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The sinner's prayer
- Jacob Ninan
Sometimes we may wish that the Bible was written in a text book form, systematically presenting each truth in sequence, so that we might know them unambiguously. But that is not the way God chose to give us His word. He chose different authors to bring out His truths, a little here and a little there. If we want to know the truth we need to look all over the Bible, and not just at a few pet verses. Many people don't read the Bible like that, and so many bits of truths are taken from different places and doctrines are formed without looking at their place in the whole Bible.
Take a look at some verses dealing with salvation. "And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts.2:21). Can we conclude that all that we need to do is to say, "Jesus, come into my heart," "Jesus, I give my life to You," and then we will be saved? "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Ro.10:9). This seems to make things very simple: confess something with our mouth and accept some fact in our heart!
If we understand what salvation is all about, we will immediately know that none of these above statements is an adequate description of the way to be saved. Adam and Eve chose their own pleasure and advantage over being faithful to God. They lost their relationship with God ('died'), and everything in their life became warped and distorted. We who have come from them have the same distortion from the time we are born into this world, and we all have pleased ourselves and sinned against God in many ways and many times. God cannot accept us back as long as our sins have not been dealt with, and instead of condemning us to death for what we deserve, He took the punishment on Himself (through the death of Jesus). Now He expects us to a) acknowledge our sins, and b) receive forgiveness from God as a free gift, believing that Jesus has taken our punishment in our place. This is what is needed to receive forgiveness of sins (the first phase of salvation).
Repentance and faith are the two essential steps to salvation. Repentance includes forsaking sin and choosing God, which is the opposite of what Adam and Eve did. Without this there is no returning to God. If there is only 'accepting' Jesus as your religious choice or coming to Him for the benefits you can receive, there is no real salvation there. It is only when a sinner repents that there is joy in heaven (Lk.15:10). In other cases, at best there is a coming nearer to God, but repentance and faith have to necessarily take place before one gets salvation.
Acts.2:21 or Ro.10:9 are not complete in themselves, but have to be understood along with other parts of the Bible. They are not meant to be understood as statements of the steps to salvation. 'Saved' as used there has a broad meaning and does not assume to stand for salvation from sin. Repent and believe (Mk.1:15).