A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Man Praying

Many people in the religious world talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus.” On the surface, this may sound good and appealing. After all, is there anyone who believes in Jesus but would not want this?

However, rather than thinking about how this sounds, we ought to consider what this means. In fact, different people may mean different things when they talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Rather than focusing on what people might mean by this, we need to be concerned with what the Bible says. Are we to have a “personal relationship with Jesus”? If so, what is this relationship to look like? This is what we will consider in this article.

Not Biblical Language

This should be a “red flag” for us. Nowhere does the Bible talk about having a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Of course, the absence of a particular phrase does not always mean that the concept described by the phrase is wrong; but we do need to be sure we understand what we are talking about. Before deciding if the phrase is acceptable or not, we need to understand what the Bible teaches. Many people who use this terminology have an incorrect idea about our relationship with Jesus.

The Relationship Described

The New Testament contains several ways in which Jesus’ relationships are described. Most importantly, He was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). While on earth, the “fullness of Deity” dwelled in Him (Colossians 2:9). It is vital that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

There are also several ways in which Jesus’ relationship with us – either Christians specifically or mankind generally – is described.

  • Jesus is our brother – “For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). As Jesus is the “Son of God” (Romans 1:4), it is possible for us (Christians) to be His “brethren” because we are “children of God” through Him (1 John 3:1).
  • Jesus is our Lord – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Being “Lord” means He has authority. He has the right to command us and expect us to obey Him.
  • Jesus is our Savior – “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). He has made “eternal life” available to us so that we can avoid receiving “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23).
  • Jesus is our King – “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’ Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice’” (John 18:36-37). As king, Jesus is the supreme ruler over His kingdom.
  • Jesus is our Judge – “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12). Paul told the philosophers on Mars Hill: “Because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). He is the one who determines whether or not we are or have been faithful.

This Must Be Personal

Our relationship with Jesus is “personal” by virtue of the fact that it pertains to us as individuals.

  • Each one of us has the opportunity to become a child of God – We can become “sons of God through faith” and be “baptized into Christ” regardless of our background (Galatians 3:26-29). Jesus commissioned His apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). This is open to each one of us.
  • Each one of us has the ability to choose to submit to the authority of Christ – Because Jesus possesses “all authority,” we are to become His “disciples” and “observe all that [He] commanded” (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul told the brethren in Colossae, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Each one of us can choose whether we will submit to Christ and obey Him or not.
  • Each one of us has the potential to be saved by the Lord – Paul wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for “the world” (John 3:16). No matter who we are, each one of us has the gift of salvation available to us.
  • Each one of us has the chance to be part of the kingdom – In prophesying of the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom, Isaiah said, “All the nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2). Peter explained to the household of Cornelius (a Gentile) that the kingdom was not open only to the Jews, but to all men: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35). If we will fear and obey the Lord, we can also be part of Christ’s kingdom.
  • Each one of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ – Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We will each be rewarded or punished based upon how we have taken advantage of these opportunities presented to us to become children of God, to submit to the Lord, to be saved by Him, and to become part of His kingdom.

No one can do any of these things for us; therefore, any “relationship” we have with Christ will be “personal.”

What This Does NOT Mean

Considering the points above about how the New Testament describes our relationship with Jesus as being “personal,” we saw that this was about the fact that we have a responsibility as individuals to have a right relationship with Christ. Yet many come to erroneous conclusions about this. Though our relationship with Jesus must be “personal,” there are some things that this does not mean.

  • It does not mean that there is a different standard for each person – Paul explained to the brethren in Corinth that what he wrote constituted “the Lord’s commandment” (1 Corinthians 14:37). The things that he taught them were the same things he taught “everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17). In other words, the standard of right and wrong did not change from place to place, church to church, or person to person. We must follow the same standard the Lord has given to all men. Earlier in this letter to Corinth, Paul exhorted them to “agree” and be of “the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). He told the brethren in Philippi, “Let us keep living by the same standard to which we have attained” (Philippians 3:16).
  • It does not mean that we are free to offer whatever service/worship is most meaningful to us – When Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God, Cain, as a “tiller of the ground,” offered a sacrifice “of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:2-3). Many would reason that his offering should have been accepted since it was a more personal expression of worship than if he had offered another sacrifice (a lamb) to which he had no personal connection. However, our worship and service are for God. He wants us to “worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24), not worship in whatever way is most meaningful to us. We are to “present [our] bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1) – according to His will rather than our own.
  • It does not mean that the local church is unimportant – The church is “the household of God,” “the church of the living God,” and “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Therefore, the church – and the context indicates that this is the local church – is important. Many people reject “organized religion” in favor of what they claim to be a “personal relationship with Jesus.” However, religion being “organized” is not the problem if it is organized according to God’s will as it is revealed in His word. The problem is man-made religion which, as Jesus said, causes our worship to be “in vain” (Matthew 15:9).

According to the New Testament, our “personal relationship with Jesus” is about each of us individually making sure we are right with Christ. It is about being able to rightly call Him our brother, Lord, Savior, and King.

How We Enter into This Relationship

If we want to be able to call Jesus our brother, Lord, Savior, and King, we need to be sure we know how to enter into this relationship with Him.

  • We are able to call Jesus “brother” by becoming sons of God through faith – This is not “faith alone” (James 2:24); rather, it is an obedient faith. We become “sons of God through faith” as we are “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
  • We are able to call Jesus “Lord” by doing what He says – Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). If we are not obeying Him, we cannot rightly refer to Him as our Lord. We must do the will of God rather than doing other works while claiming they are “in [His] name” (Matthew 7:21-23).
  • We are able to call Jesus “Savior” by conforming to His death, burial, and resurrection – Paul explained this in his letter to Rome: “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Romans 6:3-5). We can be “reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10), but only if we conform to His death, burial, and resurrection by dying to sin, being baptized into Christ, and living as a new creature in Him.
  • We are able to call Jesus “King” by being added to His kingdom, the church – Jesus explained that the church is the kingdom when He used the terms interchangeably (Matthew 16:18-19). On the day of Pentecost, God began “adding to their number [the church, KJV] day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). The ones who were being added were those who “received [Peter’s] word [and] were baptized” (Acts 2:41) as he had instructed them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Conclusion

Jesus told the brethren in Laodicea, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). He does the same for us, but we must make the decision to open the door for Him.

Will you accept Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and King? Not just in name only, but by obeying Him?

If you want to have fellowship with Christ now and in eternity, you need to faithfully follow Him. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). He also said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Are you willing to have this type of relationship with Him?


When you subscribe, you’ll also receive 3 free PDF’s: Plain Bible Teaching on Love, the latest issue of Plain Bible Teaching Quarterly Review, and Thankful.