Measuring Up to God’s Standard
Lighthouse Assembly of God
Pastor Greg Tabor
You’ve got to think that the folks listening to Jesus were hoping for a replacement for the stringent Law of God that had become even more difficult to keep under the unbearable traditions of the Pharisees. I’m sure there were some great expectations. After all, the yoke under the Law must’ve seemed at times unbearable. But they were in for a disappointment if that was their thinking.
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Christ states that His goal in coming is not to destroy God’s Law. He’s not replacing it or minimizing it or creating loopholes for folks who can’t seem to live up to it. What did He come to do?
o Christ fulfilled it. He met the standard.
1. He kept all the commands – no sin (see Hebrews 4:15).
2. He fulfilled all the types and shadows of the Law (see Hebrews 10:1). While principles of these laws are still important for the Christian - the practice of these laws is obsolete because they shadowed what has now come in full substance.
3. He has and will fulfill every prophecy uttered about Him.
4. Some say He fulfilled the Law by interpreting it correctly, in stark contrast to the Pharisees and all their man made traditions. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for “setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9 NIV).
o God’s Law is lasting. The standard will not change.
1. Not one ‘iota’ will disappear. What’s an ‘iota’? It is the smallest Greek letter. The smallest Hebrew letter is the ‘yod.’
2. Christ further made His point that not even the smallest part of a letter, literally ‘the little horn,’ would disappear.
3. It’ll be around till everything is accomplished. It ain’t going nowhere.
4. Christ didn’t come to throw it out, but rather to show the people where the bar really stood.
19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
“The Pharisees, it is probable, divided the precepts of the law into lesser and greater, teaching that they who violated the former were guilty of a trivial offence only. Christ teaches that in his kingdom they who make this distinction, or who taught that any laws of God might be violated with impunity, should be called least; while they should be held in high regard who observed all the laws of God without distinction.” – Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament
We can’t pick or choose what we like in God’s Word. And man doesn’t get into God’s kingdom by lowering the bar or trying to find loopholes in His Law. That is an exercise in futility. Dropping God’s standards is a sure recipe for God’s judgment.
20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Here we have the reality that God’s standards aren’t changing. And that is coupled with the reality that even the Pharisees aren’t measuring up. We are offered a place in heaven, but only if our righteousness surpasses the great spiritual leaders of Jesus’ day. You see the Pharisees exercised a lot of externals, but missed the ‘heart’ of the Law, as we’ll see in the weeks to come. If we are to obtain a righteousness greater than theirs, then it will have to be one that transforms the heart or else we can only hope to be whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones.
Paul, a former Pharisee himself, considered his works ‘rubbish’ “that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Phil 3:8-9 NIV
He also wrote:
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:20-22 NIV
So the righteousness God wants us to have will never be obtained by observing the Law, but rather through faith in Jesus Christ. He met God’s standards for righteousness, therefore we must trust in Him and receive His righteousness rather than trying to meet God’s standards in our own power.
The last verse also reveals one of the main purposes of the Law. It wasn’t to save, as many suspected (for as we’ve seen if that was the case than the spiritual leaders, let alone the general populus, were in trouble). The purpose was to show us how rotten to the core we really are:
“Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are.” Galatians 3:19 NLT
“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.” Romans 5:20 NLT
“it was the law that showed me my sin.” Romans 7:7 NLT
And then when the reality of our sinfulness hits and we realize we are indeed ‘poor in spirit,’ then we are ready for a Savior.
“the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” Galatians 3:24 NIV
It’s a one-two punch. Law, then Grace. Folks that don’t realize what a sinner they are won’t realize what a Savior they need. When we truly realize we don’t come close to meeting His standards, we realize we need someone Else who can enable us to measure up.
The beginning of our text states that Christ didn’t come to abolish the Law. And that is true. But He did come to bring men out from under its judgment.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” Galatians 3:13 NIV
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14 NIV
When one relies on Christ for righteousness, He no longer fears the penalty of the Law. We have all fallen short of God’s glorious standard, but Christ justifies us. And Christ now gives him/her the Holy Spirit whereby he/she fulfills the Law via the Holy Spirit in practical ways throughout their everyday life. (see Romans 8:3-4, Romans 13:8-10 NIV). Our relationship to God’s Law completely changes. It becomes a moral guide rather than a merciless judge.