Can Someone Be Saved After One Sermon?
June 12, 2024
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Recently I received the following email from a preacher. I have edited it a bit but have retained the substance.

Hi Preacher Cloud,

I love your FBIS news service and articles and my dad subscribed to you since the beginning. Later I subscribed in 2003 and really enjoy it. I am 43 years old and been at ministry since 2003 under my dad. [Our church is in] a tourist area and so people come and go at times. I have a lot of your books and courses and encyclopedia. 

I am taking a really good class right now on the art of pastoring with ------. I am enjoying the classes and --------- makes the important case that we need to be filled with the Spirit in order to do any kind of ministry. ... I side with D.L. Moody and ------ when they say that when we preach with the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and his filling on our lives by yielding to him daily, we can see amazing things happen in people lives.

I am very much against the Hyles brand of soul winning and Carl Hatch and 123 pray after me fake decisions. I very clearly preach repentance and faith and preach on the gospel and heaven and hell and Jesus is the only way, His blood is the only thing that can wash away your sin. But I will side with Moody when he did not give the invitation the night of the great Chicago fire, and he was very heart stricken when some at the meeting were under deep conviction but he did not give an invitation and said come back next week. Some died that night that would have gotten saved and hopefully they did believe on the Lord before they died. Moody also said that people are dying and going to hell for want of one thing more than others which is someone asking them to personally make a decision.

I know Moody had his own faults as we all do. But I believe that we can learn from these godly men who were fundamentalists. I think God wanted us all to learn a lesson that we dare not forgo a gospel invitation when unsaved people are present. 

I usually have them come forward at the invitation or with their heads bowed and eyes closed to raise their hands. And then I have them go back to talk with someone in a private room about the gospel so that person can vet them. We don’t know how many times someone has heard the gospel before they come to a church service, so that’s why we can’t just assume that they are new to it. We’ve had people come one service then get saved the next service and then go on for baptism and church membership and become faithful members. We also have had people get saved the very first service and now they’re coming back this Sunday.

I agree 100% that we need to be very careful; at the same time, not throw the baby out with the bathwater and still give gospel invitations at the end of services and carefully. counsel them. ... We had Evangelist --------- at our church in the beginning of March for four nights and had great numbers at the altars but no one got saved that week, but then the next Sunday one lady wanted to come back and get saved and then another man last week and got saved.  

To sum it all up, if I did not believe that the gospel of Christ had the power to save a soul under the preaching ministry of the gospel, even one service, then I would hang it up and quit, because that is the opposite of what Paul says because it is the power of God unto salvation.

One of the verses you often quote Is Acts 17:30, God has commanded all men everywhere to repent. Which is synonymous with belief as you often say.

Are there a lot of people, Independent Baptists, abusing soulwinning? Yes. But I believe there are a greater portion that are trying to be careful in evangelism.

If it’s impossible for someone to get saved after hearing a gospel the first time in a service, though rare, then I believe that some great preachers would be discounted.

So I think we are coming at it just a little bit different perspectives, but I just want to let you know that you are almost discouraging, perhaps, some of your younger readers from giving the gospel and an invitation in a message. If it’s so hard for someone to be saved, how did the Philippian jailer trust Christ after seeing and hearing the gospel for the first time? How did the thief on the cross trust Christ after being just 5 hours with Christ? How did the ladies at the river in Lystra trust Christ after the first time Paul preached to them the gospel?  Like I said, I believe a gospel tract can save a soul, and a simple gospel message preached in the power of the Holy Ghost can save a soul, and the loving one-on-one personal evangelism in one sitting (longer than 5 to 10 minutes and 15 to 20 minutes) can lead a soul to Christ. Someone doesn’t get saved after a few minutes. That’s the Carl Hatch and Hyles way. Boasting in numbers.

So let me know your thoughts. I am not trying to hurt you, but only let you know that you are coming across a little bit too hard to win a soul to Christ in a church service.

May the Lord continue to bless your ministry, and I look forward to each email from you.


Thank you for writing about this issue. I very much appreciate the opportunity to clarify my position and practice with someone who genuinely wants to know what I believe.

1. I have never said it is not possible for someone to be saved in a service after hearing one sermon or by reading a gospel tract, etc. You said, “If it’s impossible for someone to get saved after hearing a gospel the first time in a service though rare, then I believe that some great preachers would be discounted.” I have never said or thought that.

2. I have never said it is hard to be saved. In fact, I have said that it is not hard. In the course Sowing and Reaping (2012), we said, “Those that lifted their eyes to the serpent were healed [John 3:14]. Likewise, those who look to Christ’s cross and believe are saved. Salvation is not difficult. Even a child can be saved if he can understand the gospel.”

3. I give the gospel and invite people to come to Christ in practically every message, certainly in our work overseas. I proclaim, “Behold, now is the day of salvation” and warn them they have no guarantee of tomorrow. This is what our young preachers have been trained to do. We always have many unsaved visitors in our services, and we urge them to come to Christ today.

4. At the same time, we are very careful in dealing with people. I want to be sure they understand every word of the gospel. I want to be as sure as possible they understand biblical repentance and they truly repent and exercise saving faith in Christ. I want to be as sure as possible they are exercising saving faith, which is a faith with the whole heart. It is a supernatural work of God.

5. The bottom line is that if someone is saved, if he is genuinely saved, that individual is supernaturally converted and born again, and 2 Corinthians 5:17 will be evident in his or her life, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” This is true in Scripture whether they got saved after Peter’s sermon on Pentecost and his “many other words,” or whether they got saved at a Bible study on the river bank in Philippi, or whether they got saved after riding with Philip in a chariot (for who knows how long, perhaps days), or whether they got saved after hearing Paul and Silas preach and sing in a jail (for who knows how long; the earthquake happened at midnight but we aren’t told on what day of their incarceration). Salvation has clear evidence. That’s the bottom line to me. That is what I emphasize everywhere. I say, if you have a Philippian jailor situation, lead that person to Christ immediately!

6. As for the filling of the Holy Spirit, it is absolutely necessary, of course. The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son for this great business. The Holy Spirit is the hands-on Lord of the Harvest, in a sense. He does the real work, the convicting and enlightening work, the supernatural work (Ac. 1:8; Joh. 16:7-11). There is absolutely no salvation apart from the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

7. You said that I “often say” that “repentance is synonymous with belief,” but I do not say that. Repentance is definitely not synonymous with belief. What I say is that Paul preached both repentance and faith, and so must we (Ac. 20:21). And I say that Paul said repentance has clear and strong evidence (Ac. 26:20), and so must we. And I say that saving faith includes repentance, but they are not the same.

8. As for the “gospel invitation,” the Bible is the sole authority and we are under obligation, and at liberty, to test every tradition by Scripture. First, there are gospel invitations in the New Testament. Christ invited people to come to Him, and we do the same. Peter urged the people on Pentecost to “save yourselves from this untoward generation,” and that is what we do. Second, there is no gospel invitation in Scripture after the fashion of what we see among modern Baptists. This practice goes back to the Revivalist movement of the 19th century (e.g., Moody, Torrey, Sunday). I am talking about creating an “invitation” environment in a church service or gospel meeting--piano playing, people standing, heads bowed and eyes closed, people singing, preacher pleading, multiple stanzas of a hymn, people raising hands, an altar call, etc. If a preacher wants to do that, it is between him and the Lord. I’m not against that unless it tends to produce false professions. But the Bible is my sole authority and if modern Baptists have a certain practice that is not clearly founded on Scripture, I can take it or leave it. I can take part of it and leave the rest. I can reject the entire thing or modify it as the Lord leads. Only solid Scripture has real authority. I can and will test every tradition by Scripture, and I refuse to follow tradition without testing it. I refuse to be intimidated by any group of preachers. I want to love and respect preachers and learn from them and help them, but I want to have only one Master and one Authority.

People need to be “urged to make a decision,” but that decision must be made by the conviction and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and with clear understanding of the gospel. It must be a decision made in true repentance and saving faith, which is a special kind of faith. When such a decision is made, that individual is saved. Before that, he can “pray" and “profess" but not be saved.

If a preacher is having the good fruit of genuine salvation and he is discipling his converts well, more power to him. My warnings are only for those who are producing “professions” without “possession.”

We have dealt with Hindus for many decades in one of the darkest parts of the world. They readily “believe on Jesus.” They are attracted to a God of love. But we have found that it takes considerable time for them to come to true repentance and saving faith. Typically, they don’t want to pay the price of going against their relatives and culture. I believe that is an issue of repentance. I see in Scripture that repentance involves a renunciation of false religion and false gospels. I would never, ever try to “lead someone to Christ” if I suspected they were holding on to a false religion or false gospel. We want fruit that remains, and that is what we have seen, for the most part. We have seen a great many Hindus come to Christ and we have had few false professions, because we are careful and we try to be biblically wise. We have gotten ever more careful through the years.

From my perspective, the situation is not much different in America today. This is the last hour of the church age, a day of terrible apostasy. It is not the Pentecost-apostolic era, to say the least. Most “Christians” in America have only the vaguest understanding of the meaning of the gospel, true repentance, and saving faith. This is true even in the deep South Bible Belt where I grew up in a Baptist church, went to Bible college, and started my preaching ministry. I am confident that if people could be given a Bible test anywhere in the South, their gross ignorance would be evident. This is even more true among liberal Protestants and liberal Baptists and Roman Catholics. Recently I had a discussion with a converted Roman Catholic pastor’s wife. She told me how that Roman Catholics typically redefine gospel terms by their Catholic teaching. To them, to “believe in Christ” and to “receive Christ” means baptism and the sacraments and good works. The Catholic thinks, “I have received Christ many times; why not do it again?” To that individual, to believe that “Christ died for my sins” doesn’t mean that he can be saved once for all by trusting in Christ’s sacrifice alone. To him, salvation is a process, and “repentance” means “penance” which is doing good works, etc.

You said, “Are there a lot of people, Independent Baptists, abusing soul winning? Yes. But I believe there are a greater portion that are trying to be careful in evangelism.”

I agree that many are sincerely trying to do right. I would also agree that we need far more evangelism today; it is dying out. The problem, brother, is that the vast majority who are trying, in my estimation, simply haven’t been properly educated in this matter. Practically all soul winning programs teach the method of what I call Quick Prayerism to various degrees. (See “
Fundamental Baptists and Quick Prayerism” for a description, The Sword of the Lord, which has promoted Hyles type soul winning since the 1960s and still publishes his books and others like them (as of April 2024, the Sword still published Hyles’ Let’s Go Soul Winning), has had a vast influence to this day, even with men who reject Hyles. I have found that many men who think they do not practice Quick Prayerism, do practice it in sincere ignorance.

So we urge people to be saved today but we deal with them carefully and thoroughly.

We should be able to discern what God is doing in an individual. Salvation is a work of the Spirit. Even as a zero point Calvinist, I know that to be true. If the individual is ready to be saved like the Philippian jailer, then you lead him right to Christ! Otherwise, you deal with them as long as it takes until things are clear. Let me repeat, you deal with them as long as it takes until things are clear.

If an individual is not willing to go through a gospel Bible study like the Seeker’s Bible Study, they aren’t ready to be saved. There is not one example in the New Testament of someone who was saved without being ready to pay attention to the gospel.

Even if someone says they have received Christ as their Saviour, we will still take them through Seeker’s Bible Study (which goes through every word of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4) and also deals with repentance. This is to clarify things in that individual’s mind and in our minds and before our congregation. Why would anyone be opposed to this?

How long does it take to be saved? It takes as long as it takes! We don't have a pat program. We deal with individuals as individuals. If someone really gets saved on the street or in a service or through a tract, great. We will still take them through Seeker’s. I want to be hyper careful here. It doesn’t help the individual nor the church to baptize unsaved people and receive them into membership. The vast majority of Baptist churches are not careful enough about maintaining a regenerate church membership. That has been slipping away since the turn of the 20th century. Every church member should have the same testimony as the members of the first church as described in Acts 2:41-42.

This is a day when the majority of Baptist churches are not careful and thorough enough. In recent meetings in fundamental Baptist churches I talked with a 7 year old, a 12 year old, a 15 year old, and a 16 year old (a pastor’s son). They have all professed salvation and been baptized. None of them could answer basic questions I put to them, such as “What is repentance?” "How have you repented?” and “How do you know you are saved?" If someone says they are saved, I’m going to probe that profession. In my experience and observation, the vast majority of churches don’t do this. They don’t take the new professors through a follow up course on the gospel. Everything is so very shallow and ineffective. Recently a pastor told me that his church had about 60 professions of faith this year. When I asked him how many have gone on for the Lord, he said about 20%. That’s not what we see in Acts 2:41-42.

If the individual’s inability to answer basic questions is a matter of shyness or fear or inability to communicate well, we want to deal with that individual until he can answer properly and until things are perfectly clear.

My main message is this: Be careful. Just be careful. Probe. Teach. Converse. Get to know that individual. Find out what he is thinking, how he is understanding the gospel words, what is really going on in his heart and mind. Urge him to be saved, but don’t be hasty in dealing with him.

As for D.L. Moody, he had a passion for souls and great enthusiasm, which we should imitate, but I have studied Moody and his campaigns extensively and he is not a good example in dealing with souls. In fact, in his later years he expressed regret publicly for his neglect of repentance and the shallowness of dealing with people. Only a small percentage of his converts panned out. I have documented this in The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and Fundamental Baptists.

As for “seeing things happen,” I want to emphasize that we are seeing amazing conversions, from Hinduism, from Buddhism, from demon possession, from drug lifestyles, fornicators, thieves, gang members, idol makers, etc. We are seeing many young people and adults born again with dramatic life-changing conversion experiences. We are seeing fathers and mothers saved and start down the path of building godly Christian homes and raising their children for Christ. We have a lot of young people (late teens, early 20s) pursuing God’s perfect will. There are about 40 men in my men’s weekly discipleship meetings.

We are preparing to publish An Evangelistic Church for the 21st Century, with video classes, textbook, review questions, and tests. It is one of the courses in the Way of Life Bible College. I believe you will like it.

Pastor, don’t be a man follower.

Bro. Cloud

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

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