There is no doubt whatsoever that you have heard a preacher from the pulpit, on the radio or television or read where one wrote, “Just accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal saviour and you are saved”.
The first thing it seems noteworthy to mention about this statement is that it is found no where in the New Testament. On the day of Pentecost, did Peter answer the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” with the above words (Acts 2:47)? No, he did not! Did Philip tell those of Samaria to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour to be saved (Acts 8:5-12)? No, he did not! Did Philip tell the Ethiopian treasurer in route back from Jerusalem to accept Jesus Christ as his personal saviour (Acts 8:27-38)? No, he did not!
On and on we could go through all the examples of conversions in the book of Acts without finding such a statement. In fact, the word “accept” is only found one time in the King James New Testament. It is found in Acts 24:3 where a certain orator named Tertullus spoke against Paul who was preaching Jesus Christ and he used the word in reference to Governor Felix (Acts 24:1-3). Since there are no examples of this being espoused by an inspired teacher, we can only wonder what one who says it today means, for it is a very ambiguous statement, having a number of different possible meanings.
So what does one mean when they say that one has to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour in order to be saved? For many, it simply means that one must, from the heart, accept Jesus as who the Bible teaches He is, the Son of God and the only Saviour for the world. This is nothing more than belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Certainly believing that Jesus is the Son of God is a requirement for salvation, but is it all that one must do in order to be saved? The answer to this question is a resounding; No! The apostle John wrote, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11-12).
Notice that those who believed on His name had the power “to become” sons of God. They were not yet sons of God, but had the power to become such. In fact, the devils knew who He was (Mark 1:34), yet surely no one thinks they are saved by their belief. John later wrote, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, let they should be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42). Jesus himself clearly condemned any that would not confess Him before men (Matt. 10:32-33). It clear that according to the word of God, faith, as necessary as it is, does not save one by itself.
Is there a way in which the statement, “accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal saviour and you will be saved” is a true statement? It all depends on what one means by the word “accept” It is a fact that Jesus is the Christ, the saviour sent by God for the salvation of the world. Any that will be saved must be in Christ for “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
It was Jesus that paid the redemption price for our sins. Peter wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:18-19). It is also a fact that any salvation received will be on a personal basis. No one can acquire salvation for another.
Ezekiel wrote in the long ago, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20). On judgment day, each individual will be judged by what they have personally done in this earthly life.
Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (II Cor. 5:10). So it all boils down to what one means by the word “accept”.
If by “accept” we mean that we must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), that He has all authority, both in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18) and that said faith is made perfect by obeying what this authority has commanded (Heb. 5:8-9; James 2:22), then yes, it is a true statement. Faith in Christ Jesus is much more than just mental acceptance of the fact of who He is.
True faith requires acceptance of one’s responsibility to respond to that knowledge with absolute obedience to Him. Jesus asked the question, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). He also said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” Matt. 7:21). Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.