Updated December 5, 2008 (first published February 24, 2000) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org) -
My articles and books dealing with repentance and exposing the error of what I call “quick prayerism” have produced questions both from friends and enemies. The following are my answers to these questions:
QUESTION: How can you speak against men such as Pastor Jack Hyles who promote what you call “quick prayerism” when many people have been saved through their ministries?
ANSWER: It is true that people have been saved through the ministries of the men who promote quick prayerism. I know some of them personally, and I praise the Lord for every soul who is genuinely saved through any man’s ministry. I also praise the Lord for every other good thing in the lives and ministries of these men. I don’t consider myself their enemy, though they usually consider me as such. To point out error is a kindly thing to do. Some of these men probably put me to shame in some areas of the Christian life, and I readily acknowledge that before God. The good things in a man’s life and ministry never excuse error, though.
Let me remind you that this is exactly the same argument that is raised by defenders of Billy Graham and by those who promote “Christian rock music.” They claim that we have no right to criticize ecumenical evangelism and gospel rock concerts because “people are being saved.”
This is absolute nonsense. God’s Word requires that we prove all things (1 Thess. 5:21), that we compare every message and ministry by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), that we judge every preacher (1 Cor. 14:29). Paul rebuked Peter publicly for his hypocrisy and error in spite of all of the good things that Peter had done (Galatians 2). The prophet of God was sent to rebuke King Jehoshaphat’s unholy alliance in spite of all of the good that Jehoshaphat had done. “And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (2 Chron. 19:2).
Nowhere does the Bible say that the winning of souls makes a man above reproof. Further, when critiquing the ministry of a Christian leader, I am in no wise obligated to go to him privately about the matter. Dealing with the public ministry of Christian leaders is not the same as dealing with personal issues between church members in the assembly, which things are to be settled by following the instructions in Matthew 18. When a man preaches and practices publicly, his ministry should be judged publicly. Paul critiqued and reproved and warned against many men in 1 and 2 Timothy, and we have no record that he had first dealt with them privately.
QUESTION: Aren’t you preaching “lordship” salvation by saying that repentance is such a radical change of mind that it results in a change of life?
ANSWER: “Lordship salvation” has been given many different definitions. I do not believe in lordship salvation if that means that a person must yield his life 100% to the Lord Jesus Christ before he can be saved, because no one can do that. The very attempt to do so in order to be accepted by God would be the most vicious form of works salvation. I do not believe, though, that a person can be saved unless he accepts Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour in at least some very real and evident sense. Romans 10:9 says the sinner must “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus.” The thief on the cross addressed Jesus as Lord (Luke 23:42). Those who have not received Jesus Christ as Lord have not repented of their sin and idolatry. The Bible plainly tells us that salvation involves changing masters, and if some want to call that “lordship salvation,” that is their business.
The concern I have, when surveying the independent Baptist scene as a whole, is that repentance is NOT emphasized in the preaching of the gospel. It is mentioned sometimes, but it is not emphasized as it is in the preaching of the apostles. A prayer is emphasized instead. Sinner’s prayers are counted as salvations. When a preacher says that “eighty men got saved in the prison this month” or that “five hundred souls were saved in our church last year,” what does this mean? It usually means simply that these people prayed a sinner’s prayer, but that alone is not salvation. A repentant man who puts his confidence in the cross-work of Jesus and who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, but many call upon the Lord in a sinner’s prayer who are not saved.
I have followed up on “quick prayerism” and have found that only a small percentage of those who “pray the prayer” show any abiding interest in obedience to Jesus Christ. Many of those who have been counted as “saved” are offended that we would tell them that they need to go to church and be baptized and serve Jesus Christ. “But I thought you prayed to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior,” we say to the “new convert.” He replies, “I did, but who are you to tell me what I have to do? I don’t need church to save me.” This attitude is evidence of an unrepentant heart, and I believe that any evangelistic program that gives assurance of salvation to people when they are in such a condition is unscriptural.
I don't understand how any independent Baptist preacher today can address these issues without pointing out the error of “quick prayerism” which has so permeated our movement. I don’t believe in “lordship salvation” if it confuses salvation with discipleship, but I do believe that “except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” and repentance is a change of mind toward God and sin which results in a change of life. Repentance is a radical change in attitude toward divine authority, and if a person does not have such a change in attitude he has not repented, he is NOT saved, and he does not have “eternal security.”
This is the point I am trying to make in my teaching on repentance, and I feel that my point is oftentimes dodged and that the “lordship salvation” thing is used as a straw man or is used to muddy the waters in an attempt to confuse the real issue.
LET ME HASTEN TO REPEAT THAT I DO NOT ACCEPT THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION TAUGHT BY SOME FUNDAMENTAL BAPTISTS THAT CLAIMS A CHRISTIAN CANNOT BE CARNAL AND THAT IF CHRIST DOES NOT HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OF A PERSON’S LIFE HE IS NOT SAVED OR IF HE HAS DOUBTS HE IS NOT SAVED. To require that a sinner make Jesus Christ Lord of every area of his life in order to be saved or even to demonstrate his salvation is an impossibility and would be the harshest form of works salvation ever devised.
This very dangerous doctrine causes people to look inside themselves and to examine their experience rather than to look solely upon the Lord Jesus Christ and to trust exclusively upon His shed blood. We believe and are sure that salvation changes a man’s life, and we preach this boldly. If a person says he is saved but he has absolutely nothing to prove it, he is deceived. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). To continually examine oneself, though, and to continually look at one’s experience as the basis for determining if one is saved, is extremely dangerous. Even the apostle Paul, who, in our estimation, was the most dedicated Christian who ever lived, said of his own experience, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). That is the experience of every born again child of God. The old flesh is still present even after salvation.
I know I am saved today because I am trusting the Lord Jesus Christ for my eternal salvation, and “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). My faith is exclusively in Jesus Christ, not in me and my changed life and my Christian experience. My Christian experience at best is lousy when I compare myself to that which the Bible requires of me, which is PERFECTION OF HOLINESS. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15). I don’t live up to this perfect standard. I am perfect only in my position in the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. My acceptance before a holy God is only because I am “in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). If I don’t keep my mind and heart focused on my positional acceptance in Christ, I become extremely discouraged. I become tossed about like a bottle upon the waves of the sea. I lose my anchor, which is a know-so salvation, a confidence in Christ’s atonement (Heb. 6:19).
To preach a “lordship salvation” that requires that sinners make Jesus Christ absolute Lord of every area of their lives in order to be saved is to confuse position and practice, justification and sanctification. This is similar to the error made by many Pentecostals who believe the child of God can lose his salvation. For an excellent testimony on the danger of this false teaching see the book Holiness: The False and the True by the late Harry A. Ironside (see the Way of Life web site under the Charismatic section of the End Times Apostasy Database, http://www.wayoflife.org). As a young preacher associated with the Salvation Army, Ironside was taught that he could have an experience, a “second blessing,” whereby he could obtain perfect victory over his old nature. As all genuinely born again people do, he earnestly desired such an experience. He agonized over his sinfulness and spiritual imperfection. He diligently sought the “blessing,” praying, fasting, crying out, striving against sin, sacrificing his self will, believing God for a miracle. Finally, he thought he had obtained “it.” He stood up in a testimony meeting and joyfully told the people that he had “it” and that his struggles with sin were over. Of course, it wasn't long before he realized that he had been deceived and that the struggle with sin was still within him. At that point, he became so discouraged and disheartened that he had to be hospitalized in a mental ward. He determined to leave the Christian life and return to his old loves. In the hospital, though, he met some saintly Christians who patiently taught him the truth of biblical sanctification, and as a result he became anchored in Christ and went on to have a long and fruitful preaching ministry.
We have noted in many independent Baptist circles a serious lack of sound teaching about justification and sanctification, position and practice. Without such teaching new converts are left to struggle with the flesh without a proper understanding of the positional stability and victory they have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, I do not believe in “lordship salvation” if it is defined as any form of discipleship, but I do believe that biblical repentance is the change of mind in the sinner that replaces the old lord of his life, sin and self, with the new Lord, Jesus Christ.
QUESTION: Aren’t you preaching “works” salvation by claiming that repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of life?
ANSWER: First of all, repentance is not a work of man; it is a work of God. “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
Furthermore, repentance itself is not the good works in a Christian’s life; it is the cause of the good works. It is the same for saving faith. Saving faith is not a work, but it produces works (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-8). We don’t believe in a works salvation in any sense whatsoever. Salvation is by grace alone through the blood of Christ alone without works or sacraments. Salvation is wholly of the Lord (John 1:12-13). Likewise, biblical repentance is a change of mind that RESULTS IN a change of life.
QUESTION: Do you believe no one can get saved quickly?
ANSWER: I believe people can be saved as quickly as God saves them. I do not doubt that some people are saved the very first time they hear the gospel. That is entirely up to the Lord, because salvation is God’s miraculous work. What I must do as a soul winner is to look for the hand of God at work in people’s lives, granting them conviction and bringing them to repentance and faith. Salvation is instantaneous; it is a birth; but understanding and conviction precede it, and ordinarily this process takes some time.
QUESTION: Do you believe that every person who professes Christ will be genuinely saved?
ANSWER: No, a profession or a prayer alone is not salvation. Salvation is repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Salvation is believing from the heart that God hath raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). It is possible to make a public profession of Christ without having heart faith in Him.
QUESTION: Don’t you believe in a sinner’s prayer?
ANSWER: I have nothing against using a sinner’s prayer as an aid in evangelism if it is used correctly, but it must be plainly understood that the Bible never says that sinners are saved through merely praying a prayer. The apostle Paul taught that salvation is “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). A repentant sinner who prays a sinner’s prayer sincerely to God, putting his trust exclusively upon Jesus Christ for salvation, will be saved; but an unrepentant sinner who prays a sinner’s prayer without faith and with insincere motives will not be saved. A prayer alone has never saved anyone. The Publican in Luke 18 was saved when he prayed “God be merciful to me a sinner,” but it was not the mere utterance of those words that saved him; it was the fact that he was convicted of his sin and unworthiness before God and he had humbled himself in repentance and faith. If another man, standing nearby, had tried to pray the same prayer without the heartfelt repentance and faith of the Publican, he would not have been saved merely through uttering the prayer.
I am not opposed to using a sinner’s prayer to help people come to Christ. I didn’t pray a formal sinner’s prayer when I was saved. I simply trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. I believed in Christ in my heart. God opened my heart to Christ that night in a motel room in Daytona Beach, Florida, and I yielded to Him. Some people, though, find a sinner’s prayer very helpful in formulating their thoughts toward God. The sinner’s prayer can be a good tool to assist the sinner in reaching out to God in faith, but it must be plainly recognized that a sinner’s prayer alone, apart from repentance and faith, apart from the convicting, saving power of God in that person’s life, is empty.
Some might ask, “But doesn’t Romans 10:13 say that ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’?” Yes, it does, but that verse cannot be interpreted apart from its context. The context says that sinners are saved by confessing with the mouth the Lord Jesus and believing in the heart that God has raised him from the dead (verse 9), “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (v. 10). We see, then, that salvation is a heart matter. The cry unto God that saves the sinner must come from a repentant, believing heart. Apart from that, a sinner can cry out to God all day long and not be saved. Jesus described people who pray “Lord, Lord” and who even do many wonderful works in His name but who are not saved (Matt. 7:21-23). James warned that one can believe in God and not be saved (James 2). Prayers alone do not save.
QUESTION: Isn’t repentance the same as faith?
ANSWER: I will reply to the idea that repentance is the same as faith by asking the following questions:
(1) If repentance and faith are the same, why does the Bible make such a plain distinction between them? “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). In reality, repentance and faith are two different actions though they cannot necessarily be separated in time. Repentance is to acknowledge one’s sin and rebellion against God and to change one’s mind about sinning against God. Repentance is to surrender to God. Faith is to trust the finished work of Christ for forgiveness. Repentance and faith are the two aspects of man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.
(2) If repentance and faith are the same, why did the New Testament preachers proclaim repentance? Many arguments have been given to justify not preaching repentance, but the bottom line is that the Bible preachers proclaimed it. If repentance is totally wrapped up in believing, why did the Lord Jesus Christ preach “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)? Why did Peter preach, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted” (Acts 3:19)? Why did Paul preach, “God ... now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30)? Or, “[men] should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20)?
(3) If repentance and faith are the same, why did the Lord Jesus Christ say that repentance is a part of the Great Commission? “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). The answer is that repentance is to be preached and faith is to be preached. While these two things are intimately connected, they are not the same. Biblical salvation involves both: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). That is what the Lord’s apostles preached, and they are our only infallible guides.
QUESTION: If you teach that repentance means to turn from sin, doesn’t that make it impossible since it is impossible for the sinner to turn from every sin?
ANSWER: No one that I know of has defined repentance as turning from every sin or turning from sin in any sort of perfect, blameless manner. If someone has done so, he is wrong. The old nature is still in the believer and he continues to have the potential for sin throughout his earthly life (1 John 1:8-10). If the believer says he has no sin, he is deceived. At the same time, those who say they know Christ and keep not his commandments are said to be liars. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4). Repentance is not turning from sin in a perfect manner; it is turning from sin as a way of life. It is changing masters. It is turning from sin and self-will as the master of one’s life to Jesus Christ as the Master. To say that people can be saved without evidencing such a change is to deny passages such as the following: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4). “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
QUESTION: Isn’t it only the sin of unbelief that condemns the sinner?
ANSWER: Those who define repentance to mean a change from unbelief to belief claim that it is unbelief that condemns men to Hell and therefore it is only the sin of unbelief that the sinner must repent of. This is not true, though. It is not only unbelief that sends a man to Hell; it is all of his sin. Romans 5:12 says it is the “SIN of one man” which has resulted in death. Adam’s sin was not merely unbelief; it was disobedience. “For by one man’s DISOBEDIENCE many were made sinners…” (Rom. 5:19). Ephesians 5:6 and Colossians 3:6 tell us that the wrath of God comes upon men because of their SINS, such as the sin of fornication or of covetousness or of jesting or of idolatry. “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for BECAUSE OF THESE THINGS COMETH THE WRATH OF GOD UPON THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE” (Eph. 5:6). “For WHICH THINGS’ SAKE the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:6). Revelation 20:12-15 tells us that unsaved men will be condemned by their works and cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 21:8 tells us that unbelief is only one of the sins that cause men to be outside of the eternal city of God. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Biblical repentance involves repentance toward one’s sin--not merely the sin of unbelief, but toward sinning in general. “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they REPENT OF THEIR DEEDS” (Rev. 2:22). “And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and REPENTED NOT OF THEIR DEEDS” (Rev. 16:11).
Repentance is a change of mind in relation to God Himself, to the role He has in life in general and in one’s life in particular. Who is God? Am I god? If I am not god, who is God? The Hindu, when hearing the gospel for the first time, often wants to add Jesus Christ to his other gods. I believe that is what the average North American wants to do. He is not ready to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord. He doesn't want to turn from his sin. He doesn’t want to obey God. He doesn’t want to bear the reproach of the gospel. He merely wants a ticket to Heaven and a source of divine help with his problems. Repentance, however, involves turning. A man is going one way in life, his own sinful, self-willed way, and when he repents, he turns around to go God’s way. How can such repentance be possible unless it results in a real, observable change in one’s lifestyle? It is not possible.
QUESTION: If it is necessary to preach repentance, why is it not mentioned in the book of John?
ANSWER: I will answer this question under the following four points:
First, no one part of the Bible can be isolated from the rest of the Bible. The Gospel of John also does not mention the virgin birth of Christ, but that does not mean the virgin birth is not a doctrine that we are to preach. The book of Acts describes how the apostles in the early churches preached the gospel, and they preached repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20). This is our example, regardless of what any one isolated biblical book teaches. To base one’s doctrine and practice upon one isolated part of the Bible, while ignoring other parts, is the manner of false teachers.
Second, though the Gospel of John does not use the term “repentance,” it does use the concept of repentance. The book of John tells us plainly that while it is “believing on Christ” that saves, the biblical term “believe” means far more than it commonly means today. In John’s Gospel, salvation is described as receiving Jesus Christ (John 1:11-12). To receive Jesus Christ means to receive Him as everything He is, both Lord and Savior. John also describes salvation as coming to Christ (John 6:35). To go to Christ involves turning one’s back on the life of sin and idolatry. The Christians at Thessalonica show us what true salvation is: “ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). To claim that salvation is anything less than this is to ignore what the New Testament plainly says from one end to the other. John 2:23-25 tells us that the Lord Jesus did not commit himself to all of those who “believed in his name.” Why? Because many of those who “believed” did not do so in a saving manner. They “believed” in Jesus Christ only as a miracle worker or as a food provider or as a deliverer from political oppression, and they did not believe on Christ in the saving sense of bowing their knees to Him and trusting Him as their sole Lord and Savior. Many of the same people who “believed in his name” in John 2:23 turned away from Him in John 6:66.
The Gospel of John also tells us that salvation always produces a change in a person’s life, and that those who do not live in obedience to Christ do not truly know Christ as their Savior. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). John describes salvation as being “born again” (John 3). That is a very dramatic expression which instructs us that salvation produces a dramatic change in a person’s life. In his first epistle, John also teaches that salvation is always accompanied by a change of life. He lists three marks of salvation: obedience (John 2:3-4; 3:3), love (1 John 3:14), and truth (1 John 2:20-27).
There is no “easy prayerism” in the inspired writings of John, and to use the Gospel of John to defend this unscriptural practice is a great error.
Third, while many arguments have been given to justify not preaching repentance, the bottom line is that the Bible preachers proclaimed repentance. If repentance is totally wrapped up in believing, why did the Lord Jesus Christ preach “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)? (The Gospel of Luke is just as inspired as the Gospel of John!) Why did Peter preach, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted” (Acts 3:19)? Why did Paul preach, “God ... now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30)? Or, “[men] should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20)? The answer is that repentance is to be preached and faith is to be preached. While these things are intimately connected, they are not the same. Biblical salvation involves both: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). That is what the Lord’s apostles preached, and they are our only infallible guides.
Fourth, biblical repentance and biblical faith for salvation are so intimately connected that one can sometimes stand for the other WHEN PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD. They are not the same, but they are impossible to separate in practice. As the Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention stated in 1925, “We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces…” To have faith in Christ in a biblical fashion means to have a repentant faith. J. Frank Norris described it as “penitent and obedient faith.” A.C. Dixon, in his messages to the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, in 1915, noted that repentance and faith are “like the Siamese twins they are joined together by a living ligament. To cut them apart is to kill both. … When you are truly repentant, it is because you have faith in Christ; and when you turn from sin to Christ, it is because you have repented.”
This is what John’s Gospel and the rest of the New Testament teaches. Biblical faith involves repentance, and biblical repentance involves faith.
“While it is true that upwards of one hundred and fifteen N.T. passages condition salvation on believing, and fully thirty passages condition salvation on faith ... nevertheless, repentance is an essential condition in God’s glorious Gospel. It is also true that in the last analysis repentance and faith are one and the same act. ‘Ye turned to God from idols’ (1 Th. 1:9). Repentance is included in believing. Howbeit, repentance is not faith, nor faith repentance. ‘He that believeth,’ implies repentance. ‘Repent and be converted,’ involves faith. ... Repentance and faith can never be separated. ‘Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21). ‘Ye repented NOT ... that ye might believe Him’ (Mt. 21:32). ... Repentance is denying (negative), faith is affirming (positive). Repentance looks within, faith looks above. Repentance sees our misery, faith our Deliverer. Repentance is hunger, faith is the open mouth, and Christ is the living food” (Evangelist James A. Stewart, Evangelism, p. 49).
Evangelist James Stewart understood repentance and faith far better than those today who claim that it is not necessary to preach repentance inasmuch as the word is not mentioned in the Gospel of John.
QUESTION: Where does the Bible say that people must repent of their sin or that repentance is turning from sin?
ANSWER: The prophet Ezekiel so defined repentance in Ezekiel 18:30 when he said to Israel, “Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.” John the Baptist so defined repentance when he demanded that the people “bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt. 3:8). The Lord Jesus Christ so defined repentance when he said that the people of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah (Matt. 12:41). We know the dramatic result of Jonah’s preaching. They repented of their sin before God. The apostle Paul so defined repentance when he noted that genuine repentance produces fruits of obedience (Acts 26:20; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25-26). The apostle John so defined repentance when he wrote that repentance results in obedience (Rev. 2:5, 21, 22; 3:3, 19; 9:20-21; 16:9, 11).
“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they REPENT OF THEIR DEEDS” (Rev. 2:22).
“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet REPENTED NOT OF THE WORKS OF THEIR HANDS, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: NEITHER REPENTED THEY OF THEIR MURDERS, NOR OF THEIR SORCERIES, NOR OF THEIR FORNICATION, NOR OF THEIR THEFTS” (Rev. 9:20-21).
“And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and REPENTED NOT OF THEIR DEEDS” (Rev. 16:21).
QUESTION: You condemn “easy prayerism”; does that mean you believe salvation is complicated and that a sinner cannot simply trust Jesus Christ as His Saviour?
ANSWER: We definitely do not believe salvation is complicated. In my 1996 article on “Repentance and Lordship Salvation,” I stated:
“I don't like the term ‘easy believism,’ because salvation IS easy and it IS received by believing” (David Cloud, “Repentance and Lordship Salvation,” O Timothy, Volume 13, Issue 7, 1996).
Consider further the following statement from my 1992 booklet Easy Prayerism or Bible Evangelism:
There is an evangelistic methodology in Christian circles today which is a plague to sound gospel preaching. Some call this ‘easy believism,’ but I don't like that term. BELIEF IS EXACTLY WHAT GOD REQUIRES FOR SALVATION. ‘For by grace are ye saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast’ (Eph. 2:8-9). ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (Jn. 3:16). Salvation is received by believing. FURTHER, GOD HAS MADE IT EASY TO DO. A child can trust Christ and be saved; a weak-minded person can trust Christ and be saved. Salvation is not difficult, except in the sense that the sinner has to humble himself and repent.
I believe a better term for this problem is ‘easy prayerism.’ It is a methodology which focuses on getting people to say a prayer. Don't get me wrong. I believe that ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Rom. 10:13). I believe that those who pray to God in repentance and ask to be saved WILL be saved. I am not against prayers for salvation.
What I am against is making this the focus of our evangelistic activity. Repeating a prayer is not necessarily salvation, and we must not confuse it with such. Just because 50 people pray a prayer or raise their hands in a gospel meeting or some other thing like this, is no evidence whatsoever that those people have been saved. It is one thing to show some interest in salvation; it is quite another thing to be saved (David Cloud, Easy Prayerism or Bible Evangelism, 1992, Way of Life Literature).
If someone thinks I do not believe that salvation is simple or that I do not believe it is received by childlike faith in Jesus Christ, they are wrong and they are seriously misrepresenting my position. Salvation is not difficult, but it is strait and narrow:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13,14).
REPENTANCE AND SOUL WINNING (D.W. CLOUD) [ISBN 1-58318-062-1] A study on biblical repentance and a timely warning about unscriptural methods of presenting the gospel. The opening chapter, entitled “Fundamental Baptists and Quick Prayerism: A Faulty Method of Evangelism Has Produced a Change in the Doctrine of Repentance,” traces the change in the doctrine of repentance among fundamental Baptists during the past 50 years. Chapter Two is an extensive study on biblical repentance and includes what repentance is not, a study of every Bible passage dealing with repentance, repentance defined by preachers of old, illustrations of repentance, and God's repentance. Chapter Three looks at four “Unscriptural Presentations of Repentance”: (1) An Easy Prayerism Presentation: Failing to deal plainly with repentance. (2) An Insufficient Presentation: Failing to define the terms of the Gospel so the hearers plainly understand, and failing to contrast the true Gospel with false gospels. (3) A Positive Presentation: Failing to lay a proper foundation of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. (4) A Need-Oriented Presentation: Failing to make a distinction between genuine salvation and mere reformation and ritual. Chapter Four is titled “Does Salvation Make a Difference,” demonstrating that profession without a corresponding change of life is not biblical salvation. Chapter Five is “Pentecost vs. Hylescost,” contrasting Jack Hyles evangelistic methodology with the Bible. Chapter Six answers questions that commonly arise pertaining to this subject, including “Are you preaching lordship salvation?” and “When repentance is defined as turning to God from sin, isn't that a works salvation?” Third edition June 2006, 201 pages, 5X8, perfect bound $9.95 + $3 S/H. Way of Life Literature, David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, email@example.com.