It is, of course, true that the Bible teaches that we must change, and that Jesus Christ does not accept us “as we are.” Our new booklet, “Baptism — a Requirement for Salvation?” explains in detail that we must repent BEFORE Christ accepts us — and, before we can properly “accept” Him.
The mere fact that some misuse and misapply a certain Biblical term is not enough reason for us not to use it. For instance, many preach a wrong gospel message (compare Galatians 1:6-9), or even a false “Jesus” (compare 2 Corinthians 11:4). This does not mean, however, that God’s Church should therefore refrain from using the terms “gospel” or “Jesus.”
In regard to the expression, “accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Savior,” the Church has used similar language for a long time (as it has used, of course, the terms “gospel” or “Jesus” for a very long time). As early as 1948, Mr. Armstrong wrote about “our acceptance of [Christ’s] death, burial and resurrection,” and our belief “on Jesus Christ as personal Savior.” (Compare WCG’s old booklet on water baptism, copyrighted 1948, 1954, and 1972, pp. 11 and 15.)
These expressions are Biblical. We understand, of course, that believing on Christ (compare Acts 19:4; Romans 10:14; Philippians 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:16) includes obeying Him (compare Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46; John 15:14). Our new booklet on baptism explains this truth in much more detail. We must indeed accept Christ’s sacrifice and Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. At the same time, we must also accept God the Father as our personal Savior, as BOTH deserve that title. Remember, we read in John 3:16 that “God [the Father] so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
We are told in several Scriptures that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior. Isaiah 43:3 reads, quoting the “LORD” of the Old Testament — generally a reference to Jesus Christ: “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, YOUR SAVIOR.” Also, we are told in Luke 1:47 that God the Father is our personal Savior. When Mary was told by the angel that she would give birth to Jesus, she stated, “And my spirit has rejoiced in God MY SAVIOR.”
Christ was recognized by the Samaritans as the “Savior of the World” (John 4:42). At the same time, God the Father is called “the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).
In 2 Timothy 1:10, Christ is called “OUR Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” In Titus 1:4, Paul is wishing Titus “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ OUR Savior.”
The Bible conveys the concept that we must ACCEPT Jesus Christ — and what He did and does for us — as our personal Savior. That is, we must accept Christ as the One who died for us individually and personally, and who thereby made possible a way for us to escape death and obtain salvation. Christ died for you and me. The amazing and mind-boggling truth is that if you had been the only person on the face of the earth, and if you had only sinned once, Christ still would have died for you, to offer you salvation. His death is to be understood quite personally. Paul understood it in that way. Although he explained that Christ died for all of us, he also emphasized the very personal sacrifice that Christ brought for him. He stated in Galatians 2:20 that Christ, the Son of God, “loved ME and gave Himself for ME.”
We read in Colossians 2:6 that “as you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” The Revised English Bible, as well as the Luther Bible and the Menge Bible, render this phrase in this way, “Since you have ACCEPTED Christ Jesus AS Lord, live in union with him.”
Before baptism, we must accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior who was willing, through His sacrifice, to pay on our behalf the death penalty for our sins (compare Romans 6:23). We must also accept Jesus Christ as the One who is now living His life in us. After all, we WILL BE SAVED by Christ living in us. Romans 5:8-10 reads:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we SHALL BE SAVED from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son [by accepting Christ’s sacrifice, the process of our salvation began], much more, having been reconciled, we SHALL BE SAVED BY HIS LIFE.” Christ is willing to live His life in us, but we must follow and be submissive to His lead. Our ultimate salvation will come when we will be changed into Spirit beings.
We read that we “shall be saved” by Christ’s LIFE. Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” Both God the Father and Jesus Christ live in a converted person, through the Holy Spirit. Christ told us in John 14:23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make OUR home with him.” (To learn more about the Biblical teaching that BOTH the Father and the Son live in a converted person, please read our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”)
It is therefore appropriate to say that we must accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, as long as we understand what is conveyed with that meaningful expression.