When I published “Pentecost vs. Hylescost” in April 1998, I got the largest response from preachers of any article I have published, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Over the years, hundreds of fundamental Baptist preachers have thanked me for speaking out about this error.
One Canadian pastor’s response is typical. He said, “I have been to Hyles Pastor’s School many times; twenty years ago I would have rejected your statements as nearly blasphemous, but today I know that you are right and that it is important that this error of quick prayerism be exposed. I am thankful for your willingness to do so and praise the Lord for your O Timothy magazine.”
At the same time, I would warn that many preachers who say they agree with me about the error of Quick Prayerism still practice it to a certain degree.
The reason for this is that most preachers have been trained in this methodology and remain deeply influenced by it even after they see its error. It is very, very difficult to cast off tradition. Also, the vast majority of soul winning courses and programs are based on a Hyles-type methodology, and if these courses are used for training, the people are being educated in Quick Prayerism even though the preacher denounces it.
In what ways do men who reject Quick Prayerism still practice it?
First, many men who agree with us about the error and danger of Quick Prayerism still emphasize “going to heaven” in their soul winning endeavors and tracts. The Bible never mentions heaven in the context of gospel preaching. It mentions “eternal life,” and eternal life certainly includes a home in heaven, but the emphasis in the Bible is on eternal life STARTING NOW with a new life on earth.
Note the following examples:
“And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Lu. 19:8-9).
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Ac. 2:41-42).
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Ac. 26:19-20).
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Ro. 6:1-4).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Co. 5:17).
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal. 6:15).
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Th. 1:9).
Second, many men who agree with us about the error and danger of Quick Prayerism still emphasize a “sinner’s prayer” more than Scripture does.
There is no rote “sinner’s prayer” in the Bible.
The only example of a prayer for salvation is the publican’s, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lu. 18:13).
Romans 10:9 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
But that’s not a rote sinner’s prayer.
We don’t see Jesus leading people in a sinner’s prayer. The woman at the well wasn’t led in a sinner’s prayer (Joh. 4). Peter didn’t lead the the 3,000 at Pentecost in a sinner’s prayer (Ac. 2:38-42). Philip didn’t lead the Ethiopian eunuch in a sinner’s prayer (Ac. 8:36-37), Ananias didn’t lead Saul in a sinner’s prayer (Ac. 9:5-18). Peter didn’t lead Cornelius in a sinner’s prayer (Ac. 10:34-46). Paul didn’t lead people in a sinner’s prayer, not Sergius Paulus (Ac. 13:7-12), nor Lydia (Ac. 16:13-15), nor the Philippian jailer (Ac. 16:29-32), nor the Thessalonians (Ac. 17:2-4), nor the Bereans (Ac. 17:10-12), nor Dionysius and Damaris (Ac. 17:31-34), nor Crispus (Ac. 18:7-8), nor any others.
We’re not saying it is wrong to use a sinner’s prayer if it can help an individual come to Christ. I wasn’t led in a sinner’s prayer and didn’t say a sinner’s prayer. I simply repented and believed the gospel with my whole heart. On the other hand, my wife says that a sinner’s prayer was helpful to her as a teenager.
What we are saying is that the Bible does not give a model prayer or emphasize a rote prayer, and this is the infallible pattern. The Bible emphasizes repentance toward God (Ac. 20:21) and believing the gospel with all one’s heart (Ac. 8:37) and calling on Christ (Ro. 10:13) and coming to Christ (Mt. 11:28). That is what we find people doing in Scripture, as in the above-mentioned examples.
Third, many men who agree with us about the error and danger of Quick Prayerism are still too quick and shallow in dealing with people and too quick in pronouncing them saved.
In explaining to me that they don’t practice Quick Prayerism, many men have told me that they deal with souls for a half hour or an hour or so.
But if we are talking about dealing with a stranger, that usually isn’t nearly enough time.
A few years ago, I went on visitation with a godly and sincere fundamental Baptist pastor, and three times in one afternoon he shared a five- to ten-minute Romans Road plan (i.e., all have sinned against God, the wages of sin is death, Jesus died for our sin and rose from the dead, and those who believe can be saved). He then immediately asked the people three questions: “Does that make sense to you?” (All of them said it made sense.) “Do you have any questions?” (None of them did.) And “Would you pray to receive Christ right now?” (None of them did.) The pastor didn’t even hint to the individual that there would be a change in the direction of his life, didn’t hint of the requirement of repentance, made no mention of a turning. How different this is from Paul’s address to the pagans on Mars Hill, in which he proclaimed that God “now commandeth all men every where to repent”!
This is not a pastor who is into the numbers racket or who is trying to impress some preacher’s fellowship or get his name in a national magazine. He is a man that I respect, a mature Christian leader who has been in the ministry for many years and has taken a bold scriptural stand on some unpopular issues. I believe the problem is that he is simply following a program of soul-winning that he has been taught and that is standard fare for a large percentage of fundamental Baptists. The methodology simply isn’t questioned.
In our work in South Asia, where we deal with Hindus and Buddhists who have never seen a Bible or heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, it usually takes months of dealing with people before they come to a proper understanding of the gospel and repentance and saving faith.
They don’t know even the ABC’s of Bible truth: What is the Bible? Who is God? How did the world begin? What is man? What is man’s nature? What is sin? What is death? Who is Jesus? Why do we say that He is the only Saviour? Why did He die? What is the substitutionary atonement? How do we know that He rose from the dead? Where is He today? What is salvation? What happens if I am not saved? What must I do to be saved? What must I do about my old religion?
Over the more than three decades we have dealt with people in South Asia, large numbers have attended our churches and Bible studies and come to an understanding of these things and have even said that they “believe,” but they have turned away because of opposition by friends, relatives, and society at large, and in the past, because of government persecution. The fact is that they never repented biblically and never had saving faith defined biblically.
As we have learned to deal with people with more and more biblical wisdom, Spirit-led discernment, and patience, the number of false professions has dramatically decreased.
In America and other Christianized western nations today, a vast number of people are nearly as biblically ignorant as Hindus and Buddhists in South Asia. They must be dealt with carefully. They must be taught the ABC’s of the gospel and not short-changed. People with “Christian” backgrounds tend to reinterpret the gospel by their past education and experience. For example, a Roman Catholic has been taught a false gospel (sacramentalism), a false christ (the host of the mass), and a multiplicity of mediators. When he hears that he must pray to receive Christ, he thinks that he has prayed to receive Christ at every mass, so why not again! We have to be exceedingly careful to be as sure as possible that the individual we are dealing with truly and rightly understands the gospel.
We take every seeker through the Seeker’s Bible Study, which goes word-by-word through 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. When we find a person who is interested enough to want to learn about Christ and salvation, we assign one of our mature church members to that person to meet regularly with the individual to go through the study. This way the person comes to a proper understanding of the gospel; he has occasion to ask any questions that are on his mind; a relationship is developed with him from our church; he is taught in a very practical way about repentance and saving faith.
(The Seeker’s Bible Study is available as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org.)
I’m not saying that we give people the idea that they can be saved sometime in the future and that there is no hurry. We tell every person that now is the day of salvation (2 Co. 6:2), that they don’t know what a day will bring forth, that the Rapture might occur, that they might die, that they might become mentally incapacitated.
At the same time, no one can be saved apart from the Spirit’s supernatural work of conviction, drawing, and enlightenment and without a proper knowledge of the gospel and without exercising biblical repentance and faith.
Three thousand Jews were saved on the day of Pentecost, but that was a special day and those Jews had a strong background in Old Testament Scripture and they had the influence of John the Baptist’s ministry. They already knew the truth about God, holiness, judgment, man, the fall, redemption through a blood sacrifice, and the coming Lamb of God. That is a lot of truth! That is a good foundation upon which the gospel can be presented effectively.
One reason why Paul went to the synagogues was that he found there a large number of Gentiles who were either Jewish proselytes or were otherwise strongly drawn to the Jewish Scriptures. The Gentile proselytes were called “devout persons” (Ac. 17:4, 17). Paul found this to be good soil for gospel preaching (Ac. 13:42, 46; 14:1; 18:4). These Gentiles already had a foundation in the truth of God, man, the fall, sin, judgment, the vicarious atonement, divine revelation in the Scripture, and the coming of Christ.
Consider the Ethiopian eunuch who was saved through the ministry of Philip the evangelist (Ac. 8:26-39). The eunuch was already seeking; he was already reading Scripture and trying to understand it; he was already reading about the Messiah and His vicarious death. We don’t know how long Philip was with him. It was doubtless hours and could have been days. Philip stayed with him until the Spirit of God had done His mighty work in the man’s heart and soul and he exclaimed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Ac. 8:37)! The result was that he was born again, baptized, and “went on his way rejoicing.”
How long does it take for someone to be saved? It takes as long as it takes! Each individual is different. Each place where the gospel is preached is different.
God’s people must not be hasty and pick fruit before it is ripe, before God has performed His great work in the sinner’s heart and brought him or her to saving faith and regeneration.
I am zero point Calvinist, but I believe this because I believe the Bible! Salvation is 100% of God. The soul winner’s part is to present the gospel, pray, invite, and watch for God’s supernatural ministry.
The law of God was given to plow the soil of the human soul to prepare it for salvation. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Ro. 3:19-20).
This is how we must use the law in gospel work. This is how Christ used it in the Sermon on the Mount. He showed that the law requires inner righteousness and purity, not only external righteousness (e.g., Mt. 5:21-22, 27-28). He showed that salvation requires more righteousness than that of the Pharisees, who were the most religious people on earth (Mt. 5:20)! He showed that God’s law requires perfection (Mt. 5:48)! Compare Galatians 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” This law-produced knowledge leads the sinner to ask, “What then can I do to be saved”? And the answer is repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Ac. 20:21). “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
We must observe, too, that in some fundamental ways, dealing with souls in the 21st century is not the same as dealing with souls in the 1st century. We live in an hour of great apostasy, an hour when the gospel waters have been mightily muddied by false Christianity.
We must be exceedingly wise and cautious. We must ever pursue spiritual wisdom and biblical education about these most important things and not be content with a little learning and a small training.
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