Should We Tell People to "Accept" or to
"Receive" Jesus in our Gospel Presentation?
By Bill Fallon -
(Please note: Appendices A and B are linked from this page. They contain long lists of Bible verses. You may not wish to print them without viewing them first.)
Many believers wish to make their "Gospel" presentation not only understandable, but also accurate and true. When they search God's word for instruction, many have also come to the conclusion that a number of "pat" phrases which are commonly heard, are not found in the Bible and that some even conflict with the Good News found in John 3:16 and many other verses.
Some examples of these are:
Give your heart/life to Jesus
Ask Jesus into your heart
Turn from your sins, repent of your sins
Make Jesus Lord of your life
Confess Christ publicly
Walk down the aisle. Pray this prayer
These and many other phrases are either confusing, not found in the Bible, or even contradict the simple grace message of Eph. 2:8 and 9, by adding some form of man's effort to the finished work of Christ:
Eph 2:8 -
There are also many verses which exhort believers to obedience and further discipleship. Sometimes these same verses are misapplied to the unbeliever for salvation and not to the believer for growth. The context is critical.
The goal of this paper is to approach two terms which are frequently used by many, including "grace" teachers, and to encourage those who use them to reevaluate their use. It is not our purpose to be "nitpicky' over words but to make the plan of salvation clear and understandable to those who have been blinded by Satan (II Cor. 4:4).
"Accept" Jesus as Your Savior
The word "accept" and its cognates are found 27 times in the KJV New Testament. (Appendix A). An evaluation of all of these verses drives us to the conclusion that, nowhere in the New Testament are we told to "accept" Christ. Several of these verses speak of believers or our works as being accepted by or acceptable to God. None speak of us accepting Jesus. None are referring to us becoming eternally saved. None are imperatives (commands).
Granted, that there have been those who were saved when they were told to accept Jesus, but they were saved when they actually believed in Him. Do we have to "accept" Jesus in order to be eternally saved? The Bible does not say that we need to. Would it not be better to stay as close to the Word as we can and just tell people to believe in Him?
"Receive" Jesus as Your Savior
The word "receive" and its cognates are found in 263 verses in the KJV New Testament. (Appendix B). I could only find 13 verses that referred in any way to receiving Christ. There are additional verses found which refer to "receiving the Holy Spirit, God's word, other believers, rewards for faithfulness, etc. and other occurrences which seem to be general, varied and not applicable to this study.
The following 10 verses appear to refer, at least partially, to receiving Christ in some sort of physical manner while He was here in human form. These probably are not very applicable to our Gospel presentation:
Matthew 10:40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
Matthew 18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. ()
Mark 9:37 Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me. ().
Luke 9:48 And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. ().
Luke 9:53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem
Lu 19:6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
Joh 4:45 Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.
John 5:43 I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.
Joh 6:21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
John 13:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.
And the only 3 verses in 2 contexts of this category that seem to refer to receiving Jesus in the context of becoming eternally saved:
Joh 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not
John 1:12 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: (
This verse does not tell us to receive Jesus. It seems to say that the ones who believe on His name also have received Him. I suggest that "receiving" Christ is something that occurs when we believe in Him as we are commanded. This may be similar to being told that we "must be born again." This is a necessity but is not something that we do. It is done when we believe in Jesus (along with many other things such as being justified, sealed with the Spirit, etc.) I am open to suggestions on this, but the text makes it clear that receiving Christ is not a command here.
Colossians 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
This verse tells us to walk in Christ as we have received Him; by faith. This agrees with other Scripture. Again, please note that this verse and none of the above are imperatives.
Since we are nowhere told to "receive" Jesus and are told many times to "believe" in Him, does it not make sense to "tell it like it is." In other words, we are told many times in God’s Word to believe in Jesus. Why not relay to others the accurate message that God intended.
1st Thess. 2:4 -
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