This false teaching proclaims that one is born-again (accepts Christ) by simply making a one-time profession of faith, often called the “sinner’s prayer.” You have surely seen the big revival events on TV or held in giant sports stadiums, where at the end of the program, people are invited to come forward and “accept Christ” and be “saved” by saying a simple prayer. Similarly, many churches perform an “altar call” at the end of their service where people are invited to come forward and “accept Christ” and be “saved” by saying a simple prayer. And their use of the word “saved” usually conveys the notion of being saved to eternal life.
This practice is not biblical – the “sinner’s prayer” teaching and practice are not found in Scripture anywhere! Contrary to popular belief, you are neither born-again nor saved to eternal life by saying a magical set of words at one time in your life. This book has properly explained that one is born again in accordance with Scripture through belief, repentance, confession, and baptism! At best, and I hesitate even to concede this much, the “sinner’s prayer” that you may be led to speak by your church or pastor is only a way to help you verbalize steps 1.2-4 listed in the chapter on The Path to Eternal Life, although nowhere does the Bible prescribe a certain set of words that must be used.
I’m all for people coming to accept Christ, but let’s do so as prescribed in Scripture, not according to the folly and particular (wrong) interpretations and rules made up by man. It is fantastic that the Holy Spirit is working on your heart and you are feeling called to Jesus, but please be diligent in being born again in the manner as prescribed in Scripture (and explained in this book)! If you thought that you accepted Christ by simply saying a “sinner’s prayer” at your local church, while listening to the radio in the car, or maybe at a big convention or stadium revival event, please re-read The New Testament Plan of Salvation section of this book very carefully and make sure you have truly been born again according to the instructions as given in Scripture.
Furthermore, this book has explained to you the difference between initial salvation (forgiveness of sins) and final salvation (eternal life). This book has also explained to you the role of obedience, works, and perseverance in the plan of salvation for a Christian. Realize that being born again is only the first step (but by far the most important step) on your path to eternal life – which is your ultimate goal and destination.
Christ said that there is a cost in following Him. It is written:
So, to those who teach and believe this “sinner’s prayer” false teaching, I ask you: Where is the “cost” in saying a simple one-time prayer and then being magically saved to eternal life by it? There is no cost!
While I’ve done my best to untangle and explain this and other false teachings for you in this book, in reality, false teachings are interrelated and interwoven together in a giant tangled web or knot. Therefore, realize that this false teaching is almost always accompanied by other false teachings, such as: you are saved by “faith alone/only,” false teachings on baptism, and the “once saved always saved” false teaching. I’m trying to show you these false teachings are all wound up together in a knot so tight you can’t even figure out where one false teaching ends and the next one begins. For example, can you really say that you were “saved” by saying a “sinner’s prayer” without also implying (whether you realize it or not) that you also believe in “once saved always saved” and even further that you are also saved by (a simple profession) of “faith alone/only?” By conceding that the “sinner’s prayer” saves them, aren’t they also therefore implicitly denying the role of baptism, whether they admit to it or not? Similarly, can one really believe they are saved by “faith only/alone” without also (perhaps even unknowingly) believing that being born again is all one must do to receive eternal life?
So, you see, in reality, false teachings are overlapping and interrelated in practice. To say one often implies another as an inescapable consequence. And in my experience, as a general rule, whenever you see someone (a church, group, book, etc.) leading off with the “sinner’s prayer” false teaching, you can rest assured that you will find many of the other false teachings in their materials as well. It’s a sad fact that when you hear someone today in modern American Christendom say that they are “saved,” in the vast majority of cases, they are indicating that these four false teachings are what they believe and that they believe that they were “saved to eternal life” simply by saying a one-time “sinner’s prayer.”
See also The Path to Eternal Life chapter of this book for more information, including an example of how the “sinner’s prayer” false teaching is commonly encountered in real life.
Anderson, R. John. "6.10 Saying a “Sinner’s Prayer” Saves You False Teaching." EachDay.org. Access date: September 27, 2022. https://eachday.org:443/part-vi-beware-the-wolves/6-10-saying-a-sinners-prayer-saves-you/