What is approbation? Some of the meanings of approbation are, “approval; commendation, sanction, praise. It is synonymous with, admiration, esteem, favour, recognition, and high regard.

There are people that their whole life purpose is to try to receive some sort of approbation from other people, especially people in prominent positions in society. Some cannot function well without this type of approbation; they cannot function without constant praise and approval from others. They fear rejection or disapproval. Therefore they follow the popular opinions and crowds, in order to be recognized as receiving high honours, and sometimes even go against their conscience in order to receive this approval. The approval and approbation from fellow human beings can be more coveted then righteousness by some people.

It all began many years ago. Lucifer was the first one who sought approbation. He was given high honours in heaven, but this was not enough. “Lucifer’s disposition to serve himself instead of his Creator aroused a feeling of apprehension when observed by those who considered that the glory of God should be supreme.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 35–36. He did not like Jesus as being supreme. He was dissatisfied with his own position as inferior to Jesus. “Sin originated with him who, next to Christ, had been most honored of God and was highest in power and glory among the inhabitants of heaven.” –Ibid. p. 35. But this was not enough for him. He wanted the approbation of being on top.

“Little by little Lucifer came to indulge the desire for self-exaltation. The Scripture says, ‘Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.’ Ezekiel 28:17. ‘Thou hast said in thine heart, . . . I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will be like the Most High.’ Isaiah 14:13, 14. Though all his glory was from God, this mighty angel came to regard it as pertaining to himself. Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator. Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and allegiance of all created beings, it was his endeavor to secure their service and loyalty to himself. And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone.” –Ibid, p. 35

“He gloried in his brightness and exaltation and aspired to be equal with God. He was beloved and reverenced by the heavenly host, angels delighted to execute his commands, and he was clothed with wisdom and glory above them all. Yet the Son of God was exalted above him, as one in power and authority with the Father. He shared the Father’s counsels, while Lucifer did not thus enter into the purposes of God. ‘Why,’ questioned this mighty angel, ‘should Christ have the supremacy? Why is He honored above Lucifer?’” –Ibid, p. 36

Having a love of approbation, when Lucifer did not get the approbation he so desired, it led him to ask, “Why not me?” He was not content to be honoured above all the angelic host. He wanted more—to be equal with, and to enter into counsel with, God.  This privilege was denied him. He was therefore, not content with any words of counsel from the other angels, or even from God the Father and the Son, thus he was led to create a rebellion in heaven and has continued his work on this earth. This was the result of his strong love and desire for approbation of being in the top position.


King Saul is a classic example of one who fell into Satan’s snare of the love of approbation from human beings on this earth. In his early life, he was humble. When he was presented before the nation as their new king, he hid himself; thought himself unworthy (1 Samuel 10:21–23). However, as the years went by, he came to love the approbation of his fellow men.

“When Saul and David were returning from battle with the Philistines, ‘the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music.’ One company sang, ‘Saul hath slain his thousands,’ while another company took up the strain, and responded, ‘And David his ten thousands.’ The demon of jealousy entered the heart of the king. He was angry because David was exalted above himself in the song of the women of Israel. In place of subduing these envious feelings, he displayed the weakness of his character, and exclaimed. ‘They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?’

“One great defect in the character of Saul was his love of approbation. This trait had had a controlling influence over his actions and thoughts; everything was marked by his desire for praise and self-exaltation.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 650

The next statement is key. Read it carefully.  See how his thinking became perverse due to his love of approbation from fellow human beings.  May God help us not to fall into this trap. “His standard of right and wrong was the low standard of popular applause. No man is safe who lives that he may please men, and does not seek first for the approbation of God. It was the ambition of Saul to be first in the estimation of men.” –Ibid. He could not handle being in second place in the minds of the people, and thus he spent much time and energy to try to eliminate this one who was exalted above himself in the minds of the people.

Read further: “Saul opened his heart to the spirit of jealousy by which his soul was poisoned. . . . Saul had not learned, while ruling the kingdom of Israel, that he should rule his own spirit. He allowed his impulses to control his judgment, until he was plunged into a fury of passion. He had paroxysms of rage, when he was ready to take the life of any who dared oppose his will.” –Ibid

All from the love of approbation from sinful human beings—basically it boils down to a love of self.


Judas had a high opinion of himself. He had convinced the disciples also of his superiority. Jesus was not convinced though and often gave gentle and subtle rebukes in love.

Jesus, knowing his character, did not call him to be a follower. It was the disciples who were, “anxious that Judas should become one of their number. He was of commanding appearance, a man of keen discernment and executive ability, and they commended him to Jesus as one who would greatly assist Him in His work. They were surprised that Jesus received him so coolly.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 294

“Judas had a high opinion of his own executive ability. As a financier he thought himself greatly superior to his fellow disciples, and he had led them to regard him in the same light. He had gained their confidence, and had a strong influence over them.” –Ibid, p.559. Judas influenced the disciples to believe he was the best man for the job and no one else could do it as well as he; he was indispensable.

“At the ordination of the Twelve the disciples had greatly desired that Judas should become one of their number, and they had counted his accession an event of much promise to the apostolic band. He had come more into contact with the world than they, he was a man of good address, of discernment and executive ability, and, having a high estimate of his own qualifications, he had led the disciples to hold him in the same regard. But the methods he desired to introduce into Christ’s work were based upon worldly principles and were controlled by worldly policy. They looked to the securing of worldly recognition and honor—to the obtaining of the kingdom of this world.” –Education, p. 93. He desired praise and approbation from other people.

“Judas . . . had not been striving to overcome his natural traits of character in accordance with the light that was constantly shining upon him. . . . Constantly he strove to exalt himself, and by his business ability he had gained the confidence of the eleven.” –The Review and Herald, August 7, 1900.  Now comes the “but” . . . “But he had a narrow, avaricious spirit. For the slight services that he performed for Christ he paid himself from the money in the bag. He took from the store committed to his care, thus narrowing down their resources to a meager pittance.” –Ibid

Judas had such a terrible love of approbation from fellow human beings that it led him to betray Christ. In this betrayal he was seeking their approbation and exaltation. “Judas reasoned that if Jesus was to be crucified, the event must come to pass. His own act in betraying the Saviour would not change the result. If Jesus was not to die, it would only force Him to deliver Himself. At all events, Judas would gain something by his treachery. He counted that he had made a sharp bargain in betraying his Lord.

“In betraying Him, it was his purpose to teach Him a lesson. He intended to play a part that would make the Saviour careful thenceforth to treat him with due respect.  . .

“Judas decided to put the matter to the test. If Jesus really was the Messiah, the people, for whom He had done so much, would rally about Him, and would proclaim Him king. This would forever settle many minds that were now in uncertainty. Judas would have the credit of having

placed the king on David’s throne. And this act would secure to him the first position, next to Christ, in the new kingdom.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 720–721. The end of Judas life shows the sad result of having a lustful desire for human approbation.


When Jesus went up to the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James and John, leaving the nine behind, the nine did not take it very well. “The selection of the three disciples to accompany Jesus to the mountain had excited the jealousy of the nine. Instead of strengthening their faith by prayer and meditation on the words of Christ, they had been dwelling on their discouragements and personal grievances. In this state of darkness they had undertaken the conflict with Satan.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 431

In this frame of mind, a man brought his son who was possessed with a demon to the nine disciples to ask them to cast the demon out.  Previously, Jesus had sent out the disciples two-by-two to do missionary work (Mark 6:7–11). “They cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” Mark 6:11. They had done this before, but this time could not. Why? What happened this time?

After Jesus took care of the man’s son, “Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?” Matthew 17:1. What was Jesus response? “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” Matthew 17:20. What was their unbelief? They had too much faith in themselves and their own abilities and not enough faith in God. Remember, Judas was one of the nine.

The nine felt jealous when not invited to the mount of transfiguration, and here thought to exalt themselves a bit and gain the approbation of the people by doing a mighty work in front of this crowd.

A young man recently preached a sermon in our local church, using the Bible Verse. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Romans 12:15. He brought out that we often focus on the second half of this verse.  It is well to try to encourage and help those that are sad and sorrowing. However, the first half can be more difficult to perform for some. For example, how easy is it to rejoice with the one who is rejoicing to have received a promotion that you felt you were entitled to?

Often those with talents, think they should be in the forefront and receive the highest offices in the church, and when put aside become discouraged asking, “Why not me?” They cannot rejoice with those who are receiving more recognition than themselves, especially if they believe they are more talented. They covet the approbation that they see others receiving and are not happy seeing others rejoice.

The work of God is not dependent on any one person. The Lord can bless any faithful soul with the talent to carry on His work as He did in Ancient Israel, “See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:  And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” Exodus 31:2–3

The disciples thought that Judas was the one best suited for the position, however, he was secretly a crook, seeking only the approbation of the world. The outward appearances and talents a person has may qualify them for high positions in the world, and they may seem to be the best to be in leading positions in the church, but if their heart and personal life are not fully committed, they are not qualified at all in the eyes of the Lord. Although the Lord is patient with the erring, even with those that love the approbation of the world, if they do not yield these unholy desires to the Lord, the Lord will eventually separate them from His church. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” 1 Corinthians 1:27. The Lord needs people who are fully committed to His service, more than He needs the worldly talented ones who seek the approbation of their fellow man above the approbation of God.

“Act as though you knew that the eye of heaven is upon you, and that you are living under the approbation or disapprobation of God.” –Counsels to the Church, p. 181

Jesus is our great example. He did not seek the approbation of the religious leaders of His time. He said, “‘I receive not honor from men.’ It was not the influence of the Sanhedrin, it was not their sanction He desired. He could receive no honor from their approbation. He was invested with the honor and authority of Heaven.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 212. The greatest honour we also can have is the approbation of heaven.

“There is great need of zealous, disinterested workers in God’s cause. One Christ-loving, devoted member will do more good in a church than one hundred half-converted, unsanctified, self-sufficient workers.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 114

May God help us to be that one Christ-loving devoted member in our sphere of influence seeking only the approbation of God and not the approbation of any man whether they are in the church or out of the church. Amen.

Wendy Eaton