Dare we inspect this evangelical sacred shibboleth in an Acts 17:11 way?
Well, don't panic yet. The phrase is at least half right. Jesus & Savior come directly from Scripture. The other two, accepting & personal (skipping the "as" and the optional "your") will need a little more scrutiny.
The nomenclature "accepting Jesus as personal Savior", of course, is not found in Scripture. But that is O.K. as long as the phrase accurately reflects the transaction it purports to describe. Does it?
First, we will let A.W. Tozer loose on the "accepting" bit:"Now, the particular attitude revealed here about 'accepting Christ' is wrong because it makes Christ stand hat-in-hand, somewhere outside the door, waiting on our human judgment.O.K. If you are having "a cow" over what has been pointed out so far, don't flame me---flame A.W. Tozer at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Apostle John at: email@example.com
"We know about His divine Person, we know that He is the Lamb of God who suffered and died in our place. We know all about His credentials. Yet we let Him stand outside on the steps like some poor timid fellow who is hoping he can find a job.
"We look Him over, then read a few more devotional verses, and ask: 'What do you think, Mabel? Do you think we ought to accept Him? I really wonder if we should accept Him?'
"And so, in this view, our poor Lord Christ stands hat-in-hand, shifting from one foot to another looking for a job, wondering whether He will be 'accepted'.
"It will be at His word that the graves shall give up their dead, and the dead shall come forth, alive forevermore. At His word, the fire shall burst loose and burn up the earth and the heavens and the stars and planets shall be swept away like a garment. He is the One, the Mighty One!
"And yet there He stands... How grotesque can it be?
"The question ought not to be whether I will accept Him; the question ought to be whether He will accept me!
"He has promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be. But the idea that we can make him stand while we render the verdict of whether He is worthy of our acceptance is a frightful calumny--and we ought to get rid of it!"
John 15:16 (NIV) "You did not choose Me, but I chose you..."
Now we turn to the "personal" part. Whether this is erroneous or not depends on what is meant.
If what is meant by personal is "If I were the only human being alive, then Jesus would have personally died for me", then this is pure speculation based on a non-existent hypothetical.
Just a suggestion here: Perhaps we should avoid speculative hypotheticals that are directly opposite of what we know to be true as a basis for doctrine--or even phrases. Especially when dealing with the great I AM. As if God "might have been" or "could have been" different. Just who are we talking about here?Job 38: 4 (NAS) "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me..?"The point may seem subtle, but it is one that God takes quite seriously. Are we to rewrite the whole of human history? Shall we play "fast & loose" and "make believe" with God's revelation?
The Bible has Jesus dying not in hypothetical speculation for a single individual in some dream world, but on a real cross in a real world for the corporate body of believers. Jesus is our real corporate Savior, not my personal hypothetical one.
The error here can be more serious still if it means that we think we can serve God without connection with His Body. "Hey, He is my PERSONAL Savior, and it is just between the two of us." While this is a popular notion, it is not Biblical. Scripture calls us into fellowship with God and with one another. The plain fact is that we need each other desperately.
That Jesus is our "corporate Savior" is an important point to apprehend in this day of division, jealousy, and rivalry among believers.Mark 3:25 (NAS) "And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand."Now, on the other hand, if what is meant by "personal" is that I must myself be reconciled to God by Jesus, as opposed to anything my parents or priest or church or ritual might or could do, then this is correct. "There is only one intermediary between God and man", and we had better be at peace with Him. If we are, it will not be "just me and Jesus", for He is "the Lord of Hosts".
As a positive suggestion, might not it be wise to stick to God's revealed and "official" descriptions of Salvation rather than making up new, spurious phrases?
Among the "ordained" terminology used in Scripture to describe the spiritual dynamic of Salvation are: "pick up your cross and follow Jesus", "be born again", be "seed in good soil", "justified by faith", "saved by grace", at "peace with god", "in Christ", have your "name written in heaven", be one of the "chosen elect", have "Christ in you", and so on.
With all these and more, how did we ever get derailed into a dubious catch-phrase like "accepting Jesus as personal Savior"?
Of the cattle we have inspected, this one may seem benign on the whole. Perhaps the fruit of this realization might be a little more reflection and humility concerning the "weight of glory" we so flippantly sloganize, and a little less fulminating at the "questionables" of non-protestant groups. This may not be a beam, but a large two-pronged splinter at least? If we dare attempt to correct this, we'll have to rewrite all of our "tracks"--and worse still--change our spiel!
We evangelicals have our own little catechism, it seems, complete with our own special phrases. And it is just as silly and spurious--Biblically--as anyone else's catechism...