“Jesus said, ‘You may ask Me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’ (John 14.14)
Therefore, if you pray sincerely, asking Him this:
“Lord Jesus, please come into my life
and be my Savior and Lord.
Please forgive my sins,
and give me the gift of eternal life.”
– He will do it now.”
(The Bridge to Life tract, by The Navigators)
Yesterday we looked at the instruction given by Peter in the book of Acts as it pertains to the receiving of salvation and found no Scriptural evidence for the use of The Sinner’s Prayer as a means to laying hold of Jesus’ promise so that one might gain forgiveness of his sins or the redemption of his soul. Today we will look at what Paul has to bring to the discussion.
Unlike with Peter who it is hard to pin down quite when he was saved, the book of Acts gives us a clear telling of Paul’s conversion from sinner damned by God to saint redeemed in Christ. Picking it up in Acts 9, we find the unbelieving Saul wandering down the Damascus road on his way to persecute himself some Christians, when all of a sudden “a light from heaven flashed around him” and he fell to the ground (v.3ff). At this point the risen Christ begins to speak to him, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (v.4), to which Saul replies, “Who are you, Lord?” (v.5). Jesus then instructs Paul what to do, where to go, and Saul, now blinded, responds in obedience to this direction.
From here the Lord goes to a disciple named Ananias and instructs him to go to Saul and restore his vision so that he may go forth from there to perform as Christ’s “chosen instrument . . . to carry [his] name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (v.15). So Ananias does this, coming to Saul and saying, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v.17).
Now, if at any place we might find evidence for using The Sinner’s Prayer, this seems like it would be it, but alas, nothing! Ananias could easily have said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. So now, if you will just follow me in this simple prayer you to can have eternal life.” But he doesn’t. Instead what we read is that following Ananias’ words, “immediately something like scales fell from [Saul's] eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized” (v.18). Thus, Saul is now counted among the redeemed, and not a Sinner’s Prayer in sight.
This is not all however, as the remainder of the book of Acts provides us with two more accounts of Paul’s conversion, in chapters 22 and 26, each time as a part of Paul’s testimony while presenting the gospel message. Do either of these allude to him needing to pray a special prayer for redemption? Not at all. In fact, the language Paul uses comes down even more heavily in favor of my own reformed convictions about soteriology. Acts 22.14-16 gives a second telling of Ananias’ instruction to Paul, saying, “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Wow! There is not even a call to response here, it’s just, “God chose to save you. You are now saved. Get in the water!” Then in chapter 26 we once more hear from Paul, this time recalling Christ’s words to him as, “Rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you” (v.16). Again, no call to response, no “if you prayer this prayer sincerely then I will appoint you.” Christ comes in, has a purpose in saving Paul, and its’ done. Now, of course Paul responds in obedience through faith (cf. 26.19ff), but never do we hear of a prayer or of claiming any promise for himself as being the means of Paul’s being granted eternal life.
So, analyzing the testimony concerning Paul’s conversion as it is presented in Acts 9, 22, and 26, we still have not found any evidence supporting the use of The Sinner’s Prayer for gaining entrance into God’s heavenly kingdom. The next place we will look is through Paul’s teachings in the epistles of the New Testament.