In the first place, Scripture clearly teaches us that neither
we nor our services are acceptable to God. To the most religious people
in the world at that time God said: Bring no more vain oblations; incense
is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of
by John M. Brentnall
One of the most widespread but dangerous falsehoods held in the churches
today is the notion that God accepts us all just as we are. It would
great truth if this meant that He accepts us when by grace we come to
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me"
But in fact it means that there is such 'a wideness in God's mercy'
no-one at all need think that God rejects him. Stated bluntly, we may
idolaters, blasphemers, swearers, Sabbath-breakers, liars, thieves,
murderers, fornicators, slanderers, gossips, proud, unbelieving and
pagans, but God welcomes us all. No faith is required of us except
believe this, and no repentance is called for except shallow apologies
The truth, we know, is far otherwise. Holy Scripture is not slow to
in the strongest terms that God both rejects us as we are by nature
gives us adequate reasons for so doing. We would be foolish to ignore
it says on the matter.
In the first place, Scripture clearly teaches us that neither we nor
services are acceptable to God. To the most religious people in the
at that time God said: Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an
abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies.
I cannot away with [i.e. I cannot accept]; it is iniquity, even the
meeting.' (Isa 1.13). Of Cain, who offered Him the best of his produce,
said: 'But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.' (Gen
If neither Cain nor the Jews were acceptable to Him, what hope is there
the rest of us? Indeed, Romans 3.10-18, following Psalms 14 and 53
especially, expressly condemns us all without exception as unacceptable
God. In view of such a unilateral rejection, it is amazing that anyone
should continue to cling to the false notion of universal acceptance.
Then again, God gives us good reasons why He rejects us as we are.
mention only two:
(1) It is inconsistent with His infinite holiness to accept us into
presence and favour just as we are. Because He takes no pleasure in
wickedness, evil cannot dwell with Him. The foolish shall not stand
sight. The throne of iniquity [i.e. wherever moral perversity reigns,
does in us all] can have no fellowship with Him. Even the ploughing
wicked is sin in His holy sight, and even the prayer of the wicked
abomination to Him. What a culpable misrepresentation of God it is
imagine that those who live in sin, whether gross or refined, can be
admitted into His presence! Thomas Watson the Puritan speaks of those
vainly think they can 'leap out of Delilah's lap into Abraham's bosom.'
two whose moral natures are so diametrically opposed as God's and ours
possibly be at peace with each other? When God is good and does nothing
good, and we are evil and do nothing but evil, can we wonder that God
rejects us as we are by nature?
(2) He expressly informs us that only those who receive Christ are
by Him. 'But as many as received Him, to them gave He power [or
entitlement] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on
name.' (John 1.12). Alexander Comrie explains that this receiving involves
Christ being set forth in the preaching of the Gospel and being received
the great object of faith. This receiving, he continues, includes our
assent to God's invitation to believe on Him, our heartfelt willingness
take Him, the opening of our spiritual hand to let go all other supports
for salvation and our embracing Christ when we perceive that we need
more and can be satisfied with no less than Himself. This truth is
confirmed in the testimony:
'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth
not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.'
3.36). Comments George Hutcheson: "It is the prerogative of Christ
all others . . that He is the object of saving faith." We do not
the excellence and fulness of Christ, he continues, till we are drawn
of ourselves and brought to close with Him by faith. All who refuse
this are "eternally secluded" [the old word for 'excluded'
or kept back]
from God's presence and company. God's rejection of all 'outside Christ'
could hardly be more forcefully stated. The awful consequence of this
that "unless God's rejection of us is turned into acceptance we
lost for ever." (J.I.Packer).
A Biblical phrase that expresses the glorious truth that God's rejection
has been turned into acceptance is the term 'accepted in the Beloved.'
1.6). Let Calvin clarify its meaning: "We were not in God's favour
were in Jesus Christ . . . We are shut up in the bondage of death till
are ransomed by our Lord Jesus Christ . . . The register in which we
enrolled is our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Jesus Christ is the mirror
God beholds us when He wishes to find us acceptable to Himself." In
it is not by ignoring our sin, nor by accepting us on the grounds of
apology for it, but by condemning it in His dearly-beloved Son and
believers to Him in that condemnation, that God accepts anyone.
Let us consider this. By a unique, transcendent agreement between the
persons of the Godhead, God sent and dealt with His Son in our nature
He, and not us, had been rejected. But how could He do this justly
Christ was the object of His infinite, eternal and unchangeable love
delight? By His Son consenting to be the Substitute for us who deserve
eternal rejection and by making His soul [and body] the offering for
people's sin. The Fourth Servant Song of Isaiah (52.13-53.12) is packed
with details of this glorious transaction: 'Surely He hath borne our
griefs, and carried our sorrows... He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was
Him, and with His stripes we are healed... and the Lord hath laid on
the iniquity of us all... for the transgression of my people was He
stricken. . . He shall bear their iniquities. . . He bare the sin of
Only by putting His people 'in Christ' [that is, says Charles Hodge, "in
Christ as their head and representative"] could He possibly accept
for He, and not they, gave satisfaction to God's offended holiness
justice. As the one great propitiation provided by God Christ was accepted
and justified by Him as the only Redeemer of God's elect, according
Messianic Third Servant Song in Isaiah 50.7-9. How wonderful that the
sentence of God's holy justice against us for breaking His holy law
be willingly borne for us by Him! (Gal 3.13). As Luther says, by having
sins reckoned to His account, Christ became the greatest transgressor
world has ever seen. It is as if God said to His dear Son: "Be thou
the denier, Paul the persecutor, David the adulterer. . . see that
and satisfy for them." And so the law, finding Christ a sinner by
imputation [not by inherent moral pollution] set upon Christ and slew
because the wages it doles out to sin is death. All therefore who are
Christ' suffered in Him and died with Him. The same glorious truth
out again in 2 Corinthians 5.21- 'For He [God] bath made Him [Christ]
sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness
in Him.' As Richard Hooker said long ago: "Man has sinned and God
suffered God has been made the sin of man and man is made the
righteousness of God." Thus not only are believers sins [or their
nonconformity and disobedience to the law of God] imputed to Christ,
Sinless One; but also His righteousness [or spotless obedience to the
entire law of God] is imputed to them. In this wonderful way God shows
just how far His love and justice are prepared to go in order to glorify
Himself in the salvation of His people. "It was DAMNATION," cried
Duncan, "and He took it LOVINGLY!"
Yet a vital question still remains. How may we, whom God naturally
be accepted by Him? Let Luther answer: "Dear brother," he writes
friend George Spalatin, "learn Christ and Him crucified. Praise
His name, and despairing of self say to Him, 'Thou, Lord Jesus, art
righteousness, but I am thy sin. Thou hast taken what is mine, and
what is thine. Thou hast assumed that which thou wast not, and given
what I had not."' This is the great exchange that brought so much
peace in believing to so many millions at the Reformation - joy in
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. More concisely still,
directs: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,
thy house.' (Acts 16.31). When we go to God in an accepted Christ,
are accepted in Him.
True believers may [and should] be sure of their acceptance with God.
Isaiah himself voices this assurance when he prays: 'O Lord, I will
thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and
comfortedst me.' (Isa 12.1). We can say this, not because God has
overlooked our sin [how could He?], nor because He has declared a general
amnesty to our rebellious race, but because He has judged it to His
satisfaction when Christ our Surety-Substitute took on Himself all
legal debts and paid them off in our place. A godly woman on her death-bed
in Scotland understood this. When asked what was her hope for eternity
replied: "The justice of God." Along with Toplady she could
From whence this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that load of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?
If Thou my pardon hast secured
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand
First from my bleeding Surety's hand
And then again from mine.
And so, when we draw near to God with true faith in the precious blood
Christ [the Biblical way of summarizing His whole work as a propitiatory
and expiatory sacrifice] we may be sure that our sin has been judged
our persons accepted. This is how those who fully deserve to be
God are fully accepted by Him.
John M. Brentnall
[Author's Note: I am grateful for material taken from Volume One
J.I.Packer's Collected Shorter Writings for the idea behind
quotations used in this article.]
Peace and Truth, 2002:4 The Magazine of the Sovereign Grace