500 Years Ago last October the Protestant Reformation kicked off with Martin Luther nailing his 95 indictments against Rome on the chapel door at Wittenburg. Since then the Reformed theological tradition.

Edward and I discussed this issue last November and decided it would be a good conversation to publish. The main question is related to why so many people embraced the “fandom” of the Reformation who deny the theology that fueled the movement? 

Join the conversation. Go to TheologyAnswers.com and see more great podcasts at ChristianPodcastCommunity.com

 

“From the 95 Thesis to the 95 reasons to hate the reformation – all went away at the 500 year anniversary.”

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There is never a short supply of opinions. If the US Treasury could tax them, the country would be trillions in the black. These pesky little opinions are ever so frisky and they have a tendency to move about and change rapidly causing frustration, confusion, and sometimes anger. Theological discussions are not immune to such fodder and in fact, if anyone is ever in short supply of a sack of opinions, let them come down to the nearest social hangout, denominational office, men’s breakfast or their own household and it is assured they will find the plethora of mixed thoughts and logic drowning the passers-by. To the point: while there is always room for us all to have our feelings and thoughts about matters, we cannot think in contradiction to the sound truth taught in Scripture. There is no room for the thoughts, freedom, will and wisdom of human beings to stand in contradiction and question God or His actions.

While I’m not naming names or pointing out labels, consider the fact that each person in the realm of theology/biblical studies carries a label and each of those labels exists to define their position on some section or ‘point’ of doctrine. These labels can be helpful, for example, being a baptist identifies someone who holds to the belief that baptism is supposed to be for those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as well as to the belief that the proper mode is to be submerged under the water. Now, Baptist doctrinal statements have changed through the years, but that particular matter has stayed unscathed. In contrast, Presbyterians consider baptism more a sign of a covenant than the outer sign of profession. Therefore, they baptize their children as a sign of covenant and those that hold to this position are well suited for the Presbyterian doctrine of baptism. Now back to opinions. When it comes to whether the mode or expression of baptism, people can hold differentiating opinions and in good conscience, still be considered brothers in the Lord through faith alone in Jesus Christ. However, when the opinion becomes a matter of biblical contradiction, there is a problem. Some people hold to the teaching that without water baptism, one will remain in a state of condemnation. We call that contradiction a matter of urgency because it directly relates to the biblical teaching of salvation or soteriology. When opinions become biblical contradictions they are called heresies and when heresies undermine the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are damnable.

No matter how many people have held to such belief, it doesn’t change the error to truth. Paul teaches the Christians of Galatia that if they were to adopt the idea that circumcision would better secure their salvation they would forever be cut off from Christ. How? Because to believe in Jesus Christ Alone, plus something else is “no gospel” according to the Bible. In our example, if one believes baptism is a requirement in addition to grace and faith, then it is “no gospel”. This is problematic. Because the one trusting by faith in something that they do in order to secure or merit salvation is condemned like Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. They are condemned because they are not believing in Jesus Christ and His work, but their own. Jesus called this type of thing, “darkness.” Now let’s move to the theological circles of other doctrines. Such as a works salvation.

Works, good works, obedience, sinless perfection, and all sorts of things related to humanity’s ability to cognitively decide and follow after Christ, are in the realm of being “another gospel” and as such, a damnable heresy. There are two matters though that need to be clarified. Some people are born of God and believe on Jesus Christ while later taught that they better work hard to persevere and then they get confused and disturbed, like the Galatians who were called “saints” and “brothers” by Paul. Other people just love the false gospel of working their salvation into existence. They love the ability to stand before God and declare, “I did it! I made the choice, I’ve followed the rules, I am obeying you!” While it may not seem strange, these words are demonic expressions akin to the words of Satan when he said, “I will, I will, I will…” and then God condemned him and threw him out of Heaven. In like manner, Jesus Christ will throw those who stand before Him and say, “Didn’t I do this and do that and say this?”, into the lake of fire. Make no mistake, those who trust in the freedom of their choice to choose and believe are dead in their sins. I pray that many who seem to fight for their ‘fair rights’ in the economy of grace DO NOT FIND them. Because the fair right of all people is to be damned by a loving and gracious and holy God.

God, being gracious and loving, has given life through Jesus Christ alone to be received by grace through faith. Let’s not continue to jump into labels that contradict this. Philosophy has no place in the study of God and when the mind of men get tangled into the ineffable glories of God, well, man just finds himself turned over to reprobation, confused, lost and alone. So what label do you like to wear? Is that label honoring to the Lord? Does it fit well with the sound synergistic and supernatural revelation of Scripture? If not, I would consider removing it you as quickly and as far as possible. Because in the end, we could all be wrong, but we cannot all be right and those who are wrong are condemned already and God’s justice and wrath remain. Let us see the light of the good news in the face of Jesus Christ and settle our opinions at the cross where Jesus took our sin after living our obedience so that we are now the righteousness of God! Amen.

Pastor James

In a recent conversation with a brother in Christ, the matter of the invitational system arose whereby he inquired about the biblical nature of such things. When he confronted the practice with the question of its biblical authority, the brother was led to history and tradition as the backbone of the practice.  This evening I read a post on Facebook related to the same subject and felt it would be good to share some of the points as taught by Dr. WR Downing on the true nature of salvation, which is the new birth, not a choice of man.  While I personally could tragically kill such practice with general elementary exposition of biblical text, especially John 3, Dr. Downing’s thoughts on the nature of conversion ring loud and clear.  More importantly, the scripture speaks to the nature of God’s work ALONE in salvation, thus the following:

True conversion is spiritual. It is much more than merely a question of man’s will or seeking to redirect it under preaching. Conversion is the result of the effectual work of the Spirit of God in regeneration. Conversion is the immediate and spontaneous outward manifestation of regeneration or the “new birth.” The very nature of the regeneration itself reveals its utter necessity before man can savingly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The necessity of regeneration or the new birth is found in the utter spiritual impotence of man (Jn. 3:3, 5; 1 Cor. 2:14), the blinding power of the devil (Matt. 13:4, 19; 2 Cor. 4:3–6), the eternal redemptive purpose, and the righteous character and omnipotence of God. If any human being is to be saved or delivered from the reigning power of sin, his own innate animosity toward God, the blinding power of Satan, and ultimately delivered from eternal hell, God must initiate the work of salvation (Isa. 64:6; Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Acts 16:14; Rom. 1:18–25; 3:11, 27–21; 8:5–8; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:3–6; Eph. 2:1–10; 4:17–19; Titus 3:5; 1 Jn. 5:19). To say all this is to declare that salvation is by grace; anything less would be a denial of the same.

There are six essential spiritual realities which comprise regeneration, or the “new birth.” If any one of these realities is not true or actual within the personality, the individual is yet unregenerate: first, the impartation of Divine life (Jn. 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:1, 4–5). Unless the individual receives such a principle of spiritual life, he cannot even “see” the kingdom of God, much less enter it. He may perceive, know or understand much, even so as to be without excuse, but his will is bent toward sin and evil and his inner being is darkened (Rom. 1:18–25; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Second, the breaking of the reigning power of sin (Rom. 6:3–14, 17–18, 20, 22). Every human being by nature is a willing bondslave of sin. This power is broken by God in a definitive act of grace, and a radical cleavage is made with the reigning power of sin in the life. This aspect of sanctification—definitive sanctification—is contemporaneous with regeneration.

Third, the removal of natural heart–enmity against God and his truth (Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Man by nature has an innate aversion to God and his truth. This animosity is removed by a sovereign act of God, enabling the sinner to savingly turn to God in the context of his truth.

Fourth, the re–creation of the image of God in principle (Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:1–10). Both these passages refer to a past act, not to an entreaty. Man was created as the image–bearer of God. In the Fall, this image was devastated spiritually, morally and intellectually; the thought–process became fragmented and given to futility. The physical body, with its appetites and desires, assumed a controlling influence over the individual (Rom. 6:6, 11–14; Eph. 4:17–19). In regenerating grace, God re–creates the image of God anew in principle in righteousness, holiness of the truth and knowledge—a spiritual, moral and intellectual transformation. With the mind thus freed, and a holy disposition given to the personality, the sinner is enabled to freely turn to Christ in faith as presented in the gospel message.

Fifth, the removal of satanic blindness (2 Cor. 4:3–6). Above and beyond all matters of the will or heart, looms the awful, evil power of Satan, who specifically blinds sinners to the truth of the gospel. He further seeks to remove any influence of the gospel in any way he possibly can (Matt. 13:3–4, 18–19; Mk. 4:4, 15; Lk. 8:5, 12). This blinding influence is removed by an act of God’s grace.

Sixth, the gift of saving faith (Eph. 2:4–10). Conversion, or repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is inseparable from regeneration. Conversion is the infallible and immediate consequence of the work of the Holy Spirit upon and within the personality (Acts 16:14). The Scriptures usually consider regeneration and conversion inclusively as one. It is conversion, pointedly personal faith in the Lord Jesus and repentance from sin, which necessarily and infallibly expresses the work of God within the personality (Acts 13:12, 48; 14:1; 16:14, 27–34; 17:4, 11–12, 34; 18:8, 27; 19:18; Rom. 10:9–10, 13, 17; 1 Cor. 2:4–5; Eph. 2:4–10).

So beloved, let us hold dear to the person of Jesus Christ and His infallible word through which one can find salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Anything else is just demonic.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor James

As I finalize the final pages of my recent publication, I have decided to make an addendum inclusive of three final chapters. These will refer to recent (3 years) ongoings and attacks against me and others related to our congregation and teaching ministry for no real reason at all. The matter, while the theology is vital, really hurts me because the manner in which so many respond, attack or accuse their “brothers in Christ” is unbiblical and downright wicked. I forwarded a recent article to several brothers this week and below I have pasted a very good response to the matter . More will follow.

A Response to Dr. Michael A Cox’s Article: Is Calvinism Spiritual Racism? by Dr. Edward Dalcour, Ph.D.

I just read an article on the SBC Today site entitled: Is Calvinism Spiritual Racism?—by Dr. Michael A Cox—Pastor, FBC Pryor, OK (http://sbctoday.com/is-calvinism-spiritual-racism). Dr. Cox, as with others in the SBC, is now participating in the newest wrinkle of the SBC against Calvinism. Like the many others who have attempted to promote a patently synergistic soteriology, Cox takes it to an unusual level of mischaracterization and irresponsible scholarship.

First, it is not my intention here to provide a point by point exegetically refutation the passages that Dr. Cox misapplies (esp. John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; and 2 Pet. 3:9). This has been countless times by myself and by many others. My intention is to provide some clarity and accuracy pertaining to Calvinism in light of Dr. Cox’s inaccurate depiction and maltreatment of it. And hopefully cause folks that read his article to invest in a more scholarly examination of it from qualified sources.

In the beginning of his article, Dr. Cox’s likens Calvinism with Hinduism when he states at the outset: “I will contend that Hinduism, Racism, and Calvinism have many things in common.” This kind of argument is, of course, logically invalid, as is the argument “all Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Arminianism has many things in common such as conditional election; salvation being left in the hands of the unregenerate; faith and some kind of work(s) being required for salvation (regeneration); God cannot overpower man’s untouchable ‘free-will’ in salvation; etc.”

However, there is a rudimentary defect that is quite apparent throughout the content of his article. Dr. Cox’s assertions are grounded on mistaken views of what Calvinism (that is, the “doctrines of grace”) actually teaches. For example, Dr. Cox uses terms such as “spiritual determinism,” “spiritual caste,” “spiritual bigotry,” “spiritual prejudice,” etc. in his portrayal of Calvinism demonstrating his vast misunderstanding of it. This causes me to wonder if Dr. Cox has read even the most basic works on Calvinism and/or read any of standard Calvinistic/Reformed confessions.

Next Dr. Cox asserts: “It would be interesting to know how many non-Caucasians actually embrace five-point Calvinism as a genuine Bible doctrine.” Really? So here Dr. Cox uses an ad populum argument (fallacy) to validate biblical truth. Did Cox do any research at all on this? Is he aware of the Dutch Reformed movement in Africa, which is one of the largest movements in Africa? The Dutch Reform are a part of the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches—, which is one of the largest “Christian” international communions in the world. Embarrassingly, Dr. Cox is not well educated on religious demography—thus, he should not make these obtuse implications about how many non-Caucasians embrace Calvinism.

Further, in his effort to show that Calvinism is spiritually racist, Dr. Cox asserts: “Calvinism is nothing short of baptized racism, advocating the dogma that one group, the non-elect, is condemned by God to spiritual inferiority and another group, the elect, is destined to spiritual superiority.” Again, statements such as these only show his lack of knowledge on Calvinism. I wonder if Dr. Cox would see Paul’s statement in Rom. 9:21 regarding the Potter (God) having the right (exousian) to make (poiew) from the same lump(all men) one person/vessel for honor (timēn) and another for no honor (atimian), “nothing short of baptized racism, advocating the dogma that one group, the non-elect, is condemned by God . . . and another group, the elect, is destined to spiritual superiority”?

Apparently, Dr. Cox just cannot accept a God that would do this. Nor can Dr. Cox accept Paul’s presentation of vessels/men of wrath that God prepared (note the perfect passive form of katartizw) for destruction. To be sure, the God that Paul speaks of is not the God that Dr. Cox imagines.

Dr. Cox represents Calvinism as “nothing short of promoting a prideful theology of supposed spiritual superiority, due to election.” However, in Acts 16:6ff., we read that the Holy Spirit stopped Paul and Timothy from preaching the gospel in Asia in which many people died without ever hearing the gospel. So would Dr. Cox also charge the Holy Spirit with having a “prideful theology” of election and “baptized racism” since it was the Holy Spirit who chose to prevent some from hearing the gospel? (as the Father does, cf. Luke 10:20-22).

But what I find most befuddling is that Dr. Cox holds a DMin. with (as his bio states) an emphasis on biblical hermeneutics. However, Dr. Cox fast-ball pitches the big three Arminian passages (viz., John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; and 2 Pet. 3:9) into his article presupposing they support his views (with no hint of exegetical verification). It is evident to me that Dr. Cox does not apply the same hermeneutical (and exegetical) emphasis to these three passages that he does to passages he would use to affirm, say,  justification by faith alone or the deity of Christ. For Dr. Cox, it seems that “tradition” and his devotion to synergism dictates his so-called hermeneutical method.

Does Dr. Cox suppose that no one who reads his article, which is circulated outside the safety of his church bulletin, has (or will) meaningfully interacted with these three (and other) passages on a basic exegetical level arriving at an interpretation in opposition to his view? The fact that Dr. Cox casually tosses them into the mix in an attempt to prove his position shows that his interpretation of these three passages are really established by the removal of single passages out of its entire context and pre-assigning a universal meaning to pas (“all”) and kosmos (“world”). This, to be sure, is in no way an “emphasis on biblical hermeneutics.” Rather, it is an emphasis on tradition and high emotion—thus, not on the actual exegesis of the passages.

Next Dr. Cox says, “God has demonstrated his love for all people many times over. He did so by promising to make Abraham, a.k.a. Abram, from Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen. 11:31), a blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12:1-3). It is amazing to me that Dr. Cox would make this kind of hermeneutic mistake—applying a universal meaning to the phrase in Gen. 12:3, “all the families of the earth,” when the Apostle Paul tells us what is meant here: “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you’” (Gal. 3:8). Hence according to Paul, “all the nations” (note Paul usage of ethnē, “nations/Gentiles” and not phulai [LXX] to explicate his point) refers to God’s eternal purpose in justifying (note the present indic. dikaioi, “justifies”) the Gentiles by faith (that which was foreseen in Gen. 12). In Acts 13:48, the Gentiles rejoiced at the fact that salvation was brought also to them: “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed [note the plu-perf. part, tetagmenoi] to eternal life believed.”

Virtually every time ethnē/ethnos is used in the NT, it referred to unbelieving Gentiles/heathens, and at times, believing Gentles, and only rarely was it used to denote “people” in a general sense. Dr. Cox seems oblivious to the apostle’s own interpretation of Gen. 12:3 overlooking the exegetical points and Paul’s defining context of the entire chapter of Gal. 3. Even more, in Gal. 3:29, Paul defines as to what nations are blessed (and thus, the promise of Gen 12): “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Thus, the ones who “belong to Christ” are the heirs according to the promise or blessing of Abraham. In the same sense, Rev. 5:9 states of the Son: “You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation [ethnos].” Does Dr. Cox realize that God loving all of His people/family and sending His Son to die for them is consistent with Calvinism?

As seen, Dr. Cox’s conclusions of Calvinism (as “spiritual racism,” etc.) are built on faulty presuppositions. I do not think Dr. Cox would charge Calvinism with “spiritual racism” likening it to Hinduism and assert many other mischaracterizations if Dr. Cox reached at least an elementary level of understanding as to what Calvinism actually affirms.

Lastly, as with so many Christians who are so antagonistic to Calvinism, Dr. Cox 1) holds to a crass and mistaken understanding of Calvinism, 2) does not engage in proper exegesis on the passages he uses to endorse conditional election and universal atonement,which is especially seen when he applies a universal meaning to various OT passages and Greek terms such as pas and kosmos when they are contextually unwarranted, and 3) seems to have a disjointed view of the love of God limiting it to a universal redemptive love for every single person, which results in a view where God keeps waiting for and wanting all men to respond to His “great” plan of redemption, but He keeps failing in His effort to save all men every time someone dies in unbelief.

As a Christian apologist (and esp. for pastors), truth and providing an accurate representation of both biblical doctrine and other religious systems (Christian or non-Christian) is first and foremost. Dr. Cox presents in his article his “personal” views of Calvinism in which, in my assessment, are very misleading and inaccurate showing his lack of scholarship and basic understanding of Calvinism. As seen, he has fallen prey to the traditional ruse and pride of the autosoteric (self-salvation) system of Arminianism in which prompted him to launch an unreasonable and very haphazard attack on Calvinism.

Because Dr. Cox’s knowledge of Calvinism is apparently vacuous, he sees it as, among other things, a “prideful theology.” However, if he would ever take the time to do a scholarly study and educate himself on what it actually teaches he would understand that Calvinism, that is, the doctrines of grace exalts and recognizes God as the sovereign God in and of all things (cf. Eph. 1:1) including the eternal destiny of all menhence, salvation is of God alone! In contrast, Arminian soteriology sees man as sovereign over his own eternal destiny—thus, it is man’s so-called righteous “ability” cooperating with God’s plan (just as Rome teaches), not God’s grace alone. Hence, the Arminian system is a man-centered system (which we call pride), it is a  “I did it” scheme in which the ultimate decision of choosing Christ is essentially placed in the hands of the unregenerate sinner (in the face of opposing biblical passages, such as John 6:44; 63; 8:43-44, 47; Rom. 8:7-8; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; etc.)

Calvinism is called the “doctrines of grace” for the simple reason that Scripture presents that by God’s grace alone, He gave to Christ those whom He chose for Himself to deliver and set them free from the bondage of sin. He chose these in love, before the foundation of the world, not on the basis of a foreknowledge response to their works, but according to the kind intention of His will. These He made alive granting them faith justifying them in which He adopted them as sons when He was not obligated to do so—but by His grace alone: “So then, He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” And, “By His doing,” not our doing, we “are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:3-31; cf. Rom. 8:28-30; 9:16, 21-23; Eph. 1:4-5; 2:8-10; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; etc.).

– Dr. Edward Dalcour

 

child with bible hands

Someone stumbled upon the short post I published in 2006 after the baptism of my second daughter Grace, who at the time was five.  Reading through it gave me moment of pause, first of gratitude for God’s grace in the matter of the salvation of my children and second, in the manner in which I place my trust in Christ, both for that and my own salvation.  It was a good reminder that while my children are born again to their own confession, it is my responsibility to continue to grow them in the Lord and that one day, God will bring full fruit to His redemptive work in every aspect of their lives as He is continuing to do in mine.  In reflection I was reminded by the Lord of Spurgeon’s sermon from March 6, 1890 about the simplicity of Salvation and its divine ineffability.  As I read it again today I was reminded of how often we Evangelicals stab to death the processes and procedures of salvation making them an idol while either downplaying man’s belief and God’s gift of faith.  The two passionately collide into a symphony of praise to the glorious Grace of God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I now share it with all of you.  Read well and pray better.

Pastor James

N. 2259 – C.H. Spurgeon Metropolitan Tabernacle 3/16/1890

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”—John 1:11-13.

Continue reading “The Simplicity and Sublimity of Salvation”

My brother in Christ, Eddie Dalcour, Ph.D. of Christian Defense Ministries has prepared a good response to the issue of the latest SBC Resolution on the Sinner’s Prayer.  I will be posting a line-by-line response soon and Lord willing, we will be answering this and other issues in a public venue.  Please find Eddie’s words and contemplate them in line with the word in your heart and the spirit in your mind:

“Recently, a doctrinal lightning bolt has struck the Southern Baptist Convention. It centers on the open declaration of some Arminian SBC members affirming their doctrinal position and thus openly denying the doctrinal position of the Calvinistic members of the SBC—namely, denying Four of the Five Points of Calvinism[1] or, what is called, the doctrines of grace. Headed by Pastor Eric Hankins of FBC Oxford, MS, a statement of faith entitled, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” was developed by a number of pastors and professors within the SBC. It consisted of Ten Articles of Faith affirming Arminian doctrines and denying Calvinistic ones. A Petition was attached for SBC members to sign. As expected, Arminian concepts and texts (esp. John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9; etc.) are merely cited in the Articles with its “traditional” understanding assumed. Ironically, Article Three uses the phrase (in agreement) “penal substitution.” But this is completely inconsistent—for this phrase is a borrowed phrase from the Reformers and thus a decidedly Calvinistic concept.

Undeniably, the Southern Baptists have enjoyed a long history of biblical scholarship; scholarship, however, which has been purely Calvinistic in soteriology. Josh Buice, pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville, GA, rightly asked: “Have we forgotten our history as Southern Baptists where we had Calvinists such as Lottie Moon, James P. Boyce, John L. Dagg, A. T. Robertson, John A. Broadus, and many others who served in our convention along with those who were less Calvinistic (Reformed) in their doctrine? They didn’t fight over it, throw mud, and pull out the heresy sword to use on one another.”[2] For decades SBC Calvinistic and Arminian pastors have co-existed with no problem. Now, by aggressively promoting this anti-Calvinistic Petition, the promoters of the Articles are causing a divisive and an unnecessary fraction within the SBC.

Sinner’s Prayer?
In the same Arminian pool, at this year’s SBC the so-called “sinner’s prayer” was happily “affirmed,” but not by all. The Calvinists have always seen the “sinner’s prayer” and its theological “implications” as a departure from the biblical view of salvation by grace-alone. For those not completely familiar with the “sinner’s prayer,” it is usually a prayer of repentance and “inviting Christ into your heart,” which is led by the evangelist/ minister/pastor in which the “unbeliever” (i.e., the “sinner”) is instructed to repeat. This has been the standard and traditional method at most evangelical events/revivals. However, as many have pointed out, not only is the traditional “sinner’s prayer” a relatively recent part of contemporary evangelism, for there is simply no historical evidence for it (or the accompanied so-called, “alter-call”) before the eighteenth century, but, there is absolutely no biblical evidence supporting the concept of it.
Proponents of the “sinner’s prayer” typically point to Matt. 7:7; Luke 18:13-14; and Rom. 10:9-10 to make their case. However, none of these resemble in any way, shape, or form the traditional “sinner’s prayer.” Also note, the words in this “prayer” are not the words of the unbeliever, but rather, they are the words of the minister, which are repeated by the unbeliever as directed. In response to the lack of biblical proof, some proponents will argue that just because it is not in Scripture or a recent method, it doesn’t make it invalid or wrong. True, but the real concern is not the lack of biblical (or historical) evidence, thus being “non-biblical,” rather, it is the “un-biblical” (contrary to Scripture) implications of the “sinner’s prayer” that is the heart of the issue. There is a difference between something “non-biblical” and something “un-biblical,” that is, something that opposes Scripture.
The Erroneous Implications of the “Sinner’s Prayer”

We use the term “implications” in order to draw a distinction between something that is comprehensibly promoted and something that is indirectly promoted or supported. With that said, some of the main biblical defects associated with the “sinner’s prayer” (in terms of its implications) include:

1) Decisionism. Decisionism is the teaching that one’s “decision” causes regeneration, that is, it is the cause of one being “born again.” It teaches that when an unbeliever makes a decision to accept Christ as his or her Savior, God then responds by regenerating him or her (bear in mind, theologically,regeneration is not justification, which is through, not as the cause of, faith). The idea that man does his part (the faith-act) and “after,” God does His part indicates man cooperating with God in salvation (i.e., synergism). It places a work (viz. the decision or faith-act) as a contributing work in addition to the work of Christ. Hence, it becomes (by implication) a grace + works system. This concept is also called “decisional regeneration,” which is similar to Rome’s doctrine of “baptismal regeneration,” where the act of water baptism is said to be the necessary cause (laver) of regeneration.

In contrast, Scripture teaches that regeneration is the gracious act of God alone—not God’s grace “and” man’s work (faith-act, decision, etc.). It is God alone who justifies and makes alive the spiritually dead unregenerate man (Rom. 8:29-30, 33; Eph. 2:1-3)—through the preaching of the gospel as normal means (Rom. 1:16). It is this act of God, then, that is the cause of one being born again in which, as a result, the now regenerated person believes by which is “declared” righteous (justified). Thus, man’s faith in Christ (which is grated as a grace-gift; see Acts 13:48; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29) is the result, not thecause, of regeneration—without the corporation of man as Rome teaches.

2) The “sinner’s prayer” opposes the biblical teaching: Regeneration precedes Faith. Passages such as John 1:13; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29-30; 2 Thess, 2:13; 1 John 5:1; etc., teach exegetically that regeneration comes before faith. Before any unbeliever is regenerated, he does not naturally want to make a decision to believe or seek for God; he does not have the ability to have faith/belief in Christ—he only “loves darkness” (John 3:19), for he is a slave to sin, spiritually dead, radically deprave.

3) The “sinner’s prayer” presents a false view of the state of the unregenerate. Scripture teaches that because of the Fall of Adam, man has lost hisability to make spiritually good choices (John 6:44; 8:34-47; Rom.3:10-18; 8:7-8); the unregenerate man can-not[3] come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44, 65); he is spiritually dead—not sick (Eph. 2:1-3); thus, his will is not free, rather, it is a slave to sin (John 3:34, 36); it wills (thelō) to “do thedesires” [epithumia, lit., “lust”] of the devil (John 8:44); it is “held captive by him [the devil] to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26). The unregenerate man, then, has no ability or desire to submit to or please God. Paul said in Rom. 8:7-8 that “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”[4] Paul also affirmed that “there is none righteous,” none “who seeks for God,” none “who does good”—“not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12).

Therefore, the concept of the “sinner’s prayer” where an unregenerate person does righteous “good” acts such as repenting and “inviting Jesus to come into his heart, thus pleasing God and submitting to Him[5] while “in the flesh” is clearly an unbiblical idea. Jesus said, “The flesh profits nothing”! (John 6:63) and “this ‘nothing’ is not a little ‘something’” (Luther). Only if God, by His grace alone, first regenerates (makes alive), through the gospel, the spiritually dead, “in the flesh,” sinner, granting him faith and repentance, will he then choose to believe and come to Christ. It was “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God. . . .” (Rom.5:10). While traveling on the road to Damascus, Saul was not “seeking” God nor was contemplating Steven’s message—for he hated Christ! It was when Christ first appeared to him, thus making him spiritually alive, that he asked: “Who are You Lord?” and then obeyed Him forever more. Thus, it is entirely by God’s grace alone that He regenerates anyone.

4) The “sinner’s prayer” introduces the idea of a “second” mediator—namely, the minister becomes the “mediator” by directing the unbeliever to repeat after him the “sinner’s prayer” to God consisting of repentance and inviting Christ into his heart. As a result, the minister becomes the “go-between” mediating between the “sinner” and God in the prayer. Passages such as 1 Tim. 2:5 show this Romish idea as patently false—God needs no “assistance” from a minister to help get Jesus in one’s life.

There are many other theological problems associated with the concept of the “sinner’s prayer,” however, these above suffice. Again we are not suggesting that all who practice the traditional “sinner’s prayer” and the Charles Finney[6] “alter-call” deny salvation through faith alone or promote the Roman Catholic doctrine of “another” mediator other than Christ. Nor are we saying that genuine salvation has not occurred at revivals that include the “sinner’s prayer.” Butanyone that confesses (believes in) Christ in a biblical sense has already been saved, thus, no need for a subsequent “sinner’s prayer.” We are simply saying that whether or not something seems “to work,”[7] if it is based on teachings or concepts that are unbiblical, it should not be practiced—“Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).

“Believer’s Prayer” of Thanks Giving!

So, how are we to record new converts for the purpose of follow-up at evangelical events? Answer: Turn the unbiblical “sinner’s prayer” to a “believer’s prayer” of celebration or thanks giving prayer. In other words, at a revival during the close—after the clear preaching of the gospel—the question that can be asked, should not be, “Who wants to invite Christ into your heart?” but rather, “Who here based on proclamation of the gospel, put their faith in (believe) Christ for the very first time?” (or something similar). Then, any following prayer is for “new believers” thanking God for saving them, making them alive, giving them faith, sending Christ to die for them, etc. This way, it glorifies God in that it publically proclaims: “It is His doing you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:30) and by “grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). It also affirms the gospel as “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16) and correctly acknowledges the total inability of man due to the inherent effect of sin, thus openly affirming that salvation is exclusively by God’s grace alone.”

—-CITATIONS/FOOTNOES—-
[1] The Five points of Calvinism are 1) Total depravity/inability, 2) unconditional election, 3) limited or definite atonement, 4) irresistible or efficacious grace, and 5) perseverance of the saints (note, point 5 is not disputed in the Articles).
[2] As reported in christianpost.com.
[3] The Greek term translated “can” in John 6:44, 65 (“No one can come.”) and 8:43 (“It is because you can-not hear My word”) is dunamai meaning “ability,” not “choice.” In these passages, the term refers to unregenerate man’s spiritual inability to come to (believe in) Christ and hear His words (see also Rom.8:7-8).
[4] As with John 6:44 and 8:43, the term “even able” in Rom. 8:7 (“for it is not even able to do so”) and “can” in the next verse (“and those who are in the flesh can-not please God”) isdunamai meaning “ability,” not choice. Thus, because of his nature, the unregenerate has no spiritual “ability” to come to Christ; to hear His words; to please or submit to God; he is “not even able to do so”—unless God first makes him alive, thus changing his enslaved will.
[5] The idea of “inviting Christ into one’s heart” has absolutely no biblical support. It is he who truly believes/has faith in Christ as a result of regeneration that has an intimate relationship with all three Persons in the Trinity.
[6] Charles Finney was a revivalist in the 19th century who popularized the “alter-call” method. However, Finney is rightfully labeled as a heretic for denying many essential Christian doctrines such as that the sole ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ, thus denying justification through faith alone. Finney also denied original sin and substitutionary atonement, to name a few.
[7] Although, as many have shown (e.g., D. A. Carson), statistically of those who came forward at a typical alter-call after praying the “sinner’s prayer,” less than 2-4% were attending a Christian church five years later. In other words, the artificial method of alter-calls and “sinner’s prayers” at evangelical revivals are not working—2-4%! This shocking statistic shows the very high number of false conversions utilizing these unbiblical methods.

We hosted this panel in California and Dr.s Dalcour and Downing give a wonderful exposition on this text.  Please watch and listen several times.  Feel free to share it.

TRANSCRIPT

What John 3:16 Really Says

“Dr. Downing”

A literal translation

For So Loved God the World, the verb is in the emphatic position, so as His son, I mean His only begotten One He gave…”  That’s restrictive attributive, a form of emphasis, “In order that every single one without exception…”  It’s not whosoever, as being indefinite, it’s “pas ho pisteuon eis auton” it’s every single one without exception, “…constantly exercising faith in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

And “pisteuon eis” is a technical term in New Testament Greek it was current in profane or just in the koinai (common) spoken by the people it meant “UTTER UNRESERVED COMMITMENT TO.”  And so when the first men went out, the Apostles went out to preach and they said believe in or believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved there was no easy believism there was no decisionism, they were calling for total commitment, the response of the whole man to the whole Christ.

The term world is what I want to comment on, let’s put it in the context.  This is something that in a proof text Christianity, very dangerous, we always look at the context.  Who was our Lord talking to?  He was talking to Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a Jew, he was a Pharisee, he was a member of the Sanhedrin.  He was, in this conversation, all through John chapter 3 Jesus tells him about being born “anothen” from above, and Nicodemus doesn’t understand it at all.  And Jesus asks, “Are you not the teacher of Israel and these things you do not know?”  That’s straight from the Greek New Testament. The teacher, “ho didaskalos tau Israel.”  [kai out ginoskeis] “ho tauta”, and these things you do not know?

Nicodemus was steeped in his Pharisee tradition.  Judaism, not the bible, taught that God was not interested in “quote”, the Kosmos; the world, the Gentiles; as well as the Jew.  [The Jews thought that] God had one thought about the world, He was saving the Jews, delivering the Jews; they were His people.  His only thought toward the world was, judgment!  Note our Lord’s answer, Nicodemus doesn’t understand, our Lord says, going to the Old Testament, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up.  Now Jesus has reached a point of contact with Nicodemus.  In order that every single one believing in Him should not perish but have eternal life for so loved God, “ton kosmon”, the world.  What a shock to Nicodemus that God love goes out to the gentiles as we as the Jews, Nicodemus was shocked at this.  God sent His son and the emphasis of John 3:16 is a personal intense and persevering faith.  For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world.  See He’s getting against Nicodemus’ Judaism and his tradition.  “But that the world through Him might be saved”; salvation going out to the gentiles.  So that’s just an opening comment on the term world in a redemptive context.

“Dr. Dalcour”

It’s interesting dealing with John 3:16 that anyone I think that takes John 3:16 out of its context of course is going to get any interpretation they want.  The same with 2 Peter 3:9.  It’s a beautiful passage in the Greek, actually from 14 to 17, it’s a beautiful passage in the Greek.  And also we have a participle; it’s not just to believe, it’s “the believing ones” literally, it is a participle there.  And the question is what is the object of ALL?  It’s the participle, the ones doing the action.  The believing ones.  And also this, “God loved the world sooooooooo much” how distorted that is when people take John 3:16 distorts God’s love because the actual word in John 3:16 translated so much is “houtos” literally means “to this extent” or “in this manner”.  God loved the “kosmos” in this manner, that all the believing one, everyone believing.  Who’s that?  That’s us, the church.

Everyone believing shall have eternal life and shall not perish.  But in 17, which everyone negates to read, they don’t read 15, they don’t read 17 or 18 and hence they only wrench out John 3:16.  In 17 we have something very interesting and also as rightly pointed out Jesus frequently presented correctives to His audience, He taught in such a way to correct false notions.  In fact that’s why many authors use the word world because a common Jew thought that salvation was to whom?  The Jews.  So to correct that you’ll see authors use the word “kosmos” to show not just Jews; Jews and Gentiles.

And in fact, the term “kosmos” is probably used about a dozen times.  It can mean the world system, it can mean the world of believers, it can mean the world of non-believers.  IT can mean the Earth.  It all depends on the context.  And here in John 3:16 it’s interesting, He starts out in 15 with the serpent and Moses lifted up the serpent. Well, who is the healing for?  Was it to a particular people? Yes, it was to the Jews.  The ones that got bitten by the snake, they were to look upon the very thing that bit them.  They would have never chosen that as their source of healing.  We would’ve never chosen God’s Son as our source of healing.  It was very particular.  And then the same phrase is used that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish” and in 17, “for God did not send into the world to judge the world BUT THAT.  Here we have an “adversative” conjunction.  Not for the purpose of X but for the result of Y or the FULFILLMENT of Y.  BUT THAT the world might be saved and we don’t want to look at that MIGHT there gramatically as some kind of possibility.  It follows a subjective tense.  “I will go to the printer or I may or might make some copies.”

It’s just Greek grammar.  So we have a adversative conjunction.  He sent the son into the world not to judge but in order that or BUT THAT, the world might be saved through Him.  So if you can take world to mean every single person you have to deal with 17 that says He’s going to save the world.  Again,  if you hold to your position to an Armenian or Pelagius position, you cannot escape a doctrine of universalistic theology as people like Carlton Pearson and others actually teach.  Because they take these things literally.

I don’t have to; I can allow the text to read for itself.  I don’t have to read in the view because when folks start reading into the text, then again, you can make any doctrine you want happen.  So I think John 3:16 is a beautiful promise for the believers a corrective to Nicodemus and a beautiful promise for security for the believers.

GREEK TEXT John 3:14-18

14Καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οὕτωςὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,
15 ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχῃζωὴν αἰώνιον.
16 οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸντὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃζωὴν αἰώνιον.
17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνακρίνῃ τὸν κόσμον, ἀλλʼ ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ.
18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰςαὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται· ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰςτὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ.