Some Jews view Jesus Christ as their enemy. Part of this, no doubt is the result of centuries of persecution of the Jews in the name of Jesus. But Jesus never condoned persecution of the Jews. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus died for the Jews. It is true that He came to save all humans, Jews and Gentile, but He came for the Jews first because they are His family. He is still there Messiah and He is still their servant, despite the fact that so many of them rejected Him. In the end the Jews will come to realize that Jesus is their great servant, who loves them, and Who will bring many blessings on them. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises that are made to the ancestors of the Jewish nation as the Apostle Paul wrote:
For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed. (Romans 15:8 NIV).
Let us see how Jesus confirmed the promises made to the patriarchs. Here is the promise that God made to Abraham:
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
God promises to make the Jews a great nation. They have already blessed the world in many ways, and there are more blessings to come. It is true that “all peoples on earth” have been blessed by them, because Jesus came through them, and Jesus is the only one who can provide atonement for our sins. All people, Jew or Gentile, can be saved when they believe in Him and repent of their sins.
God reiterated this promise to Isaac:
Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” (Genesis 26:3-5)
Once more God promises here to bless “all nations on earth” through “your offspring.” Certainly this has happened and will happen. All the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ: those who believe are saved. God credits Abraham here in part for this great blessing because he “did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees, my decrees and my instructions.” Of course Abraham wasn’t perfect. He did sin against God sometimes. But God overlooked these sins because of Abraham’s faith:
“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
So we see that Abraham didn’t earn his righteousness by being perfect, it was “credited to him.” In other words, God overlooked Abraham’s sins. He did this on the basis of the blood of Jesus Christ, even though He wasn’t born yet, because the sacrifice of Jesus transcends time. Salvation by grace through faith, which is the way that all the patriarchs were saved, is only possible if there is an adequate sacrifice for sin. That sacrifice is Jesus Christ. Jesus, therefore, died to serve all believing Jews, including Abraham and Isaac.
Finally, we see that the same promise is made to Jacob:
There above it stood theLord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15)
Once again God tells Jacob here that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” Despite the many good things that the Jews have done for humanity, this verse could not be completely fulfilled without Jesus Christ, the one person, completely Jewish, who is able to save the entire world from destruction.
Today’s verse is Romans 15:7. I don’t think I’m going to comment on it, but I’ m just going to spend the next few minutes reflecting/meditating on it. I challenge you to do the same.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7 NIV).
Many evangelicals, when preaching the gospel to unbelievers, often use the phrase “accept Jesus into your heart.” This phrase is under attack by some evangelicals though, mostly Calvinists, because of the emphasis it puts on human beings initiating the salvation process, when in fact we know that salvation is initiated by God, not man (Ephesians 1:5). The argument goes that we cannot accept Jesus into our hearts, but we must be accepted by Jesus.
Personally, I am not greatly bothered by the phrase “accept Jesus.” I usually prefer to use the Biblical words “repent” and “believe” myself, but I do not really care if other people use the word “accept.” I do not think that the use of this word while preaching the gospel does any real damage as long as the preachers specify how Jesus is accepted. They need to preach Biblical repentance and true belief.
However, my Calvinist brothers and sisters may be technically right. I was recently looking through my Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible and I could not find any Bible verses commanding humans to “accept” God or Jesus. Instead, the Bible frequently talks about God “accepting” man:
May he (the Lord) remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings. (Psalms 20:3 NIV)
Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws. (Psalms 119:108 NIV)
For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts, along with all your holy sacrifices. 41 I will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will be proved holy through you in the sight of the nations. (Ezekiel 20:40-41 NIV)
In short, I did not find any references in Young’s concordance to a human being “accepting” God. However, when I looked up the word “receive” I got different results. Young’s concordance gives several examples of humans “receiving” Jesus/God:
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:11-12)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, (Colossians 2:6 NIV).
So the point that stands out from our initial study is that God “accepts” man, but man cannot “accept” God: man “receives” God. So what is the difference between accept and receive? It is very subtle. The difference, I think, is that the person who is accepting is a person from a higher station reaching out their hand to someone in a lower station; whereas the inferior person “receives” rather than accepts. This is why the Calvinists are so adamant that we cannot “accept” Jesus: God, not man, gets the credit for our conversion. I agree with them: the initiative comes from God, not man:
To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. (John 3:27 NIV).
Nevertheless, the case against “accepting Christ” is not as strong as the Calvinists think it is. The words “recieve” and “accept,” as I have said before, are very similar, and the Calvinists are basing their rather zealous criticism on questions of translation. I noticed when I was looking through Young’s concordance, that the King James Version translates some of the original Greek and Hebrew words both ways, depending on the context, and, no doubt, on the interpreter’s theology. Take for example, the word “Lambano.” In John 1 the King James translates it as “receive” when describing man’s actions towards Jesus:
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 1:12 KJV)
But in Galatians, the King James translates the same word as “accept” to describe God’s actions towards men:
“God accepteth no man’s person” (Galatians 2:6 KJV)
Now, let’s go back to John 1 and see what happens if we translate the word “Lambano” as accept:
But as many as accepted him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. (John 1:12 KJV, altered)
Actually, the Greek word “lambano” has a much more common definition than either “recieve” or “accept.” It is much more commonly translated in our Bibles as “take.” See what happens to the sentence when we insert the most common use of the word lambano:
But as many as took him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. (John 1:12 KJV, altered again)
This is a translation that would no doubt make John Calvin spin in his grave! If the simple use of the word “accept” offends Calvinist sensibilities, how much more would the word “take” upset them? Frankly, I think the Calvinists are too sensitive about this. I don’t really see a big difference in using the word “received,” or “accepted” or “took.” I think whatever word you use, it is obvious that human beings are responsible for trusting in God with deliberate, conscious faith. And yet despite that responsibility, it is even more clear that God is sovereign over salvation. This passage does not teach us that a man has power to save himself, regardless of what word choice you use. This passage teaches us that God gives us “the power to become the sons of God.” We do not make ourselves the Sons of God. God does that. God is the one who changes our hearts and controls our wills. Yet none of that changes the fact that He acts through genuine, deliberate, conscious, saving faith on the part of the believer. The chief visible sign of God’s election is the way in which believers deliberately choose to behave differently than they did before they were saved.
Now, I don’t claim to be a Greek scholar. I am sure that the translators had good reason for choosing the translations that they did. “Recieved” is no doubt a better translation of John 1:12 than “accept” or “take.” My point is simply this: the difference between “accept” and “receive” is very subtle. I think the Calvinists, who are by nature hairsplitters, might be a little bit overly dogmatic in their attack on the phrase “accept Jesus into your heart.” Yes, they might be technically correct, but that really only depends on how the translators decide to interpret certain verses. The argument against using the word “accept” is not as rock solid as they sometimes claim.
So what is the conclusion? Should we tell nonbelievers to “accept Jesus” into their hearts, or not? Personally, I don’t think it does any damage as long as the entire gospel is preached. I personally, however, won’t use it, partly because I do not want to offend my Calvinist friends, and also because I like to stick more strictly to the Biblical phrases, just to err on the side of caution. I therefore preach Repentance and belief rather than “accept Jesus into your heart” I think the Calvinists are right that the word “accept” better describes God’s relationship with us more than it describes our relationship with Him. God “Accepts” us, but we “receive” Him. On the other hand, it is important for us as sinners to consciously and purposefully repent of our sins and believe in God. Some ultra-Calvinists do not preach this as forcefully as they should. But I agree with the Calvinists we as believers cannot take credit for our own faith. Our faith, our desire, our passion for Christ, was created in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. All credit for our salvation must go to God.
All of God’s children, that is all true believers in Jesus Christ, are useful for ministry. We are all called into service for Him, but we do not have the same tasks. Some of us are called into secular work, whereas others are called into what we have labeled “the ministry.” By “the ministry,” of course, I mean a life especially devoted to directly serving God full time such as being a pastor or being a missionary.
Each Christian needs to try their best to do whatever work in life that they honestly think God wants for them. You must analyze your gifts, your qualifications, and also your motivations. You must honestly seek not to do what is best for you, but is best for the church (All believers) as a whole.
I think it is obvious that there are many Christians who claim to be “called” to do something that they are not called to do. We often use the word “called” in a very subjective way. We, as humans, are often tempted to state dogmatically that we are “called” to do something when we really don’t know for sure if that is God’s will for us. All we really know is that we want to do it. But wanting to do something is not the same thing as being called to do it, even if it’s a good thing. King David wanted to build the temple, but he was not called to build the temple (I Chronicles 17:1-4).
There are lots of young people today who think they are called to be pastors. Some of them no doubt are, but many are not, at least not while they are young. The Bible refers to shepherds (pastors) as being “elders” which implies that they are usually older men with lots of experience. And yet hundreds of thousands of are young people are graduating from seminary in their mid twenties thinking that they are completely ready/qualified to be pastors. But in many cases they are not spiritually mature enough. They may have mastered Greek and Hebrew, but they have not yet gained maturity in self-control, self-denial, love, forgiveness, and hope. Yes, I know that some of these young people really truly are called to the ministry right away, but they are the exception, not the rule. I know one pastor who was called to the ministry when he was thirty-six. He already had a family and a nice income, but he quit his job to go to seminary, and started being a pastor when he was about forty. He thought of himself as being the exception to the rule: he said that people are usually called to be pastors when they are young. I disagree. I think that this man, who loved the Lord and was a great preacher of the Gospel, is a good example of the normal call to the ministry. It was not something he sought after for his own selfish purposes, it was something that God brought to his attention after he already had a comfortable life in secular employment. God was able to use him because he was a humble man who put God’s will for his life before his own.
The point I am trying to make here is that we need to do our best to be sure we are following God’s will when we got into the ministry, not our own will. “The ministry” is a good thing, but not all people are called to it. I am not trying to discourage those who feel that they have indeed been called to the ministry from going into the ministry. I am not necessarily saying that if you are a young person in seminary studying to be a pastor that you should drop out. But you need to be honest with yourself about the disadvantages of going into the ministry so young, and you need to prepare yourself for the hardships you will face by having a humble heart, and trusting on the Lord not your own understanding. You need to further prepare by working full time at mastering the key Christian virtues: love, patience, forgiveness, hope, etc, and you need to be constantly reading the Bible and praying. Finally, you need to be attentive to what God is trying to say to you through circumstances and through the Bible. You need to do what you believe is right. If you know that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, then don’t let me discourage you. Just make sure that your motives are honorable and not selfish. Ultimately, do what you believe to be right. As long as you are truly acting in faith you will not go wrong. But if your choice of a career or a ministry does not come from faith then you are sinning, for “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
There is only one true Christian Church, and it is does not consist of one particular denomination or movement. Rather, it is made up of all believers everywhere who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ only for salvation. Sadly, though, there are times when it seems like Christians do not belong to the same Church. So-called believers argue with each other, attack each other, abuse each other (Galatians 5:15 NIV). In many cases this is because these so-called believers are not really believers (I John 4:20), or else because they are “carnal” Christians who have not yet come to maturity in Christ (I Corinthians 3:1-4 NIV).
But true, mature Christians display the fruits of the spirit and fellowship with each other in gentleness, patience, and love (Galatians 5:22-23), even though they disagree about some things (Romans 14:2). Indeed, I believe that this is perhaps the best evidence that someone is saved. God gives true believers a mind of cooperation with each other:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had (Romans 15:5).
We see here that God is the giver of endurance and encouragement. He is the one who gives us the power to endure many hardships for our faith, and encourages us that the final reward will be well worth it. He is the same one who gives us the “same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” This mind is a mind of self-sacrifice, the mind of looking out for the interests of our brothers and sisters above our own self interests. Sadly, I see too many so-called Christians that are motivated by self-promotion, or enjoy to discover and expose sins in other Christians. They feel holy when others fall, which is not a truly Christian sentiment. Yes, we must sometimes be honest with our brothers about their sins, but we must work with them to lovingly and compassionately restore them afterwards.
When true Christians love each other sacrificially with the same mind of Christ, the result is that God is glorified:
so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:6 NIV)
We need to speak with “one mind” and “one voice” in order to adequately glorify God. God is not being well glorified if the very voices we are using to glorify Him are always being used to contradict, tear down, and villify our brethren in Christ. Our God is a God of unity, and when you tear down your brother in a fleshly way you are not glorifying God, even if you think you are.
Decades ago it was very popular for Evangelicals to use the “sinner’s prayer” as a tool for trying to convert people to Christianity. What the sinner’s prayer is, essentially, is a pre-formulated prayer that is given to people who are interested in becoming Christians with the promise that if they “pray this prayer” and they “really mean it,” that they will be saved. The sinner’s prayer has many different versions, some better than others. Here is one version that I just made up myself in the last five minutes:
“Dear Lord, I am sorry for all the sins I have committed. I know that I am a wicked person and have done many bad things to other people. I know that I deserve to go to hell for eternity for what I have done. But I also know that you have promised to forgive me for my sins if I repent and believe in your Son Jesus Christ for salvation. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that His shed blood is the only thing that can purchase my salvation. Please forgive me for my sins and help me to stop living for myself. I know that because I believe in you I will spend eternity with you in heaven In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
In recent years this strategy of evangelizing has become less popular, although it is still widely used. I myself do not care for the sinner’s prayer very much. It can be a stumbling block to superstitious people, who think that they will somehow be saved by simply by saying the “magic” words. There is nothing magic about the words: salvation happens in the heart. You do not need to follow a special pre-formulated prayer in order to be saved: there is no example of the sinner’s prayer in the Bible. But you do need to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.
Some versions of the sinner’s prayer are really bad. They leave out essential truths that you need to know in order to become a Christian, and easily give people a false assurance of salvation. One version that I really do not like is the version found in Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life because it does not really talk about atonement for sin, which is an essential part of the gospel message.
Nevertheless, I believe that some of the attacks on the sinner’s prayer are too harsh. The worst attacks come from the ultra-Calvinists, who are apparently opposed to the sinner’s prayer because it is an act of the human will, and they stress the fact that true faith is not actually initiated by humans: it is initiated by God. Therefore sinners’ cannot simply “choose” to say a prayer and be saved. People are only saved when God “chooses” (elects) us first.
This Calvinist/Lutheran argument against the sinner’s prayer is extremely dangerous, because it is so confusing. It makes it sound like the person who wants to get saved can’t get saved unless something mystical happens in heaven about which he can never be sure. I, on the other hand, believe that anyone can be saved if they want to be saved. An act of the will is part of the salvation process: people choose to get saved. Yes, God is sovereign over salvation: We cannot choose God unless He chooses us first, but that all happens behind the scenes: we worship God for it but we cannot see it. No one ever becomes a believer without making some expression of their will. We do not need to complicate the salvation process by telling people they can’t “choose” to be saved, when choosing is exactly what they need to do. Everyone needs to deliberately decide to follow Christ. The ultra-Calvinists do nothing but confuse us when they completely downplay human responsibility. Yes, I believe in the sovereignty of God, but I also believe in the responsibility of man, and I believe that every man that truly chooses to follow God has obviously been chosen by God first. But none of these confusing things need to be explained to someone before they become Christians (indeed, not even the smartest theologians fully understand the great doctrine of election). All we need to do is simply tell unbelievers that the are responsible to believe and repent, and that if they do not believe they will be judged.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul said to a man who asked how to be saved:
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. (Acts 16:29-32 NIV).
Notice that Paul did not give the typical Calvinist response to this man’s question. Paul could have argued with the man when he asked what he must “do” to be saved. Paul could have pointed out that we can “do” nothing, salvation is not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). He could have said “you can do nothing to initiate faith in yourself, God initiates it in you.” But that would have only confused the poor man. Instead, he gave him a simple command to “believe.” This is how the Apostle’s always preached salvation, with a simple command to “believe” and/or “repent.” The Calvinists only confuse people when they go around saying that salvation is not a “choice,” because then the command to “believe” and “repent” don’t make any sense. Belief and repentance are choices. They are acts of the will. Yes, they are acts of the will that cannot be performed without being first caused by the Holy Spirit, but they are acts of the will none the less. Talking about them as anything other than that only sows confusion.
I strongly believe, therefore, that the sinners’ prayer is a legitimate way to be saved, as long as it is a genuine confession of true faith and repentance. Indeed the Bible itself, is constantly telling us to “Call” on the Lord to be saved. THEREFORE, DON”T EVER CONFUSE PEOPLE BY TELLING THEM THAT THEY ARE INCAPABLE OF CALLING ON THE LORD. Listen to what the Psalmist writes:
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
6 Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
7 When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me. (Psalm 86:5-7 NIV)
God will answer all those who truly call on Him. If you are an unbeliever reading this article today, please do not be confused by all this debate. The way to God is really quite simple. You need to believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for your wickedness and repent of your sins. If you believe and repent you will be saved; if you do not believe you will not be saved. It’s that simple, and yes, it’s your choice.
None of the Bible was written by accident. It was all carefully planned out by God. He has preserved it until this day because it is still relevant to us. Without we would not know that we can be forgiven for our sins by believing In Jesus Christ who shed His blood for us on the cross.
There are some parts of the Bible that get less attention from us than others, but it is all important, which Is why I believe that Christians should read through the whole Bible if they have a chance to do so. The Apostle Paul says that the entire Bible was written to provide us with hope (as I mentioned in the paragraph above):
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NIV)
Paul identifies two means whereby the Scriptures give us hope. The first one is by teaching us endurance. Indeed, as the writer of Hebrews explains, the Old Testament is full of examples of believers who endured much suffering because of their faith in God’s promises:
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah,about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:32-38 NIV).
But the Bible also gives encouragement, telling us that God will pardon our sins if we repent and reward our faithfulness. We will dwell with Him for eternity if we truly believe in Him:
You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
6 Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
7 When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me. (Psalm 86:5-7 NIV)
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:2-3 NIV).
Christians should not be selfish in the way we treat others. We must sacrifice ourselves to help others, rather than harm others by being purposefully insensitive. Jesus is Christ is our example how to treat others.
Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Romans 15:2-3 NIV)
Jesus Christ never did anything to selfish exact vengeance on or hurt others, even when they deserved it. His purpose in life was not to do what he pleased, but to do what His Father pleased. Likewise, we are not to use injustice towards ourselves as an excuse to exact retribution on others. Instead, there are times that we must suffer and sacrifice the things we enjoy in order to help the people we love, (and we should love everybody). Jesus died on the cross for his brethren: are you willing to die to yourself for yours?
Human beings liked to do things to annoy each other. Sometimes we think it’s fun to just “get under the skin” of other people. But this is absolutely wrong, sinful, and selfish. Christians should be trying to do the opposite of harassing each other. They should be doing things to make each other happy and content:
Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. (Romans 15:2 NIV)
It is not funny or harmless when you harass your neighbor. If you are a Christian and you are deliberately annoying someone else, you need to stop it. These actions do not come from the Holy Spirit, they come from the Devil. You must repent of these actions and apology to the one you have been deliberately hurting. In the future you need to be deliberately helpful instead of hurtful. It is good to sacrifice your own comfort for the comfort of others.
One of the troubling developments I see in American Christianity today is the way that “mainstream” evangelicals tend to mock and make fun of the ultra-conservative evangelicals. By “ultra-conservative” I simply mean the Christians who are more restrictive in their lifestyle choices than “normal” evangelicals. An ultra-conservative might be someone who believes that it is wrong to do any work on Sunday, or that women should always wear skirts/dresses, that only the King James Bible should be used in church, that church worship should be limited to older styles of music only. I do not agree with these brothers and sisters on any of the points just mentioned, but I still need to respect them. They believe that God is honored by these lifestyle choices, and actually, they are right, as long as these choices are made for the purpose of honoring God, not exalting themselves over the rest of us. If these people are truly following their consciences in these things, then God is pleased by their examples of self-denial and loyalty to Him. Those of us who do not hold these strict standards should not mock them, make fun of them, or act like we are superior to them. We need to bear with them, fellowship with them (if they let us), and not do anything to purposefully hurt their faith or their feelings.