Eccentricities of Evangelicalism: the Invitation (2)
If that last sentence seems a little fuzzy logically, that's because it is. The same people who rail against works-righteousness are those who require an act of man for salvation. Now, don't get me wrong. Conservative evangelicals who teach this don't actually think that what a person does merits their salvation. But they do end up requiring that a certain deed--that of praying a prayer--take place in order for someone to be assured of salvation. In other words, the prayer in which one prays for salvation is built into the mechanism of grace. A convicted sinner will automatically respond in a prayer of confession. To not do so means that salvation has not occurred. Proponents of this viewpoint base their view in Romans 10:9, which teaches that confession of one's salvation must occur for one to be saved.
The exegetical (referring to the passage's core meaning) problem with this line of thinking is that confession is not defined in Romans 10. It could mean confession to God in a prayer, or it could mean confession to God in one's heart. It could mean simply telling other people that one is a Christian. It could mean lots of things, and it need not only mean praying a prayer at the end of a church service. In fact, in the Bible, people most often respond to the news of salvation with baptism. This is the biblical way of affirming and declaring one's faith to the world. Many in the evangelical world have erroneously exalted a prayer or a walk down an aisle and seen these actions as indicative (and almost perfectly so) of salvation. But the Bible knows baptism as the response of a faith-filled heart. Historically, you didn't walk an aisle to show your faith, and you didn't meet with a prayer counselor. You walked to the water, entered it in joyful faith, and walked out of it having declared to heaven and to earth your trust in Jesus. The church today needs to be "baptized" in baptism and to leave its own inventions behind.