The Language of Salvation- A Further Look at Misusing Phrases and Imagery for Salvation

October 28, 2008

Just to continue the idea that I started yesterday, about the misuse of certain verses and imagery in presenting the Gospel message, I thought I would share with you guys a quote from Dr. John MacArthur which deals with the subject:

Listen to the typical gospel presentation nowadays. You’ll hear sinners entreated with words like, ‘accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior’; ‘ask Jesus into your heart’; ‘invite Christ into your life’; or ‘make a decision for Christ.’ You may be so accustomed to hearing those phrases that it will surprise you to learn that none of them is based on Biblical terminology. They are the products of a diluted gospel. (The Gospel According to Jesus, p.21)

These words strike even further to the core of what I simply breached yesterday which was the fact that many evangelists just throw around spiritual phraseology, to the point that we basically accept it as biblical talk, and yet at the end of the day most of it doesn’t stand up to the truth of Scripture.

The thing that is even more provoking about it is that all of these phrases seem to emphasize a highly man-centered view of the act of salvation. Now, I believe that man does have the responsibility of exercising repentance and faith in the act of redemption, as called by forth by Acts 2.42 and Romans 10.9, but by describing the receiving of salvation as “asking Jesus into your heart” or “accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” it seems we lose the very God-centered flavor of many passages in Scripture, such as 1 Peter 1.3 (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again . . . “) or Ephesians 2.4-5 (“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved“) or Colossians 2.13 (“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses“).

Scripture is very clear that there is some sense in which it is God who “saved us . . . according to his own mercy” (Titus 3.4-7), and yet that is overlooked, even taboo in some circles of the church. Maybe this is part of our wanderings in attractional, self-esteem based evangelism which makes us desire the act of salvation to be a brass ring that we are skilled enough to grab, I don’t know. But I can tell you this, if we really long to see a change in the life of the American church we are in dire need of a return to the biblical accounts of salvation which emphasize God’s goodness and our inability, a humbling perspective on what has become a disgustingly consumerist idea.