It took 300 years to fully develop the doctrine of the Trinity, some 1500 years to end the need for baptism, and 1900 years to come up with the sinner’s prayer
Heart (Kardia – Gr)
The heart is the chief of all organs in the body. If the brain goes into a coma, the heart can still function and the body still lives, but if the heart stops, then the body is doomed. The Jews understood the heart to be the seat of physical vitality, the source of religious and ethical conduct (1 Sam 12.20 – the place of true worship) and the place where your true thoughts, your will, and your intentions can be found (Jeremiah 23.20). This is why when God spoke of the new covenant, He said that He would write it on our hearts (Jeremiah 31.31). The heart is the place that God will try us and where we will be proven by Him (Psalms 2.7, Proverbs 17.3, 1st Thess 2.4).
Rom 10:8-13 –
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach (Deut. 30.11-14); 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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
When Moses spoke, it was a word that had to be obeyed, here Paul preached a word that had to believed, relying upon faith and faith has to be grasped in the heart, which is evidenced when Paul focuses on the belief and the confession. God hardened the heart to the understanding (John 12.40). Understanding of God does not come through the intellect, but through the heart. It is through the broken heart that we come to God (Psalms 34.18)
God set the heart aside because, being the chief organ, faith can be grasped there. It can be thought on there; we can be reached through it. And experience with God is never made in the rational mind, but the emotional heart.
Rom 10:8-13 –
But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach That if thou shalt (1)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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (2) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
1. Just what does it mean to confess that Jesus is Lord? No Jew would do this that had not really trusted Christ, for Kurios in the lxx is used of God. No Gentile would do it that had not ceased worshipping the emperor as Kurios. The word Kurios was and is the touchstone of faith. In Romans 9.5, we read that Christ is God over all. Thomas called Christ his Lord and God. In 2nd Peter 2.1, the Apostle addresses his epistle to ‘them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’. Paul tells Titus that we are to look forward to the appearing of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Apostle John calls Christ the only true God in the closing thoughts of his first letter. What does Paul mean? Paul says that you must confess that Jesus Christ is the same God of the Old Testament that the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped.
2. The Apostles didn’t have Acts 2.38, but they had the same message. As a matter of fact, what Peter said during that Feast he got from the Old Testament, from the prophets. Peter preached right out of the prophet Joel 2.28-32. The prophet wrote, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” What then is the name of the Lord?
When Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the Church, who hated the name of Christ, met the Lord on the road to Damascus, God sent him to a man named Ananias. Ananias told him to get up and go get baptized to wash his sins away, calling upon the name of the Lord. When those that heard the Apostle Peter questioned him on what they must do, he told them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did not question him after they had thought about it, but after the message had pricked their hearts.
In closing, I can think of no better prayer of the heart, than that of King David:
1Ch 29:10-20 Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own. I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee. O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee…
The First Great Awakening.
One of the preachers named John Webb (1657-1750) began to misuse Revelation 3:19-30.
He said “Here is a promise of Union to Christ; in these words, I will come in to him. i.e. If any Sinner will but hear my Voice and open the Door, and receive me by Faith, I will come into his Soul, and unite him to me, and make him a living member of that my mystical body of which I am the Head” (Christ’s Suit to the Sinner, 14).
The mourner’s bench.
This first began to be used in 1741, by Eleazar Wheelock (1711-1779), founder of Dartmouth College, who put the lost people in the front of the building he was preaching in, he watched them during the sermon and used emotionalism to get them to obey his doctrine.
In about 1835 Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) picked up this practice and called it the “anxious seat” as part of his “new measures.”
Finney would take on the role of Jesus and say “will you let me into to feast with you?” with all eyes in the audience on the “sinner” they would be almost forced to respond with a yes. This was called conversion.
Finney made some enemies because of the use of the anxious seat. Calvinist’s like John Nevin (1803-1886) criticized his use of the emotional anxious bench.
So he defended its use “The church has always felt it necessary to have something of this kind to answer this very purpose. In the days of the apostles, baptism answered this purpose. The gospel was preached to the people, and then all those who were willing to be on the side of Christ, were called out to be baptized. It held the place that the anxious seat does now as a public manifestation of their determination to be Christians” (“Measures to Promote Revival” located at http://www.gospeltruth.net/1868Lect_on_Rev_of_Rel/68revlec14.htm).
Some began to notice that the anxious bench converts had a high drop-out rate. It was Dwight Moody who began to call the lost to the side into what he called the “inquiry room” where his trained counsels would pray with the person to “receive Christ,” but it was still not called the “sinner’s prayer.”
Billy Sunday began to call people to walk down the “saw-dust trail” to shake hands with him to be saved.
Finally, in the 1940’s, Billy Graham began to call people to say the “sinner’s prayer” for salvation.
Examples of the “sinner’s prayer.”
“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward”
“Jesus, I believe and I need the salvation you have provided. Come into my heart, rule my life today, and show me how to live. Amen” (From the tract: “The Plain Gospel”).
“God, I’m sorry for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and ask you to forgive me. Thank you for sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins. Jesus, I ask you to come into my life and be my Lord, Savior, and Friend. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me eternal life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen” (The Book of Hope, 53).
This is followed by the statement “If you prayed this prayer and meant it, you can be sure God has forgiven you and received you into his family.”
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do (obey) it.