Did You Receive Christ Sufficiently?
Mr. Cohn F. Anderson of Sudbury, Ontario, serves the Lord in a Bible teaching and pastoral ministry. His perceptive comments on one of today’s frequently debated subjects are timely and edifying.
Mr. Anderson’s Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, while the book by Charles C. Ryrie from which he quotes is published by Moody Press.
Does that sound like a strange question? Let me put it another way. Did you receive Him as your Saviour or as your Lord? Does it make any difference? Can you fail to receive Him as your Lord and still have eternal life? These are big questions, and if the reader has not encountered them by now, he soon will.
On the one side, those who believe it necessary to receive Christ as Lord in order to be saved point out that many professing to have received Him as Saviour show little sign of the new birth. Now, whether you agree with “Lordship Salvation” or not, the accusation is true. However, it is not a new problem. John had to write: “The one who says, I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him…” (1 John 2:4).
On the other side, those believing it is not necessary to receive Christ as Lord argue that to lay a demand of total commitment on a sinner is to preach a gospel of works. The sinner is not only guilty, but helpless (Rom. 5:6). If he makes commitments, he cannot keep them. Lordship salvation ignores the fact that “nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh; for to will is present with me, but the doing of good is not” (Rom. 7:18) .
We must give credit where credit is due. Those who say that Christ must be received as Lord before we are saved have a legitimate concern. They are campaigning against a cheapened gospel and what they consider is a lowering of the dignity of the Person of Christ. Brethren who oppose their message are also concerned. They stand for the gospel of the grace of God and believe that it is compromised by the introduction of elements of human responsibility and commitment. Both can call Scriptures to their support. This writer believes that his readers should be aware of the dangers in either extreme; we should listen to the concerns being expressed but not assume that because one is right the other is altogether without a case to plead.
As to our title: We should not ask “Did you receive Christ sufficiently?” so much as “Are we preaching Him adequately?” Turning the convert in upon his experience in coming to Christ is a bad practice; examining the content of our message to sinners can be a healthy exercise.
The Evangelist’s Work
God’s servants, whether preachers or personal workers, are not to merely precipitate nebulous decisions but to preach the Word concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Christ in such a way that consciences will be reached and true conversions result.
By examining the messages of the apostles, we see that in contrast to much that passes for evangelism today, these early preachers laid a great emphasis on the resurrection and consequent exaltation of the Lord Jesus. “God has made Him both Lord and Christ,” they cry, He is “the Holy and Righteous One… the Prince of life, the One whom God raised from the dead… exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Saviour… He is Lord of all and the appointed Judge of men” (Acts 2:36; 3:14, 15; 4:10, 11; 5:31; 10:36; 17:31). Having laid out these truths adequately, they were then willing to give a simple and direct answer to a plea such as “Brethren, what shall we do?” (2:37). It is to be feared that today the thrust of much preaching is to provoke a decision rather than to present Christ. Unfortunately, many respond to an emotional appeal and profess faith without having understood on whom or what they are to believe.
Two Experiences Needed?
Some time ago, a tract was published that presented the way of salvation as clearly as perhaps it is possible to do in limited space. On the last page there was an attempt to bring the reader to a decision. After a brief summary of the steps considered necessary to salvation it read: “I now receive Christ as my personal Saviour,” and room was left for a signature and a date. This was followed by an exhortation to dedicate one’s life to Him, and the reader was encouraged to sign and date a second statement … “I now receive Christ as Lord of my life.”
I would not wish to question the motives of the writer of this tract, nor would I dare to say that no blessing could result from a person responding sincerely to its appeals. But in a desire to reach the lost we may sometimes unwittingly depart from what Scripture teaches. This, I believe, the writer did. Before we judge him too quickly, let us examine our own preaching. How often have we put things a certain way in order to help people and afterwards said to ourselves, “I don’t think that was quite right; I could have said that more accurately.”
Receiving Christ “As”
The fact that some Christians can refer to various crises in their lives when they entered into certain truths really proves nothing except that human understanding of God’s plan is always partial, sometimes retarded, and often only brought about after divine discipline. It may be our pleasure to sanctify our struggles and give them respectability by saying, “This is when I crowned Him as my Lord,” but then we create problems. We think everyone else must have the same experience!
How many Scriptures can you find that exhort the enquirer to receive Christ as Saviour? List them on the lefthand side of a sheet of paper. How about those that exhort us to receive Him as Lord? List them on the right. If I am not mistaken, after hours of searching your paper will be blank. Does this not say something?
The fact is that the New Testament presents Christ as a great many things. He is the Creator. He is the Judge. Charles C. Ryrie in Balancing the Christian Life pertinently asks: “Must one believe that the Lord is his personal Creator in order to be saved? Or again, the Lord is the Judge. Must one believe in Christ as the One who will judge him in order to be saved?” (p. 177). I might add that Christ is not only Saviour and Lord, Creator and Judge, but also the Head of the Body. Perhaps when we associate for the first time with a local church we should have another experience and receive Him as Head? How about King of kings — when should I receive Him in that capacity? I sound as if I am mocking. I am not, but only seeking to show how foolish it is to depart from the way Scripture actually presents the truth. We cannot improve on the Holy Spirit’s method.
Growing In Knowledge
The Scriptures present Christ as He is, and the Christian experience is an ever expanding awareness of the glory of His Person and work. “Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). When we were married, how did we men receive our partners? —as sweethearts only, or as housewives also? Did we receive a shock when our wives became mothers? No! All this was involved, whether fully appreciated or not, when we said, “I do.” Let those who preach, preach Christ. If we do so faithfully, we will not find people asking questions like the ones in the first paragraph of this article. Can we imagine those who responded to Peter’s Pentecostal message asking each other, “Did you receive Christ as Lord or as Saviour today?”
My appreciation of Christ should always be enlarging. It may be that I focus on His Saviourhood in my spiritual infancy (though the fragrance of that aspect of His work will last for eternity), and later may become more occupied with His Lordship, Headship, or the fact that He is the coming King, but all is a matter of development. When I received Him, I received Him in all those capacities and more. The late George Goodman is reported to have said: “When we receive Christ, we receive a Lord who saves and a Saviour who lords.” And so He is, and there is salvation in no other. It is not found in an incomplete Christ (Christ as Saviour only), nor is it found in One who demands more of the sinner than he or she can fulfill (total commitment to all His will). If that is meant by His Lordship, the writer is not there yet, and his salvation is in question. I am only learning what His offices involve as far as my experience is concerned. But I believe in Him as presented in the Word, and I trust this is true of each reader.