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Acceptance by Grace

By Dr. Charles Stanley

Introduction: In almost every aspect of life, others evaluate us by our performance. Are we successful in our careers, fit, and attractive? How much wealth do we possess? It's easy to believe God judges us in a similar way–based on our behavior. Although Christians recognize that salvation is by grace, many nonetheless strive for God's acceptance, never sure they have His love.

Personal assessment: For the next two questions, honestly describe your first reaction rather than what you know is the correct answer.

  • Do you ever think God must be displeased, impatient, or disappointed with you? Explain.
  • What would you have to do to be sure of His acceptance?

A. The Bible teaches that as believers in Jesus, we are completely accepted. If we belong to Christ, we share in His holiness. How can that be? Scripture teaches that through Adam's rebellion against God, all of humanity was corrupted, inheriting the disease of sin. But when the Savior died on the cross, He made a way for everyone who believes in Him to become holy:

"Adam's one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:18-19 NLT).

  • As believers, how do we obtain righteousness (Rom. 3:21-24)?
  • Dictionary.com defines justify as "to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit." On what basis do we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1-2)?
  • You are innocent and guiltless in the Lord's sight. Describe how that makes you feel.
  • Why is it possible to be confident that God's love isn't conditional upon our behavior (Rom. 5:4-8)?

B. God accepts us by grace, not based on performance.

In the first century, some Jewish Christians believed that good works were necessary to earn salvation and make us Christ-like. However, Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that salvation is by faith alone—good works cannot save us (Eph. 2:10; James 2:26) but rather, they should result from our trust in the Savior. We become godly over time by surrendering to the Holy Spirit—not because we follow the Law of Moses or any other set of rules.

Read Galatians 3:1-14.

  • How did the Galatians first receive the Spirit (v. 1-4)?
  • What was required for them to experience His power (v. 2-5)?
  • How did Abraham obtain righteousness (v. 6)?
  • The Jews are physical descendants (sons) of Abraham. Who are his spiritual descendants (v.7-9)?
  • Why is trying to earn righteousness or justification by observing the law a futile endeavor (v. 10)?
  • For what purpose did Christ free believers (Gal. 5:1-2)?

One practice under Jewish law was circumcision. This ordinance was an outward sign of inward devotion to God. For the first-century Jew, being uncircumcised was nearly synonymous with unrighteousness. As the mostly Jewish early church received more and more Gentile converts, some false apostles taught that newcomers must be physically circumcised to gain God's acceptance.

  • What was the implication of requiring Gentile Christians to be circumcised (Gal. 5:3)?
  • What really matters, according to Paul (Gal. 5: 5-6)?

We typically use the term "falling from grace" to mean losing favor with God because of sin.

  • Read Galatians 5:4. In context, what do you think Paul meant by "falling from grace"?

In his Notes on the New Testament, Albert Barnes writes, "Christ will be ‘a whole Savior,' or none. This passage, therefore, cannot be [used] to prove that any true Christian has in fact fallen away from grace, unless it proves also that man may be justified by the deeds of the law, contrary to the repeated declarations of Paul himself."

C. Believers live in confidence and freedom because of grace.

The controversy over circumcision is no longer at the forefront of Christian debate. However, legalism—the idea that believers are justified by what they do––still cripples much of today's church. Some people fear losing their salvation over each sin they commit. More common is the idea that we must meet the Father's standards in order to receive His love and affection. Sometimes legalistic believers have the impression that God feels disgusted when they fall short.

  • Do you strive to measure up to rigid standards or follow particular rules of Christian living? If so, how do you feel when you fail?
  • Read Romans 8:1-2 and describe why you are free.
  • How would your life change if you were to take this study's concepts to heart?

Closing: Since the time of Abraham, God has purposed that salvation be only by faith, not works. If you are in Christ, rest assured that He accepts you. When sin interrupts fellowship with the Father, He wants to restore His disobedient follower but never ceases to accept the believer as His beloved child.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of righteousness through Your Son. I'm grateful that I no longer have to perform to win Your acceptance. Help me use my freedom to serve You and others. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


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  • January 05, 2013 04:48 PM

    by

    Excellent study. Has helped me to a better understanding of God's acceptance of and love for us. I need to reread this study daily actually. They are quite difficult concepts--faithfulness and justification. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with this.
  • November 19, 2012 04:26 PM

    by

    This really does help me to understand God's love better. I have struggle with God's love and acceptance. I grew up with an emotionally abusive father where love was earned. I was never able to do enough to earn my father's love. even though i accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was 17, I have struggled with this concept. This ministry has really helped me to understand that God's love is nothing like what I grew up with. Thank you so much for that clarification.
  • May 16, 2012 07:35 PM

    by

    This article really help me to understand how the Holy Spirit is working in me. Thanks a lot! God bless you.
  • April 17, 2011 11:31 PM

    by

    Dr. Stanley, I thank God for your ministry. It's truly a blessing to me. God's grace is suffient for me and now I can rest assure, that his Grace will lead me on.
  • April 01, 2011 08:43 PM

    by

    THIS ARTICLE REALLY HELPED ME ! I STRIVE TO BE PERFECT, BUT I'M FAR FROM IT AND FAIL CONSTANTLY. THEN I FEEL GUILT FROM THE PAST MISTAKES I'VE MADE, WISH I HAD MADE BETTER CHOICES....ON AND ON. GOD DOESN'T WANT US TO DO THAT. IT'S THE ENEMY WANTING US TO JUST GIVE UP AND GIVE IN TO THE WORLD. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE.
  • August 06, 2010 07:09 AM

    by

    I have heard a lot of sermons on grace and even read a book about grace but never before have I found a study that has helped me understand grace like this one. Thank you!
  • July 27, 2010 02:23 PM

    by

    im so very thankful for you doc. stanley....you r a true blessing in my life.
    ive been miserably crippled up for 9 yrs. year i turned 40, i blew 4 discs in lwr back, i surgery lead to another, one surgens error left my bowels no longer working..... 9 loooong yrs of PAIN, MISERY & LOSS. past year, ive begun to be able to walk & sleep 1-hr at a time......im feeling quite blessed. BUT 9yrs of this has left me 'weak in spirit', at times groping for "HOPE"..... i THANK YOU & D.BARTON & OTHER GODLY FOLKS for all u do. sncerely, jamie lynn

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