Biblical truth standing on its spiritual head to get our eternal attention.

Acts 2:21 – Is “The Sinner’s Prayer” A Lie? – Sermon

Is it possible to believe a lie? Is it dangerous to believe a lie? Can we die spiritually because we believe a lie?

If anyone doubts the truth that Satan preaches lies, then they have not read the Bible with an honest heart. Jesus Himself denounces Satan as the father of lies (Jn.8:44). Jesus speaks of Satan not only as a liar, but as a murderer because Satan murders through his lies. Instead of Jesus’ words giving life (Jn.6:63,68), Satan’s words kill.

Now let’s get a little closer to home, to today’s religious world. Is Satan still lying today?

The purpose of this lesson is to better prepare us as a church and as personal evangelists in our new endeavor to build the kingdom of God in the triad area. That means we need to be able to answer questions that people ask.

1 Peter 3:15-16 NASB  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;  (16)  and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

Although this text is much broader than trying to teach those who already consider themselves Christians, the principle is the same.

As I look back on my preaching history, I realized that I have never preached an entire sermon on “The Sinner’s Prayer.” But in a way I am not surprised, because I try to focus more on what is in the Bible, than what is not in the Bible. Having said that, you sense what I believe about “The Sinner’s Prayer.”

Is Satan still lying today using “The Sinner’s Prayer?”

Have you ever heard of “The Sinner’s Prayer?” Have you ever said “The Sinner’s Prayer?” What if “The Sinner’s Prayer” is a lie? Would that lie make you live spiritually? Would it surprise you that people preach false things? Don’t be…

(13)  For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. (14) And no wonder! For Satan himself is disguised as an angel of light. (15) So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destiny will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 HCSB)

The best way to tell a lie is to clothe it in truth. There is no greater truth than God loves us and wants us to be saved. Because there is not greater truth than that, Satan will attack, twist and turn those truths into a lie. If there is no greater truth than God loves us and wants us to be saved, then Satan will convince people that God does not love them and that they cannot be saved; or he will lie about how God will save those He loves.

Personally I blame Satan more than the honestly deceived, but being honestly deceived is still being deceived. Eve believed a lie and suffered the consequences (1 Tim.2:14). But then again, according to 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, some preachers lie on purpose. There is glory, money, and large crowds as payment for lying –  some preachers lie on purpose. As for who is sincerely preaching a lie, or purposely spreading lies, I’ll let God decide. He knows which ones, as He knows their hearts, and not me.

I suggest to you, no I strongly declare to you, that today Satan is preaching a lie called “The Sinner’s Prayer.”

Is the “The Sinner’s Prayer” written in many Bibles? Yes, just not in the parts that the Holy Spirit inspired! And yes, I said that to be shocking! Good-hearted publishers include it either in the front or in the back in hopes that people will say it and be saved. I too want people to be saved, but that comes from obeying the One who wrote the Bible, not those who publish the Book. And let’s be plain, the Holy Spirit never inspired “The Sinner’s Prayer.” And even those who preach it do not claim that God inspired it.

Here is an example of The Sinner’s Prayer and please notice all the truth that is teaches:

“Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and have displeased You in many ways. I believe You died for my sin and only through faith in Your death and resurrection can I be forgiven. I want to turn from my sin and ask You to come into my life as My Savior and Lord. From this day on, I will follow You by living a life that please You. Thank You, Lord Jesus for saving me. Amen.”

Like I said, there is truth in “The Sinner’s Prayer.” Yes we are sinners. Yes Jesus died for us. Yes it is through faith in the death and resurrection that we can be saved. Yes we must turn from sin. And yes we must ask Jesus to come into our life in order to become a Christian. But how do we ask? Do we ask by saying a prayer? To say yes to that last question is to believe Satan’s lie. It is a good sounding lie, but that’s how Satan gets people to believe it.

There is not just one accepted creedal wording for this prayer. Although it exists in different forms, it became popularized through The Four Spiritual Laws which is a formula used to get people to say the Sinner’s Prayer:

1. God LOVES you and offers a wonderful PLAN for your life.

2. Man is SINFUL and SEPARATED from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life.

3. Jesus Christ is God’s ONLY provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life.

4. We must individually RECEIVE Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

Again, there is much truth in those four spiritual laws. Yes, God loves you. And yes man is sinful and separated from God. Of course, Jesus is the only provision for man’s sins. And we certainly must individually receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. But how do we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Do we receive Jesus by saying a prayer? Again, to say yes to that last question is to believe Satan’s lie.

Let’s answer that question by looking at the proof texts given for support of “The Sinner’s Prayer” and then after examining that, and hopefully debunking it as a lie, look to the inspired record for the truth.

What is so confusing is that there is truth in what is said in the Sinner’s Prayer and those Four Spiritual Laws. Again, the best way to get people to believe a lie is to clothe it in truth. Even Satan is willing to tell a little truth to get people to believe a bigger lie.

But there is a bigger problem than Satan telling a lie. And that’s when people believe the lie to be the truth.

When people in the New Testament asked the question, “What must I do to be saved?” “The Sinner’s Prayer” was never given as the answer by those inspired by the Holy Spirit.


Let’s begin by looking at another popular way to pray the prayer found in the “The Four Spiritual Laws” –

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

The imagery of a opening a door to Jesus comes from Revelation 3:20:

Revelation 3:20 HCSB Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.

Is what Jesus said true? Absolutely. But a truth is only true within its context. Even Satan spoke a truth in tempting Jesus but took it out of context to make the truth a lie.

So let’s look at the context of Revelation 3:20. First, who did Jesus say this to? Was it to unbelievers? To non-Christians? No! It was said to a church of lukewarm Christians (Revelation 3:14-16). And second of all, does this text say anything about opening the door through prayer? No it does not. But then again, to get people to believe a lie, clothe it in truth.

On another occasion, Jesus used the open door symbolism when teaching about our prayer life.

Matthew 7:7-8 HCSB  “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (8)  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

As you can see in the above translation “ask” is better translated “keep asking.” The same is true for “keep searching” and “keep knocking.” Now let’s ask some questions because the meaning of “keep asking” means that the asking happens more than once. Firstly, is the context on how to become a Christian? No. And secondly, do the proponents really want to use this text because it says that you have to keep on asking, keep on searching, keep on knocking which means that the first time you ask, God does not say yes! Do we really want to say that all you have to do is ask God to save you and He says, “No?”

Now let’s not overlook a valuable truth here, because that is what Satan wants us to do. Jesus is the door. No one will be saved unless they walk through Jesus.

John 10:9 HCSB  (9)  I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.

However one is saved, it involves going through Jesus. We need to find out what Jesus said about salvation. We need to discover how to go through Jesus.

Another example given is the parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee in Luke 9:13:

Luke 18:9-14 HCSB  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:  (10)  “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11)  The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people–greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (12)  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ (13)  “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me–a sinner!’ (14)  I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

For some reason, this parable was one of my favorites growing up. The lessons it teachers are invaluable for salvation in teaching our attitudes towards God, others and self. However, having said all that, let me ask some simple questions. First, when this tax collector said this prayer, did he become a Christian? No, because this happened before the cross, before the death, burial and resurrection. Second, did this tax collector even confess His belief in Jesus as the Messiah and Christ?  Again no.

Some might interject at this point, but what about the verses that say we are to call on the name of the Lord? There are several verses in the New Testament concerning calling on the name of the Lord, or more simply to call on the Lord (Acts 2:21; Acts 9:14; Acts 9:21; Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13; 1 Cor.1:2)

  • Acts 2:21 HCSB  then whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
  • Acts 9:14 HCSB  And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.”
  • Acts 22:16 HCSB  And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’
  • Romans 10:13 HCSB  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 HCSB  To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord–theirs and ours.
  • 2 Timothy 2:22 HCSB  Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

I do not deny that if you call on the name of the Lord you will be saved. To deny such would make God Himself a liar. I deny what Satan makes this mean by the lies that he spreads. Satan takes it out of context.

Since I am preaching that Satan lies, I want to be as truthful and up front as I can be to ensure that no one thinks I am lying by hiding any truth. I strive hard to be totally honest. I won’t say as the old saying goes, “I am as honest as the day is long” because I have seen the sun go down. I personally believe it is better to answer some questions before people ask them.

So having said all that, can the phrase “call on the name of the Lord” mean to pray? Yes it can, if the context shows that is the meaning.

1 Kings 18:24,36-37 HCSB  Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers with fire, He is God.” All the people answered, “That sounds good.” …  At the time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached the altar and said, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things.  (37)  Answer me, LORD! Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back.”

When Elijah said he would call on the name of the Lord, he meant that he would pray and ask God to help. Basically, to call on the name of the Lord means to rely upon God, to ask God for help, to identity oneself with God. The question is, is praying the only way to ask God for help?

So let’s look at some of the NT examples where the phrase “call on the name of the Lord” are used and try to honestly evaluate what the phrase means there.

Acts 2:21 HCSB

whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

That is how most Bible translations read. However, the Bible in Basic English (BBE) reads – “And whoever makes his prayer to the Lord will have salvation.” Such a mistranslation betrays the actual wording used by the Holy Spirit, and betrays the answer given by Peter through inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, Peter did quote Joel 2: 32 in Acts 2, that the guilty must call on the name of the Lord in order to be saved (2:21). After preaching that, and preaching Jesus Christ crucified, buried and resurrected, the crowd called out to Peter. When the crowd asked, “What must we do?” (2:37) did Peter say, “Weren’t you paying attention? I told you to call on the name of the Lord by saying the Sinner’s Prayer!” No, that is not what Peter said, but what he did say did mean to call on the name of the Lord.

(HCSB)  “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If baptism is done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, then isn’t being baptized calling on the name of the Lord?

When we couple this with something else Peter said, we can again see the connection between calling on the name of the Lord and being baptized in the name of Jesus.

1 Peter 3:21 NASB  Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

In baptism through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we appeal to, and call on the name of the Lord.

Acts 22:16 NASB

‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

Again, most translations faithfully truthfully read, “calling on His name.” And again we find “translators” changing the word of God in Acts 22:16:

  • Acts 22:16 CEV  What are you waiting for? Get up! Be baptized, and wash away your sins by praying to the Lord.”
  • Acts 22:16 GNB  And now, why wait any longer? Get up and be baptized and have your sins washed away by praying to him.’

But that is not what the Holy Spirit said.

Acts 22:16 HCSB  And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’

Getting baptized is calling on the name of the Lord because it is done in the name of the Lord. Jesus Himself said,

Matthew 28:19 HCSB  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Furthermore, when we look at the context of Paul’s conversion, we see plainly that praying for forgiveness is not what is meant.

Acts 9:3-19 HCSB  As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.  (4)  Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (5)  “Who are You, Lord?” he said. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied.  (6)  “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (7)  The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one.  (8)  Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.  (9)  He was unable to see for three days, and did not eat or drink.  (10)  Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Here I am, Lord!” he said.  (11)  “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there.  (12)  In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so he may regain his sight.” (13)  “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  (14)  And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.”  (15)  But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before Gentiles, kings, and the sons of Israel.  (16)  I will certainly show him how much he must suffer for My name!” (17)  So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  (18)  At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.  (19)  And after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some days.

Acts 22:6-16 HCSB  “As I was traveling and near Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me.  (7)  I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ (8)  “I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ “He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting!’ (9)  Now those who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the One who was speaking to me.  (10)  “Then I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything that is assigned for you to do.’ (11)  “Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.  (12)  Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good reputation with all the Jews residing there,  (13)  came to me, stood by me, and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him.  (14)  Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of His voice.  (15)  For you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard.  (16)  And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.’

If Paul was saved on the road to Damascus, then he was saved before he started praying in Damascus. That means he was saved without “The Sinner’s Prayer.” If Paul was saved while praying in Damascus, he was one miserable saved person because he did not eat or drink for three days. If Paul was saved on the road to Damascus or when praying in Damascus then why did Ananias say to get up and be baptized and wash away your sins? And please notice, what did Ananias say baptism was? Calling on the name of the Lord. Why? Because it is done in the name of the Lord.

We could look at another example of someone praying, and the fact that the prayers did not save them –Cornelius:

Acts 10:1-5 HCSB  There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment.  (2)  He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.  (3)  At about three in the afternoon he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, “Cornelius!”  (4)  Looking intently at him, he became afraid and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he told him, “Your prayers and your acts of charity have come up as a memorial offering before God.  (5)  Now send men to Joppa and call for Simon, who is also named Peter.

Why send for Peter?

Acts 11:13-14 HCSB  He reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa, and call for Simon, who is also named Peter.  (14)  He will speak words to you by which you and all your household will be saved.’

Did Cornelius praying save him? No, but God answered the prayer by sending someone to preach to him and Peter said something had to be done in the name of Jesus.

Acts 10:48 HCSB  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.

What must we do to be saved? Definitely, we have to call on the name of the Lord. Let’s look at inspired answers to that question and that answer. Let’s look at sinners asking and preachers telling how to be saved.

Truthfully said, no one in the New Testament was told to pray in order to become a Christian. That’s why there is no scripture reference given for the Sinner’s Prayer. That’s why it has to be included in the section not inspired by the Holy Spirit. God never said to say “The Sinner’s Prayer.”

Now let’s contrast the Sinner’s Prayer to what is recorded in the Bible.

When Jesus sent His apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), did Jesus tell them to have sinners say a prayer? No, Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16 HCSB).

When Jesus told His apostles that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), did Jesus use His authority to tell them to make disciples by having people pray? No. What Jesus did say was, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

When about the 3000 people were saved on the Day of Pentecost, and it would be hard to find a more successful evangelistic effort than that day? They asked Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What must we do” (Acts 2:37). Did Peter tell them to say the Sinner’s Prayer? No, through inspiration Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:28). Did the Holy Spirit through Luke say, “So those who accepted his message said the Sinner’s Prayer? No, the Holy Spirit said, “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them” (Acts 2:41).

When Philip preached in Samaria “the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus” (Acts 8:12), did the sinners respond with prayer? No, “both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12).

When Philip “proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus” did the Ethiopian Eunuch ask Philip if he should say a prayer? No, he asked, “”Look, there’s water! What would keep me from being baptized” (Acts 8:36)? The inspired preacher said, “If you believe with all your heart you may” (Acts 8:37). The sinner confessed not His sins, but confessed “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Then Philip ordered the chariot to stop, and both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him (Acts 8:38).

The gospel was preached, and people believed it, repented of their sins, confessed Jesus as the Son of God and were baptized. In doing that, they called on the name of the Lord and were saved.

And let’s close this lesson by echoing the words of Jesus Himself – Luke 6:46 HCSB  “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things I say?

And what did Jesus say?

Matthew 28:19 HCSB  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

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One Response to “Acts 2:21 – Is “The Sinner’s Prayer” A Lie? – Sermon”

  1. DN says:

    Just found your website today, and started reading “at the top”. Your well-written article reminded me of another site,; check it out! Russ is in Charlotte and has preached numerous times on the same subject….. BTW, we look forward to seeing you at 1000 Voices in November, Lord willing!