Q – Hi Pastor Jim!
In addition to listening to your messages, I’ve been reading your “blog.” I really enjoyed the e-mail you sent out today. It’s ironic because I was just praying about investments this morning! The e-mail could not have come at a better time! It’s a message that I’ll definitely study over and over again.
I’m currently reading Romans every day. I’m enjoying it very much. The truth seems to be leaping off the pages now. (My friend who directed me to your website) told me that once I began learning about election, it would generate many questions. That’s definitely happening! So, here’s my question:
I recently heard a pastor speak about the importance of saving souls. He said that people may perish because of our (Christians) inability to lead them in the sinner’s prayer. He said that if we don’t seek out people to help them learn about God and ultimately pray the sinner’s prayer with them, then their blood would be on our hands.
It sounded like false teaching to me. According to what I’m learning about predestination/election, it was determined long before we were born who would be saved. I believe it’s a God-appointed time that He ordains for us to turn our heart toward Him. My understanding at this point is that God’s elect are to minister to other elected individuals to help them grow in learning about God’s sovereignty. How do you respond to this teaching and how should we explain this correctly?
Jim – Oh dear.
You’ve run into typical legalistic mix-and-match theology that is 180 degrees removed from everything Christianity is supposed to be about.
A couple thoughts:
1) The idea that we are to “save souls” comes from a misreading of Proverbs 11:30. Here it is in its context:
“He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it. He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him. He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.” (Prov. 11:26-31)
King Solomon wrote those words to describe good rulership. They had nothing to do with “winning” or “saving” souls eternally under Christ. Indeed, Christ would not appear on the stage of history for another 600+ years. People who do not pay attention to proper Biblical exegesis have a tendency to grab bits and pieces at random and apply them to their own theology. This is a good example of that sort of slipshod methodology..
2) There is no such thing in Scripture as “the sinner’s prayer.” To believe that people can (and will) be saved by saying a particular prayer or making a particular profession reduces God to merely a servant who is required to react to the will of His creatures. At best, this is misguided tradition. But at worst, this kind of “salvation by incantation” is witchcraft. It’s a form of “speaking your own reality.” You find nothing of the sort anywhere in the Bible.
The idea of salvation by certain professions, creeds or prayers is a natural outgrowth of Arminian theology, which states that people are saved by an act of the will. But, it’s a very rocky, tenuous theology.
Think about it. If you are saved by an act of the will, then which act of the will qualifies? Which particular acts are so righteous that God is required to respond? And, how many times must acts of righteousness be performed in order to secure your eternity? Is ten enough? Is two hundred too much?
Anyway, the Arminian contingency defined particular acts – like certain professions, prayers, baptism, or even “choosing and exercising your faith” – that they claim qualify as the particular acts that God simply cannot deny. Say it, do it, get saved!
It’s simply not Biblical, despite being incredibly attractive to human ego.
3) “Their blood will be on our hands …” This phrase comes from God’s warning to Ezekiel that he would receive certain prophecies which he was required to tell Israel. They were hard sayings and they would not make Ezekiel popular among the people. But, God told him –
“When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.” (Ezek. 3:18-21)
Now, how in the world you take these words directed at Ezekiel in particular and apply them to the blood-bought saints of Christ is simply beyond me. It’s not the first time I’ve heard it, but it never ceases to amaze me. The Son of God died in order to free men and women from the bondage of legalism and the law which could not save them. Yet, preachers continue to place that burden back on the heads of Christians in order to demand some level of performance out of them. It’s criminal, to my way of thinking. It’s heretical, to God’s way of thinking. Shame on any man who would say such a thing.
My advice: run, don’t walk, as far away from that sort of preaching as you can get. It will do nothing to protect or comfort your soul. It will only lead to confusion, guilt and bondage. Paul would argue that what you heard was nothing more than the pride of some man’s flesh talking, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Rom 8:14-15)
Yes, God foreknew you before He created the light and the dark. He chose you in Christ and wrote your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In His own good time He introduced Himself to you. And He raised you to newness of life, freedom of conscience, deliverance from sin and shame, and brought you into the glorious kingdom of His dear Son. The world will always wrestle against such Sovereign freedom, but to those of us who love the truth in Christ, only the message of grace and mercy will truly satisfy.
Thanks very much for all the kind words and encouragement. Don’t let the legalists get to you. They have no hope and they don’t want you to have any either. 😉
Yours for His sake,