Do We “Accept” or “Receive” the Word?


Unfounded Claims

Sometimes well-meaning Christians make claims which simply are not accurate. Their intentions are good, but their conclusions are based on their own reasoning rather than the Bible.

I have heard many say that it is wrong to use the word accept when speaking of salvation. Rather, they say, we must use the word receive.

Their thinking is that the word accept places too much emphasis on man, while receive keeps all the focus on God. This is admirable, but it is not biblical.

In fact, Jesus made quite the opposite distinction.

The Parable of the Sower

In explaining the soils from his parable of the sower, Jesus said the following:

“And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.” (Mark 4:16–17, ESV)

These are those who seemed to believe but were not sincere. John wrote of the same group, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19, ESV).

Further down in the passage, Jesus continued with the following:

“But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20, ESV)

These are the true believers.

The Words Used

Did you catch what Jesus said about these two groups? The false believers “received” the word. But the true believers “accepted” it.

The Greek word translated “receive” means to obtain or acquire. Depending on the context, this acquisition can be either active or passive, but the word does not in itself imply either.

On the other hand, the Greek word translated “accept” means to actively take up or admit. It carries the connotation of welcoming and delighting in that which is accepted.

Let me illustrate this difference with an example.

A Wedding Invitation

Weddings were another one of Jesus’ favorite illustrations, so I think it is appropriate to use one as an example here.

Say you received an invitation to a wedding. It came to you in your mailbox or via email, or perhaps it was handed to you.

Either way, this was a passive reception. You did not choose to receive it, it just came to you, and you could not have prevented it from coming to you.

Different Receptions

Some people, having no interest in attending this wedding, would immediately reject the invitation they received.

Others would receive their invitation with joy, thrilled to have been invited. For a while, they would act as if they were coming, perhaps even bragging to their friends about being included. Yet having made no firm commitment to attend, they would end up deciding that the wedding would be too much trouble.

A third group would conclude that other things were more important than attending the wedding. Thus they would also reject the invitation they had received.

But a final group would actually accept their invitation and attend the wedding.

This is an active acceptance. They chose to accept what they received.

Biblical Application

Likewise, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people” (Titus 2:11, ESV). Everyone has received God’s salvation. God is “the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10, ESV).

But those who hear the word must actively accept God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). It is not enough to passively receive it.

“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:29, ESV)

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6, NASB)

What Do You Think?

Have you heard such distinctions being made before? Were they used correctly?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends.