Is Street Preaching Biblical?

What Does the Bible Say About Street Preaching?

Over the years, and most recently, I have had many people, mostly Christians, ask the question; “Is street preaching Biblical?” or something similar like: “Why do you preach in public?” In this article I will answer the question by looking at four examples and then listing many other scriptures on the subject. All of this will be in the New Testament. I cannot re-write the whole Bible which is what I would have to do to give all the examples.

Example 1: Acts 8:5-6. In verse 5 it says that Philip went down to a city in Samaria and preached Christ to them. The word for preached here is Kēryssō to be a herald, to officiate as a herald and to proclaim after the manner of a herald, always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed. Before the days of media and even print, a herald was used to go out and announce to people the message or news from the King. It tells us in verse 6 that Philip’s audience was the multitudes. Knowing the times and culture it is reasonable to conclude that this was outside and not in a building, and definitely not a church building. There is nothing wrong with inviting people to church, in fact I would encourage you to do so however; preaching openly in a public place to multitudes of people I see as a Biblical method and pattern.

Example 2: Acts 2:14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.”

The city of Jerusalem was swelling with men from all the known world to attend one of the required Jewish feasts – Pentecost. It was from an open rooftop that Peter delivered the Gospel to the crowds below. Again we can safely conclude that they were outside in the open air. 3,000 souls were saved that day. Peter raising his voice above the crowds proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ.

Example 3: Romans 10:14-15 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, “Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Twice in this passage Paul uses the word Kēryssō he also uses a quote from the Old Testament which is translated good news. If we are to preach to unbelievers, we must go where they are, out in the public.

Example 4: This is from our Lord Himself in Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The same Kēryssō is used here by Mark describing the first recorded words and ministry of our Lord – proclaiming the Gospel.

If you look in the Gospels you will see that numerous times Jesus preached and taught in public places where crowds gathered. Even in the temple He cried out with a loud voice. (John 7:37-38) This was probably the outer court where the masses of people were.

Other Scriptures on Preaching:

Luke 24:47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Mark 6:12 So they went out and preached that people should repent.

Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Mark 16:20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

Acts 18:9 Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;

Acts 20:20 how I (Paul) kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,

Acts 26:19-20 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.

Ephesians 6:19-20 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Colossians 4:3-4 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

Titus 1:3 but has in due time manifested His word through preaching, which was committed to me according to the commandment of God our Savior;

Revelation 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.

All scripture above use the New King James Version®, ©1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved! NKJV is a ™ of Thomas Nelson Publishers

Did Jesus Actually Die on the Cross?

Introduction

There have been myriads of attacks on the Christian faith. Here are the main focuses of these attacks; the reliability of the Word of God, the person of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His sinless life, His resurrection, and His second coming. The critics, skeptics, and haters of God over the years have come up with attacks on the death of Jesus. Early on it was the Gnostics. Other religious groups today including Islam have attacked the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. If Jesus did not die, then no resurrection you see. In this article it is my aim to confirm with irrefutable evidence on the certainty of the death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. How do we know for sure? There was neither autopsy nor a death certificate. There is however; ample medical evidence, trustworthy testimony, eyewitness accounts, and reasonable logical deduction to prove that Jesus Christ did indeed die on the cross. We will focus on the most popular attack on the death of Jesus in what is called the swoon theory.

The Swoon Theory

With some variations in the theory it boils down to this; the swoon theory is the theory that Jesus never really died on the cross, but that He was crucified and came very close to death. He passed out and went unconscious. It further states that He was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb.  After three days the coolness of the tomb revived Him and He managed to roll away the stone, come out of the tomb and appear to the disciples making them think He’d risen from the dead.

Now, virtually all biblical scholars recognize the “swoon theory” argument is hopelessly flawed. What is surprising is that it keeps being brought up over and over again. The swoon theory has been thoroughly refuted by many people. Jesus’ ordeal was far too serious to permit Him to survive. Can you imagine that Jesus endured six trials, a crown of thorns, a Roman scourge, crucifixion, the spear in the side, loss of blood, 3 days without medical attention, and then overcame an armed guard, walked on pierced feet and somehow or other convinced his disciples that he conquered death and the grave? [1], [2]

The Medical Evidence for the Death of Jesus Christ

Alexander Metherell, M.D., PH.D. takes a look at the account in the Gospels, plus extensively having studied the historical, archaeological, and medical data concerning the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Metherell does possess the medical and scientific credentials to explain the crucifixion. His conclusion is that Jesus actually died. And yes, even in the case of someone brutally executed on a Roman cross two millennia ago, medical evidence can still make a crucial contribution. What actually happened at the Crucifixion? What was Jesus’ cause of death? Is there any possible way he could have survived this ordeal? Those are the kinds of questions that I hoped medical evidence could help resolve. [3]

The Garden of Gethsemane: And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44 This is a known medical condition called hematidrosis. It’s not very common, but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress. What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there’s a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood. We’re not talking about a lot of blood; it’s just a very, very small amount. What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, his skin would be very, very sensitive.

The Scourging: So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. John 19:1 Matt. 27:26 Mark 15:15 Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows. The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely. The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible.

As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh. A third-century historian by the name of Eusebius described a flogging by saying, “The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.” We know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock. Hypovolemic shock means the person is suffering the effects of losing a large amount of blood. This does four things. First, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume. Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.

Agony of the Cross: How certain was death by this crude, slow, and rather inexact form of execution called crucifixion? First of all, the pain was absolutely unbearable, in fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means ‘out of the cross.’ Think of that: they needed to create a new word because there was nothing in the language that could describe the intense anguish caused during the crucifixion.

He would have been laid down, and His hands would have been nailed in the outstretched position to the horizontal beam. This crossbar was called the patibulum, and at this stage it was separate from the vertical beam, which was permanently set in the ground. The Romans used spikes that were five to seven inches long and tapered to a sharp point. They were driven through the wrists, pointing about an inch or so below his left palm. Yes, through the wrists. This was a solid position that would lock the hand; if the nails had been driven through the palms, his weight would have caused the skin to tear and He would have fallen off the cross. So the nails went through the wrists, although this was considered part of the hand in the language of the day. And it’s important to understand that the nail would go through the place where the median nerve runs. This is the largest nerve going out to the hand, and it would be crushed by the nail that was being pounded in.

At this point Jesus was hoisted as the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake, and then nails were driven through Jesus’ feet. Again, the nerves in his feet would have been crushed, and there would have been a similar type of pain. His arms would have immediately been stretched, probably about six inches in length, and both shoulders would have become dislocated—you can determine this with simple mathematical equations. “This fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22:1-31, which foretold the crucifixion hundreds of years before it took place and says, ‘My bones are out of joint.’”

Cause of Death: Once a person is hanging in the vertical position, crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation. The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones. After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he’d have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore. As the person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis—the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with his heart beating erratically, Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, ‘Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And then he died of cardiac arrest.

Even before he died—and this is important too—the hypovolemic shock would have caused a sustained rapid heart rate that would have contributed to heart failure, resulting in the collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart, called a pericardial effusion, as well as around the lungs, which is called a pleural effusion.

Because of what happened when the Roman soldier came around and, being fairly certain that Jesus was dead, confirmed it by thrusting a spear into his right side. It was probably his right side; that’s not certain, but from the description it was probably the right side, between the ribs.

The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart, so when the spear was pulled out, some fluid—the pericardial effusion and the pleural effusion—came out. This would have the appearance of a clear fluid, like water, followed by a large volume of blood, as the eyewitness John described in his gospel. John probably had no idea why he saw both blood and a clear fluid come out—certainly that’s not what an untrained person like him would have anticipated. Yet John’s description is consistent with what modern medicine would expect to have happened. At first this would seem to give credibility to John being an eyewitness; however, there seemed to be one big flaw in all this. John 19:34. When you carefully read what John said, he saw ‘blood and water’ come out; he intentionally put the words in that order. But according to Dr. Metherell, the clear fluid would have come out first. So there’s a significant discrepancy here. This can be explained because the order of words in ancient Greek was determined not necessarily by sequence, but by prominence. This means that since there was a lot more blood than water, it would have made sense for John to mention the blood first.

“There was absolutely no doubt that Jesus was dead.”

Alexander Metherell, M.D., PH.D.

Predictions from Old Testament Prophets

Why are the Bible prophecies of Jesus Christ’s death so important? These Messianic prophecies below deal with His death. It is a powerful evidence of the accuracy of the Bible and its divine inspiration. Even though these prophecies were written by several different men over many years, they were divinely fulfilled! Here are a handful of the Messianic prophecies fulfilled by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

The Prophet Isaiah: Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 Full prophecy: Isaiah 53:1-12

The Prophet Daniel: And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself…Dan. 9:26

The Prophet Zachariah: And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Zach. 12:10

King David: For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. Psalm 16:10 and again; Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. Psalm 22:16

Jesus Christ’s Own Testimony

Many times Jesus told His disciples that he would be crucified to death; Matt. 16:21 Matt. 20:18 Mark 8:31 Mark 9:31 Mark 10:32-34 Luke 9:22 If Jesus did not actually die on the cross then He would be a liar. Based on the character and nature of Jesus we can trust His testimony. Also He proved what he said by rising from the dead. Consider what John wrote about Jesus’ claims of death.And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This He said, signifying by what death He would die. John 12:32-33 and again;…that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die. John 18:32 Also see John 2:18-22

Eyewitnesses to the Crucifixion

There were many eyewitnesses to the death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Besides the followers of Jesus there were those who stood by the cross that would either be considered neutral to the whole affair or be His enemies.

Soldiers at the Cross: Amongst those at the cross were the Roman soldiers. There is an estimated 30,000 people who were executed by crucifixion in the Roman Empire around the time of the life of Jesus.  These soldiers were experts in crucifying people. They not only could tell if someone was dead, but because of their own demise, they would never let someone down from the cross alive. The usual punishment for an escaped prisoner was death. Acts 12:18-19 The soldiers saw Jesus die;So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39 and Matt. 20:50-54 Luke 23:46-47 The soldiers broke the legs of the other two criminals on either side of Jesus. This was to hasten their death because it was the Passover. But when they came to Jesus they saw that He was already dead. John 19:33 Also one of the soldiers pierced Jesus with a spear. John 19:34

John the Apostle: John’s eyewitness testimony,And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. John 19:35 Read full passage: John 19:31-37 It was John, who at the cross, Jesus entrusted His mother’s care to.John 19:26-27

Mary the Mother of Jesus: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. John 19:25 No doubt Mary witnessed her son and her Savior die.

The Women: Besides the Lord’s mother, there were other women who were near enough to the cross to see Jesus suffer and die. Some of these were the ones who were with Jesus in the height of His ministry. Luke 8:2-3 The following Gospel accounts refer to these women;And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, Matt. 27:55 also see Mark 15:40-41 A detail that is easy to skip over is that the women also saw the body of Jesus in the tomb before the stone had been rolled against it.And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Luke 23:55 It is very likely in a courtroom today that Jesus’ death would be established on just their testimony.

The Crowds & Acquaintances: And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:48-49 Besides the women there were others who also witnessed the crucifixion. The general crowds left after Jesus breathed His last, but Jesus’ acquaintances stuck around to see what would happen next.

The Jewish Leaders: The Jewish leaders are probably the greatest weight of testimony attesting to the fact that Jesus Christ did indeed die on the cross. First of all, it was the Jewish leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and the lawyers) that desired to put Jesus to death. And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. John 11:49-53 They went to a lot of trouble to have Jesus falsely tried and condemned by Pilate. They were not about to allow Jesus to escape alive from the cross. The three-phase trial by the Jews, before Jesus was sent to Pilate, was a great display of hatred and persistence in the conspiracy to kill Jesus Christ. And yes the Jews were present at the crucifixion to see it through to the end. Matt. 27:39-43 Mark 15:31-32 Luke 23:35

Confirmation of Jesus’ Death by Others

Joseph of Arimathea: The prophecy of the suffering Messiah.And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Isaiah 53:9 Had not Joseph claimed the body of Jesus and put it in his own tomb, Jesus would most likely been thrown into the town dump. This was the fate of most crucified victims; they were burned in a garbage dump instead of a decent burial.Joseph was a rich man. Matt. 27:57 Joseph buried Jesus in his own tomb. Matt. 27:60 full context Matt. 27:57-60 By receiving the body of Jesus, preparing the body for burial, and securing the body in the tomb, Joseph was convinced that Jesus Christ had in fact died on the cross.

Nicodemus: Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, and a teacher in Israel. He is mentioned five times in the Bible, all in the book of John. We can deduct that he in fact became a believer, although Scripture doesn’t give any details of his conversion. You must ask yourself, why would he risk his position by helping with the burial of Jesus.And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. John 19:39 In order to wrap a body with spices and move it to a tomb for burial you are going to notice if the body is dead or not. The swoon theory states that Jesus was unconscious, but not dead. Even if he wasn’t, He would be after wrapping Him for burial. The Jews no doubt learned certain burial techniques from the Egyptians. Genesis 50:24-26 If we look to Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead; we see he was fully wrapped and had to have help to remove the grave clothes. John 11:44

The subtle mention of Nicodemus helping to bury Jesus gives great testimony to Jesus’ death.

The Roman Centurion: I was reading through the book of Mark recently and noticed a detail that really stood out to me. It is where Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. It was what Pilate did. Here is the verse;   Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time.Mark 15:44 full context Mark 15:42-47 Pilate marveled that Jesus was already dead. It was more common for those who were crucified to die a slow agonizing death that lasted for a couple of days. Jesus died in about six hours. Perhaps Pilate, after having met Jesus, and the fact He claimed to be the Son of God, thought Jesus would have taken a long time to die. After surviving the scourging and that Jesus being a great leader, you would think He would have lasted up on the cross for days fighting every bit of the way. It is no wonder Pilate marveled. Remember also that Jesus said that no one took His life from Him. John 10:17-18

Pilate then asked the centurion if Jesus had been dead for some time. This stood out to me because if anyone was sure that Jesus Christ was really dead it would have been this centurion. Pilate did not release the body until it was confirmed by this man that Jesus was in fact dead. This was probably the closest thing to a death certificate and coroner’s report we have now days. A centurion was in charge of one hundred men. He was responsible among many other qualifications for that position. Had the centurion been wrong it could have cost him his life. Remember to fulfill Bible prophecy Jesus would not have any of His bones broken Exodus 12:46 (the slain lamb) Psalm 34:20 but that he would be pierced in the side. Zach. 12:10 The reason this was done was to hasten the death of those being crucified that day. When they came to Jesus they saw He was already dead. John 19:33

Pontius Pilate: As mentioned above Pilate would have never released the body of Jesus if he had not been convinced that Jesus was in fact dead. This makes Pontius Pilate another testament to the death of Jesus after the fact. Pilate commanded the body be given to Joseph. Matt. 27:57-58

The Jewish Leaders: I mention the Jewish leaders again here pointing out that they had no issue to the reality of Jesus being dead. In a plot to explain His missing body and subsequence resurrection, they refer to Jesus in the past using the phrase; “while He was still alive”…saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Matt. 27:63

The Angels: But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. Matt. 28:5 Although one angel recorded here, we see the role of God’s elect angels throughout the ministry of Jesus. They had a strong presence at the resurrection. They testify to the death of Jesus, knowing that He was crucified.

Two Men on Emmaus Road: …So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. Luke 24:19-20 The scope of the news about the death & resurrection of Jesus was now extending outwardly to the populous, which would make it much more difficult to have the death of Jesus be a hoax.

Outside Biblical Sources

There are many references outside the Bible that verify the existence and death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. For the sake of lengthiness I will just chose one. The most prominent of these writings is that of Josephus.

Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37 – c. 100) was a Jewish historian born in Jerusalem four years after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in the same city. His two greatest works are Jewish Antiquities, unveiling Hebrew history from the Creation to the start of the great war with Rome in A.D. 66, while his Jewish War, though written first, carries the record on to the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Masada in A.D. 73. Josephus provides the longest secular reference to Jesus in any first-century source. [4]

If you want to last long as an historian you would be careful to get your facts straight. Here is an excerpt from Josephus’ writings: Antiquities 18:63: At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die.

Endnotes References

[1] Information on the swoon theory taken from Christian Apologetic & Research Ministry. http://www.carm.org/swoon-theory

[2] Information on the swoon theory taken from Christian Research Institute. http://www.equip.org/perspectives/the-swoon-theory-did-jesus-die-on-the-cross

[3] Taken from The Case For Easter by Lee Strobel

[4] Taken from 4 Truth; http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.2902067/k.C923/Josephus_and_Jesus.htm

The Sinner’s Prayer

What is the Sinner’s Prayer?

The  sinner’s prayer has been used verbally by preachers in leading someone to the Lord and has been put into print in a myriad of Christian publications. Below is an example of a typical sinner’s prayer:

Dear Jesus: Thank You for dying for me. I confess that I am a  sinner and in need of salvation. Please forgive me of my sins. I believe you died on the cross and rose from the dead. I ask you right now to come into my heart and be my savior. Amen!

Does  this sound familiar? With every head bowed and every eye closed. Is there anyone here that would like to come to Christ? If so, raise your hand; just slip it up real quick. There, thank you, thank you, over there in the back, thank you.

We  hear of the sinner’s prayer often enough that it’s easy to see why people think  of it as being from the Bible. The fact is, there is neither any specific  formula found in Scripture for a Sinner’s Prayer nor is there any biblical  example of such a prayer being recommended in the salvation experience. The  modern usage of the Sinner’s Prayer originates in the 19th Century and was  popularized by the experience-oriented evangelistic style of Charles Finney. As Scripture presents it, men should repent, believe, and be baptized. There is no mention of “altar calls” or “sinner’s prayers” or requesting for Christ to enter one’s heart. Source of information on this paragraph:  BlueLetterBible.org

What Does Scripture Say?

I  don’t want to split hairs when it comes to words, however we must be careful what we are communicating. The idea of asking Jesus to come into one’s heart or  to “accept Christ” maybe confused with the Biblical concept of receiving  Christ. John 1:11-12 Many people recite this scripture when witnessing as well; Rev. 3:20 The context is the lukewarm Church, but nevertheless it is a Church that Jesus says He loves. (Verse 19) You could say these were believers he was addressing, although he is standing on the outside of the Church knocking to get in. I don’t see anything wrong with using this verse in evangelism. A biblical sinner’s prayer is found in; Luke 18:13 The Lord said he was the one who went away justified.

Look  if you will at some other sinner’s statements from the Bible. There are many  examples of how people in the Bible came to Christ. I want to just point out a  few. The first one that comes to mind is the thief on the cross. Luke  23:39-43 The one criminal confesses that he is under condemnation and then simply says, “Lord  remember me when you come into your kingdom”. The  Lord promised the thief to be in paradise with Him. As a side note, the thief  did not say a formulated prayer, nor did he have opportunity to come down from the cross and be baptized before he died. It was also impossible for him to make any restitution or show “fruits of repentance”. However correlated with  the other Gospel accounts both of the thieves were mocking Jesus at first,  therefore there must have been some change of heart/mind at some point. I think  this is a great occasion where we can see that the Lord knows the heart. We do not know a person’s heart, therefore we can not deemed them saved based solely on a repeat after me sinner’s prayer.

In Acts 2:37 after Peter preaches the Gospel message to the crowd, they responded by saying, Acts 2:38-39. The instruction was to repent and be baptized. Needless to say that upon doing so, it  showed that one believed. If you notice here the instruction was not to repeat  a prayer, come to the front, walk an aisle, or sign a decision card. InActs  16:30-34 Once again there was no instruction  for him and his family to go through a specific prayer. However they were given the Word of God. (Verse 32) and  the jailer’s faith was evident by the fact that he washed Paul and Silas’  wounds and gave them something to eat. He and his family were also baptized. It  concludes the passage by saying that they believed God.

These are just a few examples. If you  look at the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament you will not find the practice of a formulated prayer method anywhere. Does this mean that if someone  goes through a sinner’s prayer or responds to an altar call they can’t be saved  that way? The answer I would say is no of course not. You may think I leave people hanging and not “seal the deal” as it were. I want to mention a few  instances in the Bible when Jesus Christ ministered to people. First there was the scribe who asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. After the scribe  grasped the answer that Jesus gave, Jesus said to him that he was not far from the kingdom of God. Mark  12:28-34 That is how the Lord left him. I am sure that we, on the  other hand, would have tried to lead him in a prayer to receive Jesus. Remember the rich young ruler? Matt. 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23 after Jesus pinpointed the man’s obstacle to coming to Him, it says he went  away sadly. Notice that Jesus didn’t chase him down and say, “wait, what can I  do to make you come to me?” Sad to say many of us would have still made it easy  for the man and said, just repeat after me…

I have a friend who, in my opinion, tries to get people to say “the sinner’s prayer” all too often when witnessing.  Before I go any further I should mention that I use to minister in such a fashion as well. That is why I am writing this article. We should really look close at our practices. I think we all too often want to downplay the repentance and commitment aspect of following the Lord. It has become sort of  the “fine print” or disclaimer we must tack on the end of our presentation.  Then we hurry it, as not to lose the person so to speak. One time my friend and  I were out witnessing. As I preached, he talked to this lady who claimed she was interested in what we were talking about. My friend tried to lead her in a prayer for salvation. She stopped him and said she wasn’t ready. Now he was sorely disappointed, but I asked him, would it have been better for her not to  say anything and just repeated your words as not to embarrass herself? Or  sometimes I wonder if people feel hounded and go through the motions just to get us off their back. I have learned to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work  at that point. I urge them not to put it off. Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation. Nevertheless, it is between them and God.

The Universal Call

I believe in giving an invitation to come to Jesus Christ before it is too late. Matt.  11:28. Our humble Lord and Savior gave this heart felt plea as the invitation to come. Rev. 22:17 I  give invitations to come to Christ, but it is just that, “come to Jesus Christ”  not come to me, or come to a church, or come forward to the altar. Bye the way,  there is no altar on the sidewalk or a park where my evangelism takes place. 2 Cor 5:20. I have pleaded  and even begged people to come to Christ. This is for their own good. It should  be explained to people that it is to their benefit that they repent and  believe. I do not however coerce, deceive, trick, or promise them anything  outside the realm of scripture. In other words, you will not here me say come to Christ and you will be rich etc.  Acts  17:30 I have commanded people to come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What’s the Big Deal?

There is nothing wrong with the content of the prayer itself. Most sinners’ prayers contain doctrinally sound phrases. For example; Rom10:9 The problem with leading someone in a  “sinner’s prayer” and then because of that prayer, deemed them saved, is  problematic for many reasons. I think the biggest problem is in the solicitation of such a prayer. In looking through the book of Acts, the  response to the Gospel was always initiated from the recipients. It was never  prodded by the preacher saying, now if you want to receive Christ come forward or repeat after me… etc. In a broad sense, I think the aspect of leading  someone to Christ, in most cases; dumb downs the elements of sin, repentance,  and commitment. Perhaps you could say an “easy belief” Gospel message, which is no Gospel at all.

Often  in “altar calls” or “invitations to accept Christ”, in an evangelical setting, there is the assumption that the audience knows all about the biblical Jesus and the  Gospel message. So although there may be a sermon or personal testimonies  given, there often is no clear presentation of whom Jesus Christ is, why we  need Him, or what He has done. It is most often assumed they know. In our day  and age of apostasy, doctrines of demons, bad theology, and a distorted view of Christ, we should give a clear presentation of biblical truth concerning the  Gospel and salvation. My question is; who and what are these people accepting by coming forward and praying a prayer? They may very well be accepting a Jesus they have contrived in their mind, but not Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. 2 Cor 11:1-4

If you or I were to find ourselves in  the position of leading someone to Christ, at the very least we should let the  person verbalize the confession or prayer on their own accord. This idea of  “repeating after me” does not give the true sense of what is going on. If you  were to ask me to tell you about wiring a jet airplane, I would have nothing to say on the subject. But, if you said to repeat some phrases after you and then say, “now you are a wiring expert”, it wouldn’t make sense. Romans chapter 10,  Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth… Also what is in the heart  overflows into speech. 1 John 5:10. Look, if the person cannot confess something about what they are doing on their own accord, it is  my opinion that in most cases, they are not ready. This could be for a number  of reasons. Let’s look at a few below:

It is a work of man (or the flesh) John 3:7-8 They are not truly being drawn by God  but are either responding by emotion or pressure from the person ministering to them. John 6:65. They do not understand or are not ready for the  commitment. In Luke 14:25-33 Jesus tells us to count the cost. Luke 14:33. Perhaps  they are not told about this part. When sharing the Gospel I tend to  motivate people by sharing the benefits of eternal life in heaven and the  warning of eternal damnation in hell. I think these are biblical truths that  certainly should be told. However, sometimes a person wants “fire insurance” if  you will, and doesn’t plan on anything other than that. Eternal life is more  than heaven to gain or hell to escape. John 17:3

Professions – True or False

Many years ago in my evangelism, several of us at  the Church I was attending went out into the community sharing the faith. There  were many occasions that I or someone else had “led someone to Christ”. This  was very exciting. If we led someone to the Lord, our strategy was to go back  the next week and follow up with them rather than searching for new people to witness to. This follow up, which by the way, was stressed very much for those who did evangelism, in fact the evangelist was somewhat negligent if they did  not follow up. The problem was that in most cases the follow up was very  difficult because, looking back; I don’t think all those professions were authentic, although some probably were. For example; after someone came to Christ, when we would go back to their house a week later, they didn’t want  anything to do with God or us. Also the in-between time during the week the  person would not come to Church or any gatherings and would avoid any contact.  This, as you can imagine, was very frustrating. Sounds much like the seed that  the devil came and stole. What I saw over that period of time was all four soils of the seeds in the parable of the sower. I can say that even in leading someone to the Lord through a specific prayer is still just a seed sown. Wait and see how it grows. Luke  13:6-9

In our modern times when everything is fast and  instant we bring this into the things of the faith. It could be that because we are not willing to wait and see what happens after planting the seed of the Gospel that we rush into “picking fruit that is not ripe” for the sake of  chalking another one up to our ministry. This I must say has affected me over the years, as it has been the status quo in the evangelical world for so long.  The more I involved myself in serving the Lord in evangelism and reading what  God’s Word has actually said concerning these things, I began to see that we were not really doing what the Bible says. This usually produces either no  results or undesirable results. I have found that many of these practices I am discussing in this paper are Church traditions that have been contrived by man.  The question is; has the modern day evangelical world become like the Pharisees  of old, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men?

Conclusion

My supposition is this; the more accurate and faithful we are to the Word of God in our practice of ministry, the more chance  of desired results or outcome, assuming those desires are the same as God’s. I  am not a pragmatist in regard to preaching the Gospel. I think of it in this  way; if we do it the way the Bible says and we don’t get results, at least we  are using the pattern given. I think we stand on uncertain ground when we stray  from the instructions in God’s Word. My advice is to stay away from unbiblical practices and methods when presenting the Gospel and dealing with the recipients of your message. We all could certainly pray to remain close to Jesus. John 15:5