David Platt has some helpful remarks about the “Sinners Prayer” dust-up that has captured the attention of many Southern Baptists over the last few months. Platt also comments on the “Sinner’s Prayer” resolution that was adopted at the SBC in New Orleans last week. No one should be surprised that he voted in favor of the resolution. He writes:
What grieved me about this issue, though, was the way it was reported in a few particularly prominent places that seemed to imply that this issue was dividing Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the SBC, or even me personally from various leaders in the SBC. Some even suggested that as “one of the SBC’s Calvinist stars,” I am “against the sinner’s prayer” because I “don’t want the hopelessly condemned thinking they are saved or joining churches when they actually have no chance for life in Christ.” In addition to how nauseous such a label makes me, words really can’t describe how much a comment like this pierces my heart, for nothing (I hope and pray) could be further from the truth. Any cautions I have expressed with a “sinner’s prayer” have absolutely nothing directly to do with the doctrine of election, and I definitively don’t believe that certain people “actually have no chance for life in Christ.” Instead, my comments about the “sinner’s prayer” have been deeply motivated by a concern for authentic conversion and regenerate church membership—doctrines which many Calvinists and non-Calvinists, as well as a variety of Christians in between, would rightly value.
I believe without hesitation or equivocation that God loves all people in the world (John 3:16) and He desires all people’s salvation (2 Peter 3:9). As followers of Jesus saved by His matchless grace (Ephesians 2:1-10), we are compelled to go with urgency to all people to tell them compassionately of God’s love for them (2 Corinthians 4:5) and to call them clearly to repent and believe in Christ (Matthew 4:17; Acts 2:38). As we do this, I believe we simply need to be as biblical as possible (2 Timothy 2:15). Do I believe it is “wrong” for someone to pray a “prayer of salvation”? Certainly not. Calling out to God in prayer with repentant faith is fundamental to being saved (Romans 10:9-10). Yet as I pastor a local church and serve alongside pastors of other local churches, I sense reasonably serious concern about the relatively large number of baptisms in our churches that are “re-baptisms”—often representing people who thought they were saved because they prayed a certain prayer, but they lacked a biblical understanding of salvation and were in reality not saved. This, in addition to a rampant easy believism that marks cultural Christianity in our context (and in other parts of the world), leads me to urge us, as we go to all people among all nations with the good news of God’s love, to be both evangelistically zealous and biblically clear at the same time (Matthew 28:18-20).