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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

The noun itself is not found in the Authorized Versionof the NT, though we come very near it in ‘acceptation’ (ἀποδοχή),  1 Timothy 1:15;  1 Timothy 4:9. Instances of the verb and adjective are frequent, and are mostly equivalents of δέχομαι and its derivatives, as the following list shows: δέχομαι,  2 Corinthians 6:1;  2 Corinthians 8:17;  2 Corinthians 11:4; δεκτός,  Philippians 4:18; ἀπόδεκτος,  1 Timothy 2:3;  1 Timothy 5:4; προσδέχομαι,  Hebrews 11:35; εὐπρόσδεκτος,  Romans 15:16;  Romans 15:31,  2 Corinthians 6:2;  2 Corinthians 8:12,  1 Peter 2:5. We also find λαυβάνω,  Galatians 2:6; εὐάρεστος*[Note: On the use of these words in inscriptions see A. Deissmann, Bible Studies, 214f. The use of ἀρεστός, ‘pleasing,’ and the verb ἀρέσκω in the NT should also be noted.] Romans 12:1-2;  Romans 14:18,  2 Corinthians 5:9,  Ephesians 5:10,  Philippians 4:13,  Colossians 3:20,  Titus 2:9,  Hebrews 13:21, and εὐαρέστως.*[Note: On the use of these words in inscriptions see A. Deissmann, Bible Studies, 214f. The use of ἀρεστός, ‘pleasing,’ and the verb ἀρέσκω in the NT should also be noted.] Hebrews 12:28; χάρις  1 Peter 2:20; and χαριτόω,  Ephesians 1:6. It should be noticed that in the Revised Versionthe adjective ‘well-pleasing’ often takes the place of the Authorized Version‘acceptable’; and that in  Ephesians 1:6 the familiar expression ‘(his grace) wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved’ gives place to the more correct ‘which he freely bestowed upon us,’ etc. See the commentaries of Westcott and Armitage Robinson, in loc.

 2 Corinthians 8:17 (Titus ‘accepted the exhortation’) and  Hebrews 11:35 (‘not accepting deliverance’) do not call for comment. With  2 Corinthians 11:4 on the non-acceptance of another gospel than that of Paul, compare  1 Timothy 1:3;  1 Timothy 4:1,  2 Timothy 1:10;  2 Timothy 4:10; see also for the ‘accepted time’ (the day of opportunity for accepting the Divine message)  2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (cf.  Luke 4:19). In  Romans 15:31 St. Paul hopes that the collection for the Jerusalem poor may be acceptable to the saints; and, referring to the same project in  2 Corinthians 8:12, lays down the principle that contributions are acceptable in proportion to the willingness with which they are given.

We are now left with the passages which speak of God’s acceptance of man. Christians are ‘children of light,’ are to ‘prove what is acceptable (or well-pleasing) to the Lord’ ( Ephesians 5:10; cf.  Colossians 3:20), to test and discern the Lord’s will ( Romans 12:2). They are ‘to make it their aim,’ whether living or dying, ‘to be well-pleasing to him’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:9).

What then are the principles and practices that ensure this happy consummation? We may first notice the familiar negative proposition set forth in  Galatians 2:6 and  Acts 10:34 ‘God accepteth no man’s person’ ( i.e. the mere outward state and presence); and over against it the comprehensive declaration of  Acts 10:35 ‘In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is acceptable to him.’ This furnishes a starting-point for a detailed enumeration of the courses which are ‘well-pleasing’ to God, and which may be set forth as follows: the offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice ( Romans 12:2); the serving of Christ by not putting stumbling-blocks before weaker brethren ( Romans 14:18); missionary work-the ‘offering up’ of the Gentiles ( Romans 15:16); the gift of the Philippian Church Co St. Paul in prison ( Philippians 4:18; cf.  Matthew 25:31-46); filial affection to a widowed mother ( 1 Timothy 5:4); supplication and intercession for all men ( 1 Timothy 2:3); undeserved suffering patiently endured ( 1 Peter 2:20). All these may be looked upon as examples of the ‘spiritual sacrifices’ ( 1 Peter 2:5), the offering of ‘service with reverence and awe’ ( Hebrews 12:28; cf.  Hebrews 13:16), which are ‘acceptable’ to God. He it is who ‘works in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ’ ( Hebrews 13:21).

It is interesting and instructive to compare the grounds of ‘acceptance’ in the circle of OT thought with those in the, NT. In the former these grounds, are partly ceremonial ( Leviticus 22:20), and partly ethical ( Isaiah 1:12-15,  Jeremiah 6:20 etc.), though here and there a higher note is struck (cf.  Proverbs 21:3,  Micah 6:8,  Deuteronomy 10:4); in the latter the ceremonial association has entirely vanished except in a metaphorical sense, and become purely ethico-spiritual, as the above references prove. It was largely due to the prophets that the old ceremonial ground was gradually ethicized; and, though it never died out under the earlier ‘dispensation’ (which, indeed, reached its most rigid and mechanical development in the degenerate Pharisaic cult of NT times), the way was effectually prepared for the full proclamation of the spiritual message of the gospel by Jesus, who was Himself the perfect embodiment of all that was acceptable and well-pleasing to God (cf.  Mark 1:11,  Matthew 17:5,  John 8:29 etc.).

There is a theological problem of importance raised by these passages-What is it that constitutes the ground of our acceptance with God? The full treatment of this problem must be sought under the articleJustification, but the following considerations may be properly adduced here. Unquestionably the Christian religion is a religion of Grace, as contra-distinguished from Judaism and other faiths, which are religions of Law, Salvation, according to the NT throughout (explicitly in the writings of St. Paul, more or less implicitly elsewhere), is of God, and not of man; not our own doings , but willingness to accept what He has done for us, and what He is ready to do in us, is the condition of initial inclusion within the Kingdom of Divine love and life. This is the watershed which determines the direction and flow of all subsequent doctrinal developments in Christian theology; it is what settles the question whether our thoughts and practice are distinctively Christian or not. There are, however, two alternative perils to be carefully avoided-antinomianism, on the one hand, which assumes our continued acceptance with God irrespective of our moral conduct afterwards; and the doctrine of salvation by works, on the other, which makes moral conduct the condition of acceptance, thus surreptitiously introducing the legal view of religion once more. This ‘Either-Or’ is, however, a false antithesis, from which we are saved by the recognition of the ‘mystical union’ of the believer with God in Christ. By that act of faith, in virtue of which the sinner ‘accepts’ Christ and appropriates all that He is and has done, he passes from a state of condemnation into a state of grace ( Romans 8:1), and is henceforth ‘in Christ’-organically united to Him as the member is to the body ( 1 Corinthians 12:12 f), as the branch is to the vine ( John 15:1-4). This ‘justifying faith’ is, however, not an isolated act; it is an act that brings us into a permanent relation with the source of spiritual life. Now, ‘good works’ in the Christian sense are a necessary proof and outcome of this relation, and as such are well-pleasing or ‘acceptable’ to God, because ( a ) they are a manifestation of the spirit of Christ in us ( Galatians 2:20; cf.  Galatians 2:21); and ( b ) a demonstration of the continuance of the believer ‘in Christ’ ( John 15:8; cf.  Matthew 5:16,  Philippians 1:10 f.). The relation of the believer to Christ, in other words, while it is religious in its root, is ethical in its fruit, and the quality and abundance of the latter naturally show the quality and potency of the faith-fife of which it is the expression and outcome. Thus our ‘works’ do not constitute our claim for acceptance with God after entering the Kingdom of Grace any more than before  ; but they determine our place within the Kingdom. There is an aristocracy of the spiritual as well as of the natural life; the saved are one in the fact of salvation, but not in the magnitude of their attainments or the quality of their influence; and they are more or less acceptable to God according to the entireness of their consecration and the value of their service. There is thus an adequate motive presented to us for perpetual striving after perfection, and St. Paul’s spiritual attitude-‘not as though I had already attained, but I follow after’ ( Philippians 3:12)-is the normal attitude of every true believer (cf.  Colossians 1:10-12 :  1 Thessalonians 4:1-3,  1 John 3:22). It was given only to One to be altogether well-pleasing to God; but it is the unfading ideal, and the constant endeavour of His true disciples to follow in His steps, and in all things to become more and more like Him, as well as ‘well-pleasing’ to Him.

See, further, articles Justification, etc., and Literature there specified.

E. Griffith-Jones.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

 Genesis 1:26-27 Genesis 5:43-48

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 ( Psalm 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 9:11-14, 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 .

Joe Baskin

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

Acceptance denotes the being in favour with any one. In EV [Note: English Version.] the noun is found only in   Isaiah 60:7 , but ‘accept’ and ‘acceptable’ are used frequently both in OT and NT to express the acceptance of one man with another (  Genesis 32:20 ,   Luke 4:24 ), but above all the acceptance of man with God. In OT the conditions of acceptance with God are sometimes ceremonial (  Exodus 28:38 ,   Psalms 20:3 ). But of themselves these are insufficient (  Genesis 4:5;   Genesis 4:7 ,   Amos 5:22 ,   Jeremiah 6:20;   Jeremiah 14:10;   Jeremiah 14:12 ), and only moral uprightness (  Proverbs 21:3 ,   Job 42:8 ) and the sacrifices of a sincere heart (  Psalms 19:14;   Psalms 119:108; cf.   Psalms 40:6 ff.,   Psalms 51:15 ff.) are recognized as truly acceptable with God. In NT the grounds of the Divine acceptance are never ceremonial, but always spiritual (  Romans 12:1 ,   Philippians 4:18 ,   1 Peter 2:5 ). Jesus Christ is the type of perfect acceptance (  Mark 1:11 ||,   Hebrews 10:5 ff.). In Him as ‘the Beloved,’ and through Him as the Mediator, men secure their religious standing and fundamental acceptance with God (  Ephesians 1:6 ). In serving Him (  Romans 14:18 ), and following His example (  1 Peter 2:20-21 ), they become morally acceptable in the Father’s sight.

J. C. Lambert.

King James Dictionary [4]


1. A receiving with approbation or satisfaction favorable reception as work done to acceptance.

They shall come up with acceptance on my altar.  Isaiah 60 .

2. the receiving of a bill of exchange or order, in such a manner, as to bind the acceptor to make payment. This must be by express words and to charge the drawer with costs, in case of non payment, the acceptance must be in writing, under across, or on the back of the bill. 3. An agreeing to terms or proposals in commerce, by which a bargain is concluded and the parties bound.

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4. An agreeing to the act or contact of another, by some act which binds the person in law as, a bishop's taking rent reserved on a lease made by his predecessor, is an acceptance of the terms of the lease and binds the party. 5. In mercantile language, a bill of exchange accepted as a merchant receives another's acceptance in payment. 6. Formerly, the sense is which a word is understood. Obs.

See Acceptation.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

This means being 'brought into favour.' As God is holy, and man is a sinner, he can only be brought into acceptance by means of a Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. To effect this the Lord had to die, to vindicate the justice of God, and atone for the sins of those who believe. In Him risen and glorified the believer is brought into favour according to the value before God of Christ's person and work, wherefore the apostle says, "to the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. "  Ephesians 1:6 . It is then a fact that the Christian is accepted or brought into favour in the Lord Jesus Christ: cf.  Romans 5:2 . How far his spirit and conduct is acceptable or well-pleasing to God is entirely a different question.  2 Corinthians 5:9 should read "We labour that whether present or absent we may be acceptable to him." Being accepted we should be zealous that in all things our ways may be well-pleasing to God.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): (n.) An assent and engagement by the person on whom a bill of exchange is drawn, to pay it when due according to the terms of the acceptance.

(2): (n.) The bill itself when accepted.

(3): (n.) An agreeing to terms or proposals by which a bargain is concluded and the parties are bound; the reception or taking of a thing bought as that for which it was bought, or as that agreed to be delivered, or the taking possession as owner.

(4): (n.) The act of accepting; a receiving what is offered, with approbation, satisfaction, or acquiescence; esp., favorable reception; approval; as, the acceptance of a gift, office, doctrine, etc.

(5): (n.) Meaning; acceptation.

(6): (n.) State of being accepted; acceptableness.

(7): (n.) An agreeing to the action of another, by some act which binds the person in law.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [7]

1. a term which imports the Admission of man into the Favor of God. As things are best understood by contrast with their opposites, so acceptance is to be understood from its opposite, rejection, the sense of which will be found by reference to  Jeremiah 6:30;  Jeremiah 7:29. To understand aright the Scriptural idea of acceptance with God, we must keep in mind the fact that sin is highly displeasing to God, and is attended by the hiding of his face or the withholding of his favor. Sin causes God to refuse to hold friendly intercourse with man; but the mediation of the Son of God restores this intercourse. Sinners are said to be "accepted in the Beloved" ( Ephesians 1:6); that is, in Christ. They are no longer held in a state of rejection, but are received with approbation and kindness. It is to be noticed that it is an idea of a positive kind which the word acceptance contains. As the rejection which sin occasioned was express, equally express and positive is the acceptance of which Christ is the author. One who had disgraced himself before his sovereign would be particularly refused any share in the favors of the court. When this breach was repaired, the excluded party would again be favorably received (Eden). (See Accept).

2. Acceptance ( Ephesians 1:6); in theology, is nearly synonymous with justification. We mistake the terms of acceptance with God When We Trust In, 1, the superiority of our virtues to our vices ( Romans 3:20;  James 2:10); 2, in a faith in Christ which does not produce good works ( James 2:14); 3, in the atonement, without personal repentance from sin ( Luke 13:5); 4, in the hope of future repentance, or conversion on a dying bed ( Proverbs 4:1-27;  Proverbs 24:1-34;  Proverbs 25:1-28;  Proverbs 26:1-28;  Proverbs 27:1-27;  Proverbs 28:1-28;  Proverbs 29:1-27;  Proverbs 30:1-33;  Proverbs 31:1-31). (See Adoption); (See Justification).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [8]

ak - sep´tans  : A rendering of the Hebrew רצון , recōn , "delight," found only in  Isaiah 60:7 . It pictures God's delight in His redeemed people in the Messianic era, when their gifts, in joyful and profuse abundance, "shall come up with acceptance on mine altar." With "accepted" and other kindred words it implies redeeming grace as the basis of Divine favor. It is the "living, holy sacrifice" that is "acceptable to God" ( Romans 12:1; compare  Titus 3:4-6 ).