One of the most often recurring objections to the Gospel message is that people say that it lowers God’s standard, or that God has somehow “gone soft” on sin. They say that the Gospel message of Grace is an affront to God’s holiness, and they say because of these things, that it must be a false message, and that the Gospel of Grace must therefore be rejected.
You may be surprised how often I hear these things, and whenever I hear them, I respond with a simple statement: that no, the Gospel doesn’t lower God’s standard, in-fact His standard has never changed.
This doesn’t negate the Gospel message in any way, in-fact it strengthens the Gospel message one-hundred fold.
What I want to share with you today, is how the fact that God’s unchanging and perfect standard is actually a testament to His marvelous grace, and how in Christ Jesus today, you don’t need to be afraid of His standard, but you can honestly rejoice in it.
Now there are a number of verses talking about the absolute immutability of God… in simple terms, He never changes. We know this, and it may interest you to know that in each verse where it mentions God’s unchanging nature, it usually includes a reference to His mercy, His grace and the promise of Jesus. (Malachi 3:6, Isaiah 46:10, Philippians 1:6, Titus 1:2)
In addition to God’s own unchanging nature, His standard for righteousness also does not change. In the Old Covenant, His standard was laid out in great detail – and we can see plainly that the burden was placed squarely in our lap. In Leviticus 26:3 for example, God says that If you walk in my statutes and keep my commandments and do them… then I will…
So we can clearly see the relationship there… if you do this, then I will bless you – but under the Old Covenant the burden was always placed on man. Man had to keep the Law, man had to perform, man had to offer the appropriate sacrifices. Now keep in-mind, this was never God’s good pleasure. Old Covenant Law, was never His choice in the first place… Hebrews chapter 10 makes it clear that God found no pleasure in the sacrifices or offerings of the Law, but Jesus came to do His will. That is, to do what man himself could not do… satisfy God’s perfect standard. The sacrifices of bulls and goats, all of the ordinances and behavioral rules, none of it could accomplish the goal of God regarding man… and that is found in Hebrews 10:2, the goal of God regarding mankind, His true wish, was to truly purge man of sin completely – to restore what was lost all those years ago in the Garden of Eden, a conscience that is free from sin! And further down in the chapter, in verse 22, He wants us to draw near to Him, in pure, unhindered fellowship, with a clean heart and having even our bodies washed with pure water.
None of that is possible through the Old Covenant Law, because as stated in the chapter, the Law causes us to remember sin – while Jesus totally removed and purged our sin completely.
Everything that I have just said is stated very plainly in chapter 10 of Hebrews. And it is at this point that the typical objections that I mentioned at the start of this study are raised, regarding the Grace and mercy of God and the Gospel. They typically say things like “Oh, so you’re saying because Jesus died, we can just continue in sin?!”, “Because Jesus died, we can just sweep sin under the carpet?!” – and there’s the great misunderstanding… the Apostle Paul’s own response to such a question, is an eye-opening one to whoever has eyes to see it. In Romans 6:2-4, he writes this answer to the question posed by the critics of Grace:
“God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Do you see what he is saying here? Paul responds to the question of the critics by getting to the root of the issue… he uses the Greek noun for sin, not the verb! He is talking about the place that you are in, and the person that you are, not the actions that you commit! And look what he says; he connects it all to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for us. He says in these verses, How can we that are dead to sin (the noun, the place, the person, your old identity), how can we who are dead to that, even live there any longer?!
Paul’s entire answer is based on the finished work of Christ, and the position which Christ has now placed you in, and your new identity in Him! He says in verses 3 and 4, Don’t you know, that all of us that were immersed into Christ were immersed into His death? As a result, our old man is buried and gone, and now with Christ raised from the dead, our new self raised with Him, and now we live with our new life!
This is all about (you guessed it!) identity! This is about receiving what Jesus Christ has done on that cross, personally for you, and living from that new place of acceptance and righteousness every single moment of every day… not because you are trying to become something one day, but because it is who He has made you to be right now, and you are simply being who you are! There’s no pressure for an apple tree to be an apple tree… it’s simply an apple tree so that is what it is. It doesn’t strive or struggle or sweat to be an apple tree, it simply is what it is.
Likewise, there is no pressure for you as a true believer in Christ to be righteous. You simply are righteous, because that is who Jesus has made you to be… you are what you are. You don’t stress or struggle or strive to be righteous one-day. You simply are righteous. Jesus did the work, made you a new creation, and you have the honor and privilege of living exactly what He has created you to be. That, my dear friend, is a life of true thankfulness, joy and praise that you have probably heard of before, and maybe wondered how or why anyone would be truly thankful like that… now you know! You don’t strive, you thrive in the finished work of Christ, every single day!
Now, here is where this all ties together with God’s perfect never-changing standard… (I didn’t forget).
All throughout scripture referenced to God’s perfect standard is made, we read some earlier (the “if-then” conditions for blessing). There are also scriptures such as Matthew 5:48, for example, where Jesus Himself says to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect. That’s one heck of a high-bar to set! Those objecting to the Gospel of Grace, say that we lessen the standard of God, but they are actually the ones lessening the standard of God, when they claim that these words of Jesus don’t carry the full weight of what they say! Because I have heard legalistic preachers use this verse to try and spur people on to works and behaviors, and to get them to try their hardest and “do their best”, as if that was enough!
The problem is Jesus didn’t say here to try as hard as you can and do your best… He said to flat-out be perfect, and then He went on to define the measure of that perfection… just as your Father in Heaven is perfect! So if we are to hold-up the standard of God, let’s do it all of the way… and then let’s not even pretend that it is something humanly attainable through our own works or our efforts, or our will-power.
You see… I don’t lessen the standard of God at all; neither does the Gospel of Jesus Christ – after all, as we read in Hebrews 10, it was His will that Jesus came to do.
Here’s the point. Jesus did exactly the will of the Father. Jesus finished the work. He is the perfect sacrifice. And as we have already read today. Your old self died with Jesus on the cross, and your new self is alive with Him today. Perfectly righteous, perfectly holy, perfectly blameless.
Today, if you are in Christ, you already meet the perfect standard of God, because Jesus meets the perfect standard of God.
Let that sink in.
And as for being perfect? Take another look at Hebrews chapter 10, verse 14:
“For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Jesus fulfilled our perfection for us, on the cross by His own sacrifice. We are forever perfect in the sight of God. We are holy (sanctified) not because of our efforts, strength or striving, but because of what Jesus has done for us.
My friend, the Gospel of Grace does not lower God’s standard… not one bit. Your sins did not just get “swept under the carpet” to even claim such a thing, is to utterly insult the suffering of Jesus when He took your sins on that cross. Just think of the Passion of the Christ movie, and the torture you see there – and then realize that even there, it didn’t show even one-third of the brutality that Jesus actually suffered!
No, your sins did not escape unpunished either. They were punished in the body of Jesus Christ. Anyone who claims that Grace allows sin to go unpunished, doesn’t understand 1st Peter 2:24. They were punished in the body of Jesus, for everyone who accepts Him.
So in closing, I encourage you today, God’s has never changed. What has changed, is the quality of the sacrifice. One was based on man, and the other was based on the divine and perfect Christ. I’m satisfied with His sacrifice, and as we have read today, so is the Father.
So relax, and rest. And live as He has made you to be. The debt has been paid. It is finished.