What must I do to be saved? Acts 16:30-31 “He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Southern Baptists used to believe that salvation came about when a person, child or adult, man or woman, answered the urging of the Holy Spirit, and repented of their sins, which was called accepting Christ as their personal savior. This is better expressed as personally accepting Christ as their savior, because otherwise it sounds as if we have chosen Christ to be our valet.
(This expression more than likely came about by Protestants who do not believe in infant baptism. However, the way it is said “accepting Christ as your personal savior” seems to indicate that Christ is yours, instead of the other way around. Personally accepting Christ affirms that you as an individual made the decision to follow Christ instead of your parents doing that for you.)
About the time of Evangelism Explosion, the Sinner’s Prayer came into favor across the world, and forms of it were used by Billy Graham and Campus Crusade for Christ, and televangelists. (Remember, Evangelism Explosion’s author was Presbyterian.)
Baptists, along with other evangelicals, latched onto this method of bringing people to Christ. Pastors began asking those who came forward to accept Christ to say the Sinner’s Prayer. It was usually like this, “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe you died and rose from the grave to make me a new creation and to prepare me to dwell in your presence forever. Jesus, come into my life, take control of my life, forgive my sins and save me. I am now placing my trust in you alone for my salvation and I accept your free gift of eternal life.”
Baptists reaffirmed this prayer in June 2012 by this resolution, “We affirm that repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord (Rom. 10:13), often identified as a ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ as a biblical expression of repentance and faith,” the resolution said. But then it added, “A ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the gospel (Matt. 6:7; 15:7–9).” This was added, in part at least, because David Platt, a Calvinist Southern Baptist, said that this prayer was superstition, and they bowed to him. Until recently, Platt was president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.
This prayer was brought to vote in 2012 because it was felt that the Sinner’s Prayer does not bow to Calvinism (even though the added part does), and many fear that Calvinism is taking hold in Southern Baptist churches. A major disagreement is that Calvinists believe that God predetermines or predestines who will be saved, and the other half of Southern Baptists believes that each person has free will to either accept salvation or reject it.
In fact, the pastor of a First Baptist church, posted this blog on his non-Calvinist church website in November 2013 which said: “We can argue the merits of Calvinism. But of this we can be certain. Those who call on his name shall be saved. Whether you believe God has predetermined whom he will allow to call on his name or not, know this. If you call on his name, you will be saved.”
That statement by that pastor contradicts itself, and is very confusing. He says that it might be possible that Calvinists are right and that God had already predetermined if you are going to heaven or hell, but if you or your friends call on God’s name, you and they will be saved. He leaves out the part of what if you or your friends are not predetermined to go to heaven. What this pastor means is that he leans toward Calvinism, and that you or your friends cannot call upon God for salvation unless you have been predetermined to be one of the elect. So, if you cannot call upon God, that means you will never be denied because you cannot call upon God in the first place. (I am not Calvinist and do not believe that God made certain people predestined to go to Heaven and certain people predestined to go to Hell. That is not how I see God.)
If you were to ask a Baptist sitting in a pew today how to be saved, this is what you would be told, “When the invitation is given, go forward, the pastor will take you by the hand and will ask you if you are accepting Christ as your savior. You say yes, they will pray with you and it is done.” Baptism will follow if and when you decide to be baptized, but baptism is not a part of the salvation process. Male and female salvation was always the same.
That is the way it used to be. And that is still the official way Baptists and other evangelicals are saved.
But a new element has been introduced, and even though it is not a part of a church’s “altar call” or “invitation to receive Christ,” it is what is being taught to young preachers. This is discussed next.
(excerpt from my book “Raising the Hood: A Christian Looks at Manhood and Womanhood.”)