Q. Whilst listening to a pastor preaching the gospel, something really stood out regarding the committing of oneself to Christ. The pastor pointed out that there are many people who believe they are saved, purely because they said a ‘sinners prayer’ accepting that Jesus died for their sins.
The aspect which he believed was missing was a conviction of sin and repentance. He spoke of being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ and not being conformed to this world. He spoke of God’s Righteousness and Holiness and commented that most salvation messages had eliminated these elements of ‘repent and turn from your sins’.
Are these people who said the prayer saved or not?
A. This is a salvation by faith plus works doctrine popular in many segments of the Church. But the fact is that turning from sin is something that happens after salvation not before it, and not even the best of us is very good at it. The Greek word translated repent denotes a change in thinking, not a change in behavior. When John the Baptist and Peter spoke of repentance they were telling their Jewish audiences to change their minds about relying upon the law and recognize their need for a Savior.
We come to Jesus by faith alone, asking Him to forgive us for our sins. Once we’re saved He sends us the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and begin the regeneration process. But before that process even begins, the Holy Spirit is sealed within us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, (Ephes. 1:13-14) so everyone who sincerely prays the sinner’s prayer and trusts in the Lord for forgiveness is saved. Remember, we’re saved because of what we believe, not because of how we behave.