means being received with approval or pleasure. In the Bible, things or persons are often said to be acceptable to men or to God. Human acceptance (or rejection) of other humans is affected by many things such as race, class, clan, sex, actions of the individual, prejudice, etc. On a human level Jesus shows us that all human beings are to be accepted, to be loved for their own sake, simply because they are persons created in the image of the loving Father (Genesis 1:26-27;
Genesis 5:43-48). Human acceptance shows love and is certainly important, but divine acceptance is more important.
Above all, sin keeps a person from being acceptable to God (Genesis 4:7;
Isaiah 59:2). From earliest days sacrifices were offered to God in an attempt to make the worshiper acceptable to Him. Later, the law revealed more clearly what one needed to do to be acceptable to God. This included ethical actions (Ten Commandments) as well as sacrifices (Leviticus). Israel succumbed to the temptation of separating sacrifice from ethical action, so the great prophets again and again hammered home the truth that no sacrifice is acceptable if it is divorced from just treatment of others (Isaiah 1:10-17;
Amos 5:21-24). Micah summed up the terms of acceptance in
Amos 6:6-8, “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” The proper attitude of humility is as important as right action (Psalms 51:16-17;
1 Peter 5:5-6).
Jesus summarized the law and the prophets in the two great commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) and held them up as the requirements for eternal life (Luke 10:25-28). Paul saw that the law serves two purposes. (1) It makes known God's requirements, thus revealing human sinfulness (Romans 3:20). (2) The moral law as a true expression of God's will remains a goal or guide, even though one no longer thinks God's acceptance is won by the law. The New Testament proclaims that Jesus has done what is necessary to make one acceptable to God. At the beginning of His ministry Jesus announced that His mission included proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, the time of salvation (Luke 4:19). Jesus revealed the will of God clearer than ever before (Hebrews 1:1-2); He destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8); but above all He put away sin “by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Paul wrote of acceptance before God mainly as justification. People are made acceptable to God because the just requirements of the law have been met by the sacrifice of Jesus (Romans 3:21-26,
Romans 8:3-5). The Book of Hebrews presents Jesus as the true High Priest who offers the perfect sacrifice that effectively cleanses or covers sin so that it is no longer a barrier to acceptance by God (Hebrews 9:11-14,Hebrews 9:26). Both Paul and Hebrews taught that for acceptance by God to be effective, one must believe—accept the offer of acceptance from God in Christ and commit oneself to following the way of Jesus, confessing Him as Lord. See Justification; Atonement; Love.