by Rayola Kelley
Q: Recently, I heard that the correct term is, “receive Jesus as Lord and Savior,” rather than “accept Him.” Does it really matter which term is used?
A: For most of my Christian life the term, “accept Jesus as your Savior and you will be saved” has been used. However, the word, “receive,” and not the word, “accept,” is used in relationship to being saved. A good example to consider is John 1:12 in the KJV.
To understand if there is any real significance to the words we use, I researched these two words. The word “accept” can mean, “receive”. However, we must consider on what level a matter is accepted. This brings us to another definition of the word “accept,” which is to give admittance or approval of. In other words, I accept a matter at the intellectual level; or I will admit it sounds logical or true and give my approval of it as being legitimate.
The Apostle Paul states that we must believe the Gospel in our heart (Romans 10:9-10). Clearly, the Gospel must not just be accepted on an intellectual level, but it must be received in the heart as being true. Receive means to possess or acquire such as a gift. To possess something means my hands as well as my heart must be open to receive what God has for me. As you can see, a mind that accepts a matter can still have a closed heart in respect to applying it to ones life and walking it out in spirit and truth.
The concept of “receiving” brings us to another important word, “believe.” Believe is basically saying, “Amen” to a matter. “Amen” points to entering in and abiding in a covenant. It is a word that implies that a matter has been established throughout the ages. Obviously, it is not just a matter of accepting something on an intellectual level as being true, it is also a matter of coming into total agreement in spirit and truth to experience the actual reality of it. If I accept something intellectually, I do not necessarily have to be in agreement with how a matter will be expressed. However, if you believe something to be true, there will be no debate as to how to express it in application and obedience.
For example, when we are told to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and we shall be saved, we come into agreement with every aspect of embracing salvation in our heart as a life-changing reality. We must say “Amen” to the real Gospel that the Lord of all, who came in the flesh as the Messiah, died on the cross for my sin to establish an everlasting covenant. To receive this message, I must come into agreement with how God looks at my sin, receive Jesus’ redemption as my own, and come into a covenant where Jesus serves as the Lord, supreme ruler, and God over my life.
In a sense I take possession of this reality and make it my own. It is from this premise that the great exchange takes place. I cannot take possession of the new, unless I am willing to let go of the old.
Many people are carrying various aspects of the old selfish disposition with them. It can prove to be hard to let go of that which is already judged and considered profane to receive the new. However, this is the reality behind receiving. To receive what is new and lasting one must have an open heart and open hands.
I must admit, I have seen more people with an intellectual concept of salvation, than a heart revelation. The harsh reality is that such people lack devotion, have an inconsistent testimony, and often adjust Christianity to their worldly, carnal lifestyles. On the other hand, those who receive the Gospel in their heart, come forth as a new creation as the old is given up to receive the new in spirit and truth.
The other aspect about the word “receive” is that in the KJV, it is always used in relationship with a person’s faith. It is genuine faith that allows a person to receive what Jesus is offering them in way of healing and salvation. Once again, the word, “receive” is used rather than the word, “accept.” Therefore, my conclusion is to use the word “receive” to maintain the integrity of what it means to possess salvation. Whether it makes the impact or not, it will avoid watering down the concept of “believing something unto salvation.”