Who has to accept Christ’s sacrifice—God or us?
You can only accept what is offered to you. What is not offered to you can never be accepted, (nor for that matter rejected either). Now in the OT the great point with all the sacrifices was that it was God who accepted or rejected them, (Ps. 20: 1–3). It did not matter whether man thought they were excellent sacrifices, it was what God thought that counted. Did God accept them? When Elijah would offer a sacrifice away from the Temple where Jehovah had placed His name, and where the fire which had fallen from heaven was kept continually burning, fire had to fall from heaven specially for the occasion. After the prophets of Baal had vainly tried to produce the phenomenon by appeals to their god, we read “And the fire of Jehovah fell, and consumed the burnt–offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And all the people saw [it], and they fell on their faces and said, Jehovah, he is God! Jehovah, he is God!”, (1 Kings 18: 38, 39). The whole point of the incident is to show that Elijah’s God had respect for Elijah’s offering. When David offered his offering on the altar which he built on the site purchased from Ornan the Jebusite, Jehovah “answered him from the heavens by fire upon the altar”, (1 Chron. 21: 26). In Lev. 9: 24, on the occasion of the first formal offering on the Altar of Burnt–offering, we read “And there went out fire from before Jehovah, and consumed on the altar the burnt–offering, .... and all the people saw it, and they shouted, and fell on their face.” Until the fire came from God, (no matter how fine the sacrifice was), the people could not know whether God had accepted it. Until they had that knowledge, they could not be certain that they had not been wasting their time! The whole point of the system of sacrifices and offerings was whether God accepted them! Not Moses, or Aaron, or David, or anybody, but God.
It is ignorance of this lesson that has led to the evangelistic phraseology of today which speaks of the sinner’s acceptance of Christ and His sacrifice. Yet the Bible never says anything of the sort. Gods’ Word is about the sinner believing what God has said. He has spoken and has told us that He cannot and will not accept fallen men in their sins. We are not only ruined sinners because of what we have done, (or not done); but because of what we are. The question is, do we believe God as to this solemn fact?
When Abel approached God, what God accepted was Abel’s “gifts”—he was accepted only in his gifts, (Gen. 4: 4; Heb. 11: 4). Likewise God can only accept us in the merits and Person of that perfect Substitute—His Christ—whom He has provided, (see 1 Pet. 3: 18). Do we believe Him as to this? If we do we shall by faith lay our hand on Him, confess our belief in God as to our own lost and ruined state, and as to Christ as God’s provided salvation. By this faith, God pronounces us righteous, accepts us in the Person of our Substitute; and declares us as accepted in the Beloved—because God accepted His one offering when he raised Him from the dead. When Christ died He “offered himself spotless to God”, (Heb. 9: 14), not to you or me. The great question then is not, will I accept the sacrifice, but will God? Christ’s resurrection is the proof and evidence that God has accepted Christ, (Rom. 4: 25). It is the sinner’s receipt which God has given to show that He has accepted Christ’s payment of the sinner’s debt. There is no other receipt. Christ’s blood is not the receipt but the payment. Neither is the sinner’s faith the receipt. It is no use for a man to go to his creditor and say he believes he has paid what he owes. He must produce the receipt. So what is the receipt which we can produce to God which will prove that our debt is paid? Nothing but the blessed fact that God’s Word assures us that He has accepted payment on our behalf in the Person of our Substitute, when He raised Christ from the dead. We are to believe what He says when He assures us of this, and He is pleased to accept us in Him.
It is always the creditor who accepts the payment which the debtor makes, and, when payment has been once accepted, no further demand can be made upon the debtor. It is not a question of whether the sinner accepts Christ but whether he believes God when God says that He has accepted Christ.
It might be said that the same thing is meant in modern phraseology. Well, why not say so? Why not keep to Scripture language? Why alter it? Why make it all to stand on what man can DO, instead of believing what God has SAID. Why make it all turn on man’s accepting, instead of man’s believing? God has shut up the sinner as to the uselessness of his bringing any thing of his own by way of merit. The only thing that God presents for mans acceptance or rejection is His testimony in the Gospel as to the work of Christ.: “to you has the word of this salvation been sent”, (Acts: 13: 26).