Popular today among evangelicals is a theory that when God looks on Christians He does not see their sin but instead He sees His Son. Therefore, regardless of how we live we are accepted in the Beloved.
This view is derived from Ephesians 1:6, which states, “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
Serious Translation Problem
One problem with this concept is that it rests on a really bad translation of Ephesians 1:6. The NAS provides a much more accurate translation (“to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved”) as does the NIV (“to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves”).
The verse does not state that we are accepted in the beloved. Rather the Greek verb in the latter part of the sentence refers to God “gracing us,” a verb related to the “grace” found in the earlier part of the sentence. So it is actually saying that God “graced us with His grace in the Beloved.”
Therefore, this verse cannot be used to make the case that we are accepted in Christ since that is not what the verse says, and it certainly cannot be made to say that God does not see the sins of believers.
The Nature of Our Acceptance
It is true that believers are accepted in Christ in the sense that our sins have been forgiven, which allows us to enter into a relationship with God as Father. However, it is necessary to identify precisely what that means and doesn’t mean.
Some recent radio ads have been promoting adoption of foster care children. Suppose you responded by contacting an agency expressing an interest to adopt. They tell you that though Joey is only 13, he already has a criminal record having robbed several stores to support his drug habit. You agree to adopt him, but before you do, you have a conversation with him stating, “Joey, I am willing to forgive your past, adopt you as my son, and take you into my home. However, as your father I will discipline you for any future misbehavior.”
This describes our relationship with God. At salvation, acting in the role of God as judge, He forgives our sins because of the redemption provided by Christ. However, having brought us into His family we now have a new relationship with Him as Father. Though as judge God has forgiven us (John 5:24 tells us that we will not come into judgment), as Father He sees and will deal with sins that we commit. Therefore, we are accepted in Christ in terms of the heaven or hell issue, but we do not find acceptance with God as Father if as His children we are living in sin.
Loads of Verses Say So
If when God looks on us He does not see our sins but instead He sees Christ and therefore we are accepted in the Beloved, how do we explain 1John 1:9 (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”)? Why do we need to confess sins that God does not see? In addition, the implication of this verse is that if we do not confess our sins God will not forgive them. How can this be if God does not see our sins?
Or how would we explain a passage such as 1Peter 3:8-12?
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Peter is writing to Christians, and yet he tells them that God won’t hear their prayers if they sin. How is this possible if God does not see our sins.
The New Testament contains scores if not hundreds of verses embodying the same message, i.e. God in fact sees the sins of believers, and if we do not confess and forsake them our fellowship with Him is broken and we become objects of His chastening.
The Troubling Question
The fact that the New Testament is loaded with verses that teach unmistakably that God sees our sins, and the fact that the verse used to argue otherwise is not a good translation, how can it be that so many evangelical pastors and teachers propagate the theory that God does not see our sins?
It seems that two troubling factors are at work to produce this outcome. First, even evangelicals are not rooting many of their views in serious study of Scripture. Second, this theory reflects our secular cultural cornerstone of unconditional acceptance. This reveals that secular culture is exerting substantial influence over evangelical thinking.
Therefore we see that secular culture trumps Scripture in shaping contemporary evangelical perspectives. As long as this is the case we can expect the church to be weak and ineffective in their ministry as salt and light.