As evangelicals, we often preach the gospel like this: “Accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved.” We often draw on Revelation 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
It’s certainly an easy gospel to grasp – as sinners, we are born estranged from God and go about our lives with Christ on the outside. To restore that relationship, we surely need to accept Jesus into our hearts and lives? While it may be an easy gospel to grasp, it is not the gospel taught in Scripture.
Many years ago, when I was working with Word of Life youth ministries, a friend of mine said, “We cannot ‘accept Jesus’ – he accepts us.” She was right. Salvation, according to the clear teaching of Scripture, is all of God and none of us. It was a theme we considered last night in session 2 of the Ministry Training Course, working through key passages relating to Abraham and Moses. Consider God’s covenant with Abraham first, in Genesis 15. Two things are of note. Firstly, we find that “a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him” (v. 12). Then God speaks to him. After this, a smoking oven and a burning torch (representing God himself) passed between the bifurcated animal carcasses. Now when covenants were traditionally made, either both parties would pass between the carcasses or the subordinate only. Yet here, Abraham is utterly passive (still in his deep sleep) and God himself establishes the covenant. It is as if God were emphasizing the totality of his Lordship over salvation and the inadequacy of man to contribute anything to it. It is all of God, and none of us.
When we come to Israel’s captivity in Egypt (which God foretold to Abraham in Gen. 15:13-14), we see many illustrations of salvation; in particular, its two-fold nature. When God speaks to Moses at the burning bush, he declares, “I have come down to deliver [my people] out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Ex. 3:8). Did you notice the two elements? God delivered them FROM captivity and INTO a land of plenty. Salvation is not simply about deliverance from the terrors of hell; it is about entering into God’s eternal rest. All of God and none of us. The apostle Paul emphasizes this to the Colossians: “[God] has delivered us FROM the power of darkness and conveyed us INTO the kingdom of the Son of His love…” (Col. 1:13). God is both the Deliverer and the Conveyor – all of him and none of us.
So you see, we have no power in salvation – certainly no power to condescend and “accept Jesus” into our lives. It is God himself who has condescended and now accepts us, made possible through his Son’s atoning death on the cross. So the next time you hear someone speak of “accepting Jesus”, remember who it is who truly delivers us from darkness and conveys us into the Kingdom of Christ.