30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
September 19, 1999
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" We certainly do appreciate the privilege of coming into your home this morning to further study the word of God. Before we begin our study this morning I would first like to encourage you to get your Bible and be prepared to turn to the Bible passages that we discuss this morning. The sincere, honest, student of the Bible will want to do as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11. It was said of them that they" were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." As a result of their willingness to honesty search the scriptures, it is further stated that many of them believed. That is what we are asking of you this morning. Upon seeing the black and white print of God's message, we invite you to believe it and then obey what God our Father has instructed of you. You can have the confidence that the apostle Paul relayed to the young evangelist Timothy when he wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work."
Now join us as we discuss a subject that many people are practicing today in religion, but are practicing in error. We are going to be discussing Salvation By Prayer. Does the Bible teach that we can obtain eternal salvation simply by praying to God and asking for it? It is very important to note that Jesus said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven." Perhaps in anticipation of the time to come when people would deny this statement and contend that one could be saved by saying Lord, Lord, or by praying, he added in the next verse, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" But he said in the next verse, "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." We have these statements of our Savior in the sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 7:21-23) Not only is the idea of salvation by prayer exploded by the master teacher, but he expressly says we must do the will of God in order to be saved. It seems strange indeed that people will come before intelligent audiences and contend for doctrines which diametrically oppose the sayings of the son of God. Nevertheless many people who have espoused these doctrines seemingly care more for them than they do for complying with the teachings of Christ. This is the great shame in our society today. Many people, more than I could begin to count, have been carried off into believing all sorts of things in the name of religion. Sadly, many believe what they do because of what they have heard from others or because of family traditions. I am convinced that if every person would let God tell them what they need to do in order to gain salvation, then we could have a united people, united in Christ. The purpose of this lesson and future lessons on this broadcast is to get you to think about what you are doing and why you are doing the things you do in the name of religion. Is it based upon your "I believe" or is it based upon "God says?"
It all boils down to this. Jesus said you must do the will of God to be saved but false prophets say you don't have to do anything to be saved. Again, Jesus said, you couldn't be saved by saying Lord, Lord, which means by praying, but false teachers say you can be saved by praying. I heard a sermon some years ago on the subject of being saved. The man contended that people could be saved by praying. People who knew absolutely nothing about the word of God and people who were so prejudiced against the truth that their consciences are seared as with a hot iron might have believed the things taught in that sermon. But to those who know the word of God and to those who exercised reasonable intelligence the things said were as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. These religious innovations of today are not new. The apostle Paul warned the young evangelist Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron."
We want to examine this subject of salvation by prayer and see what God says about it. We invite your earnest consideration of the things said. We invite you, that if you can find anywhere in God's word where God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or any inspired man ever told a child of the devil to pray for anything, that if you will send in the reference we will read it over the air. In addition, if you can find where one was saved by such prayer we would be glad to read that verse also. I personally have never seen a verse such as this in the pages of our New Testament Bible.. I don't believe you will find one either and the reason my friends is perfectly obvious. There isn't a passage of scripture in all of God's word that tells a child of the devil to pray. There isn't a promise in all of God's word to a child of the devil if he does pray. The preachers who contend that one may be saved by prayer must torture the scriptures and put on a demonstration of mental acrobatics that would do justice to a three ring circus in order to make believe that one may be saved in such fashion. Now in order for a false teacher to support their theory, this is what they would have to do. First they have to dispose of John 9:31 which says, "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him."Now the way they dispose of that verse is to use a multitude of words to the effect that the man was not inspired, that he was not a child of God and that the verse is not to be taken for what it says. In other words they admit that the bible says God does not hear sinners, but they contend that the verse is a lie and that God will hear sinners. Either the Bible IS the Word of God or it is not. Remember, our soul's eternal resting place will be determined on whether we do the will of the Lord or the will of ourselves or others.
Think of it friends, They say "yes, the bible says God won't hear sinners but it is not so, he will hear them." Can you think of anything to beat that? Wouldn't it be better to turn loose of our theory than it would to fly in the face of a verse of scripture and say that verse doesn't state the truth? Why will a man hold on to a theory which commits him to the task of giving others a lie in spite of such a plain statement as is found in God's word, the Bible? No wonder Jesus said,"Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing." If you are a member of a denominational church which teaches that people are saved by praying, get out your New Testaments right now and write across John 9:31 "this is not true", because that is exactly what you are being taught!.
Now these people who teach that you can be saved by praying are not satisfied to prove that John 9:31 isn't so and let it go at that. They feel called upon to find examples of people being saved by prayer in the bible. We want to examine some of the examples used by false teachers in an attempt to prove that a child of the devil can be saved by prayer. Some time ago, I heard a man contend that one could be saved by prayer. He proved it by citing the case of David who when he sinned, prayed to God for forgiveness. The man was very bold in his assertion that this was conclusive evidence that God would save a sinner if he would pray. I don't know whether the man was honest or not. I want to be as charitable as possible. If he was honest, I want him to have credit for honesty. But this one thing I do know, if the man was honest, his knowledge of the bible was very weak. Here was a man that was so engrossed in his false doctrine that he would contend that David before he prayed to God was a child of the devil.
Doesn't the man know that David was a child of God all the days of his life? Part of the time he was an obedient child of God and part of the time he was a disobedient child of God. But all the time from the day of his birth to the day of his death he was a child of God by reason of the fact that he was born as one of God's chosen people. Remember in our last two lessons on this program how we talked about the three dispensations found in the Bible. There was the Patriarchal age, the Mosaic age, and the age that we are now under, the Christian age. David was born as one of God's chosen people under the Mosaic dispensation of time. Now if the man that stated that David prayed for forgiveness, thus proving that sinners can pray for salvation, didn't know David was always a child of God he should quit trying to preach and if he did know it, he should admit that he was trying to mislead people by contending that he was a child of the devil and was made a child of God by prayer. God's plan by which he would forgive his people who sinned in David's day was for man to repent of his sins and turn from them and then pray to God. Such is his plan now to forgive his own people when they sin. We have an example of that in Acts chapter 8, verse 22. Simon the Sorcerer had tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit. This was sinful and therefore the apostle Peter asked him to "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you." But I insist that in no dispensation of time in this world has God had it a part of his plan to take a child of the devil and make a child of God out of him by having the man to pray. No my friends, David was not a child of the devil when he prayed. He was a child of God. He repented of his sins and prayed to God for forgiveness. To use that example to prove that a child of the devil can be made a child of God by prayer is to demonstrate a lack of knowledge of the scriptures, and a fondness of error that is being taught throughout the religious world today.
But it is said that there are other examples of sinners praying in the bible. These also are used to prove that a child of the devil may be saved by prayer. Let's examine these cases also to see if they support this idea. Sometimes the story of the two men who went to the temple to pray is used to prove that God will save a child of the devil when he prays. This story is found in Luke 18:9-14. At this time let's read the context of that scripture. "Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." In verse 13 we have this language, "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!" Because the next verse says the man was justified and because he said he was a sinner, somebody thinks he has a case of salvation by prayer. But this fact is overlooked in reaching that conclusion. This prayer took place in the temple. Any knowledge of the bible will reveal that only God's people had access to the temple. Never did a child of the devil enter into the temple. So, instead of having a child of the devil saved by prayer as some think, we have a confession of sins by a child of God who had sinned. Since God's plan of forgiveness to his own people was repentance and prayer, and since this man repented and prayed, he was justified. No, friends, it is not a case of one being saved by prayer.
But somebody says, "What about the thief on the cross, wasn't he saved by prayer?" Well in the first place, like David and like the publican, the thief in all probability was a Jew and thus a child of God. He had sinned and stood in need of forgiveness so as to escape the damnation of hell. Had Christ not been present at this time, he would in all probability have died without the repentance necessary to eternal life. The error in using this as a case of praying for pardon is perfectly evident. Why, the thief didn't pray to God at all. Notice carefully the words of this thief on the cross taken from Luke 23:42: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."The thief simply asked Jesus to remember him. People are to pray to God. Jesus in teaching the disciples to pray said, "when you pray, say Our Father who art in heaven." No, friends you can't pray as did the thief. The thief was not saved by praying to God. He didn't pray to God at all.
Finally someone says now preacher we are told that Cornelius prayed. Yes, we have that story in the tenth chapter of Acts of the Apostles. But let us take a look at the case of Cornelius and see if it supports the idea that sinners are taught of God to pray and if God saves sinners when they pray. In the first place, God never told Cornelius to pray. In the second place, Cornelius was not saved by prayer alone or as a result of his praying. Notice what is said in Acts 11:13-14 "And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, 'Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." Cornelius himself says he was told to send to Joppa and call for Peter, who would tell him words by which he and his house will be saved. Now the difference between the truth and error in this case is that truth says he was to be told words whereby he should be saved and error says he was saved by prayer. So which is it? The Bible says he would be told words and man says he was saved by prayer. The Bible also teaches in Acts 5:29 that "We ought to obey God rather than men." If God had intended to save Cornelius by prayer, why did he have him to send for Peter? Friends, God never did save a child of the devil in any age of the world on account of his prayers. Cornelius was saved just exactly like the people on the day of Pentecost were saved. That is by words spoken by the Apostle Peter and then through obedience to those words, was baptized for the forgiveness of sins. On the memorable day of Pentecost, Peter preached to people who were sinners and in sin; hence, he told them to repent or turn from their sins and be baptized for the remission of their sins. In the case of Cornelius, Peter is preaching to a sinner but one who has repented so instead of saying repent and be baptized, he simply commanded him to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. If Cornelius had still been practicing sin as they were on Pentecost the command would have been the same as it was on that day. I believe that any honest, open minded student of the Bible can clearly see the teachings of God if they want to. Those in sin who are practicing sin must repent or quit sinning and be baptized, whereas those who have quit sinning have only to be baptized. The argument that the Holy Spirit which fell on Cornelius was what saved him is so obviously an error that it needs no serious refutation. There isn't a case on record in the word of God where the Holy Spirit ever saved any one, nor is there a hint in the scriptures that it would ever save anyone. The trouble with these false teachers is they want Cornelius saved by the Holy Spirit, Saul of Tarsus saved by a great light, and the Jailor saved by an earthquake. When as a matter of fact they were all saved in exactly the same manner. Peter spoke words whereby Cornelius was saved. Included in those words was the command to be baptized. (Acts 10:48) Annanias spoke words whereby Saul of Tarsus was saved. Here are the words he spoke, "And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) And Paul and Silas spoke words whereby the Jailor was saved. In Acts 16:30-34 we can read: "And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household."
If prayer is all that is needed for the sinner to be saved, then why didn't Cornelius, Paul, and the jailer just pray that they be saved? Many false prophets of today are teaching that is all you have to do in order to be saved. If prayer is all that is necessary then why Included in the words of Paul to the jailer was the command to be baptized? Again, I remind you that everyone who became a Christian after Pentecost (Acts 2) was baptized. In one case it is said that baptism was for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) In another case it specifically says it is a command. (Acts 10:48) And in another case it says it was to wash away sins. (Acts 22:16).
In the face of this evidence that one can clearly see that in every New Testament example of conversion that each one was baptized to be saved, who among the denominations of this world will step out and say I am wrong, and let God dictate what you must do in order to have eternal salvation, not what man says you must do..
No friends, God won't hear a sinner's prayer and save him. The Bible plainly says "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) Why, and how long will people continue to deny this statement of our Lord and contend that one may be saved by prayer? Just as surely as you claim to have prayed through to salvation you are yet in your sins. You may be like Cornelius. You may be a good man or a good woman, but you are commanded just like Cornelius was to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus
Won't you think the matter over seriously friends? Won't you say as you know you ought to say, "The Bible is right and regardless of what people may say, I am going to obey my Lord?" Won't you say that?
This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"