A Personal Relationship with Christ

How many times have you heard someone talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus” or a “personal relationship with God?” People are told that they need to “accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.” That kind of language is used to stress the need for each person to make his or her own choice to follow Jesus-- as opposed to adopting or inheriting the religious faith of their parents. And that is surely important. Each of us will “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10).  The only way this is going to be a pleasant experience for us is to know the Judge personally.

It may surprise you to find out that the language “personal relationship with Jesus” does not appear in the New Testament. In fact, as Mark Luepke recently pointed out, the word “personal” doesn't really appear in the News Testament. Yes, my NIV uses the term “a trusted personal servant of the king” to describe a man named Blastus (Acts 12:20) and has Jesus talk about those who “gain personal glory” (John 7:18). Nut more literal translations (NASB, ESV) don’t use the word “personal” at all. It’s a bit surprising that this “personal relationship with Christ” mantra of modern Christianity just isn’t found in the New Testament.

Is that really such a big deal? Well, it might be. When many Christians today use the term “personal relationship with Christ,” what they are really talking about is a “private relationship with Christ.” More and more believers are opting-out of church altogether and are choosing to have a more personal religion. The idea is that my religious faith is between only me and God and doesn’t need to involve anyone else. The bottom line, we are told, is that “It’s not about religion; it’s about relationship.”

The New Testament never uses the language of “personal relationship with Christ.” And it certainly doesn't envision a religion that is a private matter between me and God and that everyone else can leave us alone.  In the New Testament, faith in Jesus is ALWAYS communal and lived out in relationship with other believers. Over and over again, Christians are encouraged live their lives of faith together in relationship with one another. There is no personal relationship with God without a living relationship within a community of faith. The cross that brings us closer to God also brings us into a "common unity" with other people of faith. So while the language of “personal relationship with Christ” is not used in the Bible, what we do hear over and over is how we are to live with "one another" or "each other."

  • Rom 1:12- That you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith (1 Thess 4:18)
  • Rom 12:10- Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
  • Rom 12:16- Live in harmony with one another. (1 Pet 3:8)
  • Rom 13:8- Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another (1 Thess 3:12, 1 Thess 4:9, 2 Thess 1:3, Heb 13:1, 1 Pet 1:22, 1 Pet 4:8, 1 Jn 3:11, 1 Jn 3:23, 1 Jn 4:7, 1 Jn 4:11-12, 2 Jn 2:5)
  • Rom 14:13- Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another.
  • Rom 15:7- Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
  • Rom 15:14- You yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.
  • Rom 16:16- Greet one another with a holy kiss. (1 Cor 16:20, 2 Cor 13:12, 1 Pet 5:14)
  • 1 Cor 1:10- That all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you (Phil 4:2)
  • 1 Cor 11:33- So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.
  • 1 Cor 12:25- No division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
  • Gal 5:13- But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
  • Gal 5:15- If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
  • Gal 5:26- Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
  • Gal 6:2- Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
  • Eph 4:2- Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Col 3:13)
  • Eph 4:32- Be kind and compassionate to one another (1 Thess 5:15)
  • Eph 4:32- Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Col 3:13)
  • Eph 5:19- Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (Col 3:16)
  • Eph 5:21- Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
  • Col 3:9- Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
  • Col 3:16- Teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
  • 1 Thess 5:13- Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.
  • Heb 10:24- And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
  • James 4:11- Brothers, do not slander one another.
  • James 5:9- Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.
  • James 5:16- Therefore confess your sins to each other
  • James 5:16- and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
  • 1 Pet 4:9- Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  • 1 Pet 5:5- Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another
  • 1 John 1:7- But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another

Some of these passages tell us what we are TO DO with one another—teach, be humble, encourage, show hospitality, etc. And some of these texts warn us what NOT to do with one another—do not lie, do not bite and devour, stop passing judgment, etc. What these verses should tell us is that there is no way to live the Christian faith PRIVATELY. God made us for community and fellowship. He made us for accountability and worship. He did not make us to stay at home and watch religious TV and think that our personal and private religion” is “Christian” in the Biblical sense of that term