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  #1  
Old 03-17-2004, 07:37 PM
sunfish sunfish is offline
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"Accepting Jesus as your personal Saviour" - where does this come from?

So today I opened a box of plastic supplies from a Midwestern company. In the box was a tiny pamphlet with inspirational stories from athletes about the impact Jesus has had in their lives, a note from the company founder about how his life was so much better once he accepted Jesus as his personal Saviour, and a card to mail back somewhere if you were also interested in accepting Jesus for your personal salvation.

I've seen this phrase plenty of times before, and I always assumed it was a born-again Christian thing, but now I'm curious to know more. Is the idea of accepting Jesus as your "personal Saviour" characteristic of a particular church or churches? Why the emphasis on personal salvation? And come to think of it, I don't believe I've ever seen this phrased as "accepting Christ as your personal Saviour" - any special reason for that, or did I just miss seeing that example?
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Old 03-17-2004, 07:40 PM
vanilla vanilla is offline
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as opposed to general salvation?

He is the Savior, how more personal can it be?
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  #3  
Old 03-17-2004, 08:45 PM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
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God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of the world. If you accept Jesus Christ as your saviour that is if you become a Christian then you accept the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins and you have been saved from eternal damnation in hell and you will go to heaven. I think that about answers your question.
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Old 03-17-2004, 08:56 PM
Azazel Azazel is offline
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In keeping with the factual nature of this forum, let me throw in that I've heard that phrase almost exclusively from members of the Baptist Church; evangelicals from other Xtian groups rarely use it.
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  #5  
Old 03-17-2004, 08:58 PM
TGWATY TGWATY is offline
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I don't think that quite answers the question, parsecs. It is the phrase "personal Savior" that the OP is asking about. Jesus has of course been referred as the Savior since the 1st century and Christians have always talked about the need of accepting him in your heart.

But the phrase "my personal Savior" seems to be a 20th or possibly 19th century invention.

I once asked someone who used it and he replied that it was to stress the direct relation between the individual and Christ, and that they don't need sacraments, a priest or a church to go to Him. If true, then it is a subtle criticism by some Protestants of Catholic teaching. Or rather their misunderstanding of it.
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  #6  
Old 03-17-2004, 09:15 PM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
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Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. If you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal saviour you are accepting the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your personal sins. When you are baptised, you know that little that John the Baptist did to Jesus he baptised he Jesus the name of god. Jesus gave himself for our sins we are said to have been baptisted in the name of Jesus Christ as in all Christian religions. If I am wrong I will appologise but I would rather see a cite than blindly critisized. I know I was born and baptised a Catholic and I know my brother was baptised although I think they say Christened in the Anglican church. I think that's pretty main stream. I believe Christening and Baptism to be the same thing accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as the son of god who died on the cross for the sin of the world. What's the hard part to understand?
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  #7  
Old 03-17-2004, 09:24 PM
TGWATY TGWATY is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12 parsecs from home
What's the hard part to understand?
Don't you notice that you could leave out the word "personal" from your last post without changing its meaning in the slightest.

People who use the phrase "accepting Jesus as your personal Savior" instead of just "accepting Jesus as your Savior" (which has been used for millenia) presumably mean something by the addition of the extra word. I just don't know what.
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Old 03-17-2004, 09:33 PM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
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Quote:
Don't you notice that you could leave out the word "personal" from your last post
Ever notice when some one get baptised or christened they often do it in person rather than getting someone else to do it for them That is because this is the ritual ceremony for accepting the fact the Jesus is your personal saviour. Your are christened in person you personally have to accept the fact that Jesus died for your personal sins I can't do this for you. do you understand personal...??? :wally
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  #9  
Old 03-17-2004, 09:47 PM
spingears spingears is offline
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Who Knows where..................

You won't find it any where in the whole bible from Genesis to Revelation. It is a more or less contempory thing than the accepted scriptural process of coming to a belief in the scriptures and Jesus as the Messiah or Redeemer, followed by public acknowledgement of same combined with repentance or turning away from a past sinful life. Then baptism or immersion in water for the remission or forgiveness of past sins and arising from the water to begin a new life as a Christian. The necessity of repentence flows from belief and a readiness to do all things that God has commanded. Hence immersion follows resulting in forgiveness of sins as set forth in the Gospels. You won't find any other way that complies with scripture!
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Old 03-17-2004, 10:22 PM
Alan Smithee Alan Smithee is offline
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My favorite professor in undergrad, who taught in the Religion department used to tell a story about leading a trip of students to Russia. They stayed in a Russian Orthodox convent during their visit. The Mother Superior met with the students and told them about their history, traditions, and theology. On student, who came from an evangelical background, had trouble understanding Orthodox theology (which is much more focused on the relationship of Christ to the Church--the whole body of believers), and finally asked, "Ok, but do you accept Jesus as your personal Savior?" The Mother Superior paused for a minute, not sure she understood the question. "Personal?" she asked. "You mean like a toothbrush?"
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  #11  
Old 03-17-2004, 10:39 PM
Atticus Finch Atticus Finch is offline
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12 Parsecs, relax. Noone is questioning your beliefs.

Quote:
Your are christened in person
As has been discussed, the phrase saviour has been around for millenia, and people were being baptised before the time of Jesus. Why does christening mean personal saviour?

Quote:
you personally have to accept the fact
Similarly, people always have to accept facts personally. This hasn't changed at any time, but the phrase "saviour" has changed to "personal saviour".

Quote:
Jesus died for your personal sins
Can't really respond to this without pushing this further into GD territory, but I also have a problem with the use of personal here. Wasn't Jesus supposed to have died for the sins of everyone?

What difference does it make whether you consider him to have saved "each person in the world" (each individual personally) or "every person in the world" (mankind)? I'm not being snarky here, just don't get it.

(Alan Smithee, that story's great. I am going to steal it and use it as my own.)
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  #12  
Old 03-17-2004, 11:40 PM
sunfish sunfish is offline
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12 parsecs, my question is indeed about the particular phrase "accepting Jesus as your personal saviour." As a veteran of 12 years of Catholic school and another 4 years at a Jesuit-run university, I can safely say that I have never heard that particular phrase used by any Catholic clergy. I have heard it from evangelical Christians, though, which is why I asked what I did in my OP.

Azazel, if it's mainly a Baptist tenet rather than one of the less common evangelical groups, maybe that helps to explain why I've heard it so often. TGWATY, that's an interesting point about perhaps drawing a contrast between (some) Protestant and Catholic perspectives on the relationship between God and the faithful.

Any Baptists about that can shed some more light?
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  #13  
Old 03-18-2004, 01:45 AM
Nametag Nametag is offline
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Heh; I remember that preacher/musician Keith Green hated this expression. At one time, he said "Do you think that Jesus Christ will return triumphant, riding a white horse, and written upon his thigh shall be 'King of kings, Lord of lords, and personal savior!'?"

The phrase is, incidentally, more common among Baptists than among other Protestant sects, but it's also used by the more evangelically inclined among all denominations. And yes, I'd guess that it is, consciously or unconsciously, a reaction against the intercessory doctrines of the Catholic church. A Protest, one might say.
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Old 03-18-2004, 02:21 AM
FriarTed FriarTed is offline
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I'd imagine the roots of the "personal Savior" emphasis, if not the phrase itself, goes back to the 18th-century American & British revivalists such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield & John Wesley, when they thought many people were relying on church membership or nominal family affiliation for salvation- the concept is certainly in the New Testament, however.
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  #15  
Old 03-18-2004, 02:30 AM
grimpixie grimpixie is offline
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I think the phrase arose as a reaction to the legacy of Christendom - where a citizen of a Christian country was assumed to be a member of the church/a Christian without any need for personal faith or belief, much like being born to a Jewish mother makes you Jewish. The Protestant movement emphasised/emphasises the need for each person to make a response to the death of Christ for themselves - the Baptist movement is most voiciferous in this regard, as the doctrine of adult/believer baptisim is so central to their doctrine. The longer established churches tend to emphsise faith as a community while the protestant (esp. the evangelical protestant churches) tend to emphasise personal faith first and community faith second.

Another way I have heard it expressed is "God has no grand-children", referring to the fact that your parent's faith has no bearing on your own salvation. Yet another saying goes "Living in a garage doesn't make you a car", which translates to "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian". All of which makes you wonder who thinks these things up

Grim
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  #16  
Old 03-18-2004, 08:14 AM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grimpixie
I think the phrase arose as a reaction to the legacy of Christendom - where a citizen of a Christian country was assumed to be a member of the church/a Christian without any need for personal faith or belief, much like being born to a Jewish mother makes you Jewish. The Protestant movement emphasised/emphasises the need for each person to make a response to the death of Christ for themselves - the Baptist movement is most voiciferous in this regard, as the doctrine of adult/believer baptisim is so central to their doctrine. The longer established churches tend to emphsise faith as a community while the protestant (esp. the evangelical protestant churches) tend to emphasise personal faith first and community faith second.
And linked with that, the concept of being "Born Again" as being an actual experience that happens at a point in time by direct interaction of the Spirit with the Believer, at which point you "become Saved" -- as opposed to the Baptism = just-the-start-of-a-whole-lifetime-process POV of many historic churches.

The "do you accept Jesus as your personal savior" usage does confuse some in that maybe it should be "do you personally accept Jesus as your savior", to convey the meaning that you really believe.
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Old 03-18-2004, 09:12 AM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
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Ok I can see were I have made a mistake and as I said I will apologise. So I will say I made a mistake. However I would like to point out that to be baptised as it says in the bible when you are baptised you must realise your salvation and repent your sins. A child likewise cannot be baptised only dedicated to the service of the lord. So in making the jump from saviour to personal saviour, I didn't see the exact problem. When I repent my personal sins it is a personal act between me and god. I didn't see how this could be complicated as it is not something that someelse can do for me. As in the case with infants who cannot be baptised only dedicated because they cannot realise their salvation nor repent their sins.


Quote:
Originally posted by lambchops
12 Parsecs, relax. Noone is questioning your beliefs.
Please feel free to question my beliefs, I don't believe half the nonsense that goes in the name of religion and will be quit pleased to see the day the funds from the liquidation of these blemishes on society help solve some important issues that we face. After spending 14 years at church RC and Anglican boarding schools I don't give hoot about religion though I had figured this as a simply to answer question rather than a debate over semantics.
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  #18  
Old 03-18-2004, 09:35 AM
crozell crozell is offline
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First, though possibly more common in the Baptist churches, the phrase certainly is in common usage among many protestants (especially those coming from evangelical traditions). grimpixie and JRDelirious have made good points. The phrase emphasizes the belief that a personal decision to trust in the work of Jesus for your salvation is necessary and this results in a personal relationship between you and God. That is to say, you have a personal reaction in your life to this decision, and you are able to communicate personally with God through prayer and the Bible. This is opposed to a "watchmaker" type theology where God set things in motion but is then uninvolved in the lives of individuals after this. It is also in tension with the need for any other person (e.g., a priest or the pope) as an intermediary and the necessity of the sacraments. Being a comitted Christian, I personally don't like this phrase as I think it tries to tug at emotions rather than convey information about what we believe. It just reminds my of the types of buzzwords that come out of the business consulting world that often don't have any real meaning.

TGWATY , you seemed to be hinting that Protestants may be misunderstanding of the position of the Catholic church. Quickly Googling, I found this walkthrough of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which specifically discusses the necessity of the sacraments of baptism and confession, and also of the RC priest as mediator. Am I misunderstanding the RC position on the necessity of these things?
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Old 03-18-2004, 09:42 AM
FordPrefect FordPrefect is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Azazel
In keeping with the factual nature of this forum, let me throw in that I've heard that phrase almost exclusively from members of the Baptist Church; evangelicals from other Xtian groups rarely use it.
It has been my experience, growing up in and around Anabaptist Evangelicals, that "personal saviour" has become a tired and much overused cliche. Sadly enough the AEs around me are most YEC Fundies. They also tend to dislike the term fundamentalist immensely, but insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis. Go figure.
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Old 03-18-2004, 10:11 AM
Dogface Dogface is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12 parsecs from home
When I repent my personal sins it is a personal act between me and god. I didn't see how this could be complicated as it is not something that someelse can do for me.

Where, specifically in Scripture does it say the term "accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior", word for word, exactly? If not there, then when and where was the specific turn of phrase invented. Please answer this direct question.
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  #21  
Old 03-18-2004, 10:12 AM
beajerry beajerry is offline
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I've already saved myself.

Boooyah, Jesus! I beat ya to it!
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  #22  
Old 03-18-2004, 10:30 AM
crozell crozell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogface
Where, specifically in Scripture does it say the term "accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior", word for word, exactly? If not there, then when and where was the specific turn of phrase invented. Please answer this direct question.
As others have mentioned, the phrase is not "word for word" in Scripture. It is an interpretation of the meaning of the Scripture as a whole by one particular group of Christians. We often accept things that are not stated word for word but rather implied...the first example that pops to my mind is flag burning. The U.S. constitution doesn't specifically address that, but an interpretation of the constitution has deemed this to be covered under free speech.

The OP asked about the churches using this phrase and why they place an emphasis on the "personal" aspect. Several of us have tried to address that. The OP also asked about using "Christ" in place of "Jesus" in the phrase and no one has addressed that (I've never heard it that way).

I'm sorry if I seem snippy Dogface , but your post seemed to insinuate that we were avoiding the question. I just wanted to point out that the etymology of the phrase was not what was asked. I don't know anything about that. Does anyone else?
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Old 03-18-2004, 10:32 AM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is online now
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Just a side note - I've been a Christian for many years, but have never regularly attended a Baptist church (though I do attend a weekly Bible study taught by a Baptist preacher). Over the years I have regularly attended, at different times, Methodist, Calvary Chapel, Foursquare, Nazarene and Free Methodist churches. I've heard the term "personal Savior" in all of them.
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  #24  
Old 03-18-2004, 10:37 AM
APB APB is offline
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The phrase is presumably an adaptation from the very precise theological concept of 'personal salvation'. At its simplest, 'personal salvation' just means your own salvation, as opposed to anyone else's. It was mainly used by Protestant theologians in the context of discussions about the fear that one can believe completely that Jesus has saved Mankind and yet still be uncertain that you in particular are saved. This is one of the well-known side-effects of a belief in predestination, which is why some Protestants, following Calvin, argue that those who have been saved know that they have. This has fed directly into Protestant fundamentalists' ideas about conversion experiences - the proof that you have been converted is your certainty that you have been saved. From there, the idea that Jesus is your 'personal' Saviour seems a simple step.

None of this means that the phrase may not now be used mainly as a cliché, as FordPrefect suggests.
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  #25  
Old 03-18-2004, 10:38 AM
GawnFishin' GawnFishin' is offline
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Dogface while the OP does not specifically ask where in the bible is the phrase "accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior" the only questions in the OP are...
Quote:
I've seen this phrase plenty of times before, and I always assumed it was a born-again Christian thing, but now I'm curious to know more. Is the idea of accepting Jesus as your "personal Saviour" characteristic of a particular church or churches? Why the emphasis on personal salvation? And come to think of it, I don't believe I've ever seen this phrased as "accepting Christ as your personal Saviour" - any special reason for that, or did I just miss seeing that example?
and when asked in combination like that I assumed this was a question of interpretation and as I stated I would admit when I was wrong and I have admited that I was wrong in my interpretation of the OP.

Now my interpreting the OP to ask "When did baptism become a personal matter?" then my answer is the day the first person accepted the Holy Spirit and I don't see how this could possibly be wrong because I must accept the responsibility it is mine to bear no one else can accept salvation for me it is a personal thing.
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Old 03-18-2004, 11:45 AM
LemonThrower LemonThrower is offline
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my Methodist church is hardly evangelical but the members talk about their personal relationship with Christ. I was raised Catholic and this seems to be a difference in emphasis between Protestants and Catholics. Catholics seem to emphasize obligation, suffering, etc. while Protestants seem to emphasize salvation. Just my humble perspective. I do agree that personal means that one personally accepts Jesus, not that he is personal like a toothbrush.

As for baptism, that could be an entire thread by itself but I will note that Catholic catechism requires baptism of infants, and confirmation is a subsequent sacrement obtained around age 13. So one can say baptism is not required is the wrong term in a particular religion for an infant because its not capable of understanding, but that statement is not correct for ALL Christians. In fact, baptism of infants is common in my Methodist church.

I too suspect the emphasis on one's personal relationship stemmed from John Wesely and other 19th century revivalists.
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Old 03-18-2004, 11:54 AM
sunfish sunfish is offline
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Thanks to everyone who has touched on the personal salvation concept - I think that pretty much covers what I was asking about originally. I freely admit that most of my conversations about the particulars of any one religion have been with non-Christians mostly, so I appreciate having aspects of Protestantism explained to me. (Not interested in picking up a new religion, though, so no one should feel the need to witness. )

The one question left unanswered so far is whether the alternate phrase "accepting Christ as your personal saviour" is ever used. If not, why not?
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Old 03-18-2004, 09:03 PM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crozell
TGWATY , you seemed to be hinting that Protestants may be misunderstanding of the position of the Catholic church. Quickly Googling, I found this walkthrough of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which specifically discusses the necessity of the sacraments of baptism and confession, and also of the RC priest as mediator. Am I misunderstanding the RC position on the necessity of these things?
Oh, they are necessary, but the thing is, they do not totally negate individual salvation, or a personal relation with God. Conversely, in Protestantism individual salvation does not absolutely negate that the collective of the believers constitutes the mystical Body of Christ on Earth, the Church, through which in fellowship with other believers you find yourself closer to God. It's more a question of emphasis.

(and in Catholicism, if some force majeure circumstance makes it impossible to access the sacramental rites, for instance, you can still have your sins dealt with through a so-called Act of Perfect Contrition -- you really, REALLY, TRULY repent and turn to Jesus -- with the proviso that if you manage to get out of it alive, you should head for a proper Church and get back into formal good standing. In dire life-or-death emergencies, any Catholic layperson may baptize someone.)

What has happened, historically and repeatedly, has been that at layman's level things tend to degenerate into a sort of presumption that you are OK with God for the mere fact that you were born/raised as a member of the Right Church in a Right-Church-Believing society (Catholic, Orthodox, CoE, or whatever your "faith of our fathers" version of Xtianity was) and that it was just a matter of going through the proper formal rites. Protestantism has been vulnerable to this, too. This vision has to be periodically shaken up.
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Old 03-18-2004, 10:32 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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I did a small amount of digging.

I went to the Project Gutenberg website and found 4 books under the topic of "Christianity" that are in the public domain.

I downloaded 3 of them (skipping "To Infidelity and Back" by Henry Luce) and searched for the word, "Personal". I did not locate the phrase "Personal Savior", but I did come across the following quotes. I bolded the relevant parts.

"THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU"
CHRISTIANITY NOT AS A MYSTIC RELIGION
BUT AS A NEW THEORY OF LIFE

TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN OF COUNT LEO TOLSTOI
BY CONSTANCE GARNETT
New York, 1894

I had anticipated that freethinking writers would look at Christ, not merely, like the Churchmen, as
the founder of a religion of personal salvation, but, to express it in their language, as a reformer who laid down new principles of life and destroyed the old, and whose reforms are not yet complete, but are still in progress even now.

----
Transcribed from the 1913 A. C. Fifield edition by David Price, email xxx

THE FAIR HAVEN
A Work in Defence of the Miraculous Element in our Lord's Ministry upon Earth, both as against Rationalistic Impugners and certain Orthodox Defenders, by the late John Pickard Owen, with a Memoir of the Author by William Bickersteth Owen.


I regret to pass so quickly over one great field of evidence which in justice to myself I must allude to, though I cannot dwell upon it, for in the outset I declared that I would confine myself to the historical evidence, and to this only. I refer to spiritual insight; to the testimony borne by the souls of living persons, who from personal experience KNOW that their Redeemer liveth, and that though worms destroy this body, yet in their flesh shall they see God. How many thousands are there in the world at this moment, who have known Christ as a personal friend and comforter, and who can testify to the work which He has wrought upon them!

----
THE PROFITS OF RELIGION
An Essay in Economic Interpretation
By UPTON SINCLAIR

It is still permitted that parents should terrify their little ones with images of a personal devil and a hell of eternal brimstone and sulphur; it is permitted to found schools for the teaching of devil-doctrines; it is permitted to organize gigantic campaigns and systematically to infect whole cities full of men, women and children with hell-fire phobias.
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Old 03-18-2004, 10:40 PM
samclem samclem is online now
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I can find newspaper cites from about 1870 for "Jesus Christ your personal Saviour." This seems to be when that phrase became popular. Not much before that, although I can find "personal saviour" used in scholarly religious articles.
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Old 03-18-2004, 10:55 PM
samclem samclem is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunfish
The one question left unanswered so far is whether the alternate phrase "accepting Christ as your personal saviour" is ever used. If not, why not?
New York Herald, 1870.
Quote:
The reverend speaker earnestly exhorted his hearers to accept Christ as thier personal Saviour, and closed by saying....
A story about various churches in NYC at that time. The quote came from a sermon at Calvary Baptist Church.
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Old 03-19-2004, 02:57 AM
grimpixie grimpixie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunfish
The one question left unanswered so far is whether the alternate phrase "accepting Christ as your personal saviour" is ever used. If not, why not?
Jesus was his name, while Christ is a title - the greek equivalent of the hebrew word for "Messiah" (annointed one). Many of the same protestant denominations that use the phrase also emphasise the development of a relationship with Jesus as being key, so using his first/given name would be more appropriate than his "job title".

Grim
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Old 03-19-2004, 09:11 AM
Götterfunken Götterfunken is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogface
Where, specifically in Scripture does it say the term "accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior", word for word, exactly? If not there, then when and where was the specific turn of phrase invented. Please answer this direct question.
It doesn't. The most common Bible verse that I hear evangelicals cite is John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life"). The idea seems to be if you really get that line, you've accepted Jesus as your personal savior.

I'm not sure when that verse was first interpreted in terms of "accepting Jesus as your personal savior." I've been told that I, as a Catholic, haven't been "saved" because I apparently haven't had a monumental, life-changing experience in which I accepted Jesus into my heart--that phrasing reminds me of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, who credited his salvation to a "warming of the heart" that he felt in 1738.

However, the concept could very well predate Wesley.
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