As I was researching “the sinner’s prayer” this week, I came across a web article basically saying that the prayer was worthless and that true salvation comes from water baptism. So, I dug a little deeper into that belief to better understand it. In short, they use both biblical references (usually one verse without the context around it) and the absence of anyone actually praying a similar prayer in the scriptures as the basis of their argument.
I disagree with the argument; Romans 10 speaks of belief in Christ as the path to Salvation. Sure, this is one chapter without context, but it is in line with what Jesus said in His teachings throughout the Gospels. This is not to ignore the command “believe and be baptized”; it is just to say that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8 (italics added)
As I thought about this further, I realized that the danger that the salvation-through-baptism crowd warns about is very true. If you simply pray the prayer and “get saved” are you really fulfilling your part of the deal? Not that we can earn anything from God – we are all woefully short on that account – but there are two commands given by Jesus that we must follow – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:34-40). “Getting saved” is not the end, it is the beginning.
I am not even close to being qualified as judge or jury; so, I can’t tell you beyond debate that praying “the sinner’s prayer” and then walking away as if nothing happened and not changing anything else in your life would get you to Heaven. I do know that is not what God wants. He wants us to turn away from sin and obey His commands. After your conversion you should be a new person, turning away from your old nature, and trying to live for God and serve others with unconditional love.
Being a Christian is not about a one-time prayer or immersion in water – it is a life; a relationship that God desires with all of us. He seeks us out and longs to commune with us constantly. Boiling it down to one prayer or one act (and then debating the relevance of either) is missing the point. It turns Christianity into simply another religion and diminishes why God “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”