Unbiblical Statement: The Acceptance of God

We often hear this statement: God accepts us for who we are, or we can come to God wherever we are. Do you hear this often? Do you hear this being mentioned on the pulpit? It sounds like true that God will accept us for who we are but I would like to dissect this statement further. My thesis for this post is that GOD DOES NOT ACCEPT US FOR WHO WE ARE (cap is for emphasis). People will be shocked to hear this statement: does this mean that we have to do something before God can accept us? My answer for this is yes. So let me start my argument.

So, let's start from where we are. This "where we are" is actually a more loaded term than a lot of us realise. Depending whether you are a believer or not, your positioning can be quite different. Starting off from the view of an unbeliever, we will examine his position. I will go back to the book of Romans. Regardless which perspective you take on, a normal reading of Romans 1:18 to 3:20 will reveal that Paul is actually talking about the need for the gospel. His argument, without going too much into details, goes like this:

1. God's wrath is revealed to people who suppress the knowledge of God and hence exchange God for idolatry and lies. This group of people generally refer to the pagans, or people who engage in idol worship.
2. Being a Jew does not give them any advantage even if you are faithful to the law. And even if you are moral Gentile who tries to do good, it does not make you justified before God as well.
3. Circumcision and the possession of the law does not make the Jews any better.
4. Therefore no one is righteous (bearing in mind here for the modern reader, that Paul more or less covers the different categories of people in his days) and hence all are under sin.
5. Therefore, we are screwed.

The key thing one should realise here is that no matter who you are and what you do, you are really screwed. Can you be declared innocent before God's eyes? Paul's answer in Romans up to 3:20 is an emphatic NO. There is nothing one can do in this world to stand justified before God. And hence Paul wrote:

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.

And because no matter who you are and what you do, God will never declare you righteous, then based on the Scripture, one really has no ground in claiming to any unbelievers that God will accept us for who we are. If God can accept us for who we are, then the implication is that God can accept the sinner for who he is. This is a faulty or rather, incomplete line of thought.

The more accurate or complete line of thought to anyone is that God accepts us for who we are through Christ Jesus. This is Paul's position in Romans, that righteousness (which is the declaration of innocence before the court of God) is being given through faith in Christ and all are justified freely if we have faith in Him. This goes to mean that God can only accept us once we are innocent before His sight and this innocence is not achieved by us but through the grace given in the form of Jesus Christ.

The implication is this: if we claim that God accepts us for who we are, we need to ask if we are asking the listener to think that he can just approach God like that without bringing in Jesus Christ into the picture. Are we spreading wrong theology to the people? This means that in our outreach, Christ needs to be at the center of our message, not this kind of 'feel-good' statements. God cannot accept us if we are still sinners but he accepts saints into His family - that is a fact.

That being said, let me just put in one more caveat. It is undoubtedly that in view of this, one may go to another extreme and starts talking about God accepting us through our deeds, which is not supported by the Scripture in general. Even verses talking about faith and deeds can be mitigated. But this is not my intention. It is clear that a message like "God accepts us for who we are" can be preached in a setting where everyone is a Christ follower, and in such settings, this makes sense, as through Christ, Christ can accept us regardless how 'cui' we are (how weak or 'shattered' we are) and we do not need to feel pressurised to do anything in order to gain the love of God. But yet, the Scripture also exhorts us to be mature and complete and to show our faith with deeds.

So, acceptance is perhaps a misunderstood term if one really believes that God accepts us for who we are. At the end of the day, there is one thing to do if we yearn for his acceptance. And the good news is that it is easy and does not cost us anything though it costs God everything.


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