What does it mean to "receive Christ" as your Saviour? Many Christians today seem to think that the Lord Jesus Christ is like a politician hoping for your vote. He presents His case, argues His good points and leaves it up to you to make the final decision as to whether you will "accept or reject" His offer. Is this a biblical perspective or only the result of the natural, humanistic mind of man? I too once believed that I had made up my own mind and cast my vote for Jesus; that is, until God began to open up His words to me and show me the truth about Who chose whom and why I had received Christ.
In John 1:11-13 we read: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Why do some not receive Him and others do receive Him? The Bible itself gives us the answer in many passages. In this same gospel of John in chapter 3:27 John the Baptist tells us: "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven".
The apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 4:7 "For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" It is God Himself who makes us differ from another who does not receive Christ. We can only receive what has been given to us, so how can we possibly glory or boast about something that was freely given to us?
Notice the use of the word "receive" in the following verses, and ask yourself just how much a personal decision to either accept or reject is involved. Mat. 23:14 "Ye shall receive greater damnation"; I Cor. 11:24 "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one."; John 7:23 "If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision"; James 5:7 "the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."; and Hebrews 2:2 "every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward". Obviously in all of these examples the person involved had no choice in the matter as to whether he would accept or reject what he received.
We can receive only what is given to us. The Lord Jesus said: "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" John 6:65. Consider these examples of how we receive what is given to us. The Lord answered the disciple's question about marriage with these words: "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given." Matthew 19:11. In the parable of the householder who hired labourers, found in Matthew 20:4 the lord said "Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will GIVE you" and in verse 7 he says again "Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that ye shall RECEIVE."
In another parable Christ says: "And unto one he GAVE five talents, to another two, and to another one" yet in the next verse these same servants are described as: "Then he that had RECEIVED the five talents went and traded with the same" Matthew 25:15, 16.
Some Christians have used Romans 5:17 to support their idea that we must choose to accept what Christ offers us. It says: "For if by one man's offence death reigned by one: much more they which RECEIVE abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." This verse is speaking about receiving the grace of God. Let's compare this verse with another that likewise speaks of the grace of God and tells us when, in the plan of God, this grace was given. In 2 Timothy 1:9, 10 we read "God who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and GRACE, WHICH WAS GIVEN US in Christ Jesus BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
This same truth is revealed by comparing two verses that speak of our adoption as sons of God. In Galatians 4 we read that when the fulness of time was come God sent forth his Son, "To redeem them that were under the law, that we might RECIEVE the adoption of sons" Galatians 4:5. Yet in Ephesians 1:5 we read that we were "predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." Again, it is clear that we can only receive that to which we were predestined and was given us by God our Father.
Is salvation a gift from God? Of course it is. The faith that believes in Christ is itself also a gift from God, as well as the changed heart that makes us willing to receive Him. James 1:17,18 tell us: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. OF HIS OWN WILL begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." Remember what the forerunner of our Lord said, "A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven."