9:41), but the lost do not receive forgiveness and heavenly reward by giving water to disciples. “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God,” (1 Jo 3:10) but doing righteousness is not a prerequisite for justification—good works are a mark of the saints. Likewise, the fact that “whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” does not mean that prayer is the means of justification, but it demonstrates that calling on the Lord is an activity which characterizes God’s people, a fact confirmed by the analysis below of other appearances of calling on the Lord in Scripture. No verse in Scripture, including Romans 10:13, states that one enters into life through the instrumentality of prayer.
Even if Romans 10:13 did promise justification to all who pray to God (which it does not), it would not mean that without prayer one cannot believe in Christ and be saved. While the Bible states “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3) and “he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16), it never says “except ye pray the sinner’s prayer, ye shall be damned,” or, for that matter, “except ye confess with your mouth, ye shall be damned.” Even the strongest possible promise of salvation to those who pray in Romans 10:13 would mean nothing for the damnation of those who do not pray. The common notion that one must pray and ask God for forgiveness or be damned is not only not taught in Romans 10:13, but it is based upon a logical converse fallacy. (Romans 10:9-11 presents a similar situation—the passage makes no affirmation about who will not be saved, so one who concludes that confessing with the mouth is a necessary prerequisite to salvation is likewise guilty of a converse fallacy.)[xiii] Just as “he that makes a lot of money on the stock market shall be rich” does not mean that “he that does not make a lot of money on the stock market shall not be rich,” for he could make money some other way, or have inherited it without making it himself, so “the lost sinner that asks God to save him shall be saved,” which is supposedly the affirmation of Romans 10:13, would not require “the lost sinner that does not ask God to save him shall not be saved.” Romans 10:13—and the rest of the Bible—simply does not support this teaching. There is no verse anywhere that states that those who do not pray the sinner’s prayer will be damned.
The Bible never commands a sinner to pray and ask God to save him; evangelistic imperatives are always to repentant faith (Mark 1:15). Neither the Lord, nor any apostolic soulwinner, tells anyone to pray and ask to go to heaven, promising forgiveness if the lost person sincerely prays. In contrast, almost every modern gospel tract and soulwinning presentation quotes Romans 10:13 and concludes with a command to pray to receive justification. Were prayer necessary for the forgiveness of sins, it is most unfortunate for all who lived before Romans 10:13 was recorded, and all men who lived in the first century in areas far from Rome where access to the letter to the Romans was late in coming; the poor people would have no way to be saved, since all they knew to do from apostolic preaching was repent and believe—the supposed real key to salvation, praying and asking God for forgiveness, this doctrine based almost exclusively upon the solitary testimony of Romans 10:13 (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15, 2 Corinthians 13:1), would have been hid from them. The jailer at Philippi who asked, “What must I do to be saved?” was told by Paul, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Ac 16:30-31)—today, he would be told to pray for forgiveness instead. A Christian who sought to win souls in the way recorded in the gospels and Acts would be viewed as in need of instruction for leaving out the allegedly essential element of praying for salvation.
Furthermore, for if the true way of salvation is by praying the sinner’s prayer, one must find the way to eternal life by reading modern uninspired books and tracts, since nothing of the kind is found in the book God has specifically inspired to explain the way of salvation, the gospel of John. Under inspiration, John wrote his gospel “that [men] might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing [they] might have life through his name” (John 20:31). However, the modern methodology would affirm that the apostle did a very poor job. John employs the verb believe (pisteuo) 100 times in his gospel, but he never once commands or even implies that the lost must pray a sinner’s prayer to receive pardon from God. Furthermore, in 1 John, the inspired book written to explain how one can have assurance of salvation (1 John 5:13), having prayed the sinner’s prayer is never mentioned or hinted at. If the modern evangelistic methodology is correct, then the Bible has done a very poor job explaining the way to receive eternal life. People who simply read the Bible without modern literature would be confused into thinking that all that was required on their part was faith in Christ and His redemptive work.
During His three year ministry, the Son of God brought many people to faith in Himself without ever commanding them to pray. (This is not to say that they did not pray to Him; what place prayer can legitimately have in evangelistic methodology will be dealt with below.) Christ said to a sinful woman who, in repentance, came to Him and washed His feet with her hair, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:50, cf. 37-49). The Lord said “her sins, which are many, are forgiven” (v. 47), although no record of her saying a sinner’s prayer is recorded. The Lord said to a Samaritan leper who believed in Him, “thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:19, cf. 17:15-18), although he had never said a sinner’s prayer.[xiv] He said to a woman with an issue of blood who, unlike the crowd that surrounded Him physically, came to Him spiritually in faith (cf. John 6:35, 37), “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole” (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, Luke 8:43-48), although she had said no sinner’s prayer, or any kind of prayer whatever. The Lord Jesus said “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” to a man sick of the palsy when He “saw their faith” (Mark 2:5, Matthew 9:2, Luke 5:20; “their” faith is the faith of the sick man and of his four friends, Mark 2:3-4), with no record of prayer. Zaccheus was converted in a tree (Luke 19:6, 9, cf. 1-10), the Samaritan woman was converted while conversing with the Lord by a well (John 4:1-42), the centurion whose servant Christ healed (Matthew 8:10-13, cf. v. 5-13, Luke 7:1-10), and others, were justified by faith without reciting anything like a sinner’s prayer.
In Acts 10:1-33, Cornelius and “many that were come together” (v. 27) were converted when they believed in Christ while listening to Peter’s sermon. Upon the apostle’s preaching that “whosoever believeth in [Jesus] shall receive remission of sins” (10:43), they trusted the Savior and received the Holy Spirit. When Peter recounted their justification, and the church glorified God over the salvation of these Gentiles, not a word was said about a sinner’s prayer (11:14-18). Peter immersed Cornelius and those with him, recognizing that they were regenerated, although they had said no sinner’s prayer (Acts 10:47-48). The repeated record of conversion in Acts emphasizes that the lost repented and believed the gospel, not that they asked Christ to save them:
Acts 4:4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Note that Philip did not lead the eunuch in a sinner’s prayer).
Acts 9:42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Acts 11:21 And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
Acts 13:12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Acts 14:1 And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.
Acts 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Acts 17:4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.
Acts 17:12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.
Acts 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.
Acts 18:27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
Acts 28:24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
Multitudes of people in the Bible were clearly converted without saying a sinner’s prayer. No example is found anywhere in Scripture of a Christian commanding or leading someone to recite one and then telling him that he was justified as a consequence of it. God’s “gospel tract,” the gospel of John, which was written specifically to show how men can have eternal life (John 20:31), employs the verb believe 100 times in 86 verses, but never commands sinners to pray and ask for forgiveness. The modern sinner’s prayer is, indeed, modern—it is not found in the Bible anywhere.
The evidence in the Word of God that “call on the Lord” means “admit you are lost and on your way to hell and ask God or Christ to save you” is as completely absent as are Biblical examples of Christ or the saints leading the lost in sinner’s prayers[xv] or commanding them to pray in order to obtain justification.[xvi] As an examination of the instances of calling on the Lord in Scripture (listed below) demonstrates, other sorts of prayer, such as praying for someone to be healed from physical ailments, asking for a new job, interceding for a backslider, praising and glorifying God, saying grace before meals, and so on, are calling on the Lord. The word “saved” in Romans 10:13 does not refer to justification; 10:14 makes it clear that calling on the Lord is the act of the believer (cf. Luke 18:7) and the evidence of justification, not the means of justification for the unconverted. Even if one concluded that Romans 10:13 stated the means for the lost to receive forgiveness for their sins—were the verse a means of justification for the unconverted—to make “call on the Lord” mean “pray, admit you are lost, and ask God to save you” is to read into the Word of God something it does not declare. If the verse promised that the lost sinner who Biblically “calls on the Lord” received justification, than every sinner who asks God for help in a decision, thanks Him for a meal, prays for the physical healing of another person, or engages in any sort of prayer or petition at all is certain of heaven.
One might argue that the use of the Greek aorist tense in 10:13 would indicate point action, and consequently conclude that the verse deals with the lost praying at one point and consequently receiving the forgiveness of sins. Even if we conclude that all the aorists in Romans 10 are point action, while all the present tenses deal with continuing action,[xvii] the conclusion that 10:13 deals with praying for justification would not follow. Both “confess” and “believe” are aorist in verse nine, and both are in the present tense in verse 10; “believeth” is also present tense in verse 11, “call” is a present in verse 12, “believe” is aorist in verse fourteen and “call” is a future indicative. Assuming that all the aorists in this section deal with point action while all the present tenses deal with continuing action, we would conclude that those who truly believe at one point in time and consequently confess at one point in time will continue to be characterized by believing and confessing[xviii] since they are new creatures in Christ, and these ones will consequently receive ultimate salvation, that is, glorification, at the Rapture or at death. The fact that verse nine begins with “if” and verse ten with “for” demonstrates that the temporal order is given in the latter verse; verse nine follows the order given in the quotation in 10:8. To take verse nine to mean that one must pray out loud or do some other work which is equated with confessing with the mouth before one can believe and be justified is not only to misinterpret the word “saved” in this verse, but to miss the “if” which begins it and the “for” in the following sentence. It is true that “if” one confesses, even at one point in time, with his mouth, and truly believes at one point in time in his heart, he will be saved. Why? “For (because) with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (he receives imputed righteousness and is justified when he believes with his heart—and he will continue to believe, since he is a new creature, 2 Cor 5:17, and Christ preserves all who truly are partakers of Him, Heb 3:6, 14; Jn 10:27-30) and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (the one who has been justified confesses before men and will receive future salvation upon his death or the return of Christ).” It is true that you will be saved if you believe and confess, just like you will be saved if you believe and are baptized (Mark 16:16), but only the belief is prerequisite for justification. Romans 10:11 demonstrates this—the point made in verse 10 is proved, “For (because) the Scripture saith, ‘Whosoever believeth in him shall not be ashamed.’” Verse 10 is true, Paul proves, because (“for”) the Scripture states that those who believe shall not be ashamed. (Note that there is no mention of confession in this verse at all; belief, and that alone, is all that is needed for justification). Verse twelve validates the “whosoever” of v. 11, “for (because) there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek.” The means of justification is no longer the issue at hand, but a proof that the “whosoever” of v. 11 is valid. There is no difference between Jew and Greek because “the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” How can men know that the Lord is rich to the ones who call upon him (a Greek present participle, “the calling-upon-Him-ones,” those who call on Him as a lifestyle)? They know this “for (because) whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” as Romans 10:13, quoting Joel 2:32, states. Verse twelve is proven to be true by the Old Testament, just like verse 10 is validated by the quotation in verse 11. Neither verse 12 nor verse 13 deal with the means or condition of justification—they present the extent within the body of mankind to whom the offer of the kingdom of God is given, namely, “whosoever.” They are not intended to explain the condition of the new birth or the means of receiving it. Those who are able to truly pray to the Lord, even once (if the aorist of 10:13 is taken as point action) and consequently are characterized by calling on Him (v. 12, present tense, cf. Luke 18:7) have already been saved by faith, as verse fourteen makes clear; it is impossible for those to call (future tense) on the Lord in whom they have not already believed (aorist tense). Romans 10:13 does not give a condition for justification at all; it only proves what verse twelve states, that “there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom 2:6-11). Furthermore, a point action idea in Romans 10:13 removes the possibility that an Arminian notion that one must continually pray or one will fall from grace can be entertained. The believer who backslides has not lost his justification—he is still eternally secure, even if, for a season, he supresses the workings of his new nature and fails to seek the Lord in prayer. Romans 10:13 demonstrates that anyone who can truly come to God, because He has Christ as His mediator and is clothed in His righteousness, is certain of future glory; all who call on God, even one time, will receive eternal salvation.
The explanation given above assumes a force for the aorist tenses in Romans 10:9, 13 that are the most conducive to the “sinner’s prayer” view of the passage. However, this is not the true reason for the Greek syntax in the passage. The “whosoever shall call” structure of v. 13, like the “if . . . thou shalt confess” of v. 9, are indefinite relative clauses[xix] with an aorist subjunctive verb, representing a general, constative[xx] notion for the promise mentioned—anyone, Jew or Gentile, who is a worshipper of God, who is one who calls on Him, will enter the kingdom of God, just as anyone who has been given a new heart and consequently confesses Christ before men will go to heaven. A one-time or once-for-all action is not the point of the verses—they simply present a summary statement that all those who stand for Christ before men, and worship or call on God, will be received by Him at the end. An analysis of the other uses of the Greek structure found in Romans 10:9[xxi] and 10:13 is consistent with the view that a “once for all” action is not the point of these texts.[xxii] Romans 10:13 is not a promise that a lost man who prays a “sinner’s prayer” will be justified. Romans 10:9 is not a reference to prayer at all. The verses are promises that anyone, Jew or Gentile, who boldly confesses Christ in the world, and who is a person of prayer—both of which are impossible apart from a prior regeneration at the moment of justification by faith alone, as nobody can call on the Lord without having already been justified by faith, Romans 10:14, and confession is a fruit of justifying faith, Romans 10:10—will enter the everlasting kingdom of God.
Romans 10:13-15 present, in reverse, the order in which men ultimately enter heaven. The temporal order is send-preach-hear-believe-call-heaven. Men are sent out to preach the gospel, some hear the message, believe it and are justified, and consequently are themselves transformed by it into those who call on the Lord. These enter everlasting glory when they die or at Christ’s return. Verses 16, 17 also evidence that the moment of justification is not at “call,” but at “believe.” To “obey” the gospel is to “believe” it (v. 16). Verse 17 ends the conversion order at “faith,” presenting the word preached, heard, and believed, just as v. 14 presents the order preach-hear-believe. “Calling” in prayer represents the transformed life of the justified saint, whom God will accept, whether Jew or Gentile.
An analysis of the significance of calling on the name of the Lord in the rest of the Bible validates the conclusions reached from examination of the immediate context of Romans 10:13. The word “call” in that verse is epikalesetai, from the verb epikaleomai, which is formed from the preposition epi and the middle voice[xxiii] of the verb kaleo. It appears in the NT in Matthew 10:3; Luke 22:3; Acts 1:23; 2:21; 4:36; 7:59; 9:14, 21; 10:5, 18, 32; 11:13; 12:12, 25; 15:17, 22; 22:16; 25:11, 12, 21, 25; 26:32; 28:19; Romans 10:12, 13, 14; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 11:16; James 2:7; & 1 Peter 1:17. An examination of all these passages will give a good general sense of the range of meaning in the word. The passages most relevant to an analysis of epikaleomai in relation to salvation are the following:
Acts 2:21: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (aorist middle subjunctive verb)
Here Peter quotes Joel 2:32, which refers to physical deliverance, not justification (see the analysis of Joel 2:32 below). Acts 2:21 is the same passage in Joel referenced in Romans 10:13. We may note that the Jews later on in Peter’s sermon (Ac 2:37) did not know what to do to receive the forgiveness of sins, so Peter had not already explained this question in Acts 2:21. When the Jews did ask, Peter did not tell them that he had already given them the answer to that question when he quoted Joel 2:32, nor did he tell them to pray and ask for forgiveness—he told them to repent, which is genuine soteriological language in Acts just as was in the gospels. If the Lord Jesus Christ preached the gospel by stating “repent ye, and believe” (Mark 1:14-15), and His apostles told men exactly the same way of salvation when they were asked, is it wise for men today to preach that the way of salvation is by means of asking Christ for it, rather than by repentant faith?
Acts 7:59: And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [God], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (present middle participle)
Here an already justified individual does the calling. Both the context of the English and the fact that it a Greek present tense is employed indicate that the calling is repeated, not one time only.
Acts 9:14: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. (present middle participle)
Here again, both the English and the Greek present tense verbs indicate repeated, not one time action, and those calling are already justified. They are those who practice prayer as a distinguishing characteristic of their lives.
Acts 9:21: But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? (present middle participle)
Here again, it is those already saints who are calling, and it is repeated, not one time action.
Acts 22:16: And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (aorist middle participle)
Paul had been born again on the road to Damascus. Ananias knew this, for the Lord had revealed to him in a dream that he had there been justified (Ac 9:15-16), and Ananias called Paul a Christian “brother” (Ac 9:17; 22:13). So here again, the one calling on the Lord has already been born again. Ananias, recongizing Paul as a fellow believer and forgiven person, calls upon him to figuratively wash away his sins in baptism,[xxiv] just as they had already been actually washed away by the blood of Christ.
Ro 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (present middle participle)
Romans 10:12-14 is the passage in question, so it cannot reasonably be compared it to itself. Note, nevertheless, that the present participle of v. 12 could be translated as “the calling upon him ones [receive salvation],” indicating repeated action. The use of the aorist in v. 13 and elsewhere does not necessitate one-time, unrepeated action; the basic sense of the aorist is summary action, not the subcategory of one-time action, and the Greek syntax of Romans 10:13 indicates a constative idea. Contextually, the ‘all that call upon him,’ (v. 12), those that “call upon the name of the Lord” (v. 13), and the “shall they call” (v. 14) refer to the same person, so a present participle, an aorist subjunctive, and a future indicative refer to the same Jew or Gentile and his action of prayer. Even if one (improperly) assumed that the aorist in 10:13 is necessarily one-time action, it would not mean that one prays for justification, but that those who truly pray to God even once will be saved. Since, as explained above, nobody can pray to God and be heard until he already has a Mediator and a High Priest, and nobody can call until he has already believed (Rom 10:14, likewise containing an aorist tense), true prayer would then be a sure evidence of having already received justification when one trusted Christ, and consequently a sure sign that one would enter heaven in the future, since Romans 10:13, just like Romans 10:9-10 (as demonstrated above), does not use the word “saved” in the sense of justification but in the sense of entrance into future salvation. In Joel 2:32 the salvation or deliverance mentioned deals with entrance into Christ’s millennial kingdom, not justification. Since the same group of people is involved in Romans 10:12, 13, and 14, it is evident that the promise of the passage is that people who pray (v. 12) will receive future salvation, because the Old Testament promises the kingdom to all who do so (v. 13; Joel 2:32). This prayer is subsequent to saving faith (v. 14). Both vv. 12-13 specify believers as people who call on the Lord, but one emphasizes the continuing action of believing prayer (v. 12) and the other presents their prayers in summary form (v. 13).
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (aorist middle subjunctive verb)
Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (future middle indicative verb)
1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (present middle participle)
Here again those who are calling are already forgiven, and their calling is repeated, not one-time action.
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (present middle participle)
This passage continues the previous pattern.
1 Peter 1:17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: (present middle indicative)
Here again those who are calling are already justified, and they do not only call or pray once and then stop.
The only other verses in the NT where epikaleo appears in the middle voice are Acts 25:11-12, 21, 25, 26:32, 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 1:23. All of the Acts verses deal with Paul’s “appeal” (epikaleo) to Caesar, and 2 Corinthians 1:23 refers to Paul’s appeal to God that he speaks the truth. Believers certainly do appeal to God, and defendants in trials appeal to higher courts, but none of these passages deal with lost sinners asking God to save them. An examination of the Biblical uses of epikaleo demonstrates that nowhere in the NT does calling on the name of the Lord signify a lost, unconverted sinner asking God to save him; the phrase is used of saints praying as a characteristic of their lifestyle, which would include repeated seasons of prayer and periods of time spent praying, not a one-time brief ritual like the “sinner’s prayer.” To state that Romans 10:13 is an example of the phrase speaking of a lost individual praying and asking to be saved as a one time action is to read one’s predetermined view into the text. The natural supposition is that the phrase refers to the same thing it does elsewhere in the New Testament, namely, to the prayers of saints. Very strong contextual evidence would be required to conclude otherwise. However, as already noted, verse 14 specifically states that the calling mentioned is subsequent to belief or faith and consequently to justification. The immediate context, as well as the other references in the New Testament, support the conclusion that Romans 10:13 deals not with those dead in sins praying and asking God to save them as a one time action, but to those alive in Christ praying to their Lord as a characteristic of their new life, an evidence that they will in the future receive the completion of their salvation in God’s everlasting kingdom.
Old Testament references to calling on the Lord are relevant to the interpretation Romans 10:13, especially since the verse quotes Joel 2:32. These also support the conclusion reached by a study of the immediate context of Romans 10:13 and an examination of other NT references to the verb the verse employs. There are a great many places where the Hebrew words for name and call appear in the same Old Testament verse; call is the generic Hebrew verb qara’,[xxv] which appears 735 times in the Hebrew Bible, and the word name is a similarly generic word[xxvi] which appears 864 times in the OT. Only a limited number of the instances when these words occur together do they deal with calling on the name of the Lord. Many of these are given below; further study by interested persons is encouraged. For the great majority of the references it is patently obvious that the phrase refers to the prayer of saints, not to the lost asking for salvation. Not one verse clearly refers to the lost asking God to justify them. Since no verse in either the Old or New Testaments clearly bears that meaning, we must conclude that calling on the Lord is the act of the saint and a characteristic of his lifestyle, or abandon Scriptural hermeneutics to defend modern extra-Biblical tradition. Brief commentary will be included below the following verses:
Genesis 4:26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.
This verse appears to deal with the godly Sethite line (4:25ff.) praying and worshipping the Lord by calling on His name, in contrast with the actions of the ungodly line of Cain (4:16-24), which disobeyed God’s command to wander and built cities instead, and “called the name” (4:17) of their cities after their sons. The calling on the Lord here cannot be a prerequisite to becoming a saint, because it began after the death of Abel (4:25), who was converted and a child of God (Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12; Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:50-51). The first reference to the phrase in Scripture cannot signify what modern advocates of calling for justification make it mean; none of the following appearences of the phrase must have this signification; therefore the modern use must be abandoned or read into the Scripture—it cannot be derived from it. Here the specific reference appears to be the public worship of the godly, which is set in contrast with the growing wickedness of the ungodly line seen in Genesis 4:16ff.
Genesis 12:8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
Since Abram was saved by faith before his entry into the promised land (Hebrews 11:8), this verse must refer to the prayers one who already was on his way to heaven. Note that it is also extremely unlikely that it refers to a one-time action, to a “please come into my heart and save me, Amen,” but almost surely to repeated and prolonged prayer. The subsequent verses which speak of calling on Jehovah in places where altars are built are similar.
Genesis 13:4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Genesis 21:33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.
Genesis 26:25 And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.
1 Kings 8:43 Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.
Here “name” is not connected with “call,” but we see that “calling” to God refers to prayer to Him. The word has a completely different meaning from believing or trusting God or Christ for salvation, or believing or trusting in Him for anything else. An examination of other references to this word will clearly demonstrate that “call” and “believe” are distinct in Hebrew, and in Greek for that matter, just as they are in English, so no further references will be given. Anyone who thinks otherwise is exhorted to do his own study with an open mind, and he will see that this is so.
1 Kings 18:24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
Elijah was not saying that he was going to get saved in just a little while.
1 Kings 18:25 And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
The false prophets spent some time calling on their gods; to call on the name of false gods, like on the true God, is something which is at least usually in the Bible a distinct period, not a momentary ritual like the modern “sinner’s prayer.” Will the still unconvinced fundamental or evangelical reader agree that a doctrine that required a prolonged period of prayer as a prerequistite to justification is dangerous false doctrine, because justification is by faith alone? If it is, why does shortening the prayer change the false nature of the dogma taught?
1 Kings 18:26 And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
2 Kings 5:11 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Elijah is the one referred to in context, and he was already God’s child. It appears that Naaman was expecting a short, rather than a prolonged period of prayer here, or some sort of magical formula, when he employed the “call” phrase.
1 Chronicles 16:8 Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.
The context makes it clear that this calling on God’s name was an act of worship by God’s people, not a one time action of a lost sinner praying and asking for forgiveness.
Psalm 79:6 Pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known thee, and upon the kingdoms that have not called upon thy name.
Here again the context indicates that the prayers of those already converted are in view.
Psalm 80:18 So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.
This verse deals with saved people seeking revival, not the dead seeking eternal life by prayer. God’s people pray, “turn us again” (80:19); the lost need to be turned for the first time.
Psalm 99:6 Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
Obviously this is the prayer of Jehovah’s people.
Psalm 105:1 O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.
Context shows this is the worship of the Lord’s saints.
Psalm 116:4 Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
This is a prayer for physical salvation or deliverance by one who is already God’s child, not the prayer of a lost man for forgiveness of sins. An examination of the whole of Psalm 116 will make this manifest. The other two references to calling on the Lord in this Psalm, given below, also refer to the actions of the Psalmist who, already saved, gives inspired words to us. In v. 13, the calling on the Lord is yet future; if it speaks of asking for deliverance from eternal condemnation, then the penman is currently headed to hell! In v. 17, the reference is clearly to the worship of the redeemed, not a cry of the lost for redemption.
Psalm 116:13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.
Psalm 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
Isaiah 12:4 And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.
The following verses make it clear that the redeemed are in view here.
Isaiah 41:25 I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.
This also cannot possibly be a reference to praying and asking for salvation.
Isaiah 55:6-7 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
These two verses probably constitute the best attempt at an exegetical argument for calling on the Lord in relation to justification. We may note that the phrase “call upon the name of the Lord” is not found in these two verses; the word “name” does not appear at all, although “call” does. It could be said that “return” in v. 7 means we are dealing with the restoration of the backslider, not a lost man, but the common Hebrew verb shub may also be translated “repent” and “turn,” so the rendition “return” does not provide a conclusive argument. It could also be said that the text takes a wider view of the salvation process, rather than pinpointing the specific act of justification by imputed righteousness at the moment of saving faith. Even if we conclude that “call” here, along with “buy,” “come,” “eat,” (v. 1), “hearken diligently” (v. 2), “let your soul delight” (v. 2), “Incline your ear” (v. 3), “seek” (v. 6), “forsake” (v. 7), “return” (v. 7), and so on, are all expressions which the Lord is here using to express the act of the lost exercising saving faith, it would not establish that prayer is the necessary channel without which there is no justification, unless we also conclude that all the other phrases used in this beautiful poetic passage, such as “eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness” stipulate prerequisites to justification.
Furthermore, Isaiah here addresses the Jewish nation as a whole and calls all Israel to seek the Lord and call upon Him; both “seek ye” and “call ye” are plural imperatives. He appears to command national revival in this verse, which would involve Israelites who had already been forgiven freshly dedicating themselves to Jehovah, and yet unconverted sons of Jacob forsaking their ways and thoughts (v. 7) in repentance for the first time. The Jewish context of revival among God’s covenant nation is also apparent in the fact that even the wicked Israelite returns to the One Isaiah calls “our” God (v. 7). Does a call for national revival in Israel justify the sinner’s prayer methodology of modern American Christianity?[xxvii]
The parallelism of Isaiah 55:6 also connects the command to call on Jehovah with the “seek ye” of the first half of the verse, rather than than the call of the wicked to repent in v. 7. If this part of the call to national revival pertains to saved Israelites, both the seeking and calling are post-justification phenomena. Even if this section of the call deals with unpardoned sons of Jacob, could not the seeking and calling pertain to the lost’s preconversion seeking for salvation, to the process of gaining knowledge about the gospel and learning about God, the “hearing” which preceeds justifying faith (Romans 10:14, 17), rather than the act of spiritually coming to Christ in faith? A command to inquirers to seek and call on the Lord (cf. Luke 13:24) does not necessarily equate justifiying faith with prayer.
Isaiah 64:7 And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
This verse portrays a lack of fervency on the part of God’s people.
Jeremiah 10:25 Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.
Here again we have a reference to the prayers of God’s people.
Lamentations 3:55 I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon.
This passage presents the prayer of the needy saint.
Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
Here we see that prayer characterizes God’s true children. Those who are born of God will call on His name as a characteristic of their lifestyle; here this calling is the action of the elect remnant. These ones are those who will be “delivered,” that is, they will enter into Christ’s millennial kingdom, rather than being put to death like all the ungodly. The word “delivered” in Joel 2:32, the Hebrew verb malat[xxviii] in the Niphal form, is used of physical deliverance from death in: Genesis 19:17, 19, 20, 22; Judges 3:26, 29; 1 Samuel 19:10, 12, 17, 18; 22:1, 20; 23:13; 27:1; 30:17; 2 Samuel 1:3; 4:6; 1 Kings 18:40; 19:17; 20:20; 2 Kings 10:24; 19:37; 2 Chronicles 16:7; Job 1:15, 16, 17, 19; Psalm 124:7; Proverbs 19:5; Isaiah 20:6; 37:38; Jeremiah 32:4; 34:3; 38:18; 41:15; 46:6; 48:8, 19; Ezekiel 17:15, 18; Daniel 11:41 (in all of the above it is translated by a form of “escape”); and in Job 22:30; Psalm 22:5; Proverbs 11:21; 28:26; Isaiah 49:24, 25; Ezekiel 17:15; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2:32; Amos 9:1; Zecheriah 2:7; and Malachi 3:15 (all a form of “deliver”). The only other references to this verb in the Niphal are 1 Sam 20:29 (“get away”) and Ecc 7:26 (“escape”); in both of these verses the idea of escaping in relation to the sparing of physical life is contextually alluded to. All of these references are quite clear; only the references in Proverbs and Job 22:30 might give someone a cause for argument, but here objections would not be sustained. Not one of the 63 instances of this verb in these verses refers to the act of justification and the receipt of spiritual salvation. Joel 2:32 informs us that those who have had their sins forgiven and consequently have a life characterized by prayer will escape the Tribulation judgments of the preceeding and subsequent verses (2:30-3:1ff.) and enter the Millenium; it is the same idea as that of the deliverance of those who are both the spiritual and physical seed of Abraham in Daniel 12:1, where, as noted in the list above, we also have a Niphal form of malat. Furthermore, when Joel 2:32 states that “in Jerusalem shall be deliverance,” the word rendered “deliverance,” Hebrew peleytah,[xxix] refers to physical deliverance in all twenty-eight of its appearances in the Old Testament (Genesis 32:8; 45:7; Exodus 10:5; Judges 21:17; 2 Samuel 15:14; 2 Kings 19:30, 31; 1 Chronicles 4:43; 2 Chronicles 12:7; 20:24; 30:6; Ezekiel 9:8, 13, 14, 15; Nehemiah 1:2; Isaiah 4:2; 10:20; 15:9; 37:31, 32; Jeremiah 25:35; 50:29; Ezekiel 14:22; Daniel 11:42; Joel 2:3, 32; Obadiah 17). Furthermore, this “deliverance” is in “mount Zion and in Jerusalem . . . and in the remnant.” To make the “deliverance” a reference to the forgiveness of sins, rather than physical strength to defeat Antichrist’s armies (cf. Zech 12:8), would mean that Tribulation saints, “the remnant,” would be able to absolve men of iniquity, after the pretended manner of Popish priests. The verse necessarily deals with the physical defeat of the Antichrist’s armies, when the elect remnant will enter Christ’s physical kingdom—it does not declare that anyone, Jew or Gentile, is justified by praying to God.
Paul does not take Joel 2:32 out of context when he quotes it in Romans 10:13. The New Testament passage proves that those who are God’s people, people of prayer, will enter His future kingdom, just as Joel intended.
Zephaniah 3:9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.
Once again, the prayers of saints is seen.
Zechariah 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
Here again, prayer, calling on the Lord, is a characteristic of the believer. It is improper to use this verse as a proof text for praying for justification; while it could go either way standing alone, the lack of a definitive use of the phrase in this manner requires us to believe it to mean in Zechariah what the great majority of verses on this subject clearly must mean.
Examined in context, none of these references employ the phrase “to call on the name of the Lord” in the context of praying to obtain justification; believing prayer is always in view. Fewer references could have been used to prove the point, but the fact that so many American and foreign Baptist churches, not to mention the wider fundamental and evangelical world, use the phrase in a way which is opposed to the meaning God gave it, and are consequently misdirecting men in the matter of the salvation of their eternal souls, made a longer and perhaps somewhat repetitive list necessary.
The only other passage[xxx] commonly used with any seriousness to butress the doctrine of prayer for justification is Revelation 3:20; the fact that contextually the verse deals with church fellowship and not individual justification has been explained well in other works, such as the pamphlet “Seven Reasons NOT To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart,” which is mentioned in the bibliography. Briefly, one may note that despite the songs in hymnals and the practice of gospel tracts and personal workers innumerable in favor of asking Jesus into one’s heart, Revelation 3:20 does not have the words “ask,” “Jesus,” or “heart” in it at all. Furthermore, the Lord does not say that He will come “into” a heart or anything else in the text; “in” and “to” are different words in our English text, just as “come in” renders the Greek verb eiserchomai and “to” translates the following word, pros. Christ promises He will enter “in” the lukeworm church of Laodicea “to” have fellowship with the believer who hears His voice, to “sup with him,” as it were. The other references to eiserchomai + pros in the New Testament (Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 17:2; 28:8) demonstrate that the verb refers to entrance into a building to stand before someone.[xxxi] This is the significance in Revelation 3:20 as well. We can consequently conclude that the Scriptures never command the unbeliever to pray and ask God to save him, and Romans 10:13 does not promise that God will hear such a prayer.
It appears that sinner’s prayer methodology, as now employed in Romans 10:9-13, was not current among men of God in times past:
The fact is, there is neither any specific formula found in Scripture for a Sinner’s Prayer nor is there any biblical example of such a prayer being recommended in the salvation experience.The modern usage of the Sinner’s Prayer originates in the 19th Century and was popularized by the experience-oriented evangelistic style of Charles Finney.[xxxii] . . . There is no mention [in the Bible] of altar calls or sinner’s prayers or requesting for Christ to enter one’s heart.[xxxiii]
This fact explains the absence of the “sinner’s prayer” in classic commentaries on Romans 10:9-13. For example, the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary states, in relation to Romans 10:9-10, that “the confession of the mouth, of course, comes, in point of time, after the belief of the heart . . . [t]his confession of Christ’s name, especially in times of persecution, and whenever obloquy is attached to the Christian profession, is an indispensable test of discipleship.” The idea that confessing Christ with the mouth was saying a sinner’s prayer as a pre-requisite to justification is not even mentioned.
The view that the confession of Romans 10:9-10 is public testimony to Christ before men by the already justified, was commonly held by godly men of past centuries. Jonathan Edwards wrote that confess “is the word commonly used in the New Testament, to signify making a public profession of religion. So Rom10:9-10, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’ Where a public profession of religion with the mouth is evidently spoken of as a great duty of all Christ’s people, as well as believing in him; and ordinarily requisite to salvation; not that it is necessary in the same manner that faith is, but in like manner as baptism is. Faith and verbal profession are jointly spoken of here as necessary to salvation, in the same manner as faith and baptism are, in Mark16:16, ‘He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.’ [In other words, faith is a prerequisite to justification, and confession, as baptism, is evidence of the new birth; faith is absolutely necessary to salvation, while confession and baptism have a necessity of precept, not an absolute necessity.] And I know no good reason why we should not look on moral profession and covenanting with Christ, in those who are capable of it, as much of a stated duty in the Christian church, and an institution universally pertaining to the followers of Christ, as baptism. And if explicit, open covenanting with God be a great duty required of all, as has been represented, then it ought to be expected of persons before they are admitted to the privileges of the adult in the church of Christ.”[xxxiv] Elsewhere Edwards wrote that “confess . . . in the apostle’s language, signifies the same as making open and solemn profession of Christianity. Rom 10:9-10, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, [etc.].’”[xxxv] J. C. Ryle wrote, “Confession of Christ is a matter of great importance. Let this never be forgotten by true Christians. . . . Then can we not confess Christ before men? Can we not plainly tell others that Christ has done everything for us,—that we were dying of a deadly disease, and were cured,—that we were lost, and are now found, that we were blind, and now see? Let us do this boldly, and not be afraid. Let us not be ashamed to let all men know what Jesus has done for our souls. Our Master loves to see us doing so. He likes His people not to be ashamed of His name. It is a solemn saying of St. Paul, ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.’”[xxxvi]
Commentators in times past considered that Romans 10:13 related to the act of Christians, not of the unconverted. Matthew Henry concluded that the verse related to the prayer of the saints as an act that indicated that they already had been justified by faith. He viewed such prayers as evidence that believers will receive ultimate salvation. Prayer was not considered the means for the justification of the unconverted. Henry stated in his commentary:
That the promise is the same to all (v. 13); Whoever shall call—one as well as another, without exception. This extent, this undifferencing extent, of the promise both to Jews and Gentiles [Paul] thinks should not be surprising, for it was foretold by the prophet, Joel 2:32. Calling upon the name of the Lord is here put for all practical religion. What is the life of a Christian but a life of prayer? It implies a sense of our dependence on him, an entire dedication of our all from him. He that thus calls upon him shall be saved” (Comments on Romans 10:12-21, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, unabridged).
Other instances in commentaries could be multiplied. C. E. B. Cranfield writes on Romans 10:14-15, “[Men] can only call upon Christ in the sense of vv. 12 and 13, if they have already believed on Him . . . [the order of conditions in 10:14-15] are put in the opposite order to that in which they have to be fulfilled.” Robert Haldane (Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans) comments on Romans 10:13, “In thus calling upon the Lord, a believer, like Enoch, walks with God. It is not only that he prays to God at stated seasons; his life is a life of prayer.”[xxxvii]
There is strong support for the view that Romans 10:13 speaks of the prayers of the already converted among Reformation and post-Reformation Bible-believing authors. John Owen (1616-1683) wrote, “[T]he whole work of faith in obedience is denonimated from this duty of prayer, for so it is said that ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,’ Romans 10:13; for invocation or prayer, in the power of the Spirit of grace and supplication, is an infallible evidence and fruit of saving faith and obedience, and therefore is the promise of salvation so eminently annexed unto it, or it is placed by synechdoche for the whole worship of God and obedience of faith. And it were endless to declare the benefits that the church of God, and every one that belongeth thereunto, hath thereby.”[xxxviii] Elsewhere Owen wrote, “The Father and the Son . . . are held out jointly, yet distinctly, as the adequate object of all divine worship and honor, for ever and ever. And therefore Stephen, in his solemn dying invocation, fixeth his faith and hope distinctly on him, Acts 7:59-60 . . . And this worship of the Lord Jesus, the apostle makes the discriminating character of the saints, 1 Corinthians 1:2, ‘With all,’ saith he, ‘that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours;’ that is, with all the saints of God. And invocation generally comprises the whole worship of God (Isaiah 56:7; Romans 10:12-14).”[xxxix] “Lewis Bayly, in the early seventeenth century work The Practice of Piety,wrote, “Forget not that the Holy Ghost puts it down as a special note of reprobates, ‘They call not upon the Lord, they call not upon God.’ (Ps 14:4; Ps 53:4.) And when Eliphaz supposed that Job had cast off the fear of God, and that God had cast Job out of his favour, he chargeth him that he restrained prayer before God (Job 15:4;) making that a sure note of the one, and a sufficient cause of the other. On the other side, that God has promised that ‘whosoever shall call on his name shall be saved.’ (Rom 10:13). It is certain that he who makes no conscience of the duty of prayer, has no grace of the Holy Spirit in him, for the spirit of grace and of prayer are one (Zech 12:10), and therefore grace and prayer go together. But he that can from a penitent heart morning and evening pray to God, it is sure that he has his measure of grace in this world, and he shall have his portion of glory in the life which is to come.”[xl] In the same era, Robert Bolton wrote, “Even the blessed word of God [can be] misunderstood, and wretchedly abused to the devil’s advantage, and damnation of men’s souls. For instance: some suck poison out of that heavenly flower, ‘Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved,’ Rom 10:13; collecting, and concluding thence, that if they can say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ though they be mere strangers to the life of grace, yet they shall live for ever.”[xli] Thomas Boston (1676-1732) wrote, “[T]o worship God, is to tender up that homage and respect that is due from a creature to a Creator; now, in prayer we are said to tender up this homage unto him, and to manifest our profession of dependence upon him for all the good we have, and acknowledge him to be the Author of all good; and indeed prayer is such a great part of God’s worship, that sometimes, in Scripture, it is put for the whole worship of God. ‘He that calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,’ Rom 10:13; that is, he that worships God aright; Jer 10:25, ‘pour out thy wrath upon the heathen that know thee not, and on the families that call not upon thy name,’ that do not pray, that do not worship God.”[xlii] Thomas Manton (1620-1677) wrote, “[P]rayer, which is, first, a duty very natural to the saints. Prayer is a duty very natural and kindly to the new creature. As soon as Paul was converted, the first news we hear of him, Acts 9:11, ‘Behold, he prayeth.’ As soon as we are newborn, there will be a crying out for relief in prayer. It is the character of the saints: Ps 24:6, ‘This is the generation of them that seek thee,’ a people much in calling upon God. And the prophet describes them by the work of prayer: Zeph 3:10, ‘My supplicants’; and, Zech 12:10, ‘I will pour upon them the Spirit of grace and supplication.’ Wherever there is a spirit of grace, it presently runneth out into prayer. Look, as a preacher is so called from the frequency of his work, so a Christian is one that calleth upon God. ‘Every one that calleth on the name of the Lord, shall be saved:’ Rom 10:13. In vain he is called a preacher that never preacheth, so he is in vain called a Christian that never prayeth. As things of an airy nature move upward, so the saints are carried up to God by a kind of naturality, when they are gracious. God hath no tongue-tied or dumb children; they are all crying, ‘Abba, Father.’[xliii] Manton also declared, “Rom 10:13 [reads], “‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Calling upon the name of the Lord in prayer and praise, it is an open professing act, by which we own God in Christ for our God. So the assembling ourselves together for public worship is a part of this profession, and must not be omitted for fear.”[xliv] The position advocated in this analysis has a basis in historical theology among the saints of past ages.
Classical soulwinning preachers and pamphleteers directed the lost to simply trust Christ by faith; for example, the classic 19th century evangelistic pamphlet “The Blood of Jesus,” by William Reid, which has been printed by the hundreds of thousands, directs the lost sinner to Christ and Him crucified, and does not use Romans 10:13 as a salvation verse anywhere. Horatius Bonar, in his numerous wonderful pamphlets and evangelistic discources, did not employ a “sinner’s prayer” methodology. He stated, “Some have tried to give directions to sinners ‘how to get converted,’ multiplying words without wisdom, leading the sinner away from the cross, by setting him upon doing, not upon believing. Our business is not to give any such directions, but, as the apostles did, to preach Christ crucified, a present Saviour, and a present salvation. Then it is that sinners are converted, as the Lord Himself said, ‘I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me’ (John 12:32).”[xlv] Neither Jonathan Edwards nor George Whitfield promised men that they would be saved if they would sincerely pray a sinner’s prayer. Old fashioned soulwinning, the sort that was used of God in genuine revival in the United States, Britain, and elsewhere in centuries past, did not employ Romans 10:9-13 in the manner of most of modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism, nor did it direct sinners to seek justification by prayer or by faith channeled through prayer—the gospel of the first century and of Baptist and Protestant revival was salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. It is granted that historical theology is secondary to Scriptural teaching; even if every man of God in days past incorrectly interpreted Romans ten, it would still be incumbent upon the present generation to rigthly divide the Word of truth. Furthermore, the fact that these men did not employ a modern sinner’s prayer methodology does not mean that everyone in their day, or even all of those mentioned above, interpreted confessing with the mouth or calling on the Lord in a manner identical to that elaborated in this composition. Nevertheless, it does appear that old-line Bible-believing exegesis and application fits within the framework of the analysis presented here far more snugly than it does the common modern interpretation and application.
The comments of the Puritan writer Robert Traill on giving counsel to those who are seeking salvation are noteworthy:
When a man is awakened, and brought to that that all must be brought to, or to worse, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ (Act 16:30-31), we have the apostolic answer to it: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.’ This answer is so old that with many it seems out of date. But it is still and will ever be fresh, and new, and savoury, and the only resolution of this grand case of conscience, as long as conscience and the world lasts. No wit or art of man will ever find a crack or flaw in it, or devise another or a better answer; nor can any but this alone heal rightly the wound of an awakened conscience.
Let us set this man to seek resolution and relief in this case of some masters in our Israel. According to their principles they must say to him, ‘Repent, and mourn [to a high enough degree] for your known sins, and leave them and loath them; and God will have mercy on you.’ ‘Alas!’ (saith the poor man), ‘my heart is hard, and I cannot repent aright: yea, I find my heart more hard and vile than when I was secure in sin.’ If you speak to this man of qualifications for Christ, he knows nothing of them; if of sincere obedience, his answer is native and ready: ‘Obedience is the work of a living man, and sincerity is only in a renewed soul.’ Sincere obedience is, therefore, as impossible to a dead unrenewed sinner as perfect obedience is. Why should not the right answer be given to the awakened sinner: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved?’ Tell him what Christ is; what He hath done and suffered to obtain eternal redemption for sinners, and that according to the will of God and His Father. Give him a plain downright narrative of the gospel salvation wrought out by the Son of God; tell him the history and mystery of the gospel plainly. It may be the Holy Ghost will work faith thereby, as He did in those first fruits of the Gentiles (Acts 10:44).
If he ask, What warrant he hath to believe on Jesus Christ? tell him that he hath utter indispensable necessity for it; for without believing on Him, he must perish eternally. Tell him that he hath God’s gracious offer of Christ and all His redemption; with a promise, that upon accepting the offer by faith, Christ and salvation with Him is his. Tell him that he hath God’s express commandment to believe on Christ’s name (1 John 3:23); and that he should make conscience of obeying it, as well as any command in the moral law. Tell him of Christ’s ability and good-will to save; that no man was ever rejected by Him that cast himself upon Him; that desperate cases are the glorious triumphs of His art of saving. Tell him that there is no midst [or medium] between faith and unbelief; that there is no excuse for neglecting the one and continuing in the other; that believing on the Lord Jesus for salvation is more pleasing to God than all obedience to His law; and that unbelief is the most provoking to God, and the most damning to man, of all sins. Against the greatness of his sins, the curse of the law, and the severity of God as judge, there is no relief to be held forth to him, but the free and boundless grace of God in the merit of Christ’s satisfaction by the sacrifice of Himself.
If he should say, What is it to believe on Jesus Christ? As to this, I find no such question in the Word; but that all did some way understand the notion of it: the Jews that did not believe on Him (John 6:28-30); the chief priests and Pharisees (John 7:48); the blind man (John 9:35). When Christ asked him [the blind man], “Believest thou on the Son of God?” he answered, “Who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him?” Immediately, when Christ had told him (verse 37), he saith not, “What is it to believe on him?” but, “Lord, I believe; and worshipped him”: and so both professed and acted faith in Him. So the father of the lunatic (Mar 9:23-24) and the eunuch (Act 8:37). They all, both Christ’s enemies and His disciples, knew that faith in Him was a believing that the Man Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, the Messiah, and Saviour of the world, so as to receive and look for salvation in His name (Act 4:12). This was the common report, published by Christ and His apostles and disciples, and known by all that heard it.
If he yet ask, What he is to believe? you tell him, that he is not called to believe that he is in Christ, and that his sins are pardoned, and he a justified man; but that he is to believe God’s record concerning Christ (1 John 5:10-12). And this record is, that God giveth (that is, offereth) to us eternal Life in His Son Jesus Christ; and that all that with the heart believe this report, and rest their souls on these glad tidings, shall be saved (Romans 10:9-11). And thus he is to believe, that he may be justified (Galatians 2:16).
If he still say that this believing is hard, this is a good doubt, but easily resolved. It bespeaks a man deeply humbled. Anybody may see his own impotence to obey the law of God fully; but few find the difficulty of believing. For his relief and resolution ask him, What it is he finds makes believing difficult to him? Is it unwillingness to be justified and saved? Is it unwillingness to be so saved by Jesus Christ, to the praise of God’s grace in Him, and to the voiding of all boasting in himself? This he will surely deny. Is it a distrust of the truth of the Gospel record? This he dare not own. Is it a doubt of Christ’s ability or good-will to save? This is to contradict the testimony of God in the Gospels. Is it because he doubts of an interest in Christ and His redemption? You tell him that believing on Christ makes up the interest in Him.
If he say that he cannot believe on Jesus Christ because of the difficulty of the acting this faith, and that a Divine power is needful to draw it forth, which he finds not, you must tell him that believing in Jesus Christ is no work, but a resting on Jesus Christ. You must tell him that this pretence is as unreasonable as if a man, wearied with a journey and not able to go one step further, should argue, ‘I am so tired, that I am not able to lie down,’ when indeed he can neither stand nor go. The poor wearied sinner can never believe on Jesus Christ till he finds he can do nothing for himself; and in his first believing doth always apply himself to Christ for salvation, as a man hopeless and helpless in himself. And by such reasonings with him from the gospel, the Lord will (as He hath often done) convey faith, joy, and peace by believing.”[xlvi]
One notes that Traill never directs the sinner to repeat a prayer or promises him that if he sincerely prays and means what he says, he will be justified as a consequence. Instead he recommends that one who is counselling someone seeking salvation, “Give him a plain downright narrative of the gospel salvation wrought out by the Son of God; tell him the history and mystery of the gospel plainly. It may be the Holy Ghost will work faith thereby, as He did in those first fruits of the Gentiles (Act 10:44).” None of the Gentiles in the passage in Acts 10 to which Traill alludes prayed a sinner’s prayer to receive justification—they simply believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. The advice of Traill, and the pattern of Acts 10, would seem deficient to many today, who would add in the necessity of instructing a lost man to repeat a sinner’s prayer. Indeed, situations where the lost are seeking counsel about the nature and character of saving faith are rare today, because so many of those who advise them simply instruct the lost to repeat a sinner’s prayer instead of carefully and Biblically dealing with their souls.
The great Baptist preacher and lover of the souls of men, Charles Spurgeon, wrote a small book entitled Around The Wicket Gate, which was specifically designed for those who saw their need of Christ and wanted to be saved. Spurgeon states he “prepared this little book in the earnest hope that [God] may work by it to the blessed end of leading seekers to an immediate, simple trust in the Lord Jesus.” The book was for those who stand “at the entrance to the way of life.”[xlvii] In the book, Spurgeon always tells the lost to simply trust Christ by faith; he never tells them to pray to be saved, and he never uses Romans 10:13 as a promise of justification for those who pray. The entire book never cites the verse. An excerpt from Spurgeon’s work is most enlightening:
When the Lord lifts His dear Son before a sinner, that sinner should take Him without hesitation. If you take Him, you have Him, and none can take Him from you. Out with your hand, man, and take Him at once! When inquirers accept the Bible as literally true and see that Jesus is really given to all who trust Him, all the difficulty about understanding the way of salvation vanishes like the morning’s frost at the rising of the sun.
Two inquiring ones came to me in my vestry. They had been hearing the Gospel from me for only a short time, but they had been deeply impressed by it. They expressed their regret that they were about to move far away, but they added their gratitude that they had heard me at all. I was cheered by their kind thanks, but felt anxious that a more effectual work should be brought about in them. Therefore I asked them, “Have you indeed believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you saved?” One of them replied, “I have been trying hard to believe.” This statement I have often heard, but I will never let it go by me unchallenged. “No,” I said, “that will not do. Did you ever tell your father that you tried to believe him?” After I had dwelt a while upon the matter, they admitted that such language would have been an insult to their father.
I then set the Gospel very plainly before them in as simple language as I could, and begged them to believe Jesus, who is more worthy of faith than the best of fathers. One of them replied, “I cannot realize it: I cannot realize that I am saved.” Then I went on to say, “God bears testimony to His Son, that whosoever trusts in His Son is saved. Will you make Him a liar now, or will you believe His Word?” While I thus spoke, one of them started as if astonished. She startled us all as she cried, “O sir, I see it all; I am saved! Bless Jesus. He has shown me the way, and He has saved me! I see it all.” The esteemed sister who had brought these young friends to me knelt down with them while, with all our hearts, we blessed and magnified the Lord for a soul brought into light. One of the two sisters, however, could not see the Gospel as the other had, though I feel sure she will do so soon.
Did it not seem strange that, both hearing the same words, one should remain in the gloom? The change which comes over the heart when the understanding grasps the Gospel is often reflected in the face and shines like the light of heaven. Such newly enlightened souls often exclaim, “It is so plain; why is it I have not seen it before this? I understand all I have read in the Bible now, though I could not make it out before. It has all come in a minute, and now I see what I never understood before.”
The fact is, the truth was always plain, but they were looking for signs and wonders, and therefore did not see what was there for them. Old men often look for their spectacles when they are on their foreheads. It is commonly observed that we fail to see that which is straight before us. Christ Jesus is before our faces. We have only to look to Him and live, but we make all manner of bewilderment of it, and so manufacture a maze out of that which is straight as an arrow.
The little incident about the two sisters reminds me of another. A much-esteemed friend came to me one Sunday morning after service to shake hands with me. She said, “I was fifty years old on the same day as yourself. I am like you in that one thing, sir, but I am the very reverse of you in better things.” I remarked, “Then you must be a very good woman, for in many things I wish I also could be the reverse of what I am.” “No, no,” she said, “I did not mean anything of that sort. I am not right at all.” “What!” I cried, “Are you not a believer in the Lord Jesus?” “Well,” she said, with much emotion, “I, I will try to be.” I laid hold of her hand and said, “My dear soul, you are not going to tell me that you will try to believe my Lord Jesus! I cannot have such talk from you. It means blank unbelief. What has He done that you should talk of Him in that way? Would you tell me that you would try to believe me? I know that you would not treat me so rudely. You think me a true man, and so you believe me at once. Surely you cannot do less with my Lord Jesus.”
Then with tears she exclaimed, “Oh, sir, do pray for me!” To this I replied, “I do not feel that I can do anything of the kind. What can I ask the Lord Jesus to do for one who will not trust Him? I see nothing to pray about. If you will believe Him, you shall be saved. If you will not believe Him, I cannot ask Him to invent a new way to gratify your unbelief.” Then she said again, “I will try to believe.” But I told her solemnly I would have none of her trying; for the message from the Lord did not mention trying, but said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). I pressed upon her the great truth, that “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36); and its terrible reverse: “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
I urged her to full faith in the once crucified but now ascended Lord, and the Holy Spirit there and then enabled her to trust. She most tenderly said, “Oh sir, I have been looking to my feelings, and this has been my mistake! Now I trust my soul with Jesus, and I am saved.” She found immediate peace through believing. There is no other way.
One notes that Spurgeon directed sinners to trust Christ, not to pray. Can anyone doubt that any one of these three lost individuals would have prayed anything they had been told to, were they assured it would bring them justification? Yet Spurgeon did not refer them to Romans 10:9-13, and tell them to pray; he told them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved. One notes as well that he allowed the one sister to leave without making a salvation decision, after he impressed the gospel upon them both the best he knew how. If Romans 10:13 really promised that all who pray and ask for salvation are saved, his action would be criminal neglect of an eternal soul. But since the passage makes no such promise, would it not have been criminal, wicked sin to get her to pray, and then tell her she was saved, when she was not ready to believe, and thus leave her with a false assurance, a two-fold child of hell? Yet how many modern soulwinners would act as Spurgeon did? Spurgeon’s published sermons record one message on Romans 10:5-9, one on Romans 10:9, a two-part discourse on Romans 10:10 and a normal sermon on that verse, and one message each on Romans 10:11, 10:13, and 10:14-15; these are all that we have of him directly on this passage. A careful reader of these sermons will conclude that Spurgeon did not direct sinners to prayer or confession for justification, but to Christ crucified, directly, through simple trust in Him. Spurgeon preached a gospel of justification received simply and directly through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ.[xlviii]
More modern opponents of sinner’s prayer methodology also may be found. A search of the Internet will find fundamental Baptists who argue against it. Widely read non-Baptist authors may also be discovered. Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his classic and influential eight volume Systematic Theology, writes:
[S]alvation from its beginning to its end is all a work of God in response to saving faith uncomplicated by any form of human merit, virtue, or works[.] [This] is the cornerstone in the whole structure of Soteriology. . . . Too often this essential feature of salvation is acknowledged as a theory and then, for want of due consideration or consistency, such human requirements are imposed on the unsaved as the condition of their salvation as deny the fundamental truth of salvation by faith alone. . . . Outward actions have been stressed in soul-winning—actions which may be performed apart from any heart-acceptance of Christ as Savior. These outward professions have too often been counted as salvation. Because of the fact that such superficial avowals prove spurious, doctrines have been encouraged which allow for the possibility of surrendering saving faith. . . . Such professions must end in failure; but little consideration has been given to the damage which is done to the soul that attempts such man-impelled professions and finds them to fail. Any method or appeal which encourages men to do aught other than to believe on Christ is fraught with dangers which are infinite and eternal. . . . [Some of the] more common features of human responsibility which are too often erroneously added to the one requirement of faith or belief [are] . . . believe and be baptized . . . believe and confess Christ . . . believe and confess sin or make restitution . . . [and] believe and implore God to save.[xlix]
Articles in a variety of recent evangelical theological journals discuss and come to conclusions very similar to those in this analysis.[l] Certainly many who adopt the modern “sinner’s prayer” theology do so unthinkingly, simply because they have received it from someone else, and not because they have evaluated it and determined that it has a sound Biblical basis.
It must be clarified that the affirmation of this analysis is not simply that “prayer does not save you,” as many advocates of the “sinner’s prayer” state immediately before they proceed to lead men to pray them and then give the lost false assurance. Obviously prayer does not save, in the sense that it is not the ground or basis of justification. That is not the issue at hand. In that sense, faith does not save, either, for the blood and righteousness of Christ, not faith, is the ground or basis of salvation. What must be affirmed is that faith, not prayer or faith as channeled through prayer, is the sole means or instrumentality through which the Person and work of Christ is received.
The fact that God does not direct men to pray to be justified leads to the following conclusions:
1.) The current widespread confusion of the gospel has brought about countless spurious salvation decisions. People who could have been saved through door-to-door work, neighbors, co-workers, and family members who have been led in prayers but never borne any fruit because a true seed was never planted, are lost, and in need of Christ. Many who prayed a prayer and then reformed their lives and joined fundamental Baptist churches are also lost, because they have never come to Christ alone by faith alone, but have rather sought to channel Him through prayer. Furthermore, the modern pseudo-soulwinning movement that creates thousands of “salvation” decisions by manipulating people into reciting “sinner’s prayers” is based upon a fundamental misinterpretation of Scripture. Romans 10:9-13 is the staple proof-text to justify countless “converts” that never walk in newness of life (2 Corinthians 5:17). The confused pseudo-soulwinner argues, “They prayed and asked God to save them; does not Romans 10:13 say that all who call are saved?” However, a correct understanding of Biblical salvation, where the Holy Spirit convicts and draws the awakened sinner to repentant faith in Christ, makes such winds of corrupt doctrine and practice impossible. Furthermore, those who have been repulsed by such clearly unscriptural dogma and used it as an excuse to cease engaging in aggressive, confrontational soulwinning for “lifestyle [non]evangelism” should reconsider. Perhaps “it didn’t work,” perhaps the “converts” never came to church because they never were saved; perhaps correctly wielding the Spirit’s sword, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), instead of misusing it, will lead, by God’s grace, to genuine fruit, fruit that remains, and a harvest of truly new-born souls.
2.) Many people have a false assurance of salvation because they have completed the “sinner’s prayer” ritual. Since God does not promise that if the lost pray and ask God for salvation, He will forgive them, but He has promised justification to those who believe, and to ask instead is to reject God’s way, there is no Biblical ground to conclude that someone has been lead to ask Christ to save him was indeed born again at that time. If such a lost sinner is ready to believe, then it is possible that he will, despite the fact that he is told to pray instead; but if he is not ready to believe, getting him to pray will not bring him any nearer to Christ. It will simply plant a false hope in his head. The process of leading someone to pray, say he is lost, and then ask God to save him, using Romans 10:13 as a guarantee that God will hear that prayer, of necessity confuses the gospel and makes it a matter of works instead of faith—prayer, including the “sinner’s prayer,’ is a good work. At what point in the act of saying a sinner’s prayer is the lost soul supposed to be justified, anyway? Is it when he admits that he is lost? Is it when he finishes pronouncing the words, “Lord, save me,” or perhaps somewhere in the middle of saying those words? Is it when he says “Amen” at the end? There is no place in the “sinner’s prayer” ritual for a salvation by faith before making such a prayer—an already regenerate individual is lying and displeasing God if he says, “Lord, I am lost, please save me,” for if one is saved already, it is wrong to tell the Lord that he is lost and ask for forgiveness. It is as inappropriate for one who has just believed and been justified to say he is lost and ask for justification as it is for the saint who has been born again for years. For that matter, it is as inappropriate for earthly saints, since they are eternally secure and unshakeably certain of everlasting glory, to claim to be lost and ask for justification, as it is for those who are already home with the Lord to pray so. On the other hand, to promise someone who is lost that he will be saved if he sincerely asks God for forgiveness by its very nature confuses the gospel of salvation by faith alone. This is a powerful tool in the hands of Satan to subtily turn the needy away from Christ to a false hope and eternal hell fire. Many people ask God to save them over and over again, but never receive the peace and joy of the knowledge of the forgiveness of sin because they remain without pardon, for they have not believed the gospel through the addition of this subtle deception of prayer for forgiveness.
3.) This misinterpretation has taken assurance from many Christians who should have it. Since it is evident that not all who pray are saved, some poor souls who have believed in Christ are worried that they did not pray correctly or jump through some other hoop of modern man-made sinner’s prayer ritual, and they are left confused when they should be rejoicing in their safety in the Rock, Christ Jesus. It is false counsel to instruct one seeking assurance of salvation to try to remember if he sincerely asked God to save him. He should think and see if he saw himself as a ruined sinner who in repentance cast himself on Christ’s cross-work—if he was “fully persuaded, that what He had promised, He was able also to perform,” and rested himself wholly on the once-crucified Christ. In 1 John, the book God gave believers so that they could obtain assurance of salvation (5:13), having prayed and asked the Lord to be saved is never listed as a mark of regeneracy, and having neglected to pray for salvation is not listed as a mark of the unconverted. A doubting believer should see if he ever came to trust in Christ, and see if his life manifests the marks in 1 John. He should not be directed to consider any aspect whatever of his praying, or not having prayed, a “sinner’s prayer.” Nor should he be told that the way to get assurance is to repeat the sinner’s prayer again, and whether or not he was saved previously, now he surely must be, because of Romans 10:13.
4.) God has been stripped of glory through this practice of pointing men to themselves and their prayers and away from the crucified and risen Son of God.
5.) There must be a return to Biblical evangelism. Salesmanship and a winsome personality can get people to ask God to save them; only the Holy Spirit can draw a man to believe in Christ. There is none that seeketh after God, and only an Omnipotent hand can open lost, blinded eyes. The soulwinner must be right with God before proclaiming the gospel; he must be filled with the Spirit, must pray and plead, weep and humble himself before the God of the harvest, and fervently intercede for lost men (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1; Acts 7:60). The saints can spread the declarations of their God before His eyes: He has said that He would have all men come to repentance—that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked—and that Christ has died for all. Surely, then, the merciful God of love will work in men to save them, that the wounds in Christ’s hands and side, His ineffable condescension and humiliation in the incarnation, and His agonizing cry when forsaken by His God, would be for their good, not their greater damnation. Then, when going door to door, passing out tracts, or preaching in the streets, as when dealing with neighbors and friends, God’s people must wield the sword of the Word so that the Spirit of God truly awakens and convicts the lost (John 16:8). Men must be taught the foundational truths about the Triune God, since eternal life is to know Him, and the One He has sent. They must be shown that they are not just sinners, but awful, lost, undone sinners, headed to and worthy of hell, without anything pleasing in them whatsoever (Jn 3:6; Rom 8:8). They must truly be led to see their utter lostness and helplessness, their worthiness of damnation, and their certainty of falling into it, with the vanity, folly, and rebellion of their attempts to seek peace with God their own way. If they are not first awakened, they will not believe in Christ; Christ came to bring sinners to repentance, not save the self-righteous (Luke 5:31-32). Once they accept and acknowledge their lostness, and, by God’s grace, they are sorry not just that they are headed for the lake of fire but that they have sinned against God, and they are willing to repent, they must be directed to the Son of God, the Sin-Bearer and Substitute, who was made sin for them and died in their place (2 Corinthians 5:21). They must understand the all-sufficiency of that once-for-all sacrifice for the complete salvation of their souls. Then they must be directed to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. They must be shown that he that believeth hath everlasting life, shown the meaning of saving faith, and pointed to the grand Object of that faith, the Son of Man who is God the Son. They must be urged to come to Him at once, and be saved. Both repentance (Ac 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25) and faith (1 Cor 3:5-7; Ac 18:27; Php 1:29) are gifts from God (cf. Jn 6:44; Jam 1:17-18; Mt 16:17; Jn 1:12-13). The Lord is far more eager to save men than any self-centered mortal is for any other’s salvation; the Father gave His Son for them, so how can any doubt He wishes to save them? If God’s people evangelize His way, if they preach the gospel and point the lost to Christ crucified, who can doubt that God, who is love, will convict and draw the lost, open their eyes, and save them? Is not the Spirit omnipotent? Is not the Word of God sharp to cleave asunder soul and spirit, joints and marrow? There is no need to replace salvation by faith with the chaff of a man-made plan of prayer for salvation, based upon a misinterpretation of Romans 10:13, as a means of getting more “saved” than would come to the new birth doing things God’s way. Why not just follow Scripture, and, trusting that God has the best plan, see His hand at work and His blessings richly poured out? Many more will be converted when His work is done the way He requires. In all of this holy soul-winning work, direction by the Spirit of God and absolute dependenence upon Him is crucial, as is the knowledge and proper use of the sword, the Word of God, to give sinners the specific words from the Lord appropriate for their situation, since “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). To preach the gospel Biblically will almost always take longer and be more detailed than is the plan presented in the “Roman’s Road.” The examples in Acts of repeated and careful dealing with those among the unconverted who are willing to listen also form a basis for employing a series of evangelistic Bible studies with inquirers.[li]
6.) The use of gospel tracts that actually preach Christ and Him crucified, and salvation by faith in His finished work, rather than tracts that throw a few verses at the lost, tell them to pray a prayer, and then inform them that they are on their way to heaven, is needed.
7.) If the sin of misusing Scripture is confessed, and a fresh study of Biblical evangelism, searching out the mostly older works which preach the gospel rightly, is begun, with an improved theology and a better methodology, by God’s grace and for His glory, the Lord may be expected to do great things. His hand is not shortened that it cannot redeem—it is man’s errors that keep back His blessings. Would not a revival of Biblical soulwinning be a necessary precursor for regional, national, and even worldwide revival? A God that does above all that man can ask or think—a Father that so loved the world that He gave His very Son for it—a Savior who has the keys of hell and of death—a Spirit who is able to create the world ex nihilo and can create a new heart in the most desperate rebel—Jehovah our banner calls His people to follow Him to miraculous and glorious conquests. With an offensive weapon in the Word of God which is stronger than the strongest in all national armies, let the born-again hosts of the Lord learn to use His Word rightly, and, leaning on Him, see Him perform miracles of regeneration using the clay vessels of saints as His chosen means!
God did not inspire a command that sinners pray to be saved; He commanded them to believe in His Son, and live! Great men of God in the past did not command sinners to pray to be saved, but told them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. What about you, dear reader? Do you instruct others to believe and be saved, or to pray and be saved? And yet more close to home—what is your confidence? Have you believed, and are you saved? Or have you placed prayer, a duty for the saved, yes, but a false gospel when made a necessity for justification, between you and the Savior? “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The addition of prayer to faith for salvation is more widespread and as dangerous as the doctrine that repentance is not necessary for salvation. If one thinks prayer must be added to faith to become God’s child, he will not be saved when he repeats a sinner’s prayer—he will not have come to Christ and trusted in Him alone, directly, any more than those who assert baptism, communion, Mary, speaking in tongues, or any other combination of works, are needed to be counted righteous for Christ’s sake. Many conservative Lutherans believe that justification is by faith alone, but also that baptism is needed for salvation; their babies, when sprinkled, allegedly receive a “seed of faith” which then saves them. Thus, their infants are justified by faith alone—but only through the vehicle of baptism. Obviously, those that believe this are lost, having received a false gospel; but what is the difference between making baptism or other ordinances conditions for faith and thus justification, and making prayer a condition for faith and thus justification? The way to heaven is very narrow, and it is by faith alone, by coming to Christ and trusting only in His Person and work, directly and without any mediation of human works whatsoever, including prayer.
These facts do not lead to the conclusion that everyone who has prayed a “sinner’s prayer” in connection with his conversion testimony is lost; surely many have trusted Christ at some point while praying, and the Lord Jesus promises that “he that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Thankfully, God is still ready to save, although His human instruments are sinful, use bad methodologies, and are weak and unprofitable, and He can and does work despite their errors. Nevertheless, to tell the lost they must pray to be saved, to tell them that they have a guarantee from God that He will save them if they sincerely pray and ask Him to do so, along with the various other similar promises and methodologies employed today by so many in professedly Bible-believing Christianity, based upon an incorrect understanding of the verses under discussion, is wrong and horribly dangerous. To give someone assurance of salvation with Romans 10:13 because he has sincerely asked God to save him is misusing Scripture and imparting a false assurance. To do so makes one guilty, unknowingly for the most part, to be sure, but nevertheless guilty, of misdirecting sinners, of pointing them away from Christ crucified, away from simple trust in Him, to the work of man, the filthy rag of prayer for salvation; guilty of confusing the soul-saving gospel. (Happily, 1 John 1:9 is a promise in Scripture to the sincere prayer of the saint.) How many have not truly come to the Savior because they have been misdirected to prayer? How many jewels in the Lord Jesus’ crown, how many of those who could have been the exalted Savior’s everlasting worshipers, are now in the pit because of this false handling of God’s Word? How many have gone to hell because of such unscriptural presentations in door to door soulwinning; how many are lost on bus routes because they have come to prayer instead of to the Lord Jesus—how many church members in good standing, and even Sunday school teachers, deacons, Christian school teachers, zealous soulwinners, are lost, having prayed, but never having believed in the Lord Jesus Christ? How many are the multitudes that have a false hope because of a wrong view of Romans 10:9-13? How Satan must love this misinterpretation! And surely there are—may God have mercy on them, and mercy on His people to make such tares few—missionaries, evangelists, and pastors of independent Baptist churches and other fundamentalist associations (not to mention the multitudes of the unregenerate in evangelical Christiandom) that are currently under the wrath of God and apart from Christ because they have not come to Him in faith, having instead received the subtle Galatianism of making prayer a requirement for salvation! Furthermore, how many Christians have had their spiritual life hindered greatly because of seeking assurance by thinking about the kind of sinner’s prayer that they prayed, rather than in the manner taught in Scripture? Let God’s people turn from this perversion of the glorious true gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, and by His grace, once again preach simply “He that BELIEVETH on Him is not condemned,” the glorious and simple gospel of repentant faith in Christ alone, direct and unmediated by baptism, confession, prayer, or anything else! Amen and Amen.
It is appropriate at this juncture, before final closure of this work, to expound further a few caveats to this analysis. Again, it is not affirmed that all who sought the Lord in prayer at the time they first believed in Jesus Christ are lost; “whosoever believeth” really means “whosoever,” regardless of whether one was in prayer at the time or not. Nor is it affirmed that everyone who has employed Romans 10:13 in a way argued against in this analysis is a heretic and an unbeliever (for such an assertion would condemn its own author, as he did not hold this view of Romans 10:9-13 for years after his conversion). Indeed, there is no reason to suppose that coming to Christ spiritually in faith may not with some frequency be associated with prayer (cf. Luke 18:13; 15:18-19, etc.). There is nothing wrong with suggesting to one who is seeking salvation that he find a place alone, and seek the Lord, crying as did the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner”—as long as it is very clearly stressed that faith, not prayer, is the means through which the redemption that is in Christ Jesus is received, that God does not receive the prayers of the unregenerate, and that the call of the gospel is to come directly to the Lord Jesus Christ through the sole instrumentality of repentant faith in His Person and work. While there is nothing wrong with those seeking salvation praying, reading the Bible, coming to church and listening to preaching, and engaging in other similar acts, they must not be informed that God has promised to save all those who sincerely ask. Having the lost repeat the words of a prayer after someone else will very likely do them no good, but eliminate their convictions and give them false assurance, and so produce great evil. If they are to pray, they must be told to look to Him who was “lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:14-18), and they must seek Him until they find peace through faith in His blood and righteousness. The example of the tax collector in the temple illustrates what sort of prayer the unconverted man can pray. The verb “be merciful” in this passage, hilaskomai, is related to the noun hilasterion, rendered “propitiation” in Romans 3:25 and “mercy seat” (the place of propitiation) in Hebrews 9:5, and to the noun hilasmos, rendered “propitation” in 1 John 2:2; 4:10. This repentant tax collector’s prayer was not for some general mercy from God, but came from his looking to the place of sacrifice, the place where God was propitiated in the temple, and thus was in line with the Old Testament faith in the coming Messiah and the true sacrifice that would be accomplished by Him. It should also be noted that the publican did not say one time, in the manner of the modern sinner’s prayer theology, “Lord, be merciful to me. Thank you for saving me. Amen,” but he sought the Lord, looking to the propitiatory sacrifice, until he found peace through believing, and went to his house justified—the verbs employed[lii] indicate his continuing action in prayer, his continuing seeking, until he, through God’s sovereign working, placed his faith in the Savior and received pardon through the blood of atonement.
Furthermore, it must also be explicitly affirmed, to avoid any sort of invalid deduction from what has been already said, that the truth of justification by faith alone apart from prayer does not mean that conversion is a passive decision or a merely mental assent to the facts of the gospel. Repentance and faith are intellectual, emotional, and volitional.
Finally, this author recognizes that he is not infallible—only the Bible is. He will happily change his position or alter any statements in the foregoing analysis that are demonstrated to be inaccurate or unscriptural. This work is also written by one who is a friend of soulwinning churches and Christians. It is not meant to destroy them, only to oppose false theology and methodology, and promote the truth for the glory of that God, who so loved the world, that He “gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Helpful Resources for Biblical Evangelism
1.) The Bible, specifically evangelistic examples in the gospels and in the book of Acts.
2.) Around the Wicket Gate, Charles H. Spurgeon
3.) Faith, Charles H. Spurgeon
4.) The Blood of Jesus, William Reid. (Emmaus, PA: Challenge Press. Challenge Press is a ministry of Lehigh Valley Baptist Church, 4702 Colebrook Ave, Emmaus, PA, 18049/ (610) 965-4700/http://lvbaptist.org. A free literature catalog is well worth ordering. They also have a four-week salvation Bible study which is quite good for dealing with lost sinners. A by-mail version is also available.) The book is also available for download at http://faithsaves.net.
5.) Numerous older authors, such as Bonar, Spurgeon, etc. from Chapel Library, 2603 W. Wright St., Pensacola, FL, 32505/ (850) 428-6666/ firstname.lastname@example.org. Chapel Library is a ministry of Mount Zion Bible church. Their free literature and tape catalogs contain numerous wonderful selections. As a word of caution, they are Calvinists, non-dispensational, and, naturally, universal in ecclesiology while only “Baptistic” and not Baptist.
6.) “Seven Reasons NOT To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart,” by Dennis M. Rokser, Duluth Bible Church, 201 W. St. Andrews St., Duluth, MN, 55803/ (212) 724-5914/ email@example.com. The pamphlet deals with the specific issue mentioned in its title very well. The church publishes other materials, some of which are surely interesting, but it sadly supports the heresy circulating at Dallas Theological Seminary that repentance is not needed for salvation, but is something for the saint only; saving faith is not said to involve repentance.
7.) “The OTHER Jesus,” Pastor Ovid Need, Jr., Linden Baptist Church, P. O. Box 6, Linden, IN 47955/ (317) 339-4609. Another pamphlet which deals with the “asking Jesus in your heart” issue well. Pastor Need does believe in repentance, but is also a Calvinist, and has a few other theological issues which do not affect this pamphlet but do appear in other materials of his. This pamphlet can be read and downloaded at http://faithsaves.net.
8.) Preaching to a Dying Nation, R. L. Hymers Jr. & Christopher Cagan, Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle, P. O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Highly recommended reading exposing the error of what is termed “decisionism.” Although there are a few things in the book which are not correct, such as an argument against expositional preaching through books and the confusion of belief that the KJV is without error with the Ruckmanite heresy (the authors are, however, generally pro-TR/KJV), in general it is eye-opening reading which the discerning and soulwinning reader and pastor will find contains numerous excellent observations, opinions, and evaluations of historical trends in soulwinning methodology which, if put to good use, would result in more genuine conversions. The book also has several valuable appendices, including a section on methods of leading souls to saving faith and a list of nineteen old-time evangelistic resources that it would be far better to be familiar with than the “Four Spiritual Laws,” the “Romans Road,” and books on how to manipulate people to pray prayers and come down an isle by “leading soulwinners” of today who can save more souls themselves in one day with give-aways than God the Spirit saved at Pentecost. Today’s Apostasy, another book by Hymers and Cagan on the issue of Biblical evangelism and preaching, is another excellent and valuable work available from the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle. Among other fine features, it contains a very valuable appendix on doing personal work with sinners (in the book, in the context of pastoral counseling of the lost after church services towards their conversion.) Today’s Apostasy can be viewed electronically or downloaded at http://faithsaves.net. Unfortunately, in books composed after these two, Hymers has taken his (correct) opposition to decisionism to the opposite extreme.
9.) The Soul-Winner’s Fire, John R. Rice. Without God’s hand of power and blessing, the saint cannot expect to see men converted. This is a great book for the soulwinner’s heart. Available from Sword of the Lord publishers, P. O. Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37133/ (800) 247-9673. This book has been combined recently with another publication by Brother Rice, and the two are being sold by Sword of the Lord together in one volume. John Rice has many excellent books which are published by this organization. Unfortunately, Curtis Hutson, his successor over the Sword of the Lord the organization, repudiated repentance as taught by Brother Rice in his heretical pamphlets “Repentance” and “Lordship Salvation.” Unedited materials by brother Rice are usually great, but materials by others from the Sword cannot be as heartily recommended.
10.) Repentance is More Than a Sinner’s Prayer, David Cloud (Way of Life Literature, P. O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061-0368, (866) 295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://wayoflife.org). This book refutes the heresy that removes repentance from the gospel. Way of Life literature also has many other fine publications.
11.) Landmarks of Baptist Doctrine, 4 volumes, Robert J. Sargent (Bible Baptist Church Publications, 1701 Harnes Rd., Oak Harbor, Washington, 98277, (360) 675-8311, http://www.baptistpublications.org/bbcp, email@example.com). This is a good systematic theology from a (Scriptural) fundamental Baptist perspective. Before one reads any systematic theology by Protestants and neo-evangelicals, he would do well to master the content of this series. Bible Baptist church publications publishes a complete Bible institute curriculum and a number of good tracts and other publications.
12.) There are many resources on Biblical evangelism, including both written, audio, and video resources about how to evangelize without a “sinners prayer” methodology, and large numbers of other valuable Christian resources, at http://faithsaves.net.
[i] Matthew 7:23 (“profess”); 10:32; 14:7 (“promised”); Luke 12:8 (2x); John 1:20 (2x); 9:22; 12:42; Acts 23:8; 24:14; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:12 (“professed”); Titus 1:16 (“profess”); Hebrews 11:13; 13:15 (“giving thanks”); 1 John 1:9; 2:23 (“acknowledgeth”); 4:2, 3, 15; 2 John 1:7.
[ii] Compare the reference, a few chapters later, to “every tongue shall confess” (Romans 14:11), with a literal tongue and a literal, verbal confession (employing a verb, exhomologeo, that is very closely related to the one in Romans 10:9-10).
[iii] It is not possible to make the text refer to some sort of inward, symbolic “mouth” that is not actually a mouth. When the word “mouth” appears with reference to mankind in the New Testament, reference is made to an actual mouth the overwhelming majority of the time. The only times the word is not literal are the uncommon instances where it is employed as an anthropomorphism for God, synechdochically for words that come from a literal human mouth (Matthew 18:16; Luke 21:15), or used in the Greek idiom for the edge (“mouth”) of a sword (Luke 21:24; Hebrews 11:34). There is nothing in Romans 10:9-10 about God confessing with His mouth—men are in view. There is nothing about a sword, or anything nonliteral, anything other than actual confession with a literal mouth. Therefore, unless one can dismiss out of hand the other 78 uses of the word “mouth” in the New Testament (Matthew 4:4; 5:2; 12:34; 13:35; 15:8, 11, 17-18; 17:27; 18:16; 21:16; Luke 1:64, 70; 4:22; 6:45; 11:54; 19:22; 21:15, 24; 22:71; John 19:29; Acts 1:16; 3:18, 21; 4:25; 8:32, 35; 10:34; 11:8; 15:7; 18:14; 22:14; 23:2; Romans 3:14, 19; 10:8-10; 15:6; 2 Corinthians 6:11; 13:1; Ephesians 4:29; 6:19; Colossians 3:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Timothy 4:17; Hebrews 11:33-34; James 3:3, 10; 1 Peter 2:22; 2 John 12; 3 John 14; Jude 16; Revelation 1:16; 2:16; 3:16; 9:17-19; 10:9-10; 11:5; 12:15-16; 13:2, 5-6; 14:5; 16:13; 19:15, 21), Romans 10:9-10 refers to a literal confession with a literal mouth.
[iv] It is worth noting that there is no clear reference in the Pauline epistles where sodzo in the future tense, as found in Romans 10:9, 13, refers to justification. A very large portion of the time “saved” in in the future tense refers to eschatological salvation, an idea which fits every instance in the book of Romans. Romans even specifically contrasts justification with ultimate salvation employing sodzo in the future tense: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath [he orge, eschatological wrath] through him” (Romans 5:9). Furthermore, sodzo as a future passive indicative, the specific form found in Romans 10:9, 13, refers to in every instance but one to eschatological deliverance in Paul’s writings, and it never refers to justification (Romans 5:9-10; 9:27; 10:9, 13; 11:26; 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 Timothy 2:15). Thus, seeing the word “saved” in Romans 10:9-14 as a reference to eschatological glorification, not justification, is the sense of the word one would expect, and one that is consistent with Paul’s use of the verb in Romans and the rest of his epistles. The complete reference list for Paul’s usage of sodzo in the future tense is Romans 5:9-10; 9:27; 10:9, 13; 11:14, 26; 1 Corinthians 3:15; 7:16; 1 Timothy 2:15; 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:18.
[v] “The order of the two conditional clauses [of v. 9], at first sight surprising since confession issues from belief, is no doubt due to the fact that ‘in thy mouth’ precedes ‘in thy heart’ in Deut 30:14” (pg. 527, Romans, C. E. B. Cranfield, vol. 2. New York, NY: T & T Clark, 2002).
[vi] “The word that connects v. 9 to v. 8 (hoti) . . . we translate it ‘because,’ [and thus v. 9] would explain how it is that ‘the word is near you.’ . . . Paul is therefore explaining the ‘nearness’ of the word of faith, the gospel, by emphasizing that it demands only a simple response, and that, when responded to, it mediates God’s salvation . . . [thus signifying] ‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess . . .” (pg. 657, The Epistle to the Romans, Douglas Moo. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996).
[vii] It should be noted that the Greek passives pisteu/etai and oJmologei√tai in v. 10 “connote an impersonal nuance: ‘one believes,’ ‘one confesses.’ [Paul] thereby gives the verse a summary and principial character” (Moo, Romans, ibid.)
[viii] Consider also the declaration of the grammarian Daniel Wallace, discussing Greek conditional clauses, identifies the confession with the mouth in Romans 10:9 as evidence, not the cause, of being saved: “One way to look at . . . Romans 10:9 . . . is to consider the confession with the mouth as the ground or evidence upon which the inference ‘you shall be saved’ is based. But it is not the cause. The cause is in the second part of the condition, ‘If you believe in your heart. . . .’ It is not necessary to treat each protasis as bearing the same relationship to the apodosis” (pg. 686, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics).
[ix] The Epistle to the Romans. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Klock & Klock, 1982 (reprint ed.), Chapter 21.
[x] Pg. 55, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980 reprint ed.
[xi] Pg. 383, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Trans. A. Cusin, rev. & ed. Talbot W. Chambers. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1956 (reprint ed.)
[xii] One could not, without violating sound hermeneutics, argue against this by affirming that Romans 10:14 referred to some sort of belief in Christ that fell short of saving faith but led one to pray a sinner’s prayer and savingly believe at some point while saying the prayer. First, every time the verb believe (Gk. pisteuo) appears in the immediate context of 10:13, it refers to saving faith (Romans 9:33;10:4, 9, 10, 11, 16). Second, pisteuo is never used of the kind of non-saving, merely intellectual acknowledgment of facts, a “belief,” that a lost man can have in Christ (James 2:19) in any of the 21 instances of the verb believe in Romans. Third, pisteuo is never used for the non-saving “faith” in Christ a lost man can have anywhere in the 56 instances of the verb in the Pauline epistles (Romans 1:16; 3:2, 22; 4:3, 5, 11, 17-18, 24; 6:8; 9:33; 10:4, 9-11, 14, 16; 13:11; 14:2; 15:13; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 3:5; 9:17; 11:18; 13:7; 14:22; 15:2, 11; 2 Corinthians 4:13; Galatians 2:7, 16; 3:6, 22; Ephesians 1:13, 19; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2:4, 10, 13; 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:11-12; 1 Timothy 1:11, 16; 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 1:3; 3:8; Hebrews 4:3; 11:6—1 Corinthians 15:2 is no exception (nor is Hebrews 11:6; see John Owen’s Hebrews commentary); the Gk. 1st class condition assumed true for the sake of argument—vain belief is what one has in the impossible situation that there is no resurrection and Christ did not rise). Thus, Romans 10:14 must of necessity refer to saving faith, which preceeds the calling of Romans 10:13 in time.
[xiii] While, based on other passages of Scripture, someone who consistently refuses to confess the Lord Jesus before men will be denied by Christ as someone who never had true faith and a new heart (Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9), no passage anywhere in the Bible, including Romans 10:9-11, teaches that someone who trusts in Christ, but dies of a heart attack before he can confess Christ before others, will be anywhere other than heaven forever. Actively deciding to deny Christ, instead of confessing Him, as a summary of one’s life (the aorists in Matthew 10:32-33 and Luke 12:8-9 are constative) is condemned in Matthew 10:32-33 and Luke 12:8-9, but no passage anywhere promises hell to those who simply do not confess the Lord because had have no opportunity to do so.
[xiv] His falling at Christ’s feet and giving thanks to Him was evidence of his prior justification by faith.
[xv] Not only are there no examples of Christ and the apostles leading anyone to say a sinner’s prayer in Scripture, but an examination of the evidence from the patristic writers in the massive set of the Ante-Nicene writers edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson supplies not a single command for a lost man to pray a sinner’s prayer. Was nobody born again for centuries in the period of the early church?
[xvi] Probably the best attempt to find an example of a command to pray to be born again in Scripture is the discussion of Peter and Simon the sorcerer in Ac 8:22. There is nothing else anywhere in the Bible that even approaches a command to pray for justification, and there is so much debate about Simon, whether he was truly a child of God or not, along with all the other details of his story in Acts, that it should be obvious that this is an exceedingly bruised reed and a barely smoking flax indeed to build a theology of prayer in addition to faith for justification. Even if one grants that Simon was not saved (the author’s own view), 8:22 could be a command to repent for forgiveness and subsequently pray to God. Simon “believed” in the sense that he mentally assented to the fact that there was a greater Power working in the apostles than he was able to command, but he did not exercise saving faith. From the context, when Simon asked Peter to pray for him, it appears that he did not understand that Christ is the free and gracious Mediator for all undone sinners who come to Him empty handed (cf. Rom 3:22); he thought that the miracle-working apostles could better pray and serve as his proxies for power in the supernatural world, a view natural for one who was involved in the superstitious and demonic system of sorcery in that day. The Holy Spirit is for all who are saved (Ac 2:38), for all who obey, apostles or not (Ac 5:32), etc.; Simon thought He was only for the select few who had apostolic hands laid on them, and he wanted power to do miracles, not simple forgiveness of sin through surrendered, repentant faith in the crucified Christ as His sole Mediator and Substitute. Consequently, Peter’s command for him to repent and personally pray struck at the heart of Simon’s mediatorial error which kept him from salvation. This is the view of this writer, anyway (which, if it is correct, dispenses with prayer for justification in this passage)—if wrong, it does not affect the support found throughout the Bible for salvation by grace through faith alone. Furthermore, Peter did not promise Simon that if he sincerely asked God to save him, He would do so; he said “if perhaps . . . [you] may be forgiven” (Acts 8:22). This is far from the view promoted by modern sinner’s prayer methodology. Can it be wise to create a soteriology of prayer for justification and a methodology for dealing with eternal souls from a passage so controversial as this, one which by no means clearly teaches such a view, but provides, at best, extremely foggy support for it?
[xvii] Daniel Wallace, in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, states in relation to the aorist (p. 500), “One error in this regard is to see a particular category of usage (Aktionsart) as underlying the entire tense usage (aspect). This is the error of saying too much. Statements such as ‘the aorist means once-for-all action’ are of this sort. It is true that the aorist may, under certain circumstances, describe an event that is, in reality, momentary. But we run into danger when we say that this is the aorist’s unaffected meaning, for then we force it on the text in an artificial way. We then tend to ignore such aorists that disprove our view (and they can be found in every chapter of the NT) and proclaim loudly the ‘once-for-all’ aorists when they suit us.” However, even given the interpretation of the tenses in Romans 10:9-13 which would be most conducive to the prayer for justification view, the text does not support this teaching, as is demonstrated below.
[xviii] It is obvious that the confession of v. 9 and of v. 10 refers to the same sort of action. However, one who wished to affirm that the confession of v. 9 refers to saying a sinner’s prayer because of the aorist tense runs into severe difficulties with the present tense in v. 10, because just about nobody believes that a Christian must, throughout life, continue to repeat the sinner’s prayer, daily saying that he is lost and on his way to hell and asking to become a child of God. Furthermore, the “saved/salvation” of v. 9-10 evidently refers to the same thing. If the “saved” of v. 9 is justification, then the “saved” of v. 10 is also justification, and one must continue to say sinner’s prayers over and over again as a continuing action before one is justified. These problems are eliminated when one recognizes that neither v. 9 nor v. 10 has anything whatever to do with a lost man saying a sinner’s prayer.
[xix] “An indefinite relative clause contains a verb in the subjunctive mood plus the particle a‡n (or e˙a¿n) and refers to an unspecified individual or group, or to an event or action (e.g., o§ e˙a»n hØ\\ di÷kaion [whatever is right] in Matt 20:4; o§ß a·nqe÷lhØ e˙n uJmi√n ei•nai prw◊toß [whoever wants to be first among you] in Matt 20:27)” (pg. 661, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel Wallace).
[xx] “The [constative] aorist normally views the action as a whole, taking no interest in the internal workings of the action. It describes the action in summary fashion, without focusing on the beginning or end of the action specifically. This is by far the most common use of the aorist, especially with the indicative mood. The constative aorist covers a multitude of actions. The event might be iterative in nature, or durative, or momentary, but the aorist says none of this. It places the stress on the fact of the occurrence, not its nature” (Wallace, pg. 557-558).
[xxi] See Luke 12:8 (cf. Matthew 10:32-33); John 9:22; 1 John 4:15, the only other references in the NT to confessing Christ employing an/ean and an aorist subjunctive verb. Note also the ean + aorist subjunctive uses of believe (cf. Romans 10:9) in John 8:24; 12:47. Note the pattern of ean + aorist subjunctive + kai + aorist subjunctive, found within Romans 10:9, in Matthew 5:19 (clearly summary action, not one single act, with “break” and “teach”; cf. “do” and “teach” with an in the verse); Matthew 18:12 (the man did not have his sheep only for one instant); Mark 8:36 (the point is not that one would gain the whole world only for a split second); John 7:51 (a man on trial was not heard only for one instant); James 5:19 (unfortunately, people err from the truth longer than one instant); etc. Of course, since the event described by a constative aorist “might be iterative in nature, or durative or momentary, [although] the aorist says none of this” (Wallace pg. 557), some such aorists do indeed describe the event of a single moment (cf. Luke 12:38, etc.), but the use of the aorist alone by no means proves a verb to be instanteous action. As evidenced by the usages tabulated above, it is evident that the ean + aorist subjunctive + kai + aorist subjunctive syntax found in Romans 10:9 is employed in many verses where the action is not once-for-all or instantaneous. The complete NT list is Matthew 5:19; 18:3, 12; Mark 8:36; 10:11-12; 12:19; Luke 12:38, 45; 17:4; 20:28; John 6:53; 7:51; 12:47; 14:3; 15:7; 20:25; 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; James 5:19; Revelation 3:20.
[xxii] Romans 10:13 has the structure relative pronoun + an + aorist/2nd aorist subjunctive verb. There are 45 other verses in the New Testament which contain this structure (a few of these verses contain it more than one time). These are: Matthew 5:19, 21-22, 31-32; 10:33; 12:32, 50; 15:5; 16:25, 28; 18:6; 19:9; 21:44; 23:16, 18; 26:48; Mark 3:29, 35; 8:35, 38-9:1; 9:41-42; 10:44; 11:23; 14:44; Luke 9:4, 24, 26-27; 10:35; 12:8; 13:25; 20:18; John 1:33; 2:5; 4:14; 14:13; 15:16; Acts 2:21; 3:23; 8:19; James 4:4; 1 John 4:15. Many of these are constative, and some are clearly not a “once for all” action. Would anyone want to affirm that those who do and teach God’s commandments only one time will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19), or that whoever denies Christ once in his life is certain of eternal damnation (Matthew 10:33—in which case the apostle Peter is in hell, Matthew 26:34, 70, 72, 74-75)? If not, is it wise to make the Greek structure of Matthew 5:19 and 10:33 a proof, in Romans 10:13, that a once-for-all sinner’s prayer brings a lost man justification?
One should also note that in what Romans 10:13 is quoting, Joel 2:32’s statement, “whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered,” the “whosoever shall call” (aö∂rVqˆy_rRvSa l¬O;k) phrase does not require (although it is not inconsistent with) an instantaneous, once-for-all action in Hebrew syntax. rRvSa l¬O;k followed by an imperfect verb is clearly not the action of an instant in Leviticus 15:20; 20:25; Deuteronomy 14:26; 20:14; 24:8; 29:8; Joshua 2:19; Judges 7:5; 2 Samuel 3:21; Ecclesiastes 6:2; 8:3; Esther 2:13; etc. One notes as well that kol asher + qara’ (imperfect), as found in Joel 2:32, is rendered with present tense Greek verbs in the LXX of Psalm 145:18; e˙ggu\ß ku/rioß pa◊sin toi√ß e˙pikaloume÷noiß aujto/n pa◊si toi√ß e˙pikaloume÷noiß aujto\n e˙n aÓlhqei÷aˆ.
[xxiii] A brief note in relation to the middle voice employed for “call” here and elsewhere is in order; the verb epikaleo in the middle is the way to express the idea of calling upon someone, of prayer. In the active and passive it means “call, name, give a name or surname to” (Quoted from Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, F. Wilbur Gingrich, rev. by Frederick W. Danker, 2nd ed. Other lexica give the same sense). One cannot correctly read any other ideas into the use of the middle; it is simply the right voice to use for this verb to state that one is calling upon someone else in prayer. “The use of e˙pikale÷omai (middle) of invoking a god in prayer was well established in pagan Greek (it is found in Herodotus, Xenophon, Plato, Polybius, inscriptions and papyri). In the LXX such expressions [with this verb in the middle voice] . . . are used very frequently of invoking God in prayer; and [the verb in the middle] can even be used absolutely in the sense ‘to pray’ (Ps 4:1[LXX: 2]: cf. Acts 7:59). In the NT it is used [in this way likewise] . . . [In Romans 10:13] the word has its technical sense of ‘invoke in prayer.’” (pg. 532, Cranfield, Romans).
[xxiv] The tense of the verb “wash” in Acts 22:16 supports a figurative, not literal, washing in the verse. In the Greek middle voice, it points to the idea that Paul washed his sins away himself in baptism. The verb is apolousai, an aorist imperative middle, 2nd person singular, “in our literature only middle [voice], ‘wash something away from oneself, wash oneself’” (apolouo, pg. 117, BDAG). Note that “be baptized” in the verse also translates the middle voice baptisai; here alone in the New Testament, out of 80 appearances (30 active, and 47 passive) of the verb, is the middle voice form used for Christian baptism (cf. Mark 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:2 for the other two middle uses). The verse emphasizes Paul’s acting upon himself; he is arising, having himself baptized, and washing away his own sins. Compare Job 9:30, LXX (the only appearance of apolouo in the Greek Old Testament), “For if I should wash myself (apolousomai, middle voice of apolouo) with snow, and purge myself (apokatharomai, middle voice) with pure hands.” Note also Josephus, Antiquities 22.214.171.124, where the middle voice is used for a man who “went as he was, without washing himself” (hos eichen mede apolousamenos). Also note the middle voices in Josephus, War 126.96.36.199-150, “it is a rule with them to wash themselves (apolousesthai) . . . they must wash themselves (apolousesthai).” Compare Philo, Laws 3:89 (“washed themselves,” apolousontai).
In contrast, in Revelation 1:5, where “Jesus Christ . . . loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,” the word “washed” is in the active voice. Christ really washes His saints from their sins in His own blood, and believers consequently representatively wash themselves from sin in baptism.
A study of the aorist imperatives connected by kai in the New Testament demonstrates that the commands in Acts 22:16 for Paul to be baptized and wash away his sin take place simultaneously (Matthew 21:21; Mark 1:25; 2:9, 11; 10:21; 11:23; Luke 4:35; 6:8; 17:6; 18:22; 21:28; John 7:52; Acts 2:38; 8:29; 9:6, 34; 10:13; 11:7; 12:8; 13:41; 22:16, 18; 26:16; Galatians 4:27; James 4:9; Revelation 10:9; 11:1); never in the New Testament does the second aorist imperative in this construction take place temporally prior to the first. Paul is thus not commanded to literally wash away his sins at a time prior to baptism, but is commanded to be baptized and at the same moment figuratively or representatively wash away his sins. The aorist participle calling is also temporally simultaneous with the aorist imperative wash away. “One has no ground for assuming that antecedent action is a necessary or an actual fact with the aorist participle. The aorist participle of simultaneous action is in perfect accord with the genius and history of the Greek participle. . . . [W]hen the verb precedes the aorist participle it is nearly always the participle of coincident action. . . . It so happens that the N. T. shows a great number of such examples. . . . Acts . . . is particularly rich in examples of the coincident aorist participle which follows the verb. See 10:39; 11:30; 13:33; 15:8, 9; 19:2; 23:22, 25, 30; 25:13; 26:10. It is in point of fact a characteristic of Luke’s style to use frequently the coincident participle (both aorist and present) placed after the principal verb. . . . The action [is] specially likely to be coincident if the principal verb was also aorist” (pg. 1113-1114 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934). Thus, the calling on the Lord in Acts 22:16 takes place at the same time as the figurative washing from sin, namely, at the point of baptism, when the one baptized has already been regenerated by faith. To affirm that Acts 22:16 connects the literal washing away of sin to a calling on the Lord that is allegedly prior to baptism is both poor Greek grammar and bad exegesis.
[xxvii] “[There is a] wide distinction between the restoration of a covenant people and the present estate of the [unconverted] human race—Jew and Gentile alike—‘under sin’” (pg. 213, vol. 3, Systematic Theology, Lewis Sperry Chafer (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1976)).
[xxx] This is not to say that other arguments are not advanced to replace with externalized ritual the supernatural internal action of faith in Christ for salvation. For example, Meredith Kline (“Abram’s Amen, Westminster Theological Journal 31:1 (Nov 1968), pgs. 1-11), argues that the verb ‘aman, “believe,” in Genesis 15:6, implies an “external expression of belief.” However, Kline comes to this conclusion because he assumes the very dangerous a priori that Moses would not record an internal conversion of the nature of saving faith, and therefore states that readers should be “alert to the desirability of discovering some outward occurrences that will account for what is said about both Abram and [Jehovah]” (pg. 1).
[xxxi] The picture of saving faith employed by the Lord Jesus in John 3:14-16 of the Israelites looking to the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:6-9) is a beautiful picture of saving faith—the moment the Israelites looked at the serpent, they were healed, and the moment a sinner looks in faith to the once-crucified Christ, he is eternally made whole. The “asking Jesus into your heart” idea does not work well at all with the Old Testament typology. Did the Israelites ask the brazen serpent (or the sacrificial animals they brought to the tabernacle and temple) to come into their hearts?
[xxxii] Finney, although lauded by many as a great revivalist and preacher, was actually a Pelagian heretic who denied the imputation of Adam’s sin, total depravity, substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, regeneration, eternal security, and other vital doctrines, and who consequently falls under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9 for those who preach another gospel. (Documentation of Finney’s heresies is available, among other places, at faithsaves.net in the essay, “Considerations on Revival in American History” by Thomas Ross).
[xxxiii] “Sayings Not Found in Scripture,” Blue Letter Bible CD-ROM, version 2.11. Sowing Circle, 2006.
[xxxiv] An Humble Inquiry into the Rules of the Word of God concerning the Qualifications Requisite to a Complete Standing and Full Communion in the Visible Christian Church, Part 1, pgs. 442-443, quoted from the Encyclopedia Puritannica, CD ver. 3.0, 2006; www.puritannica.com.
[xxxv] Notes on the Bible (Old Testament), pg. 730, cited in ibid.
[xxxvi] Expository Thoughts on Luke, vol. 1, pgs. 282-283, cited in ibid.
[xxxvii] It should be noted that the view advanced in this analysis is not the only one advocated among either older or modern commentaries. Calvinist commentators, believing regeneration proceeds faith, often employed Romans 10:13 as a basis for the unconverted to beg God to regenerate them, hoping that at some point He would give them faith and then they would be saved. Since regeneration does not proceed faith, but is the logical consequent of faith, this interpretation of Romans 10:13 is invalid. Furthermore, even the Calvinist practice of lost people seeking God regularly in prayer and begging for God to give them faith is very different from the modern “sinner’s prayer.” The “sinner’s prayer” assumes that if one sincerely asks to be saved, and means it, God will certainly answer such a one-time petition. The (false) Calvinist view of Romans 10:13 assumes regular, repeated seasons of asking for regeneration.
Some other Calvinists also employed Romans 10:13 as a verse that evidences that anyone who calls on the Lord has already been regenerated, and so will be saved on that basis. This view also does not support the modern “sinner’s prayer” practice.
One can also find commentaries that support receiving forgiveness of sins through prayer, and affirm this doctrine in Romans 10:13. Since this is the doctrine of Rome and of other sacramentalists in Christendom, and a common confusion of the means which Christians employ to have their sins remitted for fellowship purposes (1 John 1:9) and the means the unconverted employ to receive justification, the existence of commentators advocating prayer for justification is not surprising. Commentaries whose comments are vague enough that one cannot determine what their particular position is may also be located.
[xxxviii] A Discourse of the Work of the Holy Spirit in Prayer, Chapter 9, elec. acc. in the John Owen Collection, Christian Library Series vol. 9. Rio, WI: AGES Digital Software, 2005.
[xxxix] Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, John Owen, part 1, chapter 2, “That the saints have this communion distinctly with the Father, Son, and Spirit,” etc., elec. acc. in John Owen Collection, AGES Digital Software.
[xl] Pg. 113; orig. pub. 1611; quoted from the Encyclopedia Puritannica, CD ver. 3.0, 2006; www.puritannica.com.
[xli] Comfortable Walking With God, orig. pub. 1626, pg. 338, quoted from the Encylopedia Puritannica.
[xlii] The Marrow of Modern Divinity, part 2, Thomas Boston (Works, vol. 7) pg. 407, cited in ibid.
[xliii] Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, sec. “Introduction,” in Works, vol. 1, Thomas Manton, pgs. 15-16, cited in ibid.
[xliv] Works, vol. 2, sec. “Wisdom is Justified of her Children,” Thomas Manton, pg. 107, cited in ibid.
[xlv] Quoted from the back cover of the Chapel Library pamphlet, “How Shall I Go to God?” It should be mentioned that, while evangelistic preaching should certainly emphasize and glorify Christ, and that point is well taken and legitimate, the “lifting up” of John 12:32 refers to the Savior’s earthly crucifixion on Golgotha (John 12:33), not to Christ-exalting gospel preaching. Thus, employing technical accuracy, it is not a good thing to “lift up” Christ—it is to participate in His crucifixion. The point about glorifying the Son of God in preaching is, nevertheless, well taken and something that can be Scripturally established from the evangelistic sermons in the book of Acts.
[xlvi] Robert Traill’s Works, 1696. Vol. I, pp. 266-269, cited on pg. 41 Holiness: Its Nature, Hinderances, Difficulties, and Roots, J. C. Ryle, vol 2. Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library, 2001 (repr. of London, 1879 ed.).
[xlvii] Both quotations are from the book’s preface.
[xlviii] The sermon on Romans 10:5-9 is #1700 in his complete published series, available in sixty-three volumes, including an index, from Pilgrim Publications, P. O. box 66, Pasadena, Texas 77501. These are all his sermons from 1855 in his youth until his death in 1892. In that sermon he stated that “confession” is post-justification, and compared it to “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” He stated that Romans 10:13 was an evidence or manifestation of faith (which Spurgeon agreed saves without being channeled through prayer), although he apparently viewed it as one time action; he said the kind of faith that cannot do miracles but leads one to pray is still saving faith, though weak. His sermon on Romans 10:9 (#1898) states that baptism is the confession of faith, and that confession is an evidence of justification; he absolutely did not define “confess with the mouth” as prayer or any other pre-justification act. In #519, the first of his two-part message on Romans 10:10 (part two is, of course, sermon #520), Spurgeon declares that “you may go to heaven without confessing: you cannot go to heaven without believing.” Later on in that same sermon he states, “After believing will come the confessing and the doing; but the saving, the righteousness, rests in the believing, and in nothing else.” In sermon #520, he says “True faith, wherever it exists, produces works, and among the rest, a bold, constant consistent confession of Christ.” He also states, “I believe that the confession mentioned in the text embraces the whole of the Christian life.” In sermon #3011, his other sermon on Romans 10:10, he states: “I do not doubt that a man, who truly believes in Jesus, is saved even before he makes a confession of his faith . . . the same truth [as in Romans 10:10] is taught in the memorable sentence which I quoted to you just now, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’” Spurgeon clearly agreed with the interpretation of Romans 10:9-10 defended in this work, namely, that the “saved” of v. 9 and the “salvation” of v. 10 are glorification, not justification, and that the confession spoken of is post-justification and part of progressive sanctification. His sermon on Romans 10:11, #2145, clearly preaches salvation by trusting the Lord Jesus, with nothing added or interposed. His sole sermon on Romans 10:13, preached very early in his ministry (#140), states that to call on the Lord signifies to worship Him, to pray to Him, to trust in Him, and to profess His name, as in baptism. He states that “if you worship Him by a Mediator, having faith in the atonement of the cross; if you worship Him by humble prayer and hearty praise, your worship is a proof that you shall be saved.” Here glorification, not justification, is represented by his use of the word “saved.” Spurgeon also considered Romans 10:13 as a verse that evidenced a prior regeneration—one who was able to truly pray to the Lord had been born again, and a sinner who came to Him in prayer could have good hope that he had been previously regenerated. This idea contains a kernel of truth, combined with some unBiblical Calvinistic elements, but it is certainly not the modern sinner’s prayer concept that affirms that God justifies the individual who sincerely asks for forgiveness at one point in time. Spurgeon said, “Now, you are elect, you could not have called if you had not been elected, your election is the cause of your calling, and inasmuch as you have called, and do call upon the name of God, you are elect.” “Ay, brethren, if ye call on Christ, if ye pray, if ye believe, ye may be quite sure of salvation, for ye are redeemed [by limited atonement], and the redeemed must not perish.” His affection for TULIP theology, especially unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace, mar Spurgeon’s view of Romans 10:13, so that while he affirms all that is in the quotes above, he also says prayer is the forerunner of salvation, while at the same time preaching that “a man cannot call upon the name of the Lord, unless he trusts in that name,” which clearly places calling or praying to God posterior to justification. He announces, “Hear the way of salvation: worship, prayer, faith, profession,” where profession is conjoined contextually with baptism, so that by “salvation” here Spurgeon probably speaks not of justification, but progressive and final sanctification. He essentially declares in this sermon that true prayer is a mark of God’s people, and that the one who offers even one true prayer to God shall be saved in the end, for he thus evidences his election. Whatever one may think of the broadness of his exegesis or the rankness or sweetness of the TULIP flower, Spurgeon cannot justly be classified as an advocate of modern sinner’s prayer theology because of this sermon. In his sermon on Romans 10:14-15 (sermon #2327), Spurgeon again deals with v. 13 again and talks of prayer as evidence of faith. Although he makes assertions that could be used to argue his agreement with the modern interpretation and application of the verse, he also states: “The fact that you often pray to him for mercy, for the pardon of sin, for the renewal of your nature, proves that you have some degree, at least, some faint measure of faith in him,” and “faith [contextually, clearly saving faith] comes first.” It may seem like this extensive amount of quotation is overdone, but sections from the sermons above taken out of context could be quoted to support the common modern interpretation and application of Romans 10:9-13, which Spurgeon did not accept, to try to turn the tables of historical theology. As a final note, in one of his pre-message expositions on Romans 10, he does not exegete prayer or confession as prerequisites to justification, but teaches we are to “believe and live.”
[xlix] pgs. 207, 211, 372, 378, 381, 388-393, vol. 3, Systematic Theology, Chafer (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1976). This citation of Chafer does not mean that this writer agrees with Chafer’s confusion of the Biblical doctrine of repentance, or any other unscriptural notion affirmed by him, such as the legitimacy of infant baptism—or even that all the reasons Chafer opposes the idea of salvation by faith and confession or faith and prayer are correct.
[l] E. g., “Some Simple Difficulties of Salvation,” Roy L. Aldrich, Bibliotheca Sacra 111:442 (April 1954) pgs. 158-169. Aldrich writes, “If a sinner is instructed to pray for salvation, the instructor should be able to tell him how long he must pray and how he can recognize the answer when it comes. It is evident that no such instruction can be given with Scriptural authority. The exhortations ‘to pray through’ or ‘to pray for victory’ can only confuse the inquirer by confirming his efforts in the wrong direction. If he is finally saved it will be in spite of—not because of the instruction given. He will be saved when he stops praying and exercises faith. . . . But someone is sure to ask about Romans 10:13, ‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Does not this verse prove that prayer is necessary for salvation? . . . [T]o call on the Lord is [improperly] interpreted as a petition for salvation. Believers are commonly described as those who “call upon the Lord” (1 Cor 1:2; Acts 9:14, 21; 2 Tim 2:22). An examination of these passages will show that the phrase does not describe a prayer for salvation[.] . . . Salvation is the gift of God: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). How foolish it would be to pray for a gift which is sincerely offered. Such prayer could only be an offense to the donor. The Bible does not teach that God is reluctant to save and that he must be coaxed and petitioned to exercise grace. It teaches the opposite—that the sinner is reluctant to be saved and that he must be coaxed and beseeched to receive God’s grace. . . . It is doubtless true that most seekers pray for salvation before they are saved. Such prayer is not to be condemned. “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” indicates an acknowledgement of sin and a desire for salvation which are commendable. However, if salvation finally comes to the praying sinner it will not be because he prays, but because he stops praying and believes the gospel. Not ‘he that prayeth,’ but ‘he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life’ (John 3:36a).”
“[The] view [under discussion and advocated by S. Craig Glickman, Zane C. Hodges, and Tanton himself] sees the act of ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ as a post-regeneration experience. This is based on Rom 10:13–15 which indicates that the act of calling on the name of the Lord occurs after faith. If the order of the events in Romans 10 is reversed into chronological order this becomes evident:
(1) Sending of the preacher (v 15b)
(2) Preaching (v 15a)
(3) Hearing (v 14b)
(4) Believing (v 14a)
(5) Calling on the name of the Lord (v 13).
Accordingly, to ‘call on the name of the Lord’ is not the same as believing or praying for salvation, but it is something done after regenerating faith. The act of ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ has an interesting history and, according to Hodges, is something characteristic of believers.” (pgs. 36-40, “The Gospel And Water Baptism: A Study Of Acts 22:16,” Lanny Thomas Tanton. Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 1991) 23-40)
“The ‘saved’ in [Romans]10:9–10 is directed to those who are already justified believers. . . . For Paul, calling on the name of the Lord can only be done by one who is already justified by faith in Christ. . . . [T]he statements about confessing Christ [teach that] . . . publicly identifying with Christ has a cleansing and sanctifying effect on our lives. . . . One vital principle for victorious Christian living is the public, vocal, regular identification with the Lordship of Jesus. . . . In summary, as believers gathered together for public worship and by faith invoked God’s help in their trials, they were ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ and thereby confessing Christ’s Lordship.” (“Why Confess Christ? The Use and Abuse of Romans 10:9-10,” John F. Hart, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 12:2 (Autumn 1999) 3-35).
[li] To “teach and preach Jesus Christ . . . in every house” implies more than simply seeking to win a man to Christ at his doorstep and then leaving him there, whether he responds or not. A series of home Bible studies which preach the gospel and then disciple converts, in addition to attempts to see conversion “cold” at the door, are at least implied through the inclusion of “teach” with “preach” (cf. Matthew 28:18-20) and the use of the Greek imperfect in Acts 5:42, expressing continuing action. Acts 17:17 indicates that Paul took inquirers, those who were seeking for salvation and were open to the gospel, and “met . . . daily with them,” a specific basis for repeated and careful contact with the lost in the manner of evangelistic Bible studies. In Acts 19:8 Paul dealt with a group of lost people for three months, with the result that souls were saved (19:9). He only stopped preaching the gospel to them when those who were still unconverted were evidently hardened and openly antagonistic (19:9). Those who only speak to the lost at their doorsteps often cease to deal thoroughly enough with them, giving up on them or failing to provide them with enough detail before they are either converted or clearly hardened and definitively rejecting the gospel, with the result that fewer sinners are saved than could be through a fully Biblical methodology.
Churches today that offer evangelistic Bible studies tend to have much higher percentages of salvation decisions that lead to a changed life, baptism, and church membership (and so are not spurious) than churches that solely seek to lead men to Christ at their doorstep without such a foundation for more in-depth instruction. As an example, Pastor Doug Hammett of the Lehigh Valley Baptist Church in Emmaus, PA (http://lvbaptist.org) testifies that of those who complete their “Salvation Bible Basics” series, about 50% eventually make a salvation decision, and of that 50% close to 90% are baptized and are in church a year later.
The five session evangelistic Bible study composed by this writer and available for download as a Word document or PDF file at http://faithsaves.net or from Bethel Baptist Church in El Sobrante, CA, (http://www.pillarandground.org) is also worth considering; study #1 covers the naure of Scripture, #2 the nature of God, #3 God’s Law and the consequences for disobedience to it, #4 the gospel, Christ’s saving work; and #5, repentance and faith; two follow up studies are also available, #6, which covers eternal security and assurance, and #7 which deals with the church. With God’s blessing, after study #5 a seeker will be converted, after #6 he will have assurance, and after #7 he will be a Baptist. Pastor Kent Brandenburg of Bethel Baptist Church in El Sobrante, CA has also written a series of discipleship studies, Disciplines for Disciples of Christ, which are excellent for grounding new converts. Personal discipleship Bible studies subsequent to conversion are not just a natural implication of the verses in Scripture here discussed, and clear mandate of the Great Commission, but also unquestionably simply the part of wisdom.
One common modern methodology for evangelism, gimmicking the lost to visit church services by giving them material things such as candy or toys, is entirely absent from Scripture; in Acts, apart from those who wanted Christ for who He was, “durst no man join himself to them [Christians in church services—specifically, the “join himself” verb is a church membership term, but the fear of association with God’s true people is still evident]” (Acts 5:13). The Lord Jesus had many, in His earthly ministry, who would come listen to Him preach because they received food or other material benefits, but did not want to follow Him for who He was, and He confronted such with their sin and refused to provide them further material benefits (John 6:26, 29-33, 66-69). Many bus ministries keep children and others coming to visit services because of material goods that are continually provided week after week, but the Lord Jesus refused to provide worldly benefits to keep people coming to listen to Him preach. The apostles likewise did not use a “cloke of covetousness” in evangelism (1 Thessalonians 2:5); they did not trick people (“cloke”) to come to church by appealing to materialism (“covetousness”), then reverse themselves and call upon them to repent of materialism, covetousness, and all other sin to surrender to Christ (Mark 8:34-36). Such a pracctice is carnal weaponry (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:4)—the only Biblical weapon to bring the lost to Christ is the Word of God as empowered by the omnipotent Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Of course, this is not stated to in any way discourage aggressive and passionate Biblical evangelism of children or attempts to bring unconverted children to church (Mark 10:13-17).
[lii] The imperfect e¶tupten (“smote/was smiting”), along with the present participle le÷gwn (“saying”) dependent upon it indicates the publican’s repeated, persistent petitioning for mercy. His prayer is contrasted to the continuing action of prayer (proshu/ceto, imperfect tense) by the self-righteous Pharisee in v. 11. If Christians counseled unconverted seekers came to the Lord as this publican did, and continued in prayer as he did until he found peace and justification through faith, they would see many more genuine converts than they do when they misuse Romans 10:13 and affirm that if one sincerely asks at one point in time for salvation one will receive it. Note, however, that Luke 18 does not establish the necessity for a prolonged period of prayer on the part of the unconverted—anyone who simply trusts in Christ as Lord and Savior is immediately justified. Luke 18 contains no command that God will not save one without a period of prolonged prayer. It is an example of a seeker humbly coming to the Lord and receiving salvation by faith, not a precept requiring that such petitions be offered before justification is granted. The command to the lost is not “pray for a prolonged period” any more than it is “pray a sinner’s prayer at one moment”—it is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16:31.