Golf clubs have membership fees. Boat clubs require boats. Honorary societies require status. Friendships are more like “cliques”. Can you see the pattern? Just about every kind of social club or group has some kind of requirement for acceptance.
Is God like this too? Does God have some list of requirements we must meet to be acceptable? Who will be accepted into “Club Heaven”?
Let’s not be too quick with our answer. The modern Christian would write it off on Jesus, and say, “God doesn’t require anything but to believe in Jesus.” And this is true. But often, I find this answer to be misinformed and shallow. Why? Because God does have standards that must be met for acceptance.
Hold on! Follow me here… You’ll see where I’m going with this. Trust me. This is Grace 101. Let’s look into a few passages in the Old Testament…
1. God requires a sinless substitutionary sacrifices to be acceptable.
Lev.1:3: “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.”
In Leviticus 1:3, we get our first glimpse into the sacrificial law prescribed to Israel. And, as most would know, this law foreshadowed the savior to come; Jesus Christ: the sinless substitutionary sacrifice for our sins.
This is our first glimpse into what is required to be accepted by God. Note the reason why the Israelites had to present the offering at the entrance of the tent of meeting: “that he may be accepted before the LORD.” Accepted. God required a sinless substitutionary blood sacrifice in order for the Israelites to be accepted. But why? Because God is Just. We are sinners. And a Just God must punish unjust sinners. But thankfully, there’s more. God is Merciful. He made a way to “atone” for (cover) the sins of His people.
The Hebrew word “accepted” -in this verse- comes from the word ratsown, which means, pleasure, delight, favor, goodwill, acceptance, or will. Its root word, ratsah, simply means to be pleased with. So we see, that which is pleasing to someone, is tied into this idea of acceptance. But what makes blood sacrifice pleasing to God? And how does it make one acceptable to Him? This leads us into our second requirement.
2. God requires that we be Holy.
Lev.28:16-18: “You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.”
This is really the heart of the matter. God is Holy. And He requires that we be too. The problem is, we are not. Adam sinned and that sin is imputed to us. And, it’s inherent in us. Thus, we need a priest to enter into the presence of God for us. We need a priest who is “holy”.
This is what the turban on Arron’s (the High Priest’s) head symbolized. Fastened to His turban, was a golden plate. Engraved on it were these words: “Holy to The Lord.” Why must the High Priest wear this? “That they may be ‘accepted’ before the LORD.” And this word, accepted, is the same one used in the previous passage.
Kind of a catch 22, right? So we must offer a sinless substitutionary sacrifice to make atonement for our sins. Then we need a priest to be holy, just to present that sacrifice to God. But we have nothing of ourselves which is acceptable to offer up to God, nor are we fit to be the offerer.
Let’s run down a rabbit trail for a minute too. Keep up. And don’t worry. We’ll tie it all together at the end. Here’s the punch. It’s in the book of Genesis…
Gen.49:6: “Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their ‘willfulness’ they hamstrung oxen.”
Genesis 49 is both the blessing and prophecy of Jacob (Israel) over His twelve sons. The passage stated above was in reference to Simeon and Levi. Simeon and Levi were the second and third sons of Jacob. Jacob’s referring to the incident when Simeon and Levi slaughtered a town of people because Shechem -the prince of the land -raped their sister Dinah (Gen.34). Jacob, in his prophetic curse, called this an act of anger and “willfulness”. And interestingly, this word willfulness is the same word, accepted (ratsown), used in the previous passages.
We first noted that the idea of pleasure is tied into acceptance. That we -and God -accept things, because to one degree or another, they are pleasing to us. Here, we get another connotation. That acceptance is also tied into the idea of will. And throughout Scripture, this is the similar and consistent meaning of will. Our will is our ability to choose. But we learn that we will only choose that which is pleasing to us (for various reasons).
We see in this passage, the motivation behind Simeon’s and Levi’s slaughter. Self-will. Without consulting their father, they took the law into their own hands. And not only did they punish the perpetrator, but many innocents too. What does Jacob say about this: “Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company.” Essentially, Jacob was saying, “I will have no part of this”; “my will is not to do your will.”
And in this short statement, we get a glimpse into a principle that carries through scripture. That not only we, but God will only take delight in, or accept, that which is like unto Himself. As the Lord’s Prayer states: “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Because of Reuben’s sin, the right of firstborn passed him by. Because of Simeon’s and Levi’s sin, the right of firstborn passed them by. They were unacceptable. For this reason, the right of firstborn is passed down to Judah: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you … The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen.49:8,10).
Thus, we see Jesus. The Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev.5:5). The firstborn over all creation (Col.1:15). He is, was, and always will be the eternally begotten Son of God. Pleasing to the Father. Accepted. He is The King, The Great High Priest, and The Prophet. Coming to declare to us our lost and unacceptable condition, but also, a way to be accepted. Just listen to how He confronted us…
Jesus told the Pharisees: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (Jn.8:44). And don’t brush this off onto the “wicked” Pharisees, because we have done the same: “you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air … we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph.2:2,3). Trust me. We are not acceptable to God. Worst off all. He was not acceptable to us. We were at war. Enemies. God does not tell you to come as you are. Sorry. But He does tell you to come to Christ for all that He is.
Christ came to do the will of His Father: “I (Jesus) seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn.5:30b). Jesus delighted in what God delighted. He took pleasure in doing that which was pleasing to the Father. That which was acceptable to God was acceptable to Him. Thus, the Father accepted Him, saying, “this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt.3:17).
This was why Christ came: “Behold, I have come to do your will” (Heb.10:9). But in order to do this, the Son of God became like us, a man. And He offered up His owe life; His Holy Life; a life worthy of infinite value; a sacrifice of infinite worth; capable of atoning for all the sins of God’s people, forever. “Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb.10:11-12). Not only was Jesus our sinless substitutionary sacrifice, but He was our Great and Holy High Priest. He offered up Himself, and on the basis of His own acceptance with God, He carried His own blood into heaven, to appease God’s Wrath against us.
We are acceptable to God only in Jesus: “He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph.1:6b). His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. And when we are in Christ, we are fully accepted. Children. “And if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom.8:17). Apart from Christ our separation from God is great; but in Christ, God wraps His arms around us as we are wrapped in the arms of His Son. Group hug.
So this is what God does. We who were dead, God made alive (Eph.2:1). He is the first and only cause. He opened our eyes to see His glory. And we, in return, willing came to Jesus. We accepted Him, because He accepted us, and revealed to us His infinite value. He was delightful. And we were delighted to receive Him by faith: our sinless substitutionary sacrifice, our Holy High Priest, and our eternal King. He came to pay for our sins, present Himself before God, and reign as King over us. He is the Lord of our salvation.
And now, because we are in Christ, we can say…
“I delight to do your will (ratsown), O my God; your law is within my heart”