In the NT this word means, nearly always, "acceptable to God".
Three Greek words come in this sense quite often: dektos and its more emphatic
cognate euprosdektos and another not dissimilar word euarestos. The first two
are mostly equivalents of the Hebrew words "ratzah", and "ratzon", which
normally have reference to acceptable sacrifice or to one of the Jewish feasts
when sacrifice was specially acceptable. The first meaning is obvious in 1Pe
2:5: "Ye also... offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable ('euprosdektos') to
God by Jesus Christ." And in Rom 15:16 Paul uses the figure of himself as a
priest ministering at an altar and offering up as a gift to God a multitude of
Gentile converts: "...that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable
(euprosdektos), being sanctified by the Holy Spirit."
Acts 10:35 is interesting as being a modified quote of Pro
12:22 LXX (the Hebrew is distinctly different). But why did Peter say "he that
worketh righteousness is accepted with him" (note the idea of sacrifice in v 4),
when LXX has "worketh faith"? Wouldn't this have served Peter's purpose even
better? Was he adjusting his language so as not to offend "them of the
circumcision" who were with him?
This is also one of the meanings attached to euarestos. So in
Phi 4:18 Paul uses two of them together for emphasis: "The things which were
sent from you are an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable (dektos)
well-pleasing (euarestos) to God."
In two places "dektos" is used in NT quotations of OT
passages. In the synagogue at Nazareth the Lord read from Isa 61 about "the
acceptable year of the Lord", where there is one allusion after another to the
Year of Jubilee. Jesus was proclaiming the time of release from sin.
Similarly, 2Co 6:2 quotes Isa 49:8: "Behold, now is the
accepted time." Again, the primary reference is to Hezekiah's Passover and the
great deliverance which took place then. But in the NT that "dektos" time was
the Passover when Jesus died, thus inaugurating a new and continual Passover
which is all deliverance.
The "euarestos" passages fall into two groups which seem to
overlap. As with the other two words there is often well-defined allusion to
acceptable sacrifice: "...that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable to God..." (Rom 12:1, alluding to Lev 1:4). "God... working in you
that which is well-pleasing (euarestos) in his sight" (Heb 13:21) comes
immediately after an allusion to "the blood of the covenant".
There is also another clear-cut meaning which has been largely
lost sight of. Euarestos is used in LXX as equivalent to Heb "hithalek", walking
with God. This word is used with ref to Enoch (Gen 5:22), and in LXX and Heb
11:5 it becomes: "he pleased (euarestos) God". LXX treats Gen 17:1; 6:9; Psa
56:13; 116:9 in the same way (but, strangely enough, not Isa 38:3). So it may be
taken as fairly certain that the idea of "walking with God" was in Paul's mind
when he wrote Rom 14:18; 2Co 5:9; Eph 5:10; and Tit 2:9. And this may well be
true of Rom 12:2; Col 3:20; and Heb 12:28; but it is in these three places where
the two ideas of acceptable sacrifice and walking with God seem to
"This is good and acceptable before God" comes twice in 1
Timothy (1Ti 2:3; 5:4). This word means "welcome". The verb (apodechomai -- 6
times) and the noun (apodoche -- twice) always carry this meaning. But the
adjective, apodektos, is marvelously like the word for paying tithes. Then was
Paul deliberately making a play on words here? -- suggesting that prayers for
those in authority (1Ti 2:3) and care for aged parents (1Ti 5:4) are a fine form
of tithe-paying for those not under the Law of Moses.