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The Sinner's Prayer: What does it mean?

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posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 01:21 PM
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The early Catholic church came up with various affirmations of faith, starting with the Nicene Creed.
It appears that without catechism and baptism these creeds were of no great value, as rival interpretations like Arianism disappeared from the Christian mainstream.

However, what I often refer to as "US" or "American" Protestant Christianity relies heavily on a spoken admission of faith, commonly known as the Sinner's Prayer.
A large number of evangelical sects and churches (usually with their origins in the US) spread this "prayer" today, ranging from what are commonly termed Baptists, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists, and Charismatics.
It usually follows an alter call after a service, but it is also used in street evangelism, for example by missionaries like Ray Comfort (who put the fear of hell into nominal Christians with the Ten Commandments, and then walk away leaving the convert ecstatic after saying some version of this prayer).

The exact formula and meaning is unclear.
Many regard it as a sign and a ritual that signals their eternal salvation, even when this is not explicitly promised. However, it is also not explicitly denied.

The prayer itself is also given in salvation booklets, where it is attached to various (arguably de-contextualized) verses.

The prayer appears nowhere in the Bible in any entirety or instruction.
It is not connected to the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus instructs people how to pray to Himself.
This has led most older churches and sects to sometimes dismiss it as apostasy, without immediate baptism. Others would say the new convert knows little on Christianity at the point of saying the prayer, and that it is highly misleading (which was my experience as a gay person - all sinners are promised salvation, but gays find out soon afterwards that they must first attempt to alter their sexual orientation).

The crux is that you admit you're a sinner, and need salvation by Christ.

Some say it goes back to the Greek Orthodox "Jesus Prayer" (which appears to be more of a chant).
Others trace it back to medieval passion plays and allegory, such as "Pilgrim's Progress" in 1678.
Still others say it was coined by a 19th century American evangelist called D.L. Moodley.
Whatever the case, it made its mark as the climax of emotive 20th century sermons, by evangelists like Billy Graham.
The Catholics and Anglicans do not spread it (although the latter translated the KJV).
In my youth they said you can only be saved once, but now I see it used very effectively for backsliding Christians who want to re-commit.

So what is the point?
What does it actually mean?
What do you actually know about Christianity after saying it?
Only the parts that sound nice and believable to get you hooked, before you learn things about virgin births, faith healing, demons and the rapture, but then you go along with it because you committed?
Is it deceptive?

What is your eternal position in the Christian scheme of things after repeating it?
Are you then "saved", or just a blank slate that requires further work?
And if you are saved, and then just left like that with only a booklet, surely you could become a back-slider and end up in worse eternal trouble than an unsaved heathen, because the Lord will spit out a Luke-warm Christian.

Is it salvation or just planting the first seed?

It's really confusing.

I'd love some opinions and explanations.

en.wikipedia.org...
Here are some of the verses, but little clarification, except that it only reflects your understanding on the need for salvation, but this doesn't explain why it's a prayer, or what makes it any better than repeating the first paragraph on Christianity from a Religious Studies' 101 handbook.
Or why not read out the AD 381 version of the Nicene Creed, which has it all in a nutshell, including the virgin birth, the resurrection and the Trinity?: www.gotquestions.org...

Most shocking for some Christians, isn't it a bit similar to the Islamic declaration of faith, or the Shahada?
edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)




posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 01:56 PM
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reply to post by halfoldman
 



So what is the point?
What does it actually mean?
What do you actually know about Christianity after saying it?
Only the parts that sound nice and believable to get you hooked, before you learn things about virgin births, faith healing, demons and the rapture, but then you go along with it because you committed?
Is it deceptive?

What is your eternal position in the Christian scheme of things after repeating it?
Are you then "saved", or just a blank slate that requires further work?
And if you are saved, and then just left like that with only a booklet, surely you could become a back-slider and end up in worse eternal trouble than an unsaved heathen, because the Lord will spit out a Luke-warm Christian.

Is it salvation or just planting the first seed?

It's really confusing.

I'd love some opinions and explanations.


It depends on the soil the word hits. The symbol of baptism is on two levels. It is the symbol of our immersion into the water of reality. By being baptized, your sins are not forgiven. Baptism represents what the water of reality can do for the soul. The second level of baptism is our rebirth from the water and rising to new life in Christ. A new life is one that is regenerated by faith. Faith without works is dead. Works are a byproduct of true faith and commitment. The way we know we are saved is to see our love for God and others. All unions happen with love and courtship. The alter call is only a call (symbol again) to faith. We must answer the call, first publicly, then physically by action. If we confess Christ before men, Christ confesses us before the father.

The union I speak of is what happens after birth into the water. We develop in the womb of the earth. If we find union with God from a platform of love, the two (Spirit / Soul) become one. God develops our faith by our own willingness to allow Him to transform us by the renewing of our faith. Just like a courtship between two on earth, we are forced to give up the old person to adapt in love to the other person. In this case, God. Love covers a multitude of sin.



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 02:00 PM
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What I wonder about also is that while watching religious programs, it becomes apparent that pastors vary their wording on this prayer considerably.

A Sinner's Prayer ending a program on Creationism may vary considerably from a Sinner's Prayer that follows a sermon that wants to turn youngsters from rival popular religions or rock music, or perhaps one tailored for the military.

They may all have "Jesus" or "Sinner" mentioned as power-points, but I wonder how interchangeable they really are. So, are all these people really being converted to the same thing?

That means, because the prayer itself is not set, apart from one or two ideas, what surrounds those key ideas is propagandistic and political, rather than clear Biblical teaching.
edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 02:11 PM
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reply to post by SuperiorEd
 

Thanks for that.

Perhaps to add (of course all vantage points are welcome) not all Sinner's Prayers are confessed before men.

In street ministry they may be semi-private, and I've heard testimonies of people doing it alone in their bedrooms (and surprisingly, I've found in my experience that these are some of the most committed long-term Christians, probably because they were led by mental understanding, rather than a short-lived endorphin high encouraged in some churches, although they probably did confess it later when they joined churches. Of course my experience is not a general yardstick. But many get put off by the behavior of Christians, so perhaps going it alone at first encourages some perseverance.)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 03:34 PM
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Oh my hat, this appears to be a bigger issue than I thought.

I was hoping to find some different versions, and to compare their similarities and differences.

Instead I stumbled upon a Pastor called Paul Washer.
He apparently has 10 indictments against it, and says it has sent more people to hell in the past decades of evangelism than anything else.

A bit strong for my liking, but here is the clip "Declaring War on The Sinner's Prayer":


edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 03:44 PM
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Here is a charming Christian poem on the matter...

The Sinner's Prayer is full of demonic possession and eternal transgression?

Gulp.





So all those evangelists on TBN, and Angus Buchan in South Africa are sending their followers to hell?
No really?

Well thanks a lot Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron!!!
(And in SA, thanks for nothing then Rodney Seale and Ray McCauly, and all those oh-so-holy Gospel stars.)

edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 04:08 PM
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Originally posted by halfoldman
Oh my hat, this appears to be a bigger issue than I thought.

I was hoping to find some different versions, and to compare their similarities and differences.

Instead I stumbled upon a Pastor called Paul Washer.
He apparently has 10 indictments against it, and says it has sent more people to hell in the past decades of evangelism than anything else.

A bit strong for my liking, but here is the clip "Declaring War on The Sinner's Prayer":


edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)


There is a paradox created when we are missing the excluded middle for any truth. When Jesus said, "You must be born again," he was meaning more than we are drawing from the text. John the Baptist is the key to understanding this. He was asked if he was the return of Elijah. He said no. Jesus was asked and he said yes. If you see it for what it is, Elijah was born again--literally. Jesus meant the same thing. We have been here before, are here now and will be here again. The only thing that can stop us form being born again into new life is our own walk with God in faith (Not fact). Who did John refuse baptism?

Matthew 3

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

This makes John the previous gatekeeper. He then says that he must lessen so Jesus can come forward as the one controlling the gate. I did a thread about this. LINK

Listen to the Audio from John 3 with this perspective. You will get it right away.




edit on 30-12-2011 by SuperiorEd because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 04:18 PM
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reply to post by SuperiorEd
 

I always took Jesus's pronouncement on John the Baptist as a clear Biblical example of reincarnation (although Elijah didn't die conventionally but was literally taken to heaven - a great reference for ancient alien fans).

So who did John the Baptist refuse to Baptize?
I guess it might have been that king Herod, whose spoiled brat daughter demanded John's head on the platter.

Edit: OK, I see, he refused to baptize Jesus at first, but he didn't stick to that refusal.
edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 05:00 PM
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Oh no, it just gets more and more confusing.

Several clips now accuse Paul Washer of heresy and false teaching.

This clip goes further to say that only God knows if you're saved.
So being "saved" is really like an entry to a big lottery without any certainty at all?

Furthermore, Washer actually appeared on TBN with Kirk Cameron, who is best known for getting people to say the Sinner's Prayer.
Does any of this have real meaning, or is it just a word game to differentiate yourself as a TV preacher within a market niche that is slightly different from the next preacher's?
This is terrible - I mean it really is tantamount to psychological terror to people who want certainty and get conflicting and horrifying threats of hell from various sides.




posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 05:31 PM
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Originally posted by halfoldman
reply to post by SuperiorEd
 

I always took Jesus's pronouncement on John the Baptist as a clear Biblical example of reincarnation (although Elijah didn't die conventionally but was literally taken to heaven - a great reference for ancient alien fans).

So who did John the Baptist refuse to Baptize?
I guess it might have been that king Herod, whose spoiled brat daughter demanded John's head on the platter.

Edit: OK, I see, he refused to baptize Jesus at first, but he didn't stick to that refusal.
edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)


If you read Matthew 3, you see that the Pharisees and Sadducees were refused baptism. This was the symbolic reference Jesus made to the leaders who were governing by the wisdom of men and not God. They were taking from the people. We see the same thing today with our own leaders. I also draw a parallel with Orthodox Jews and how they treat people in Israel. Christians can be the same way. This spirit of hatred and prejudice is pure pride, which is the same pride that caused the fall.

Matthew 3

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 08:25 PM
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The sinners prayer has been around for ages as the OP has pointed out. However, telling someone that by saying the "sinners prayer" that they are then going to go to heaven is a blatant lie. First off the scripture makes it clear that anyone calling upon the name of the Lord (Jesus) shall be saved. The only person that will do that is one that sees themselves as lost and in need of salvation. Ray Comfort has it correct in his audio/book Hell's Best Kept Secret but as it points out, using the Law is unpopular and people don't like being reminded of it. Sort of like having a policeman pull you over for speeding, your not happy about the citation or being reminded of your transgression of the law. Either way you will pay the price for doing so.

Ray Comfort uses the the Ten Commandments to instruct sinners that they have broken the law and will pay the price unless they allow Jesus to save them, this is biblical and the proper way. The law is perfect in converting the soul. Jesus gave us the example with the woman at the well, first see if they are open, then use the law, bring conviction (understand you have broken God's law) and then reveal Jesus as the savior. They will either accept or reject Christ. Remember, Salvation is of The Lord and not some pre written prayer or anything you do.

Actually by telling people that saying a written prayer will save them does nothing more than harden them to the gospel. They think they are OK even though they are not and have no desire to listen thereafter, thus sending them to hell by false hope. Do it the way Jesus did and you are doing it correctly. Do it any other way and you are doing it wrong. Jesus didn't give people some pre written prayer to say!



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 08:35 PM
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Originally posted by halfoldman

Most shocking for some Christians, isn't it a bit similar to the Islamic declaration of faith, or the Shahada?
edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)


How is THAT in any way, shape or form similar to the islamic shahada, which is the declaration of faith?


I believe and testify that there is no one worthy of worship except God, and I believe and testify that Muhammad is His Messenger and Servant



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 09:01 PM
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reply to post by pstrron
 

Thanks for that take on things.

Perhaps to discuss: Yes Ray Comfort does indeed use the Ten Commandments (perhaps somewhat arbitrarily out of 613 laws, and ironically the Ten Commandments are the only laws that do not carry a specific punishment). Whether he interprets them in a Hebrew context is another matter entirely (he's a bit silent on that Jewish Sabbath law), and occasionally he throws in other paraphrases, such as "Have you ever looked at a woman in lust - then you've committed adultery in your heart", which is a highly problematic conflation of New Testament advice to married couples, and Old Testament property rights (adultery meant sleeping with another man's wives or concubines without permission). Doing so with permission was quite OK according to the law.
Anyway, I guess that's good news for gay men, because I've never looked at a woman in lust.
I guess affirming masculinity in his targets is one of his techniques, so I've never seen him ask a woman if she ever looked at a man in lust.

Also the Sinner's Prayer that Comfort essentially coaxes people towards is probably one of the most written down tracts in recent history.
It's written on cards, in booklets and comics, Bibles, record sleeves, graffiti, T-shirts, and so forth.

One difference from my salvation booklets is that the sin of Adam and Eve caused the fall, and our state of original sin is there from the point of our birth.
Comfort does not preach this, but guilt-trips the individual, without explaining why there is sin.
So I'm not sure what kind of condition he actually leaves people in spiritually or emotionally.

Of course people have different approaches to such matters.

edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 09:14 PM
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reply to post by sHuRuLuNi
 

Well I'm not sure what your opinion is exactly, except that you disagree.

I suppose it depends on whether one looks for similarities or differences.
It also depends how the Sinner's Prayer is viewed (see some various options in my OP, from a meaning as an act of salvation to a mere understanding and a commitment towards salvation).

It is similar in that one declares one's faith in a short verbal statement, and sums up an understanding of the very essence of that faith, which (hopefully) marks a new identity.

If you say the Sinner's Prayer you're counted as Christian, and if you say the Shahahda you're counted as Muslim. Maybe you can change your mind, but essentially until you do that's the case.
At least you can't be counted as either without doing so, if it's within your physical ability.
(And in this sense American-style Christianity has more in common with Islam than Anglicanism or Catholicism, for example.)
I'm not an expert on Islam by far, and from some converts here I've heard that they get more teaching on Islam before saying the Shahada than Christian converts get before saying the Sinner's Prayer.
But I've also heard of some who did it very quickly.


However, many people who are targeted successfully by people like Ray Comfort already grew up in a Christian tradition, so they are not joining an entirely new religion but some reform movement within it, and he knows that they are already familiar with things like the Ten Commandments.

Nevertheless, the Sinner's Prayer is also a declaration of faith, also for converts from other religions.


edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)

edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 10:01 PM
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reply to post by halfoldman
 


The 613 precepts are Moses's laws and the Ten Commandments were God's. The Ten Commandments carry the death penalty for violation whereas the 613 contained anywhere from a fine to death. God's laws are the bench mark by which we are judged.

In regards to homosexuals, I have not found in God's law were it says if your a homosexual that your going to hell. However it does mention lusting and that is a violation of God's law. So it doesn't matter if the heterosexual points his/her finger at the homosexual, they are just as guilty for lusting. It really doesn't matter anyway, if you have ever broken any of the other 9 your headed south. I can guarantee that you and everyone else has.

As for original sin, anyone that thinks that does not apply needs to check and see if anyone has died before the age of accountability which is generally around the age of 8-12. If so then I pretty sure Adam sunk us all in the garden.



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 10:24 PM
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reply to post by pstrron
 

There is no specific punishment written under any of the 10 Commandments.

I agree, the Doctrine of Original sin is pretty strange and unfair.
But it's the reason that everyone is a sinner, no matter what the age.
It's really the reason for the whole rigmarole.
It's Adam and Eve's fault (actually it was mainly Eve, according to generations of Christian men).
Yeah Adam and Eve did really sink us in the garden, and if it wasn't for Jesus, every single human would burn in hell.

edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 10:29 PM
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Originally posted by halfoldman
reply to post by pstrron
 

There is no specific punishment written under any of the 10 Commandments.

I agree, the Doctrine of Original sin is pretty strange and unfair.
But it's the reason that everyone is a sinner, no matter what the age.
It's really the reason for the whole rigmarole.
It's Adam and Eve's fault (actually it was mainly Eve, according to generations of Christian men).


edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)


No one is born a sinner. Every child is born as Tabula Rasa - a white plate. It is later in his life when it chooses to either do good or evil.



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 10:48 PM
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reply to post by sHuRuLuNi
 

Not according to significant streams in Christianity:


Original sin[1] is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man.[2] This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a "sin nature", to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt of all humans through collective guilt.[3]

The doctrine is not found in Judaism;[4] its scriptural foundation is in the New Testament teaching of Paul the Apostle. (Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22)[2] It began to be developed by the 2nd-century Bishop of Lyon Irenaeus in his controversy with the dualist Gnostics.

In the theology of the Catholic Church, original sin is regarded as the general condition of sinfulness, that is (the absence of holiness and perfect charity) into which humans are born, distinct from the actual sins that a person commits. This teaching explicitly states that "original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants".[5] In other words, human beings do not bear any "original guilt" from Adam's particular sin, which is his alone. The prevailing view, also held in Eastern Orthodoxy, is that human beings bear no guilt for the sin of Adam.

Orthodoxy prefers using the term "ancestral sin",[6][7] which indicates that "original sin is hereditary. It did not remain only Adam and Eve's. As life passes from them to all of their descendants, so does original sin "[8] In this quotation, "original sin" is used not of the personal sin of Adam, which is his alone and is not transmitted, but in reference to the "distortion of the nature of man", which is inherited.

An important exposition of the belief of Eastern Christians identifies original sin as physical and spiritual death, the spiritual death being the loss of "the grace of God, which quickened (the soul) with the higher and spiritual life".[9] Others see original sin also as the cause of actual sins: "a bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matthew 7:17, NIV), although, in this view, original and actual sin may be difficult to distinguish.[10]

en.wikipedia.org...

Now the amazing thing is that some Christians deny that their church teaches this, and then you ask them for literature, and it's usually found within in a second or two, but people don't even notice.


edit on 30-12-2011 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 30 2011 @ 11:45 PM
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Originally posted by halfoldman
reply to post by sHuRuLuNi
 

Not according to significant streams in Christianity:



I know. But it is wrong. Yes, Adam did make an error, but it is also known that God forgave him for that.

It is the same Bible that strengthens this position: There are many verses which talk about no one bearing the sins of another.

I know, christians then come up with the construction that "yes, no HUMAN can bear the sins of another" but "God can", thus Jesus (seeing as he was God, according to them) dying on the cross, "washed away" those sins of humanity.

You see, the problem with this is the following: OK, if Jesus could do that, because he is God, then does it mean God DIED? Some christians like Jay Smith answer "yes, he died". But, if God died, then who was running the universe? For that matter how can God die??

Now, they can answer: Well, the Father was running the universe. - This however shows that there are at least 2 distinct Gods - one was dead (Jesus) and one was still alive (Father).

Some will then argue and say "No, no, no - Jesus was man and God at the same time". So God did not die - it was Jesus' "human part" the suffered and died.

But then, if it was only his human part that died, and not God - how can he pay for our sins? Didn't they say a human CAN NOT pay for our sins, only God?

Then we get back to - well, yes. Which means it was indeed God that died. So we are back to the 2 Gods problem.

And round and round.

They have created such a MESS that each time they try to explain anything, they just make it worse.
edit on 30/12/2011 by sHuRuLuNi because: (no reason given)

edit on 30/12/2011 by sHuRuLuNi because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 31 2011 @ 09:22 AM
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reply to post by halfoldman
 


God is "not a respecter of persons", meaning He doesn't hold you to one standard, me to another, the guy down the street to another et cetra, et cetra.

Which person did Christ point out to His disciples was "justified" before God at the temple? Was it the religious guy who thanked God he wasn't a sinner like the publican, or was it the publican who was so ashamed of his nakedness before the Lord that he couldn't even lift his eyes toward heaven? Instead, beat his breast and asked God for forgiveness?

It was the Publican who left the alter "justified".

The storu of Christ's crucifixion, what did the theif on the cross realize and say to Christ?

1. He realized Christ was in fact, Lord. He addressed Him as such.
2. He just asked the Lord to remember Him when He went to His kingdom.

And what did Jesus say? Did He say, "Alas! I'd love to save you, but as you can see there is no way to get you down of your cross and get you into a baptismal pool. Sorry" Nope, not what He said whatsoever, He said:

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, today you shall be with me in Paradise."


God is NOT a respecter of persons. What He required of one person He requires of us all.



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