Churches and Christians talk a lot about “accepting Christ.” This term doesn’t come from a specific passage in the Bible, but it theologically sums up the concept of accepting a gift from God, which IS in repeated throughout the Scripture.
Using the phrase “accepting Christ” makes the gospel more accessible and easier to understand for people who aren’t super familiar with the Bible. Someone may not know what "salvation" is because they've never heard the term. But they have likely accepted a gift from someone at some point in their lives, so this is a concept they can understand without any prior biblical knowledge.
The Bible talks about eternal life and the Holy Spirit residing in us as "gifts." Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Jesus is using water as a metaphor commonly used in the Bible for the Holy Spirit.
Basically, He's telling her that if she knew that He (Jesus) was the Messiah and that He had the Holy Spirit to offer her, she would have asked him for it. Paul also calls the gospel a gift: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 3:23).
God is offering us the free gift of salvation. And like a physical present, this gift can be accepted or rejected. God will not force us to accept His gifts; we have a choice (Revelation 3:20). This is what evangelists are referring to when they talk about "accepting Christ."
This phrase is based off the biblical idea that salvation is a gift that we are free to accept by making Jesus our Lord and Savior—or free to refuse. Paul talks about Christians having “received Christ” in his letter the Church, and the New Living Translation interprets this as having “accepted Christ” (Colossians 2:6).
Another way to think about “accepting Christ” is to think about someone standing at your front door, ringing your doorbell. Say you open the door and see what the person wants to give you, but you refuse to let them into your home to give it to you; that is rejecting the gift. Now, what if you open the door, see the person there, recognize them as someone who loves you, and you invite them into your home; that is accepting Christ.
Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). You can ignore Jesus' knocking and trying to get your attention (thus rejecting the gift), or you can open the door to him.
Opening the door to Him and hearing Jesus' message of love and redemption is acknowledging that Jesus is trying to get your attention. Then inviting Him into your house is accepting everything He offers and opening your heart to beginning a relationship with him.
The term "accepting Christ," like many other terms we use in the church, is not found specifically in the Bible. But because it explains a theologically correct biblical concept, it is perfectly fine to use when you're sharing the gospel. Using the phrase “accepting Christ” helps make the gospel easier to understand for those unfamiliar with the Bible. The term "salvation" may be foreign to them, but they have likely received a gift at some point, so this is an easy concept to understand without prior biblical knowledge. If "accept Christ" still confuses the person or is too vague, then, by all means, take them to these passages in Scripture and explain clearly how we can accept or reject the free gift of salvation from the punishment of sin.
Kathryn lives with her husband in a small mountain town in New Mexico where she can often be found sipping Earl Grey tea and watching Dr. Who. She has a degree in English from Charleston Southern University and one day hopes to have a personal library in her home. Kathryn has been working in youth ministry since 2015, loves studying the Bible and talking about the Lord with other young women.