That night of August 15, 1987, when Christ battered down the walls of my resistance and claimed me for his own, I clearly recall that I never "took Him as my Savior." At the time of my conversion, I had no more thought to "take Christ" than did Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road. Yet, I am as confident as was Saul, that Christ "took" me to be His own in that instant of regeneration. Some may say it was the power of suggestion, but I know I experienced physiological symptoms of chill and warmth at a time in my life when I had no personal experience of religious ecstasy.
And from that moment, I have been confident of Christ's presence in me and of my eternal standing as a child of Almighty God.
In the charismatic church that was my training ground, people often spoke of "accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior," as though a conscious effort were involved in the salvific process. In that assembly, and others I visited, it was a common practice for people to be called forward for healing and to receive Christ...by means of repeating a sinners prayer. Once verbalized, this prayer assured the supplicant of his place in the Body of Christ. Or so it was preached.
To my recollection, I never have "taken Christ as my Savior" in this manner, though I may have repeated that prayer in assembly often.
I now understand that for many, the expression “taken Christ as my Savior” is merely their way of expressing a familial relationship with Christ; not to be understood in the literal sense that it was they who chose Christ, but that it was Christ who chose them. I do not believe sinners are saved by altar calls or by reciting a sinner's prayer. In calling a person forward and bombarding him with admonishments, exhortations and threats, followed by an intensely emotional recitation of a memorized prayer, I see a denial of the power of Christ and the sovereignty of God. Though perhaps well-intentioned, the pastor who uses the altar call to "bring people to Christ" as a drover drives cattle into a pen is, in effect, announcing to the world that God is not really sovereign in the sinner's life and that Christ's atoning sacrifice is insufficient for salvation. In other words, the seeker's "faith alone" is not enough; pastor, or some other third party, must be present to "lead" the seeker through a conscious process of "converting" belief in God into saving faith. This process suggests that the seeker cannot be saved until he completes the works of prayer, confession and petition, preferably with the guiding presence of a "true" believer.
Catholicism's baptismal ritual is another denial of the power of faith and the sovereignty of God. The Scriptures tell us that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, yet Romish doctrine relegates faith to a virtually needless accessory to the “sacramental work” of the Catholic priest. Babies are baptized into the Catholic Church, and the Catholic version of salvation, while still on their mothers' breasts; too young to comprehend what is going on and needing someone else to respond to the priest's ritual questions in their stead.
In Rome's way of doing things, water baptism is not always necessary for salvation. One might be enlisted in what is called the “Church Triumphant” if they intended to be baptized but die before they complete the ceremony
According to the doctrines of Rome, another way to be saved without being baptized is to die for the faith.
When I read phrases similar to "taking Christ as my Lord and Savior," I think of all those, elect or not, who have been led to believe that all that is necessary for salvation and inclusion in the Body of Christ is to recite a sinner's prayer or silently read it from the back of a three-cent pamphlet or to submit to sacramental baptism. They verbalize the prayer or submit to submit to a ritual baptism and count themselves as saved, yet are unable to tell you in what they believe or who Christ is. God is and always will be sovereign in all things, but He will not give a person with what he is unable to receive for lack of saving faith. Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of all mankind forever, but the debt of those who lack saving faith is never marked paid.
We know God's grace is irresistible. He will not be denied. Those whom He has chosen will be brought to salvation. The question is: what about all those who dutifully troop up to the altar at pastor's insistence, repeat that prayer and walk away "feeling saved?" Do the elect who profess faith before they know in Whom they trust get another chance to learn and believe? Do those not chosen walk out of the room believing they are saved then morph into chosen ones by virtue of their faith and God's grace? Are only the elect drawn to even consider salvation? If that latter is true, how can so many of the "elect" find themselves in belief systems patently in opposition to God's revealed word?
A Response Offered
The modern "sinner's prayer" has no roots in Scripture, and does not impart the new birth, nor does Catholicism's sacramental baptism. There is no example of any apostle leading someone to Christ through a sinner's prayer. There is no example in Scripture of anyone being saved by being baptized. It is by God's grace, through faith, that we are saved. In the tenth chapter of his letter to the church at Rome, Paul made it clear that faith comes by hearing the Gospel (Romans 10:17). It is the Spirit of God who brings understanding to the person hearing the Gospel. Upon the understanding imparted by the Holy Spirit, saving faith is conferred. This is not by any act of our own will, such as making one's way to the front of the assembly in response to an altar call, reciting a sinner's prayer or being wetted by baptismal water. Our tendencies are bent away from God, not towards Him. With the gift of saving faith, the Holy Spirit indwells the new child of God, forever sealing him unto eternal life. This is the gift of the Holy Spirit - the new birth. It happens in a twinkling of an eye. Since it isn't something experienced by our senses we may be unaware of the totality of what God has done. After all, it is a work of God, not man. Therefore there is no requirement for us to be fully aware of all aspects of this work. We become more knowledgeable as we are built up in Scripture, and learn through a maturing process in our relationship with God through His Word.
Regeneration in Greek is palingenesia (palin = again, genesis = birth). The word is used in reference to the kingdom only in Matthew 19:28:
It is used in reference to those regenerated by the Spirit only in Titus 3:5:
How would regeneration have been understood in Jesus' time? To discover this, we must turn to the Hebrew Scriptures where, in Ezekiel 36:25-27, we read:
An expression of this regeneration, this new birth, is found in the New Testament in John 1:12-13:
Jesus explained individual regeneration to Nicodemus in John 3:1-6:
Regeneration includes the imparting of the divine nature :
All believers have divine sonship:
Concerning the nature of regeneration there are five facts. (1) A new life has been born which is eternal; (2) that life is the divine nature; (3) the believer is born by the Holy Spirit; (4) God the Father becomes our legitimate Father; and (5) all believers are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.
On the human side, regeneration is conditioned simply on faith:
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