Rather, recognize that you are a sinner in desperate need of salvation. Recognize that without Christ, you are irrevocably lost. Recognize that the blood of the Lamb of God is your only hope for redemption. Recognize. For there is a world of difference between recognizing that without Christ you will spend an eternity in hell separated from God and every good thing you’ve enjoyed in your life, and ‘accepting’ the gift of salvation. While it is indeed true that salvation is a gift which can neither be earned, nor purchased, nor merited due to one’s innate wonderfulness, it is also true that salvation entails more than one sticking one’s hands out to grasp at a gift and to then go on about one’s life as one pleases, neither acknowledging nor thanking the gift giver. When, as a culture, we speak of ‘accepting’ this gift of salvation, it’s akin to characterizing Christ as a peddler hawking His salvation wares in the marketplace of the many roads to heaven. “Will you accept Me, accept My gift to you?” He asks. “No,” you reply confidently, “I will neither accept You nor what You offer. I believe there’s a better deal out there for me.” Christ, cap in hand with His head bowed at your lack of acceptance of Him, resolves to make the offer more tantalizing for his next potential customer. No. Christ made it abundantly clear that He is the only way, the only path (John 14:6).
In contrast, to recognize Christ as your savior connotes that you have come to a realization, that you have come to a knowledge (and an acknowledgement), that the truth of something that you had not realized previously has now become clear to you. Further, because Christ says of Himself that anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father, in recognizing Christ as your savior, you are in essence recognizing the sovereignty of God the Father (John 14:9) over not only your own life, but over the entirety of the created universe (Isaiah 46:9–10). It means also that you have come to the realization that you are (or have been) in rebellion against the sovereign ruler of the universe (Romans 3:23). If you refuse to recognize these truths, then you are in rebellion, not unlike a subject living within a kingdom refusing to acknowledge the sovereign of that land would be considered to be a rebel and an enemy. In the lowly kingdoms of the earth, one cannot live within a kingdom and yet refuse to recognize the sovereign of that kingdom: one cannot choose to ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ such sovereignty, for such a rejection is a dear offense which warrants dear penalties. How much more true and weighty will this principle be for the ruler of all (Isaiah 40:15), the creator of all (Colossians 1:16)? A little more? Infinitely more?
A perusal of the pertinent definitions of both ‘accept’ and ‘recognize’ from the OED should make manifest the distinction between these two verbs:
- To take or receive (a thing offered) willingly, or with consenting mind; to receive (a thing or person) with favour or approval, e.g. to receive as a prospective husband. Also, to take or receive with patience or resignation, to tolerate.
- To receive as sufficient or adequate; hence, to admit, agree to, believe
- To acknowledge by admission, confession, or avowal; to admit (to oneself or another)
- To acknowledge by special notice, approval or sanction; to treat as valid, as having existence or as entitled to consideration; to take notice of (a thing or person) in some way
- To perceive clearly, realize.
Is it any wonder that ‘consent’ and ‘tolerate,’ those magical words which can be cast to mean everything and anything, so long as they serve to unlock doors to societal sanction of deviancies and perversions galore, have been smuggled into our lingua franca ‘twixt God and man of the good news of the Gospel of Grace? Is it not anathema to imagine that sinners and rebels could ever be in a position to ‘tolerate’ the Son of the Lord of Hosts or that a lot such as us would need to ‘consent’ to His presence and rule? As is abundantly obvious from the above, while there may be a hint of overlap between ’accept’ and ‘recognize,’ the similarities are superficial whereas the differences are antipodal. So again, please, don’t ‘accept’ Christ as your savior: articulate salvation in such a manner as befits the Savior’s ineffable majesty and authority.