Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 25, 1957
NUMBER 12, PAGE 6,9b

"Mourner's Bench Religion" Is Foolish Preaching

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Kentucky

To illustrate the "foolish preaching" to be considered, let me describe a certain type of religious service. The preacher will preach for an hour or so. He injects all the vigor and vitality of his system into his sermon, convincing sinners, who stand perilously upon the brink of eternal doom, that if they will only decide to accept God that he will immediately save them. After the hour of persuasion, he finally convinces the sinner that he should be saved, and that God is willing to immediately save him. Sinners come in assurance of the fact that God is willing to save them, but they get to the mourner's bench only to find out that God has changed his mind! Instead of God saving them instantly, they must now pray, scream, cry, and beg God to do what the preacher has assured them He was already willing to do. When the sinner is out of the notion of being saved, the preacher does all he can to get him into the notion of being saved; God is in the notion of saving the sinner. But when the sinner finally takes a notion to be saved, he finds that God has changed his mind; He has now backed out! God, who at first was willing to save, must be begged to change his mind again, and return to a willingness of saving the sinner! Such is the glaring absurdity and ridiculousness of the "mourner's bench" system of religion. Friends, let me say with all candor, it is "foolish preaching." It is foolish preaching whether done in a service or over the radio program where the sinner is told to lay his hand on the radio and pray. Many poor, ignorant, deluded souls respond to the preacher's call and pray diligently, but conclude their prayer still feeling lost, and are disappointed with God as a result of this foolish preaching.

When Jesus gave the great commission to his apostles, he said unto them, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: (Matt. 28:19-20). Mark's record of the commission reads, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mk.16: 15-16). Luke records it as, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Lk. 24:46-47). In neither account of the Commission do we find our Lord requiring, or teaching, the apostles to preach that the sinner should pray for the remission of his alien sins.

In the book of Acts we find the account of the preaching of the apostles as they labored under this commission, and in no case of conversion do we find prayer for the remission of alien sins required. In every case they heard the preaching, believed it, repented of their sins, and were baptized for the remission of their sins. We pay particular attention to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. After the Lord appeared to him, and told him to go into the city and it would be told him what he must do, he went into Damascus. Three days later the preacher, Ananias, was sent to him by the Lord. When he arrived at the house on Straight St., he found Saul praying. Ananias told him, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16). This would have been a wonderful opportunity for Ananias to have said, "Pray on, Brother Saul; you will `get it' after a while." But Ananias was led by the Spirit, and was no preacher of the "mourner's bench" system of religion. I have never heard one of these "foolish preachers" tell a praying sinner to do what Ananias told Saul to do, have you? Being contrary to the Bible, it is foolish preaching.

Nowhere has God required the alien, unregenerate sinner to pray for the forgiveness of his sins. In fact, God has not commanded the alien sinner to pray for anything. For what could the sinner pray, anyway?

Should he pray for God to love him? No, for God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16), and God commendeth his own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8).

Should he pray for light or understanding? No, for "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and s light unto my path" (Psa. 119:105); and "The opening of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." (Psa. 119:130).

Should a sinner pray for the Holy Spirit? No, he came upon the apostles to guide them into all truth. Christ never promised the Holy Spirit in a miraculous measure to anyone but the apostles. (John 14:16; 14:26; 15:7-13). The Spirit is given today to those that obey God, but he is not given in any miraculous form (Gal. 4:6; Acts 5:32). We should obey the teaching of the Holy Spirit as found in the Bible.

Should a sinner pray for Christ to come to him? No, the sinner is invited to come to Christ (Matt. 11:2830). If the sinner fails to come, he will not be saved (John 5:40).

Should he pray for mercy? No, for God has already shown that he is merciful toward man. (Ex. 34:6-7).

Should he pray for God to become willing to save him? No, "God is not willing that any should perish" (2 Pet. 3:9). He "would have all men to be saved" (2 Tim. 2:3; Ezek. 18:23-32). Yes, God is anxious to save men.

Should he pray for converting or saving power? No, the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16).

Should he pray to get religion? No, for religion is something to do." (Jas. 1:27).

Should he pray for saving grace? No, "For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world." (Tit. 2:11-12).

Should he pray for pardon? No, the sinner must turn to God in order to be pardoned (Isa. 55:6-7). God is "ready to pardon" (Neh. 9:17). Is the sinner ready to turn to God?

Should the sinner pray for salvation? No, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Cf. Acts 2:38; 22:16.

Should he pray for faith? No, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17).

Should he pray for repentance? No, for repentance is a command of God for men to obey. He commands "all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30).

Should he pray for a pure heart? No, for the heart is made pure by obedience to the truth. (I Pet. 1:22).

Should he pray for freedom from sins? No, for "Whereas ye were servants of sin,ye became obedient from the heart to that form of doctrine delivered you; being then made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness." (Rom. 6-17-18).

Should he pray for God to accept him? No, "for in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him" (Acts 10:34).

Should he pray for the Lord to make known his will to him? No, the Lord has already made known his will. He revealed it to his apostles; they have recorded it in the Bible, which we may read and understand. (Eph. 3:3-5).

Should he pray for remission of sins? No, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, unto the remission of your sins." (Acts 2:38).

Should he pray for the baptism of fire? No! No! That will come "at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

Why should the sinner pray at all? Where does the Bible teach an alien sinner to ,"pray it out with the Lord," or "stay on your knees in prayer until God saves you"? ? ? The sinner, must hear the gospel, believe it, repent of his sins, and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the remission of his sins; this is the Lord's way, why change it? To teach the "mourner's bench" system of religion instead of what the Bible reveals is to lead souls astray. What a terrible thing! Millions are being led into eternity by this "foolish preaching." You should be careful: "if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit." It takes obedience and not prayer to save the alien.