Is someone who prays the sinner’s prayer definitely saved?
One of the scariest passages in the Bible is Matthew 7:21–23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
Jesus was saying that there were people who claimed to be Christians and did things for Jesus, but still ended up in hell. In other words, they weren’t really true followers of Christ.
When we accept God’s gift of salvation, we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). But exactly what is a “new creation”—and how do we know we are one? We should be showing evidence that we’re Christians by bearing the fruit of:
- Repentance (Matthew 3:8)
- Thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15)
- Good works (Colossians 1:10)
- The Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23)
- Righteousness (Philippians 1:11)
We should all check to see if our lives are in fact producing that fruit. If someone isn’t bearing that fruit, but they’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer, is he or she saved? According to the Bible, if the individual continues in a lifestyle of sin, he or she is of the devil (1 John 3:8). In other words, the conversion was false, and that person is headed for hell.
Jesus spoke extensively about false conversions. He discussed it in the parables of the sower and the seed (Mark 4:1-20), the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24–30, 36-40), the good and bad fish (Matthew 13:47–50), the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-14). If he spoke about it so many times, isn’t it important for us to understand?
People don’t get saved by simply reciting the sinner’s prayer. They get saved by repenting from a life of sin and putting their faith in Jesus. This requires much more than a few words; it requires a change of heart, attitude, and direction in life, including submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It should result in a life that, while not perfect, constantly seeks to obey and glorify God.
2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.” I encourage you to ask yourself: Do I feel confident that I am going to heaven merely because at one point I prayed a sinner’s prayer, or have I truly allowed God to change my heart and life as a Christ-follower?