From the time we are young children, we as human beings long for acceptance. In the family, on the playground, in school, and even into adulthood we long to be accepted by others. To be loved and received and considered a “part of the group” in human relationships is something that lies deep within the soul of each one of us.
When such happens there is joy and gladness and fulfillment. But when rejection occurs, just the opposite takes place—pain and sorrow, and often anger and bitterness.
We need to accept one another
Therefore, genuine acceptance is a great need today. This is especially true in the Church which is the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Christians at Rome,
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Romans 14:1-3 NASB
In the next chapter, in Romans 15:7 Paul writes,
“Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God”. Romans 15:7 NASB
These exhortations were given in a context where fellow believers, some having a Jewish heritage and others having Gentile backgrounds, were rejecting each other based on the kind of food each had chosen to eat. Some (those with a Gentile background) had no problem eating “meat sacrificed to idols” (see 1 Corinthians 8), while others did (those with a Jewish background).
There were also those brethren who held strong convictions about observing special feast days, yet others did not. Both did or did not do these things out of a sincere desire to please the Lord. For in Romans 14:6 Paul wrote,
“The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6, ESV).
Rejecting others with contempt is not the way of the Lord
The result of those conflicts was the refusal by Christians with their various backgrounds to “accept” or “receive” one another in the way our Lord commands. Such refusal and rejection were marked by contempt and judgmental attitudes toward one another, as well as a lack of love (Romans 14:3-15).
Today, Christians face similar problems. Issues such as the following often divide believers: whether or not believers should drink alcohol, view certain movies, listen to certain styles of music (Christian or otherwise), participate in the various arts or get involved in the political arena. Divisions also occur because of personality quirks and differences, personal tastes, cultural, economic, educational, and religious backgrounds, and a host of other reasons.
Unity is God’s design
However, as Paul clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 12, it is the genius of God’s design that through diversity He creates unity/oneness in the Body of Christ. No matter how “different” each of us may be, in and through Jesus Christ we have been made one in the Body and have been “accepted” by God (1 Corinthians 6:17 cf. Ephesians 1:6).
While the NASB uses the word “accept” in Romans 15:7, the NKJV translates that verse this way: “Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God”. Obviously, our Lord Jesus is the pattern we are to follow when it comes to “accepting” or “receiving” one another—i.e. “just as Christ also received us.”
Because of our salvation, redemption, and justification, all based on faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus on the cross, we have been “accepted” by Christ unconditionally and forever! As Paul says in Ephesians 1:6, “…He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”
Accepting is more than just receiving
However, it is crucial that we understand the meaning of the original Greek word for “receive” or “accept.” The word is from the verb proslambanō, an intensified form of the verb lambanō, meaning “to receive something or someone to oneself with special concern,” or “to take to oneself as a friend.” It also means “to treat as the closest of friends with the most caring kindness.”
This is how our Lord Jesus “receives” us, is it not? When a person is born again, Christ unconditionally “receives” and “accepts” that person into His life, into fellowship with Himself— into an eternal relationship with Him. In so doing, He calls that person His “friend” (John 15:14), His “brother” (“brethren,” Hebrews 2:11), and His “sons” and His “children” (John 1:12 cf. Romans 8:14-17). This is true of every person who has been born again by the Spirit of God (1 Peter 1:3 cf. 1 John 5:1-2).
Receiving is for the glory of God
Our conclusion therefore must be the same as the Apostle Paul’s. That is, we are to “…receive [“accept”] one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” That is our purpose for everything—“the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)!
In this new year of 2016, let us seriously consider how we receive, accept, and fellowship with all of God’s people. May all that we do in regard to our brethren be “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).