A friend of mine recently wrote the following:
How do these things get started? Here are some online definitions of “personal” [edited for brevity; Merriam-Webster may be able to help….] So from where did the term “personal savior” come? Don’t really care, don’t want to research it, just want to eradicate it. “Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” Really? It waters the slippery slope into isolated faith, a dumbed-down Jesus who is at our beck and call to serve us…after all, He is allegedly our personal savior… End of mini-rant. Comments/observations more-than-welcome…
Well, since you asked….
Yes, really—Jesus is our “personal” savior!
We preach and teach that no one can accept Jesus for the individual person except that person: how that we each must “personally” (individually, for and on behalf of only ourselves) respond to the Gospel by God’s grace through faith solely in the merit in of Jesus’ finished work by believing in our heart upon the truths that he died for our sins and that God raised him from the dead and confessing with our mouths that he is Lord; how that we must “personally” repent towards God—not just feel sorry as does the world about the temporal consequences of sins and reform our actions to the point that we no longer feel the pain of those consequences so keenly but make an active change of our minds to agree with God’s mind about his wrath towards all ungodliness and unrighteousness, the exceeding sinfulness of our condition and the justness of our condemnation—because that without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins. We note how that God so loved the world that he gave his only naturally born Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life and that he does not wish that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. We stress how that no one else can do this for us—not our parents, grandparents, pastor/priest, friends, anyone—only we can. In this sense, we do accept Jesus as our “personal” savior.
These are scriptural truths that we of the protestant understanding of the Gospel have universally held since God revealed the pure truth to Martin Luther in spite of the corruptions and lies of the Roman “church”.
We preach and teach that we are called a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people—a household of faith—(to name just a few) and that we are commanded to not abandon the assembling of ourselves together as the “ekklesia” (I’m avoiding the whole topic of the definition of this word and its common “translation” in particular but focusing rather on its generally accepted import) and to care for fellow believers in our midst: spiritually, mentally, socially and physically. In short, we are part of a community.
These too are scriptural truths that we of the protestant understanding of the Gospel must take care to not abandon in our rush to correct other errors.
I agree that stressing the former over or even to the exclusion of the latter is bad theology and a theologically slippery slope. I just hope that we can avoid the other extreme that comes when we abandon the fact that we are and remain individuals with an individual, “personal”, relationship with God: one that is part of and must not be segregated from the communal relationship, to be sure, but individual/personal nonetheless.
To stress either aspect of the individual/communal duality of our common faith over the other misses the point (not that either of you two are) that while we are saved alone, we are not saved to remain alone. I like to compare this dualism to that of electricity. By themselves, the electric and magnetic forces are impressive enough but limited in their use. When brought together as a cohesive whole, we have, among other things, the means to use this very medium though which we can read, ponder and pray about each other’s musings on these wonderful truths!