Just the other day, I had a conversation with an old friend. We were discussing the difference between the way in which he and I view Scripture. He views the New Testament as pretty much like a law book. To him, Christianity is a “legal system” where one must get everything right in order to be accepted into heaven. He believes that if someone is wrong on what he perceives as a “doctrinal position,” then they will be lost and won’t go to heaven.
On the contrary, I explained to him that I believe Christianity is having a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus. I told him that knowing Jesus is much more than just knowing facts and adhering to certain positions. Besides, we can never be 100 % right on 100% of everything 100% of the time, but we can know Jesus and strive to follow Him with a sincere heart.
He responded by saying he had searched the Scriptures and has never found one time where the Bible says that we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus. This begs the question of the article.
Is a personal relationship with Jesus even a biblical idea? Does the Bible ever say anything about having a relationship with Him? I am very convinced the Bible does teach this and will lay forth the evidence as to why I believe such is the case.
Terminology vs. Concepts
Before we address specific reasons as to why I believe the Bible teaches we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus, I want to address my friend’s assertion when he said that the Bible never says anything about having a personal relationship with Jesus.
In this specific situation, my friend is working off of the presupposition that unless the Bible explicitly uses terminology, then we shouldn’t either. To him, we must use the exact terminology in order to be “speaking as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). However, as we will find, there are two fundamental problems with his reasoning.
First, my friend doesn’t even abide in his own presupposition. In fact, in the course of our own conversation he used phrases and words that are not explicitly stated in the Bible such as, “context,” “application,” “matters of opinion,” etc.
The explicit terminology of these words is nowhere found in scripture, but yet we both understand that the principles and concepts are (Ironically enough, the words “principle” and “concept” are never found in Scripture).
Of course, the examples could be endless. My friend uses terminology all of the time never found in scripture such as, “Speak where the Bible Speaks,” “Plan of Salvation,” “Church building,” Fellowship building,” “Youth ministry,” “Implication, “Invitation,” “Gospel Meetings,” etc. This list could go on and on.
While you will never find the exact above terminology in scripture, the concepts and principles exists. Therefore, if my friend’s presupposition is correct, then we could never use any other phrases or words unless they are explicitly stated in scripture. Not only is this reasoning nonsensical, it is impossible to apply. Aside from this inconsistency, this brings us to the next fallacy with his reasoning.
Second, and most importantly, the Bible doesn’t limit its teaching and application through exact terminology. In fact, no writing does. It is illogical to argue that a concept cannot be taught unless the exact terminology is used. Imagine a criminal on trial for murder threats because he told his victim that he was going to take a gun and blow their head off. Then, imagine if his defense attorney argued that he never actually threatened to murder his victim because he never explicitly said “I am going to murder you.”
Obviously, we understand this is ridiculous. Any writing or speaking must be understood through concepts, context and principles. We would call this common sense. Therefore, the Bible teaches through principle, concepts and implication even if the exact terminology is not used. It is my conviction that the Bible certainly does teach (through principle, concept and implication) that we are indeed to have a personal relationship with Jesus and here are the following reasons as to why I believe such:
Reason 1: We must know Jesus.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3).
The word used here for “know” in this verse is more than “fact knowledge” (Rom. 1:21). The very definition of this word means:
“to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand acquaintance)” (http://biblehub.com/greek/1097.htm).
This is the same word used in Luke 1:34 dealing with intimacy. In fact, Jesus teaches that only those who know Him will enter heaven. In Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus says:
“Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness.”
When John was writing in 1 John 5, he also spoke of the importance of knowing God (same word used here).
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20).
The problem has always been with people just knowing about God, but never knowing Him deeply and intimately. So many people are worshiping their understanding of Bible, but not the author of it. This was the problem with the Jews in the first century and this is still a problem with many today.
“You do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (Jn. 5:38-40).
They missed it. They were so in love with the Scriptures that they couldn’t be in love with Jesus. Consider this illustration. Think of men like Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart). Consider his employees. How many employees of Wal-Mart ever even met Walton when he lived, much less had a personal relationship with him? Most showed up to work never really knowing him. Sure, they heard of Walton and knew his demands, but didn’t really know him. They worked for him expecting something in return.
Unfortunately, I have experienced this mentality with Christians (I was caught up in it myself). It as if we just show up to “get the job done” and then we believe that we will receive our reward when we die because we “put our hours in.” We never knew Jesus, but we just knew that He was the guy that we “worked” for.
The very gospel that Jesus came to preach is the exact opposite of the mentality that so many Christians have acquired. We are to have a fellowship with Jesus, not just an association (1 Jn. 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:9). The reason I believe that we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus is because the Bible says we are to know Jesus, intimately and personally.
Reason 2: Relational Illustrations.
Throughout the New Testament, the Bible uses relational illustrations when speaking of God/Jesus and mankind. Let’s consider these illustrations together.
Husband and Wife- The Bible illustrates our relationship to God by paralleling it to a husband and wife couple (Eph. 5:22-33). Here, the emphasis is put on having deep submissive and sacrificial love.
Friend– Jesus came to earth to be our friend. Notice the following verse:
“You are my friends if you do whatever I command you” (Jn. 15:14).
What is the surrounding context of this verse? I would often emphasize only the second half of John 15:14 instead of the first half. In other words, if you wanted to be a friend of Jesus, you have to keep all His commandments. I would unintentionally misuse this verse as a proof text to show why someone was not really a friend of Jesus if they were doing just one thing that “I” disagreed with.
However, perfect law keeping is nowhere in view in the context of John 15:14 (or in the New Testament for that matter). Instead, consider the verses surrounding the context that show what command Jesus was emphasizing when he spoke of being our friend.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have one for one another” (Jn. 13:34-35).
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (Jn. 14:7).
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another” (Jn. 15:12-17).
If we want to be friends with Jesus, we must know Him and love one another as Jesus loves us. The command Jesus spoke of in John 15:14 is love for one another. John writes:
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:20).
Jesus constantly exemplified the type of friendship that we should have with Him and one another. One example of this can be seen when Jesus washed the disciple’s feet (Jn. 13:1-17). He is not only our friend, but should be our best friend.
Brother– Jesus is said to be our brother.
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:11).
“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Mt. 12:48-50).
Jesus isn’t ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. Those who do the will of God are His brothers and sisters. As we pointed out earlier in this article, the will of God is knowing Jesus (Mt. 7:21-24).
Children– We are part of the family of God. This is certainly a relationship. Consider what Galatians 4:1-7 has to say:
“Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
The Bible describes the relationship with God as a parent-child relationship through Jesus Christ. We are to be obedient to Christ and God the Father as a child would be to their parent, but God is also supportive and loving just as a good Father would be to their child.
Lord- Jesus is our Lord. It isn’t enough to claim a relationship with Jesus when one does not actually have a relationship with Jesus.
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46).
Just because some have abused the idea of a relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean that we should quit talking about it. Part of having a relationship with Jesus means we view Him as Lord of our life. As has been stated before, many people want a savior, but they do not want a Lord. Jesus must be both in our lives.
With the above in mind, the second reason I believe we are to have a relationship with Jesus is because practically every description and illustration used in Scripture when speaking of the Christian and Jesus is a relational one.
Reason 3: The Biblical Narrative Itself.
The story of creation & salvation itself is one of a relationship. Think about it for a moment. God created us so we could have fellowship with Him. We sinned and broke that fellowship (Gen. 3; Isa. 59:1-2).
Yet, God loves us so much that Jesus came to earth to be with us, wash our feet, love us, care for us, save us and die for our sins so we could have that fellowship and relationship with Him. The whole ministry of the gospel is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:12-21).
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).
Our relationship with Jesus and God the Father is anything but fluffy. It consists of God speaking to us through His Word (Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17) and us speaking to God through prayer (1 Thess. 5:17; Ja. 1:2-8; Mt. 21:22). It consists of His providential care for us (Gen. 50:20; Hab. 1:5; 3:17-19; Psa. 37:4; 139:10; Acts 17:26-27; Mt. 7:7) and our trust in Him (Prov. 3:5-6; Mt. 6:33; 2 Cor. 5:7).
We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus while we are here on earth (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Gal. 6:1-2; Ja. 1:27). Yes indeed, a relationship with Jesus is anything but shallow and empty. It is anything but a justification for doing anything we want (Gal. 2:19-21).
While we were sinners, God loved me enough to come to earth and die for me so that I could be reconciled to Him and be His friend, and He did the same for you (Rom. 5:6-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21). So, the question I will leave you with is, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”
– Kevin Pendergrass