In a sermon on 2 Corinthians 8:12, Thomas Boston (d. 1732) explained in detail what it means to be accepted before God. He used other Scripture to show that a sinner is accepted by God freely, apart from works, by grace – through faith in Christ and his perfect work. Here’s one section of this great sermon:
III. I proceed to shew the way of a sinner’s acceptance with God.
First, It is “freely.” There is nothing in the sinner himself to procure it, or move God to it, Rom. 3:24, but as the sun shines without hire on the dung-hill, so God accepts sinners of mere grace. It is done freely, in that,
1. It is without respect to any work done by the sinner, Tit. 3:5. Grace and works are inconsistent in this matter. Men may render themselves acceptable to men, by some work of theirs, that is profitable or pleasant to them; but no work of ours can render us acceptable to God. It is natural for men to think to gain acceptance with God, by their doing better; and when they have set themselves to do and work for that end, they please themselves that they are accepted. But mistake it not, that way of acceptance is blocked up. For,
(1.) All works of ours are excluded from our justification, whereof our acceptance is a part, Rom. 3:20, and faith and works are opposed in that matter, ver. 28; Gal. 2:16.
(2.) Our best works are attended with sinful imperfections, Isa. 64:6, and mixed with many evil works, Jam. 3:2. So in them there is ground for God’s loathing and condemning us; how then can we be accepted for what is in itself loathsome and condemnable?
(3.) We can do no good works before we be accepted, John 9:31; Heb. 11:6. The tree must be good, ere the fruit can be so. The person out of Christ can work no works, but dead works, John 15:5, for he is, while so, in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. And what is all that the man can do before he believe and be accepted in Christ, but a parcel of hypocritical works?
For the rest of the sermon and the full context of the above quote, see volume 11 of Thomas Boston’s Works (p.123).
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