Some time ago I attended a funeral conducted by one of our religious neighbors. The minister did, for the most part, a good job of comforting the bereaved. But near the end of the service I was jolted out of my contemplation when the “pastor” had us stand and recite the “Sinner’s Prayer.” This amounted to what we would call the offering of an “Invitation.”
My first reaction was to be impressed that he was not ashamed to call men and women to Christ at a time like that. After all, at a funeral, people are already thinking “big” thoughts about life, death, and eternal destinies. And the “pastor” was right to say that our eternal destiny is determined solely by our relationship with Jesus Christ!
And I asked myself: When did we become so ashamed of the Gospel that we ceased to offer eternal life to those who heard? When did we become so polite that we no longer declared Jesus to be “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), as opposed to “one of the ways,” “one of the truths,” and “one of the lives”? Ironically, it is often our own brethren who are offended when we say that baptism saves the sinner.
But I was offended, too. Not in the sense of having my feelings hurt, but in the sense that this man had offered salvation on false terms. Those who responded that day, though doubtless sincere, were offered salvation on the basis of a prayer nowhere mentioned in scripture.
The “Sinner’s prayer” does not save; baptism does. Now, are you offended? I am deeply sorry, though not apologetic. Which is more offensive, to say what the Bible says, or to fail to say what the Bible says?
“And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
Unless they are buried with Christ into baptism, sinners simply don’t have a prayer.