In this post I was going to address two topics, but because of the length I’m going to break it down into two posts. This post will address the “Personal Jesus” ideal and why it should be rejected. This post will also touch slightly on the second topic. The second post will address Sola Scriptura (no tradition or interpretation). A cd I listened to by a former Baptist and now Catholic convert, Stephen Ray, influenced this post.
I have a lot of friends and even some family that believe in Sola Scriptura. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it means “Scripture Alone” and basically no tradition. According to Wikipedia: Sola Scriptura “is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, it demands that only those doctrines be admitted or confessed that are found directly within Scripture or are drawn indirectly from it by valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning.”
There are many denominations that preach the Sola Scriptura doctrine, but do not practice it without even realizing it. The most popular example of this is when those that believe in that doctrine state that they are “born again” or “saved” when they “welcome Jesus into their heart” and ask Him to be their “personal Lord and Savior.” Some Evangelical and Baptist denominations state the doctrine of Sola Scriptura more strongly.
Here’s the dilemma. You either have to believe their definition of being born again or Jesus’s definition. Jesus tells us in John 3 how we are born again. So, for those who are Sola Scriptura Christians, this should not be hard to comprehend. What is going to be hard is that if you preach the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, there is no place for the phrase or belief that we must welcome Jesus as our “personal Lord and Savior.” Why? Well, it’s NOT in scripture. So if you believe that everything you need to discern salvation and holiness is in Scripture and having Jesus as your “personal Lord and Savior” or “welcoming Jesus into your heart” is not in the Bible, then you’re preaching one thing and practicing another.
There is no place for “tradition” in Sola Scriptura beliefs; however, scripture DOES point to the need for tradition in our faith, which will be discussed in a later post. So to clear that up, there’s not an “either or” (Scripture or tradition) there’s a “both and” (Scripture AND tradition).
One last point before I proceed… Protestants don’t use the entire Bible. There are many books that they have taken out of the Bible that were there for over 1,500 years before they were removed by Protestants for Protestants. I will note that Catholic Bibles haven’t removed those books, nor will they. Protestants and what some consider “non-denominational” churches do not use the Scripture that everyone has used for over 1,500 years.
1. “PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR” IDEAL/BORN AGAIN:
In John 3:3, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” So how are you born again? Well, if you read John 3 in full context, Jesus answers this question after Nicodemus questions how he can be born again:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” – John 3:5-6
So, to be born again it is through water and Spirit, not welcoming Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior. Those phrases are contemporary inventions, NOT scriptural passages. To be better put, those phrases are TRADITION and as far as my research has led me, they are Baptist tradition.
This is what I found on a Baptist website:
“The Sinner’s Prayer”
“Dear Heavenly Father, I come to you in prayer asking for the forgiveness of my sins. I confess with my mouth and I believe with my heart that Jesus Christ is Your son, and that He died on the cross at Calvary that I might be forgiven and have eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Father, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead and I ask You right now to come into my life and be my personal Lord and Savior. I repent of my sins and will worship You all the days of my life. I believe Your word is truth and I confess with my mouth that I am born again and cleansed by the blood of Jesus! In Jesus name, Amen.”
If you read the sinners prayer and truly believe the words you read, then Praise the Lord, as you have been saved and your name will appear in the “Lambs Book of Life.”
I did not make that up and for those of you that have said “The Sinner’s Prayer” you know that’s a direct quote. I copied and pasted that. You should see clearly the traces of Romans 10:10-13 – “For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Every time God starts or renews something it’s with “water and spirit,” not just by what some Christians refer to in the Book of Romans. We shall not cherry pick which verses in the Bible we want to follow and which ones we do not. By doing that we make ourselves a “Cafeteria Christian” picking and choosing what we want. I will explain how Romans salvation ties in with many other verses in the Bible and how salvation is not just believing Jesus is our Savior and confessing it.
I found an awesome article written by a Protestant pastor denouncing the phrases “personal Lord and Savior.” He lists 5 reasons why Christians should reject the “personal Jesus” idea. I found these at Tehanna.com and I couldn’t agree more with them:
1. Christians Are Called To Follow Christ, Not Just Accept Him
The central cry of Jesus was never “accept me.” In fact, it was quite the opposite. Jesus walked a path which called Him to be despised and rejected, betrayed and belittled, criticized and crucified. The call of Jesus to His disciples and to us is to follow. Following requires leaving things behind and forging forward, laying down your life that you might find it, dying to yourself that your might discover the life abundant in the purposes of God. Acceptance is passive. Following is inherently active.
2. Christians Are Called To Conform To Christ, Not Christ To Christians
At the heart of spiritual formation is the move to become “Christ-like”. Often, this challenges our preconceptions and wars against our desires. Good. It is supposed to. The Jesus Way is a way of transformation, of exposing our darker side to the Light of the World that the shadows may be cast away and we may become luminaries of incandescent glory, reflecting the blinding rays of the Son. We must never customize Jesus, reducing Him to an eternal moral teacher that can give us a hand when things get rough. We must allow ourselves to be confronted by Him, restored through Him, and conformed to Him.
3. Christians Are Called To Community, Not Isolation
John Wesley once wrote that “Scripture knows nothing of solitary religion.” From Genesis to Revelation, we see the story of a God who is creating a people, not just persons. In the instances where we see individuals emphasized, they are emphasized for the purpose of the people. Abraham was called individually to carry the covenant for what would become the people of God. Moses was called individually to free the Israelite people. David was called individually to lead a nation of God’s people. The prophets were called individually to be the mouthpiece of God to His people. The disciples were called individually only to then be sent forth to gather a global people. The popular notion that Christianity is a personal affair, making the community of faith unnecessary, finds no basis in the pages of Scripture. It is only in community that we find accountability, corporate prayer, unified worship, and the edification of the saints. It is only in community that we become the Body of Christ.
4. Christians Are Called To Serve, Not Be Served
So much of Christian rhetoric emphasizes the blessing of God and de-emphasizes the way of the cross. Much of popular Christianity is about seeking these blessings, about conforming God to our will, about how God somehow is charged with serving us. I am not diminishing the reality of the blessedness of God, but blessing is hardly the entire picture. Jesus completely inverts the concept of privilege, calling His followers away from notions of entitlement and into a life of servanthood. The reality of this is that, as we serve one another, we will be served in the process; but the notion that service is somehow owed to us is completely overturned. We, who claim ourselves as children of the greatest King who ever existed, express this most dutifully as servants.
5. Christians Are Saved For More Than Just Themselves
The Christian concept of salvation does more than just look over its shoulder at a sinful past now washed clean. It does more than look at the present as we are engaged in a process of spiritual renewal. It looks to the future, at the outworking of our salvation expressed as a transformed people transforming the world. In other words, Christians are not just saved from sin, they are saved to God. We become active participants in the breaking forth of God’s Kingdom as the redemptive order confronts and exposes the manifestation of sin in society. To limit the concept of salvation to a personal experience (or worse, a personal event) truncates the fullness of what it means to be Christian. We are not just saved from a life of sin; we are saved for a world where sin still manifests.
The popular evangelistic rhetoric calling for people to “accept Jesus as your personal savior” needs to be overturned. It is only in the call to “come and follow” and to “take up your cross” that we begin to regain the deeper things which have historically defined God’s people. It is here, in the deep water, where Christianity comes alive.
2. BORN AGAIN THROUGH WATER AND THE SPIRIT:
Throughout the entire Bible, we see a birth or rebirth with both water and Spirit. Here are some of those passages… let’s start at the very first two verses of the Bible:
- Genesis 1-2: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”
- Here you see God forming the earth and creation and the first two things he uses to form it are water and Spirit.
- Genesis 8:6-12: When God washed the earth with the Great Flood to start all over again due to the corruption of man, what did he use? He used water and a dove that Noah continued to send out from the ark. What did the dove represent? The Holy Spirit of God.
- 2 Peter 3:18-21: “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”
- According to Stephen Ray, a former Baptist and now Catholic apologist, claims that this verse was never in his Protestant Bible.
- Exodus 14:21-25: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
- Another new beginning… God’s children of Israel are in the land of Egypt and are under the persecution of Pharoh. He uses water (parts the Red Sea) and Spirit (pillar of fire and cloud). He saves them from the enemy and what is the new thing God creates? The nation of Israel.
- Ezekiel 36:25-29: In the Book of Ezekial in chapter 36, we are told what the new covenant is going to look like. “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you.
- Again, God saves with water and spirit and gives a new heart and a new spirit.
- Matthew 3:13-17: The Baptism of Jesus… the beginning of His works. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
- Before Jesus began His works… before He performed His miracles, he was baptized with water and spirit.
- After this, what happens? Nicodemus comes to Jesus and asks Him what he has to do to be born again. Jesus answers, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
There are plenty of other verses where God uses water and Spirit to start something new. These are just some of them. We are not born again by some sinner’s prayer or by “asking Jesus into our lives as our personal Lord and Savior.” We are born again through water and spirit. It is clearly shown throughout the Bible that God gives birth to something new with water and spirit. I hope this clears up a lot and everyone has learned something from this post. I would love to read some of your comments on this post.