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Acceptance & Approval

For he who serves Christ in these things
is acceptable to God and approved by men.
Romans 14:18

Acceptance means "receive or treat with favor" while approval means "proven"; tried and true, fulfilling some agreed requirements or set standards.

God loves and accepts sinners but He does not love nor approve sins. A person is fully accepted by the grace and mercy of the covenant love of God through faith and repentance. God accepts us because He approves the work Jesus did on the Cross.

Like our earthly father, God our Father accepts us as His sons but it does not mean that He approves everything that we do thereafter. He accepts us as a person but our personality, with all its waywardness, needs to be work on, be perfected and approved.

Let’s say God is a Chief Architect. He appoints one of His sons as a junior architect. That’s acceptance of the person. But whether the works that the junior architect does will be approved are dependent on whether they (the works) meet the set requirements. The person is being accepted but his works need to be approved.

Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Cor 3:12-15

To be accepted by God, we need to be saved and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. This is salvation. But for our works or offerings to be approved by God, we need to walk worthy of the calling with which we were called (Eph 4:1) – to be a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). This is sanctification. Between calling and commissioning is consecration.

Throughout the Bible, how God approves individuals is indicated by whether their offerings and sacrifices are or not accepted by Him (Gen. 4:3-7; Job 42:8-9). Offerings and sacrifices are acceptable to God when they are made as prescribed by Him (Lev. 1:4; 22:27). But they are unacceptable when God's instructions are ignored (Lev. 7:18; 19:7; 22:23-25). However, they were absolutely rejected when the attitude of one's heart was wayward or irreverent (Amos 5:22; Jer. 14:10; Mal. 1:8,10). Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross is both acceptable and approved by God.

Let’s hear what some of the writers of the New Testament have to say about acceptance and approval:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Rom 14:16-19

Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Rom 15:15-16

Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. 2 Cor 13:7-8

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. Eph 5:8-12

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Phil 4:18

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 1Thes 2:4

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim 2:1-4

But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. 1 Tim 5:4

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Pet 2:4-5

Source: Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary