Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Prayer of Faith

The Sinner's Prayer is the subject of an article in Christianity Today by J. D. Greear. It is a topic that has attracted lots of attention lately and Greear's approach is thoughtfully balanced. A resolution was passed affirming the "Sinner's Prayer" as an expression of repentance and faith at the SBC convention in June after some back-and-forth in the preceeding days about the issue.

Greear does an admirable job of expressing the concerns of those who expressed concerns while also confirming that there are Biblical ways to guide the use of the Sinner's Prayer, even pointing out that Spurgeon and Whitefield made use of it and Bunyan depicts it in a scene in The Pilgrim's Progress. He correctly indicates that genuine saving faith and repentance can be present without the implementation of the Sinners Prayer and can also be expressed through the Sinner's Prayer.

There are a number of factors to consider, and it is an issue requiring balance. Whatever method of evangelism is used, we know there are those who respond to the gospel and those who reject it. We also know that among those who respond will be those whose faith is genuine and those who merely profess to believe but do not genuinely believe (Matthew 13: 3-30). In some cases those who profess but do not truly believe may even deceive themselves, at least for a time.

So we must be careful to proclaim the gospel with accuracy, and to point out that when Jesus commands, "Follow Me," that is exactly what He means. But even then, there will be tares among the wheat.

I think at least part of the way to resolve the matter is to recognize that an affirmative outward reponse to the gospel message may indicate a true conversion or may simply represent a "sparked interest", as it were. Thus, the believers who are involved with the new convert should continue to proclaim and teach the gospel as they disciple the novice in the faith. This helps the new believer become more mature, and if the apparent convert does not yet have a fully formed true faith,  it may help them, as they continue to learn, to develop one.

Even then, some will turn out not to have been genuine in their faith. But we still, as "...ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us "(2 Cor 5:20 NASB) beg people on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.

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