Home > Mallinak, Methodology, The Gospel > How the Gospel Changed Me

How the Gospel Changed Me

March 30, 2007

Still shaking the vacation cobwebs out of the ole’ brain, fingers stiff and wooden from travel, sentences choppy, boring and somewhat listless… Nevertheless, we gotta… get… back… to writing… again. Besides, Grandma and the aunts are avid readers, and I’m their favorite of the HACKHAMMERS. Can’t disappoint!

The “Romans’ Road” is not the Gospel. Accepting the tenets of the “Romans’ Road” may or may not be synonymous with accepting the Gospel. Some adherents of the “Romans’ Road” may neglect Jesus Christ, “The Way,” in favor of the “Romans’ Road.” They are not going through Jesus Christ because they took the Romans’ Road. Jesus says, “Follow me” but they can’t. They are following the Romans’ Road Map to heaven.

No doubt some will ask, “aren’t the two the same?” Not for some. For some, the Romans’ Road means coming to the Father through the Sinner’s Prayer. The Sinner’s Prayer justifies the sinner. The Sinner’s Prayer cleanses from all sin. The Sinner’s Prayer causes me to be born again.

Now, a brief disclaimer for those who need to read disclaimers. I’m not against the “Romans’ Road” per se. Clearly, the book of Romans teaches soteriology in precise fashion. But we made a mistake some years back in equating the Romans’ Road with the Gospel. If the Romans’ Road is the Gospel, then why didn’t God the Father preach the Romans’ Road to Abraham (Galatians 3:8)? Why didn’t Christ preach the Romans’ Road to Nicodemas? Why didn’t Paul preach the Romans’ Road on Mars’ Hill? Why didn’t Peter preach the Romans’ Road on the day of Pentecost?

Growing up in a “Hyles” type church (my pastor was both a graduate of Hyles and a one-day-a-week teacher there while I was in High School) and attending Hyles-Anderson College for a year, I learned a version of the Gospel that became the Gospel to me. As a result, several things never made sense to me. Galatians 3:8 for one. For another, where did 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ff. fit in? Somehow, the versions of “The Romans’ Road” never left room for the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, or else left no room for any more than lip service to that idea. If one thought of the resurrection while soul winning he might mention it, but the key was to get the subject to The Sinner’s Prayer.

All the teaching I received in High School culminated into a mindset that fully developed in my year at Hyles. On the first Saturday morning of college, one of the staff men did a Soul Winning Clinic, required for all Freshmen, in which he explained how to Win Souls, and reminded us that we were required to win one soul per week. Whether it was said directly or left unsaid, I walked away with a “clear” understanding of my task as a soul winner. I must convince people to pray the Sinner’s Prayer. If they would only Pray that Prayer, they would be saved. They could Pray this Prayer, and afterwards they would go to heaven, no matter what they did.

I took the teaching to be Gospel. I took the message to the streets. I begged and pleaded. I had a zeal for souls, albeit ignorantly. I genuinely believed that if a man would simply Pray that Prayer, he would be saved. It would not matter what he did after he Prayed the Prayer, because “once you’re saved, you’re always saved.” The Bible says that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Whosoever means anybody. Calling on God to save you means that you are saved, no matter what.

So, out I went, armed with my Romans’ Road Map designed to lead men “to Christ.” But really, the Romans’ Road Map was specially designed to bring men to the Sinner’s Prayer, which in my mind was equal with leading men to Christ.

One Saturday, as I was knocking doors, I came across a man in his thirties. We spoke briefly before I launched into my spiel. Within a few minutes, I was to the crucial point, Romans 10:13.

Sir, whosoever means anybody. You could put your name there. What did you say your name was? Dan? Okay, “For Dan shall call upon the name of the Lord, and he shall be saved.” Isn’t that wonderful, Dan? If you will call upon the name of the Lord and ask him to save you right now, then you will be saved. That is God’s promise. It doesn’t matter what you have done before, it doesn’t matter what you do after. You could call upon the name of the Lord, and then go out and commit adultery, and you would still be going to heaven because you called upon the name of the Lord. You could call upon the name of the Lord and then go out and kill somebody, and you will still go to heaven, because you cannot lose your salvation.

Dan looked at me for a moment, and suddenly the irony of that statement hit him. Mockingly, he said, “Really! You mean really, I can pray that prayer and then I can do whatever I want? That’s great! What do I say! I’m wanting to go do some sinning in a minute here!”

Suddenly, my pitch didn’t sound so hot. But what was I to do? Meekly I replied…

Um, Dan, ummm… you need to tell Jesus that you are a sinner, and that you deserve Hell, and then ask him to forgive your sins and take you to heaven.

Dan kept up the sarcasm. “Your sure now that this is all I have to say. I want to get it right. I want to be able to do whatever I want and still go to heaven. So, I just need to pray this prayer, right?”

(Gulp!) Ummmm, yes, Dan.

Dan prayed… “Jesus I’m a sinner, please save me, Amen.” “Now can I go? I need to get back to sinning.”

Ummmm, Dan, after we get saved, we need to get baptized…”

Dan: “But you said all I needed to do was pray this prayer, and I prayed this prayer, so can I go now?”

Yes, Dan, you can go.

Sheepishly, I walked away as the door slammed shut behind me. The Gospel was changing me.

Several weeks later, I stood at a lady’s door, again begging her to Pray the Prayer. This time, I left out the parts about “doing whatever you want afterwards.” I remained convinced that the sinner’s prayer was a magic pill, and that those who prayed it were forever inoculated against Hell. Once again, I pleaded with this woman to Pray the Prayer.

Ma’am, if you’ll just pray this prayer with me, you will be saved! You don’t need to understand, you don’t need to do anything else. You just need to pray this prayer. Won’t you pray with me?

I should mention that this lady was Hispanic. She couldn’t even remotely understand what I was saying. Nevertheless, I forged ahead under the allusion that she might be able to understand me, and whether she understood or not, the prayer was magic.

It was at that moment, pleading with her to Pray the Prayer, that God flicked my ear in a sense, and I realized that rather than saving her soul, I could actually be damning her to hell by convincing her to pray the prayer. As I walked away from her door, an overwhelming fear gripped my heart. How many people that I had “led to the Lord” were trusting in that Prayer, would cling to that Prayer for their salvation, would one day at the judgement seat of Christ, when asked why God should let them into heaven reply, “because I Prayed the Prayer.”

Since that time, God has taught me differently. I still evangelize. I preach the Gospel. Not the Roman’s Road Map to the Sinner’s Prayer, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In our zeal for decisions, we have forgotten that the Gospel is a story, and we are storytellers. We have forgotten that the Gospel is the story of Abraham, and in Abraham all nations blessed. We have forgotten how to preach the Gospel saying, “In Abraham shall all nations of the earth be blessed.” We have forgotten that the Gospel is the story of heroes and battles, of dragon-slaying and giants falling. We have forgotten that the Gospel is a bloody story with a blessed ending. We have forgotten Goliath’s head, hoisted above a shepherd boy’s, blood oozing where the head was severed. We have forgotten how to tell stories. We don’t like fiction. Just the facts, ma’am. The Romans’ Road Map will do. Pray this Prayer. Repeat after me. Abracadabra…

If the Gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16), then we need to reacquaint ourselves with what the Gospel really is.

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  1. March 30, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    There is nothing wrong with using the Romans Road – or many other portions/passages of Scripture to present the Gospel. I can do it out of Genesis 22, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, chapters out of John, Luke 15 or 16, Romans 10, etc. The problem was the specific method of presenting it. Truly presenting Romans 10 would deal with repentance, believing in your heart, sincerely calling upon the Lord in heartfelt prayer.

    Yes, I can see the problem with what you presented – trusting in a prayer instead of trusting in the Saviour – however, the problem was not with the Romans Road, but with the focus.

    For the record, if I do use the Romans Road, I clarify as needed by elaborating and/or bringing other passages into my witnessing to round out the person’s understanding of the Gospel. For example, I would spend more time going to other passages if there was a part they didn’t fully grasp or apply – eg. discussing Romans 3:23 and what sin is, I might go to the 10 commandments and other passages to show how we have all committed sins.

    Personally, I like Spurgeon’s mentality: take any passage/story/theme you are preaching, then bring it to the cross (ie. bring salvation into every message – whether directly or indirectly). Sorry, if I seemed to go off on a tangent, but often I use the messages I prepared for the Gospel Mission as a springboard for further discussion with an individual.

  2. Juan Carlos Asmat
    March 31, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    I enjoy reading your post and can relate somewhat since my father used to do the same because where he was attending, the pastor was influence a lot by Jack Hyles’ method of winning souls. I do believe that there are several Hispanic congregations that are following that direction and putting a lot of emphasis on just “Praying a prayer” for salvation.

  3. Juan Carlos Asmat
    March 31, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    I’m in the Army Reserve here at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Every Saturday, we will see some people from “Victory Baptist Church” passing out flyers to go to their church services. Many soldiers do go to these services on Sunday. Here is what it is written in the flyer:

    “Preaching and Praising through Bible Based Preaching that is delivered with excitement and passion. Our Pastor Dr. R. Larry Brown opens God’s Word, remaining true to the fundamentals of the faith yet witha unique personal touch and uncommon sincerity. Praising our Lord through singing is a important part of our worship. Dr. Steve Hurte leads an inspiring music program with special music and a choir that will touch and stir your soul. With congregational singing that encourages everyone to lift voice to heaven in praise.

    We have outings and fellowships with you in mind. We have breakfast, waiting for you when you get there and lunch waiting for you after the service, so come give us a try it is an afternoon that could change your life”

    They have a short version on “presenting the gospel” with the following points having only one verse.
    1. Realize God Loves you — John 3:16
    2. The Bible Says All Are Sinners — Romans 3:23
    3. Realize That Your Sin Must Be Paid For — Romans 6:23a
    4. Know That Jesus Paid Your Sin Debt — Romans 5:8
    PRAY AND RECEIVE JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR (a short prayer follows).

    QUESTION:
    SHOULD I BE GLAD/REJOICING THAT THEY ARE DOING THIS?
    ARE THEY REALLY GIVING THE GOSPEL WHEN THEY PASS OUT THIS TRACT?
    AM I WRONG BY TELLING PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE NOT PREACHING THE GOSPEL OR WORSHIPPING GOD ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES?

  4. March 31, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Good job, Dave. The way you describe your soul winning experience mirrors mine back in those days. Truly we were taught to lead people to prayer, not to Christ. No wonder the converts would rarely stick.

    One comment/possible correction: we were (atleast when I attended college) only required to present the Gospel to 1 person weekly, not to actually get 1 person to pray.

  5. Joshua
    March 31, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Pastor Mallinak,

    Thanks for tackling this issue. It’s really encouraging, because I see it so often. Salvation sometimes seems to be presented as a decision to be made rather than a reception of what Christ has done by faith. I’m concerned that people are deceived by trusting in a prayer rather than in Christ.

  6. Thomas Ross
    March 31, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    Dear Pastor Mallinak and all JackHammers,

    I agree that the methodology of Hyles is not the gospel. I am sure that vast multitudes–including a large percentage, very possibly the majority, even perhaps the large majority–of many church members in Hyles churches are lost because they have come to the prayer instead of coming to Christ. This is a frightful delusion and a terrible evil. It should be mentioned as well that having fellowship with churches that preach this false gospel and are unwilling to repent of it is great folly; if they use the KJV, have good standards, etc. but they preach a false gospel and their church members are lost what are we doing having fellowship with them?

    Perhaps there is an even more fundamental problem, however; perhaps Romans 10:9-13 is being misinterpreted. Perhaps in v. 9-10 “saved” refers to ultimate salvation, not to justification, the confession is a public confession to men, not prayer of any kind, and the confession is post-justification, and a fruit of the new heart given when righteousness is imputed at the moment of faith; perhaps this is why v. 11 says nothing about confession and simply mentions faith; perhaps the point of v. 12b-13 is really given in v. 12a, namely, that God is not partial to Jews or Gentiles, and the calling of v. 12-13 is simply prayer of any sort (from giving thanks for a meal to seeking the Lord in devotions, etc.), which is what calling on the Lord is throughout the Old and New Testaments, and perhaps the calling of v. 12-13 is post-justification, pre-glorification, and an evidence of regeneration; perhaps this is why v. 14 explicitly indicates that the calling of v. 13 is post-belief, and, therefore, post-justification; perhaps this is consistent with the use of “saved” in v. 9-10, where the word refers to ultimate salvation, not to justification; perhaps this is why Romans 10:13 is a quote of Joel 2:32, where the Hebrew word saved/delivered in that verb tense is certainly a reference is to entry into the millenial kingdom, that is, to ultimate salvation, not to justification; perhaps the fact that Romans 10:9-13 has nothing to do with a sinner’s prayer at all is a deeper problem; perhaps the vast numbers of passages elsewhere in Scripture that predicate eternal life simply on faith or on repentance with no mention whatsoever of prayer, so that a sinner’s prayer theology is extremely hard to reconstruct without this one solitary passage, indicates that this one is being misinterpreted; perhaps this is why evangelistic works that predated the Pelagian heretic Charles Finney indicate nothing of a sinner’s prayer theology using Romans 10:9-13, but they directed the lost to repent and believe, and seek Him until they found Him by faith (which can involve prayer, cf. Luke 18:13, but does not need to); perhaps this is why there are no examples whatsosever of Christ or the apostles leading anyone to say a sinner’s prayer; perhaps this is why the book God specifically designed to evangelize the lost, the Gospel of John, John 20:31, never indicates a word about the sinner’s prayer, so either the fact that the great majority of modern gospel tracts all end exactly the same way, with Romans 10:9-13 and a command to pray the sinner’s prayer, is in error, or God’s inspired “gospel tract” needs some improvement; perhaps the idea that if you sincerely, with a desire to turn from your sin, ask Christ to save you, and believe that He will do so because you asked Him, is not the gospel, but the gospel is that one looks to Christ directly by a lively faith, John 3:14-18, so that faith is the hand that lays hold on Christ, rather than prayer being the means to get to faith and faith the means to get to Christ, and faith is not “mediated” or “piped through” prayer; perhaps the idea that one must pray to get to faith to get to Christ as false a gospel as the notion of Lutheranism that when an infant is baptized, it is given faith, and then it is saved by faith alone at that moment, so that faith is “mediated” or “piped-through” baptism; perhaps this is why nobody can say at what moment in the process of saying the sinner’s prayer one actually is justified, whether it is at the beginning, when the words “please save me” are pronounced, after the Amen, etc.; perhaps this sentence is now exceedingly long; therefore anyone who wishes to read an analysis of Romans 10:9-13, as well as the use of calling on the Lord in the NT, OT, and related issues, would do well to e-mail me at trkjv2@yahoo.com, and I will send out an in-depth study I have put together on this subject. I would actually like the thoughts of others on it, so I would also appreciate it if you read it and, whether you agreed or not, gave me your comments.

  7. April 1, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Tom, Perhaps.

    (How did I know it would end in a promotion?)

    Joe,

    My memory is somewhat foggy on the soul-winning requirement. Somehow, I always thought you had to win one soul. I did get called into Mr. Hooker’s office for breaking that rule on one or two occassions. But maybe I misunderstood the rule, and since you (apparantly) attended longer than me, I’ll take your word for it.

    Jerry,

    Certainly the Gospel includes the book of Romans. However, the five point outline from the book of Romans should not be considered to be THE summary of the Gospel. The Gospel is much richer and fuller and deeper than that.

  8. April 1, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    Tom, I finally had time to read your whole comment.

    For having so many of your ducks in a row, you still seem less than dogmatic, perhaps.

    Perhaps, someone who is in one of those churches will come to justifying faith by being under the preaching there. Perhaps, they will get saved later, and perhaps that is a reason we have many in our churches who struggle with doubts about their salvation. While we should clearly preach the gospel and also point out error, perhaps we should let the Holy Spirit convict of sin and righteousness and judgment. Perhaps, we don’t really know whether someone is saved ourselves or not.

    For myself, I always wonder how so many other Christians can tell whether some other person who claims to be a Christian is regenerate or not.

  9. April 1, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    I don’t think Thomas will answer here, and he is welcome to say more, but Jeff, he is dogmatic about it. I think he said “perhaps” a lot because he was wanting to obey “entreat as a father” with Pastor Mallinak. He hasn’t said anything to me, but I believe that would explain the reason.

    That doesn’t mean I agree precisely with his exegesis of Romans 10: 9-13.  I have argued for the existence of the sinner’s prayer using several texts.  That would be an interesting topic.

  10. April 1, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    Pastor Mallinak you described our Saturday morning teen soulwinning sessions quite well. 123 pray after me, now go sin.

    Here is another good one.If I might add.The week after had I had my appendix out, I fainted at a door, literally fell into the glass door. My partner, a Hyles-Anderson College student, got the women to say the prayer before she helped me to the car and get an adult. Later that day, I was rushed to the hospital via ambulance because my stitches burst open and spewed infection. Basicially what I am saying is that it was brainwashed into us that we get as many souls “Saved” as possible. It was all about numbers not about fruit.

    Here is another thing I recalled, we were so encouraged to win a doctor or lawyer so they could help with the tithes.

    Sorry for reminscing,

    I just truly wonder how many souls will be damned to hell because of the “Roman’s Road techinque” then actually saved through the Spirit of God and the correct usage of it.

  11. April 3, 2007 at 5:34 am

    Brother Mallinak,

    What a post! May I suggest that there are a few misconceptions that many “Fundamental Baptist” preachers have. By the way I am one of these guys.

    1) Somewhere down the line we were told to preach “sermons” when we are commanded by God to preach the Word.

    2) We have bought into the “might makes right” or “numbers prove success” mentality.

    3) We have been focusing on leading a sinner into a “prayer” instead of leading him to Christ.

    I am sure there are more, but for the sake of time I will stop. It is all the same pattern. By the way, Romans 10:9-13 does not stand alone in that chapter. It flows with the context of the entire message that Israel is lost because they did not believe. The way a Jew is saved is the same way a Gentile is saved by “calling on the name of the Lord” within the context of the rest of the passage.

    If more of us preachers were less lazy in our Bible study and preaching/teaching, our people would be a lot better off.

    Just a few thoughts,
    Art Dunham

  12. Bobby Mitchell
    April 3, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Is there a problem with Tom offering his email address and study? I read where he simply offered his study and findings. He sends me his exegetical thoughts and I appreciate them immensely. I haven’t yet read all that Tom has written on the subject. That being said, since I know Tom and his sincere zeal for the truth and his careful study of the Word, I am certainly not going to just disregard what he has to write concerning this matter.

    I am glad that the Holy Spririt and Truth is delivering men from the 1-2-3 repeat after me nonsense that is passed off by many as soul-winning. Many that excuse their quick methodology point to Acts 2 while they ignore that the converts on the day of Pentecost were devout Jews who already had an understanding of the Law, the sacrifices, the Scriptures, etc. They simply had to be convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. They already believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They already knew the Scriptures were inspired of God. They already knew what sin was and that they were guilty of it. Much more could be said, but I’m sure you get the point and you already understand this anyway.

    These are some good articles this month. Sorry I can’t comment too much.

  13. April 3, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Good points, Bobby.

  14. April 5, 2007 at 7:46 am

    Surprisingly (maybe), I don’t find that much to disagree with in Tom’s tirade. I have read his exegesis of Rom 10:9-13, and I think he has a point. I don’t consider it an absolute necessity that one “call upon the name of the Lord” and certainly would not deny that he is regenerate when the confession and fruit are there. Nor would I discourage the hearer from crying out to God, calling on his name, praying the sinner’s prayer. In fact, I think that when the “wind bloweth,” and the Spirit does His work in a heart, that person will, at some point, cry out to God for salvation. I disagree with the notion that regeneration must be defined in terms of the cry.

  15. April 5, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    Awesome post! I agree wholeheartedly.
    Wrote a few articles on the topics: http://tracts4god.googlepages.com/sinnersprayer http://tracts4god.googlepages.com/romansroad
    It’s encouraging finding that there are a few churches out there for biblical soulwinning. I hope God leads me to one.

  16. Thomas Ross
    April 5, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Dear brethren,

    Some miscellaneous notes.

    1.) I commented on this because there are very few things that are more important than being correct–yea, being pinpoint–on the gospel and the way men receive it. If even one more soul is in the lake of fire for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever because of our inaccuracies here, it is a tragedy; but I fear many, many more than one will be so.

    2.) I put in the address for the study I wrote on Romans 10:9-13 in because one cannot put in a forty-one page analysis on someone’s blog. It would not be fitting. The length of these comments is obviously bad enough. 🙂

    3.) There is great spiritual danger if someone says the prayer and is not converted that the soul in question will be eternally damned. If, later on, he has doubts, many encourage such a one to “make sure” by praying the prayer again. This will never bring salvation, because repentance, which is essential for forgiveness, Luke 13:3, etc. involves agreeing with God about one’s lost condition. The lost sinner who comes to God with the mentality, “IF I am lost, please save me now” is not repentant. Many get false assurance through “making sure” by repeating the prayer ritual. A lost man must agree with God that he is indeed lost, not say “maybe” he is lost. This fact also makes it unlikely that one who has prayed the prayer and is yet unconverted will come to saving faith at some point just sitting in church; if, after making the false profession, he finally does come to understand that the gospel is simply by faith and by looking to the crucified Savior (John 3:14-18), this will be no more than a mental assent without saving conversion because, again, repentance involves agreeing that one is lost. This is a conscious acknowledgement; it does not simply happen somehow while someone is sitting in church hearing preaching.

    4.) Christians can doubt their salvation; 1 John was given to give them assurance (none of the marks mentioned in 1 John for assurance is having prayed the sinner’s prayer). Nevertheless, many doubt that they are saved in fundamental Baptist churches because many members are not saved in fundamental Baptist churches. This fact should always be in our minds. Indeed, if in the first century there were unconverted elders in churches the apostles worked with (Acts 20:29-31; 3 John 9, etc.), why should we be surprised that there are unconverted pastors, leaders, and members in modern NT churches?

    We should recognize that the great majority of evangelicals are unconverted. A 1976 Master of Divinity thesis at SBC-affiliated Southern Seminary by Noel W. Hollyfield, Jr., is illuminating. Of diploma students, 100% knew that God existed without any doubt, that Jesus was doubtless the divine Son of God, that He would return to earth some day, and that there is a life after death. 96% believed miracles happened just like the Bible says that they did, that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that He walked on water, and that the devil actually exists. Of final year Master of Divinity students, only 65% knew that God existed without any doubt, 63% said that Jesus was doubtless the divine Son of God (the percentage that believed in His theanthropic Person as the only begotten of the Father was certainly lower than this; “divine Son of God” is easily twisted into neo-orthodox and liberal significances), 56% believed he would return to earth some day, and 67% believed in life after death. 40% believed that miracles happened just like the Bible says they did, 33% believed He was virgin born, 44% believed He walked on water, and 42% believed that the devil exists. The figures grew even worse for Master of Theology and Doctorate students; of these, 63% were sure that God existed, the same percentage had no doubt Jesus was the “divine Son of God,” 53% believed He would return to earth some day, 53% believed in life after death, 37% believed miracles happened just as the Bible declares, 32% believed He was virgin born, 37% believed the devil existed, and 22% believed Jesus walked on water.

    The most notable fact about this (yes, now somewhat dated) statistic is not that theological modernism was being taught at Southern Seminary–it is the fact that such a high percentage of those who think they are called to preach, pastor, etc. in the Southern Baptist Convention are able to be convinced that such fundamental Christian doctrines are false. Only a lost man will ever deny the resurrection, and other doctrines of the gospel. 1 Cor 15:2, 14; Gal 1:8-9, etc. The fact that these Southern Baptist leaders are able to come out of their seminary as modernists shows that, going into the school, of the 96% or so that were orthodox, very, very many of them were orthodox but unconverted. Why? Not because the SBC does not have orthodox doctrinal statements, but because of weak or false evangelistic methodology, which includes the sinner’s prayer as the means of justification. And if a majority of prospective Southern Baptist pastors were, in the 1970’s, unconverted, what is the situation among their church members? And if the convention has not gotten better since then, but worse, what percentage of them is unconverted now? And who is to think that other evangelical denominations do not have similar percentages of orthodox but unconverted members? The sea-change in evangelistic methodology from the 18th century to today–which has influenced fundamentalism as well as evangelicalism– has produced a terrible epidemic of false professions.
    Perhaps this has now gotten a little off topic–but I cannot but think that this most important of all matters is worth a few long posts and a few moments of concern–if not, rather, weeping, fasting, and prayer to God for a revival of Scriptural evangelism.

    5.) We cannot know for sure if someone else is saved, but we can know for sure (in terms of our normal use of language; I do not intend to get into an epistemological discussion of types of certainty here) that someone is not saved. The apostles said that all who preach false gospels are lost, Galatians 1:8-9. We can therefore say for sure that such are lost. The apostles said that specific people who manifested actions peculiar to unconverted people are lost; consider Peter’s words to Simon, “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” (Acts 8:20-23). This, as all the rest of Scripture, is profitable for doctrine, etc. We can, therefore, say to someone, at a bare minimum, “Friend, based on what you are saying, and what your life is like, I have extremely little confidence that you are saved. I think you are lost, for Scriptural reasons, A, B, C. If you do not repent, you will go to hell.”

    5.) By the way, while “trusting the prayer” is certainly a false gospel, the issue is more subtle then this. The question is what the means or instrumentality is of receiving the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work. The Lutheran who says that baptism is an essential prerequisite to faith, but then one is saved by faith alone, may also say that he is trusting in Christ alone, not in baptism, for remission of sins, and by this mean that the object of faith is, for him, Christ and His cross-work–the correct object. But if he confuses the means or instrumentality of receiving Christ, he may have the object right, but still be damned. If one makes faith and prayer the instrumentality of receiving justification, one can have the correct object, the crucified Christ, and still be lost. One does not trust in prayer as the ground or basis of forgiveness, anymore than one trust sin faith itself as the ground or basis of forgiveness; the ground or basis is Christ’s death and shed blood. One also must not make the means or instrument for having His blood applied faith and prayer; it must be repentant faith alone.

    Finally: Someone who calls on the Lord is regenerate, indeed, but calling on the Lord is any kind of prayer; it is the characteristic of the life of the saint. What, if I am not mistaken (which is, of course, very possible), the analysis of Romans 10:9-13 mentioned above, with more detail offered for those who wish it available by contacting me, demonstrates is that, in the words of Romans 10:14, one cannot call until after having believed. But one is justified by faith, by believing; therefore the calling of Romans 10:13 is post-justification and is not a lost man’s “sinner’s prayer,” and the salvation of Romans 10:13 is ultimate salvation, which will by the prayer-life of the saints, 1 Cor 1:2, which is itself a fruit of justification and regeneration, not a means to obtain it.

    Perhaps–just perhaps–it is now time to end this comment. Selah.

  17. April 6, 2007 at 4:33 am

    Thomas,

    A couple of questions.

    1. How does 3 John 9 show that Diotrophes was lost? If you point to the context, I would understand (v. 11), but I don’t see it in verse 9.

    2. This will get some controversy, but what is the “this matter” in the story of Peter and Simon? I have studied the passage a few times and I don’t see salvation being the topic here. Simon believed, he also made biblical profession of faith (baptism), but he wanted to be able to lay hands on other people and dispense the Holy Spirit to them himself.

    3. Can someone who (presently) sees their sin as God sees it, and (presently) is trusting completely on Christ’s work for forgiveness and eternal life, but cannot remember a time when they were converted, know that they have eternal life?

    I appreciate your involvement here.

    Thanks,
    Jeff Voegtlin

  18. Bobby Mitchell
    April 6, 2007 at 8:26 am

    Jeff,

    In regards to Simon the Sorcerer:

    If you study Simon’s response to the gift of the Holy Ghost, Peter’s rebuke, and Simon’s response to the rebuke, you will find that Simon was not a convert. He was not born again. He did not believe to to the saving of his soul.

    I am presently preaching through Acts and just finished three messages dealing with Simon the Sorcer: An Account of Fleshly, Fruitless Faith.

    Here are some of the notes from that message. I hope you find them of interest. This will be a long post, and my apologies to anyone that finds that offensive. However, it could be helpful.

    SIMON’S RESPONSE TO THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST

    He offered money and asked the Apostles to sell him the power to impart the Holy Ghost.

    Did you know there is a word in the dictionary that came to being from this very act? The word is “simony” (named for Simon here) and it is defined as: “The crime of buying or selling ecclesiastical preferment; or the corrupt presentation of any one to an ecclesiastical benefice of money or reward.”

    Here we see that Simon sought personal profit and advancement of his ambitions by using the Holy Ghost of God and the power of Jesus Christ.

    Simon’s response to the giving of the Holy Spirit revealed several things. To understand what his response revealed, let’s look at Peter’s rebuke of Simon.

    First, “Thy money perish with thee.” The word translated perish is also translated damnation, perdition, and destruction. “Your money be damned with you.” “Your money go to hell with you.”

    Second, “For thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. “You think that you can purchase what can only be received as a gift made possible by the GRACE of God.”
    This is evidence of an unregenerated heart. The saved understand that it is all of grace and not of works.

    Third, “Thou has neither part nor lot in this matter.” “You don’t have any part, not the smallest part in this matter of receiving the Holy Ghost and following the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Fourth, “I perceive . . .Thy heart is not right in the sight of God.” Some would say, “How could Peter judge his heart?” BECAUSE HIS WORDS AND ACTIONS REVEALED HIS HEART. Words, Actions, Attitudes, Adornment, Treasure, Crowd you run with, . . . Reveal your heart. Discerning people can discern your heart when your Words, Actions, etc. are denying the profession you are making.

    Fifth, “Repent of this thy wickedness.” His response was wicked. “And pray God . . that the thought . . . May be forgiven thee.” He needed forgiveness.

    Sixth, His response revealed he was in the gall (bile, secretion of liver) of bitterness and the “bond of iniquity.” (The book of Romans reveals that the saved are not in bondage to sin. They are FREE from the power and penalty of sin.)

    So, Simon saw the receiving of the Holy Ghost and his response was a desire to advance himself by the Holy Ghost, it was an offense to God implying that His grace could be earned, it was the response of a wicked heart, and it was the response of a man who was in the bile of bitterness and bondage of sin.

    Now, notice SIMON’S RESPONSE TO THE REBUKE FROM PETER

    He requested prayer when he had been told to pray for himself.
    He seemed to only be concerned with the damnation. He makes no mention of sorrow over his sin or a desire to do right.
    He was terrified, but there was not interest in turning.

    The facts: “You are perishing, damned, headed for destruction. You have no part nor lot in this. Your heart is not right. You are in the bond of iniquity.” It certainly seems that Simon was not truly a Christian. Clear scripture says you can’t “lose salvation” so we don’t need to wonder if he lost it. He never had it.

    BUT, WHAT ABOUT VERSE 13 WHERE IT SAYS HE BELIEVED?
    To answer this one objection against his damnation I think we should remember that he was a magician. Let’s think about some other magicians for a moment. Remember the ones that withstood Moses? Listen to what they said when they saw Moses’ miracles, (Ex 8:19) Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God:” I think Simon’s belief was of the same stripe.

    It seems obvious that Simon “believed” in the same way they did. His congregation forsook him. He observed the miracles. He couldn’t deny them. So, he said something like, “Fine. This is real power. There is really something to this Jesus. I can’t deny it. As a matter of fact, I believe it.”

    So, he made a public profession. He even desired baptism, which is a public act of repentance, and he received it. I don’t fault Philip for baptizing him. The baptizer can only go on what he can see. Simon’s profession and works were in line with Christianity at this point. Later, the truth was revealed, but you can’t blame Philip for not seeing his heart when it wasn’t yet revealed.

    After his baptism he watched the Apostles lay hands on people and those people receive the Holy Ghost. In the meantime he was really close to Philip and really hung up on the miracles. There is no evidence that he got excited over doctrine, prayer, preaching, etc. Just that he was very carefully watching the miracles and signs.

    So, he finally reveals that his whole declaration of faith in Jesus was simply in hopes of personally gaining by getting on board. He revealed that He really was not interested in being a servant of the Lord, but one who could USE Christianity to satisfy his own lusts.

    His faith was fruitless, fleshly faith, like the faith spoken of in Lu 8:13 “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Theophilus would have read that before reading Acts. Remember that the Gospel of Luke was the “former treatise” that was followed by Acts.

    Some people do believe with intellectual assent only. They can’t deny certain miracles and teachings of Christianity. So, they believe, but not really in the Lord Jesus Christ. They embrace some of the ideas or values, but not the Lord. They do not repent of their wickedness. They hope to escape damnation. But, they don’t really have an interest in obeying the Lord and doing His will.

    That was Simon. He had faith without works. He had dead faith that James warns of. His faith was foolish, fleshly, and fruitless. It was not faith rooted in the Scriptures and in the Lordship of Christ.

    And, so the FRUIT revealed the ROOT. The works revealed the heart. And, when he was rebuked and told to repent, he was only concerned with escaping damnation. He was not concerned about his sin or the fact that he needed help.

  19. Bobby Mitchell
    April 6, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    I’m just typing here so Jeff won’t miss my conclusions regarding Simon the Sorcerer. Dave Mallinak stole the spotlight with his nice post!!!!

  20. April 6, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Thanks Bobby,

    I did read your post and it was helpful.

  21. Thomas Ross
    April 8, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Dear Pastor Voegtlin,

    You are right; 3 John 9 does not specifically show that he was lost; 3 Jn 9-11 does. With Simon; I think Peter’s statements to him are pretty clear. His belief was similar to that of John 2:23-25; non-saving faith, the kind Nicodemus had already which led him to his view of Christ, Jn 3:1-2, which was short of the new birth, 3:3ff, and which was contrasted with saving faith, 3:14-21.
    I do not see how someone (who does not have a car accident and lose his brain or some sort of similar phenomenon) can be converted and not know when it happened. Since repentance/faith requires agreeing with God that one is currently lost and headed for hell, and turning from sin to Christ as Lord and Savior in an act of the will, how can one agree with this and turn to Christ and not do so consciously at a particular moment? Can one eat and drink physically and not know it? Or come to a friend and not know it? Or take up a physical cross and carry it without knowing it? How can one spiritually eat, drink, come to, etc. Christ without knowing it? Can one have the radical change involved in receiving a new nature, heart, and desires, and not know that one now has these new desires? How can one not know his desires? Can one take up the cross spiritually (a salvation metaphor, Mark 10:34-36) and not know it? Can one be physically crucified and give up one’s life and not know it? How can that be done spiritually, then? If these things cannot be done without knowing it, then it would seem to me like someone who did not know that he had experienced these things is not agreeing Scripturally with God about the necessity of Biblical conversion, and so he would not truly presently see his sin as God sees it, nor have met the requirement of trusting in Christ’s work for forgiveness in the Scriptural way, namely, a repentant way.

    While there are certainly those who hold that one can be converted and not know when it happened who are by no means Calvinists, it seems to me like this position is more consistent with the Calvinist doctrine that regeneration preceeds faith and repentance than the Biblical position that regeneration is logically consequent upon them, although even on the Calvinist position I do not see how one can repent and not know it.

  22. April 8, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Thomas,

    I know a Calvinist who is not sure when he was converted, but “knows” that he is one of the elect, and not having a definite conversion experience doesn’t bother him since his election is unconditional. I think if you asked him when he was converted, he might say something like, ‘before the foundation of the world.’ Faith was a gift that he not only received unknowingly but exercised unknowingly. The one thing he knows is that he is elect. I would be very fearful about that conversion experience.

    How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!

  23. April 9, 2007 at 4:10 am

    I think the confusion comes in with the comparison between spiritual and physical birth. Of course, this is a legitimate comparison, because Christ made it.

    Some take the comparison so far as to say, “I don’t remember being born, but I evidence definite signs of life, I must have been born.”

    They then make the same comparison to spiritual life.

  24. Bobby Mitchell
    April 9, 2007 at 7:40 am

    I have a man in the church who attended and listened for months. He embraced the truth, the Gospel, turned from his sin and false religion, and came to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He can not point to a definite MOMENT in time that this all happened, but all this took place in response to Bible preaching. He definitely can point to a time when he made a public profession of his faith in Christ and then was baptized. He loves the brethren, loves the Word, hates sin, lives a holy life, preaches the Word, serves with zeal, gives cheerfully, etc.

    What do you all think of this?

  25. April 9, 2007 at 7:54 am

    By their fruits ye shall know them. I would consider him a saved man.

  26. April 9, 2007 at 10:50 am

    Bobby, that sounds like a testimony of conversion. I would not want to take as a model, however, someone who doesn’t remember actually receiving Jesus Christ, like reception is a process. Reception is a point in time. Turning is a point in time. The guy I’m talking about doesn’t know when he was converted. He isn’t sure. It may have been when he was a boy, may have been when he was in his early twenties, but he says that this isn’t a big deal to a Calvinist. I don’t see any conversion testimony like that one in Scripture.

  27. Thomas Ross
    April 10, 2007 at 1:14 am

    My question would be, in relation to the passages about eating/drinking as believing, Biblical teaching about repentance, and related matters how one could turn from sin, etc. and not know it. I would then examine examples of people I knew in light of the verses. I am sure we all agree that we cannot interpret Scripture in light of examples, especially what Biblical teaching is on conversion from examples around us. Judas was unconverted, but the disciples thought he was as good an apostle as the rest for three years; at the end of that time, when the Lord Jesus said one would betray Him, they all wondered who it would be, instead of saying, “Well, that is obviously Judas.” The marks of 1 John enable an individual to know for certain his own personal conversion, but they are not able to make another know for certain about someone else’s conversion.

  28. Bobby Mitchell
    April 10, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Brother Thomas,

    Paul stated in 1 Thessalonians that he knew that the believers there were converted. “Knowing brethren beloved your election of God . . .” He then gives reasons as to why he knew they were converted. They had turned from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his son from heaven. Other birthmarks are also noted in that Epistle.

    So, Paul said he was certain about their conversion. He was also certain about Timothy (2 Timothy 1).

  29. Thomas Ross
    April 11, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    Thank you for the comment; I have never seen someone argue exegetically that we can know someone else is converted before. It gave me something to think about. Two questions about the passages. 1.) Since 1 Thess 1:4, “knowing, brethren beloved,” etc. is a comment written to the church at Thessalonica in general, 1 Thess 1:1, and specifically is addressed to “you all,” v. 2, would not the conclusion that v. 4 is an affirmation that Paul knew the people addressed were genuinely converted be an affirmation that every single member of the Thessalonian church was regenerate? Could not v. 4 be more reasonably understood as a generalization written to a church that was mostly saved people, since v. 4 uses plural terms “brethren” “your” (vs. thy) election, etc, just as 1 Cor 1:2 tells us that the church at Corinth was saints, yet there were those among them that were unconverted and denied the resurrection, 1 Cor 15?

    The 2 Timothy passage is something to think about; I have no definite conclusion on it at this time. Of course, the question is not if Paul presumed Timothy regenerate, but if he had the kind of certainty possible for the saint himself based on the marks in 1 John. v. 4 seems like the strongest argument for this: “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” I am thinking about the “I am persuaded” in the verse, about the question of if the fact that the letter is given by inspiration and we do not have the like sort of testimony today for an individual is involved, if this is an absolute sort of certainty or the moral certainty of presuasion, etc. There were other people who had supernatural revelation and testimony from others that they were converted; certainly the Lord’s testimony to John the Baptist, or the angel’s testimony to Mary, are included in this category; but I don’t know if this means that we get to conclude that we know for sure of the regenerated state of another apart from the like specific supernatural revelation. This is something to chew on, though, for sure. BTW, I’m not sure that Matthew 7:20 relates, since the issue there is the identification of false prophets, v. 15.

  30. Bobby Mitchell
    April 12, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Brother Thomas,

    I appreciate what you have written. I am thinking on it.

    Another example that comes to mind is Lydia of Acts 16. She said, “If ye have judged me to be faithful . . .”

    They were invited by her to judge whether or not she was a convert and they judged that she was as is evidenced by the fact that they took her up on her offer of hospitality.

  1. April 6, 2007 at 4:19 am
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