That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Acceptance or Forgiveness?

In my perusings of various blogs, websites, books, and online articles, I keep coming across this idea that God accepts sinners.  There's something about that idea that just doesn't sit right with me.  First of all, it's not in the Bible anywhere, but I'll try to explain a bit more.  I could be way off here, so if anyone else reading this has any thoughts feel free to comment.

Have you ever heard this quote?
"God accepts you the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you there."
What about this one?
"Jesus loves you just the way you are."
There is truth in these statements which I will not argue.  One does not need to work at changing his or her life in order to receive salvation. My problem is this.  These statements, and a lot of what I've been reading seem to be saying that God "accepts" sinners and sin.  This is not biblical.  

I did an online Bible search of the word "accept", and it is in the Bible many times.  I think it's important when we make statements about God, that we choose our words carefully, and that we choose Scriptural terms, analogies, and definitions.  Otherwise, confusion will abound.  I don't mean to imply that everyone who uses the statements I mentioned before is wrong, or that they are trying to say that God is accepting sin.  What I am saying is that we need to be careful how we say things, so that we are not misunderstood.  I believe that statements like these leave the door open to misinterpreting what God really accepts.

Like I said, I could be way off here.  My theology could be totally messed up. I've been to Bible college, but I wouldn't classify myself as a "scholar."  When it comes to exegesis and hermeneutics I'm no expert.  I have zero understanding of Greek and Hebrew.  However, I can read the Bible.  I can understand it.  Because I'm saved, I have the Holy Spirit who also gives understanding.  Here's what my Bible study has shown me about who and what God accepts.

1. In the Old Testament, acceptance by God is often mentioned in the context of sacrifices and offerings.  There were requirements to being accepted. It wasn't just a "come as you are" deal. Obedience to God's law is what God accepted.
Genesis 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
Leviticus 22:21 And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein.
Isaiah 56:7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
Ezekiel 43:27 And when these days are expired, it shall be, that upon the eighth day, and so forward, the priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you, saith the Lord GOD.

2. There is something more acceptable to God than sacrifice.
Proverbs 21:3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

3.  There are some things that God does NOT accept. Sin.
Jeremiah 14:10 Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
Amos 5:22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.
First we see that God accepts the sacrifices of His people, but now He is rejecting them.  Why? In Amos 5 we find that Israel has wandered far away from God.  They are no longer living for Him. They are worshipping idols. They are rebelling against Him. They don't even care about God!  Because Israel has stopped seeking God, He refuses to accept their sacrifices. 

4.  In the New Testament, it is the believer that is acceptable to God.
Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 

5.  Acceptance by God is often requires doing something.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
II Corinthians 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.
I Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 

This makes it IMPOSSIBLE for an unbeliever to be accepted by God because we know there is no work a man can do to save himself (Eph. 2:8-9).  Therefore, to be accepted by God one must already be a believer!  The context of all these passages makes it abundantly clear that they are addressed to those who are already saved.  They are speaking about good works that are a result of salvation. God loves sinners: John 3:16.  God is not willing that sinners perish: II Peter 3:9.  God forgives sinners: Colossians 2:13.  God calls sinners to repentance: Matthew 9:13. God even sent His Son to die for sinners: Romans 5:8.  God DOES NOT accept sinners. God accepts sinners who have been FORGIVEN and who are saved!  Praise the Lord, not for His acceptance, but for His forgiveness, mercy, and grace, that takes away my sin.

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