If you have been around church like me for a great majority of your life, I am sure you have heard one of the following phrases:
Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savoir.
God wants you to be in a personal relationship with him.
Notice both of these phrases have a certain word in common: personal. The first time I heard the term "personal Savior" was from Charles Stanley during his InTouch TV program. I never gave it much thought because it almost sounded like what many in the church said during my teenage years. Thankfully, I was never in a church as a youth pastor where that phrase was used, however, the phrase "personal relationship" was used quite often.
When you look in the Bible, those two phrases don't show anyway. Jesus never referred to himself as our "personal Savior." Peter on the day of Pentecost never preached God wants you in a personal relationship by accepting Jesus as your personal Savior. The Apostle Paul, who wrote majority of the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, never used those phrases.
So the question is this: Is Salvation personal? Yes and no. It is personal because God has revealed himself to you through the preaching, teaching, and reading of His Word. He is personal because He has made himself known. He is not the unknown God as it was inscribed in Athens that Paul mentioned in Acts 17. God has revealed Himself through His Word which is called Special Revelation. He has also revealed Himself through creation which is called General Revelation. Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Paul wrote, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
Salvation is also personal because of the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying you to conform into the image of Jesus. The Bible says, "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). God is working in you to be more like Jesus.
Why is salvation not personal? When I think of the phrase "personal Savior," I think of a wealthy family having a personal chef. That chef is reserved for them and their schedule. The chef knows what the family likes and doesn't like. The goal of chef is to please his/her clients. Jesus is not a Savoir like that. Yes, Jesus meets our needs but not in a sense that will dishonor him. Salvation means leaving what is hindering your fellowship with God so that you can be more like Jesus. The Rich Young Man in the gospel of Mark wanted some other means to inherit eternal life besides the commandments he kept since he was a child. Then Jesus told him, to sell all of his possessions. The Bible says, "Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:22). If Jesus was a Savoir that catered to our desires, he would have told the rich guy something else.
Salvation is not personal in a sense that it is not private. It is not private in two ways, first, evangelism. We are commanded to go and make disciples. We are given the task to share Jesus with everyone on earth. If salvation was personal, Jesus would not have told us to go. Our culture wants Christians to keep their faith to themselves, but like Peter and John, we say, "for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).
Second, salvation is not private because we are saved into a people. Consider Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." We believe that God has saved us by His grace and not our own merit. In verse 8, Paul uses the word "you." Paul was writing to a group of Christians, not an individual. So the "you" used in verse 8 is plural. In Texas, we use the phrase "Y'all" when referring to more than one person. Then Paul said in verse 10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." The "we" is Paul, the Ephesian church, and every true believer in Christ. We, the church, are God's workmanship.
The Apostle Peter wrote, "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ...But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10). God has called us to be a people and saved us to be a people.
Salvation maybe personal in a sense, but it is not that personal.