CAN WE ‘CLAIM’ SOULS FOR CHRIST?!

CAN WE ‘CLAIM’ SOULS FOR CHRIST?!

Michael Jeshurun

It is not uncommon to hear Arminians say, that in their prayers they are ‘claiming’ the whole neighborhood for Christ or praying for all the members of a certain family to come to Christ, etc! And I have personally witnessed Pentecostal ‘Prayer Warriors’ walking around a stadium or field where a ‘healing festival’ is hosted by Benny Hinn or Reinhard Bonnke – binding the ‘powers of darkness’ and claiming the souls of all those who attend!

The question must be asked – “How Scriptural is all this”?

Sadly it is not just the Pentecostals who hold and teach this error. Many who claim to be ‘Reformed’ do the same! Let us consider what the highly esteemed John F MacArthur, Jr., teaches on this.

The apostle Paul warned of those who corrupt the Word of God and handle it deceitfully [2 Cor. 2:17; 4:2]. In his series on ‘evangelistic praying’ MacArthur is guilty of doing just this. Instead of setting forth the truth plainly, he has CORRUPTED it to cater to the traditions and pet notions of the people. There has been a TRADITION in the Church to pray for the salvation of the lost, a practice which neither the Lord nor the Apostles were engaged in or exhorted their disciples to do.

The words of A.W. Pink are worth quoting here. In his treatise on the prayers of the apostle Paul, under the subheading “A STRIKING OMISSION” he says –

“Finally, let us point out a striking omission. If all the apostles prayers be read attentively it will be found that in none of them is any place given to that which occupies such prominence in those of Arminians. Not ONCE do we find God asked to save the world or pour out His Spirit on all flesh. The apostles did not so much pray for the conversion of the city in which a particular Christian church was located. In this they confirmed again to the example set them by Christ, “I pray NOT FOR THE WORLD” said He “but for them which thou hast given Me” [Jn. 17:9]. Should it be objected that the Lord Jesus was there praying only for His immediate apostles or disciples, the answer is that when He extended His prayer beyond them, it was not for the WORLD, but ONLY for His believing people unto the end of time [see v. 20 – 21]. True, the apostle exhorts that prayers “be made for all [classes of] men; for kings, and for that are in authority” [1 Tim 2:1,2] – in which duty many are woefully remiss – yet it is NOT FOR THEIR SALVATION but “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” [2b]. We may learn much from the prayers of the apostles.”

In the light of the above paragraph consider the comments of MacArthur taken from his sermons on 1 Tim 2: 1 – 7. “The text basically calls to pray for the lost. Since Christ gave His life a ransom for ALL men, and God wants ALL men saved, we need to pray for ALL men. We pray for the salvation of people, you say, “Does God answer that?”. Could it be that Stephen prayed for the salvation of those who stoned him? And the salvation of one standing there – Saul, was a result of his prayer? Could it be that Paul and Silas prayed for the salvation of the jailer and his family and as a result they are saved? In Acts 26 we see that Paul was before Agrippa, he was praying for the salvation of all of them and this is probably an insight into what he was doing in his heart every time he preached to anybody”. [ Tape GC 54 – 11].

The above is an illustration of MacArthur’s boasted commitment to faithfulness to the text of Scriptures and therefore to its historical and grammatical contexts. It also helps us better understand what the publishers of the MacArthur Study Bible mean, when they say—”And unlike past “classics” burdened by outdated theological systems, the MacArthur Study Bible strives to let the systems go and allow the Word of God to speak. So day after day, year after year, you can always count on hearing something new”.
Sure, we are hearing something ‘NEW’ alright, problem is, it’s just NOT SCRIPTURAL. What’s worse, it’s a downright LIE!

The BIBLE does not suggest that Stephen prayed for the salvation of his persecutors, or that Paul and Silas prayed for the salvation of the Jailer and his family. Nor does it imply that Paul prayed for the salvation of Agrippa or those that he preached to.

MacArthur’s words above illustrate what is now being taught on the subject of prayer, and the deplorable thing is that scarcely a voice is lifted in protest. To say that “HUMAN DESTINIES MAY BE CHANGED and molded by the will of man” is RANK INFIDELITY—that is the only proper term for it. Should anyone challenge this classification, we ask them whether they can find an infidel anywhere who would dissent from such a statement, and we are confident that such an one could not be found. To say that “God has ORDAINEDthat human destinies may be changed and molded by the will of man”, is ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE.

“Human destiny” is settled NOT by “the will of man,” but by the will of God. That which determines human destinies is whether or not a man has been born again, for it is written, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. And as to WHOSE will, whether God’s or man’s, is responsible for the new birth is settled, unequivocally, by Jn. 1:13—”Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, but OF GOD”. To say that “human destiny” may be CHANGED by the will of man, is to make the creature’s will SUPREME, and that is, virtually, to DETHRONEGODBut what saith the Scriptures? Let the Book answer: “The Lord killeth and maketh alive: HE bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: HE bringeth low and lifteth up. HE raiseth up the poor out of the dust and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” [I Sam. 2:6-8].

THERE ARE MANY THINGS THE SCRIPTURE EXHORTS US TO PRAY FOR, BUT TO PRAY FOR THE SALVATION OF THE LOST IS DEFINITELY NOT ONE OF THEM.

Neither the Lord nor His apostle’s exhorted us to pray for the lost, the scripture will be searched in vain to support such an exhortation. The reason behind this false teaching of MacArthur is his erroneous view of the eternal plan of God in salvation and a FEAR TO TRANSGRESS THE TRADITION RECEIVED FROM THE FATHER’S. Consider again the words of MacArthur “God wants ALL men saved!” He repeats this Arminian heresy all through the series, to show his understanding of election. Now is it true that God wants ALL MEN saved?

We must understand that it was not general and indiscriminate love of which all men are equally the objects, but a peculiar, mysterious infinite love for His elect which caused God to send His Son into the world to suffer and die. Any theory which denies this great and precious truth, and which would explain away this love as merely indiscriminate benevolence or philanthropy which had all men for its objects, many of whom are allowed to perish, MUSTbe un-Scriptural. Christ DIED not for an unorderly mass but FOR HIS PEOPLE, HIS BRIDE, HIS CHURCH.

A farmer prizes his field. But no one supposes that he cares equally for every plant that grows there, for the “tares” as well as the “wheat.” God’s field is the world, Matt. 13:38, and He loves it with an EXCLUSIVE EYE to its “good seed,” the children of the kingdom, and not the children of the wicked one. It is not the whole of mankind that is equally loved of God and promiscuously redeemed by Christ. God is not necessarily communicative of His goodness, as the sun of its light, or a tree of its cooling shade, which does not choose objects, but serves all indifferently without variation or distinction. This would be to make God of no more understanding than the sun, which shines not where it pleases, but where it must. He is an understanding person, and has a sovereign right to choose His own objects.

In Genesis we read that God “put enmity” between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Now who were meant by the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent? On the first thought, we might suppose that the seed of the woman meant the entire human race descended from Eve. But in Gal. 3:16 Paul uses this term “seed,” and applies it to Christ as an individual. “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” On further investigation we also find that the seed of the serpent means not literal descendants of the Devil, but those non-elect members of the human race, who partake of his sinful nature. Jesus said of His enemies, “Ye are of your father, the Devil; and the lusts of your father ye will to do,” John 8:44. Paul denounced Elymas the sorcerer as a son of the Devil and an enemy of all righteousness. Judas is even called a devil, John 6:70. So the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent are each a part of the human race. In other parts of the Scriptures we find that Christ and His people are “one,” that He dwells in them and is united with them as the vine and the branches are united. AND SINCE AT THE VERY BEGINNING GOD “PUT ENMITY” BETWEEN THESE TWO GROUPS, IT IS PLAIN THAT HE NEVER LOVED ALL ALIKE, NOR INTENDED TO REDEEM ALL ALIKE. UNIVERSAL REDEMPTION AND GOD’S SENTENCE ON THE SERPENT CAN NEVER GO TOGETHER!

To support his errors, MacArthur falsely teaches that Jesus indirectly prayed for the salvation of the whole world, [ Tape GC 1566] directly contradicting Jesus’ words who said “I pray NOT FOR THE WORLD but for those whom thou hast given Me, for they are thine” [Jn. 17:9]. In this same High Priestly prayer the Lord prays “that they all may be one; as Thou Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” [Jn. 17:21]. MacArthur deliberately misinterprets this verse to try and prove that Jesus here was praying for the salvation of the unsaved [ Tape GC 1566]. This is a gross error, for the Lord would never contradict Himself by praying for the world, seeing that He had already said “I pray not for the world. What then did He mean when He said “that they all may be one, that the world may believe”? We cannot do better than quote the interpretation of John Owen on this verse—

“By ‘believing’ is not meant believing in the strict sense, or a saving comprehension and receiving of Jesus Christ, and so becoming the Sons of God,—which neither EVER WAS, nor EVER WILL BE, fulfilled in every man in the world, nor was ever prayed for,—but a conviction and acknowledgement that the Lord Christ is not, what before they had taken Him to be, a seducer and a false prophet, But indeed what He said, One that came out from God, able to protect and do good for and to His own: which kind of conviction and acknowledgement that it is often termed believing in the Scripture is more evident than it should need to be proved.” [John Owen]

Now the Scriptures teach that the prayers of the Lord Jesus are always answered, for He is the “One in whom God is well pleased” [Matt 3:17]. In Psalm 91, which is necessarily a Messianic Psalm, God says “He shall call upon me and I will answer Him” [Psalm 91:15]. The Lord Jesus Himself prayed at the tomb of Lazarus saying “Father I knew that Thou hearest Me always” [John 11:42a]. Calvin comments on these words saying, “By this Christ means that they are in such close agreement that the Father denies Him nothing”. If the Lord Jesus intercedes for a man, HE WILL CERTAINLY BE SAVED! And the Lord said “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I    have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when (NOT IF) thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” [Lk. 22:31,32]. Whereas the Lord never prayed for Judas or pleaded with him to forsake his sin, but said “That thou doest do quickly” [Jn. 13:27b]

If Jesus truly prayed for the whole world and the fact remains that the majority die unsaved then we are left with only two options: Either the Lord Jesus is a sinner, or that Hell is empty. For the teaching that Jesus prayed for the whole world indirectly implies that He was a sinner, for had He been a righteous man His prayers should have been heard and the whole world should have been saved. It is only the sinner’s prayers that go unanswered. The Bible says “Now we know that God heareth not sinners but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.” [Jn. 9:31]. Now seeing that God has not heard Jesus’ prayers and saved the whole world, is not MacArthur implying that Jesus was a sinner? On the other hand if the Lord is who the Bible says He is “the Holy One and the Just” [Acts 3:14] then all His prayers MUST be heard and answered. And if He truly prayed for the salvation of the whole world as is alleged, then the inevitable conclusion must be that HELL IS EMPTY!

But did not Moses pray for the rebellious Israelites, who came out of Egypt with him? Did not the prophet Samuel pray for Saul saying “God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you” [I Sam. 12:23]. It must be remembered that the prayers of all the prophets of the old testaments for the nation Israel was not in regard to their eternal salvation, but to stay the impending judgment of God while on earth.

THE WILL OF GOD IS IMMUTABLEIN REGARDS TO SALVATION AND CANNOT BE ALTERED BY OUR CRYINGS!

When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good it CANNOT be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in Him—”Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” [Jer. 15:1]. For all his fervent praying, Moses could not save the unbelieving Israelites for they all perished in the wilderness with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. [Num. 14:30]. And for all his fervent prayers for Saul, Samuel’s prayers were not answered for Saul committed suicide. [I Sam. 31:4]

Did Jesus pray for the salvation of those who crucified Him? And did Stephen pray for the salvation of those who stoned him as MacArthur alleges? To be sure, both the Lord Jesus and Stephen prayed for those who persecuted them, but they SURELY DID NOT PRAY FOR THEIR SALVATION. The Bible teaches that on the Judgment day every man will be judged according to his deeds and will answer for every sin he ever committed. We read in Matt. 12:36,37 “That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” There is no implication that the only sin they will have to answer for at the Judgment Day is the sin of rejecting Christ.

When Christ said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they DO,” [Lk. 23:34]. He was not praying for the Jews who knew full well who He was, but for the Roman soldiers who had put Him to death ignorantly not knowing that they had put to death an innocent man. He was not praying that ALL their sins should be forgiven them, but that they be forgiven for the sin of ignorantly putting Him to death. Likewise, when Stephen prayed for his persecutors he was not praying that all their sins be forgiven them but “Lord, lay not THIS sin to their charge.” [Acts 7:60]. So, when those who killed the Lord Jesus and Stephen stand before the judgment they will not answer for the sin of killing the Lord and Stephen, but surely they shall give an account for every other sin they committed and if their names are not found in the Book of Life they shall be cast into the Lake of Fire. [Rev. 20:15]

Let us close by repeating what we said above –
THERE ARE MANY THINGS THE SCRIPTURE EXHORTS US TO PRAY FOR, BUT TO PRAY FOR THE SALVATION OF THE LOST IS DEFINITELY NOT ONE OF THEM.

THE WILL OF GOD IS IMMUTABLE IN REGARDS TO SALVATION AND CANNOT BE ALTERED BY OUR CRYINGS!

2 thoughts on “CAN WE ‘CLAIM’ SOULS FOR CHRIST?!

  1. So when we are told to pray for others such as those who despitefully use us or Job was told to pray for his friends does that mean we are to ask God to forgive them for the sin against us? When the bible says pray for others what is it specifically saying? thank you

    • Good question Karen. “When the bible says pray for others what is it specifically saying”?

      There are those preachers who would without a second thought conclude that when the Bible says “pray for those who persecute you and despitefully use you” it is actually urging us to pray for their Salvation.

      Here’s what John MacArthur in his sermons on 1 Tim 2: 1-7, says. “The text basically calls to pray for the lost. Since Christ gave His life a ransom for ALL men, and God wants ALL men saved, we need to pray for ALL men. We pray for the salvation of people, you say, “Does God answer that? Could it be that Stephen prayed for the salvation of those who stoned him? And the salvation of one standing there – Saul, was a result of his prayer? Could it be that Paul and Silas prayed for the salvation of the jailer and his family and as a result they are saved? In Acts 26 we see that Paul was before Agrippa, he was praying for the salvation of all of them and this is probably an insight into what he was doing in his heart every time he preached to anybody”. [Tape GC 54 – 11].

      The above is an illustration of MacArthur’s boasted commitment to faithfulness to the text of Scriptures and therefore to its historical and grammatical contexts. It also helps us better understand what the publishers of the MacArthur Study Bible mean, when they say—”And unlike past “classics” burdened by outdated theological systems, the MacArthur Study Bible strives to let the systems go and allow the Word of God to speak. So day after day, year after year, you can always count on hearing something new”. “Sure, we are hearing something ‘NEW’ alright, problem is, it’s just NOT SCRIPTURAL. What’s worse, it’s a downright LIE!

      The Bible does not suggest that Stephen prayed for THE SALVATION of his persecutors, or that Paul and Silas prayed for THE SALVATION of the Jailer and his family. Nor does it imply that Paul prayed for THE SALVATION of Agrippa or those that he preached to.

      MacArthur’s words above illustrate what is now being taught on the subject of prayer, and the deplorable thing is that scarcely a voice is lifted in protest. To say that “HUMAN DESTINIES MAY BE CHANGED and moulded by the will of man” is RANK INFIDELITY—that is the only proper term for it. Should anyone challenge this classification, we ask them whether they can find an infidel anywhere who would dissent from such a statement, and we are confident that such an one could not be found. To say that “God has ORDAINED that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man”, is ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE. “Human destiny” is settled NOT by “the will of man,” but BY THE WILL OF GOD.

      That which determines human destinies is whether or not a man has been born again, for it is written, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. And as to WHOSE will, whether God’s or man’s, is responsible for the new birth is settled, unequivocally, by Jn. 1:13—”Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, NOR OF THE WILL OF MAN, but OF GOD”. To say that “human destiny” may be CHANGED by the will of man, is to make the creature’s will supreme, and that is, virtually, to DETHRONE God. But what saith the Scriptures? Let the Book answer: “The Lord killeth and maketh alive: HE bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: HE bringeth low and lifteth up. HE raiseth up the poor out of the dust and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” [I Sam. 2:6-8].

      As we said above in the post, there are many things the scripture exhorts us to pray for, but to pray for the salvation of the lost is DEFINITELY NOT one of them. Neither the Lord nor His apostle’s exhorted us to pray for the lost, the scripture will be searched in vain to support such an exhortation. The reason behind this false teaching of MacArthur is his erroneous view of the eternal plan of God in salvation and a FEAR TO TRANSGRESS THE TRADITION RECEIVED FROM THE FATHER’S. Nominal bench-warmers will not take it lying down if a preacher tells them that their prayers have no bearing on the Salvation of their loved ones, and so you will hardly ever hear what is preached above in a ‘growing Church’ or corporate denomination!

      But did not Moses pray for the rebellious Israelites, who came out of Egypt with him? Did not the prophet Samuel pray for Saul saying “God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you” [I Sam. 12:23]. It must be remembered that the prayers of all the prophets of the old testaments for the nation Israel was not in regard to their eternal salvation, but to stay the impending judgment of God while on earth. The will of God is IMMUTABLE in regards to SALVATION and CANNOT be altered by our cryings. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good it CANNOT be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in Him—”Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” [Jer. 15:1]. For all his fervent praying, Moses could not save the unbelieving Israelites for they all perished in the wilderness with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. [Num. 14:30]. And for all his fervent prayers for Saul, Samuel’s prayers were not answered for Saul committed suicide. [I Sam. 31:4]

      Did Jesus pray for the salvation of those who crucified Him? And did Stephen pray for the salvation of those who stoned him as MacArthur alleges? To be sure, both the Lord Jesus and Stephen prayed for those who persecuted them, but they SURELY DID NOT PRAY FOR THEIR SALVATION. The Bible teaches that on the Judgment day every man will be judged according to his deeds and will answer for every sin he ever committed. We read in Matt. 12:36,37 “That EVERY idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” There is no implication that the only sin they will have to answer for at the Judgment Day is the sin of rejecting Christ. When Christ said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they DO,” [Lk. 23:34]. He was not praying for the Jews who knew full well who He was, but for the Roman soldiers who had put Him to death ignorantly not knowing that they had put to death an innocent man. He was not praying that ALL their sins should be forgiven them, but that they be forgiven for the sin of ignorantly putting Him to death.

      Likewise, when Stephen prayed for his persecutors he was not praying that ALL their sins be forgiven them but “Lord, lay not THIS SIN to their charge.” [Acts 7:60]. So, when those who killed the Lord Jesus and Stephen stand before the judgment they will not answer for the sin of killing the Lord and Stephen, but surely they shall give an account for every other sin they committed and if their names are not found in the Book of Life they shall be cast into the Lake of Fire. [Rev. 20:15]

      And so WHAT are we to pray when the Bible exhorts us to “pray for those who persecute you and despitefully use you” Pray with Stephen that God would not lay that sin to their charge – i.e. the sin of persecuting you. [Acts 7:60] If out of the compassion of your heart you do pray for God to have mercy on them and save them as He has saved you, there is nothing wrong in that either. It is not like you have sinned a great sin by praying for someone’s Salvation. In fact there are times when we all do pray for the Salvation of a lost loved one. It is only human to do so.

      The above article is not to discourage such praying, but to show that such intercession has no bearing on one’s Salvation whatsoever! There are times when in my utter helplessness I myself cry out to God for the Salvation of my two lost sons, but tomorrow if they do ‘get saved’ it will not be BECAUSE of my pleadings but IN-SPITE OF IT!

      Salvation always was and still is ‘of the LORD” and man has no part not lot in it! [Jonah 2:9]

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