God’s acceptance is his unconditional love for us. It is made possible by the merited grace of God, the life and death of Jesus.
That established, there is another element at play. God’s approval. His favor (or grace) bestowed on us as a reward, a prize, for the way we choose to live our life. According to 1 Peter, it is clear that God does not give favor to just anyone. And this refrain is repeated in Scripture – originally found in Proverbs, quoted here as well as in James.
He gives His favor to people who are humble. God only rewards us when we live in a manner that is beneficial. No good parent will reward a child for self-destructive behavior, and God is a perfect parent.
This verse tells us that God rewards humility. And we get to choose whether we are humble. Humility is just seeing reality for what it is. We prefer to rationalize rather than observe truly.
The challenge is that God gets to discern who is humble. He knows the full scope of reality. We struggle to discover it. We often come to God with our humility in our hands, neatly wrapped, patting ourselves on the back. But God discerns our heart and motives. We do not control God’s judgment.
What is left to us is to seek the wisdom of others, particularly our “elders.” And to chase after the wisdom Scripture says will lead to humility. When it comes to the reward of God’s approval, we cannot guarantee it. We can simply trust that God will discern rightly and gracious bestow upon us His “charis” (which can be translated as favor or grace).
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.’”
– 1 Peter 5:5