These days, we hear a lot about grace. There is a gospel circulating within Christendom that says, ‘God is love, come as you are.’ While this is true, God is love and calls us to come as we are, He loves us to much to let us stay that way.
You see, sin separates us from God and His love. It separated Adam and Eve from Him in the garden. It separated the Israelites from Him in the wilderness (a tabernacle was built to protect them). And in the Promised Land, sin separated the Israelites from God when His Presence left the Temple. Sin can separate us from Him as well.
But because of God’s love, mercy, and grace, He provided a way to restore fellowship – the sacrificial system. Remember that in the garden He told Adam that on the day he disobeyed, he would die. Sin causes death.
Too often we see the sacrificial system as bloody and barbaric. What we fail to realize is that it is our sin that causes the blood and the death. Because of God’s love for us, He provided a substitution. That is the grace of God.
Before the Sinai event we see the sacrificial system in place. It began in the garden. God killed an animal to cover Adam and Eve in their nakedness – nakedness that appeared after they sinned. We continue to see it with Cain and Abel as they sacrificed to God. We see it with Noah, Job, and Abraham. Job offered sacrifices for his children every morning because, “My sons might have sinned and blasphemed God in their thoughts.”
So how did that work? The animal took on our sin so we could have fellowship with God, because sin cannot stand in His presence. We don’t have to look further than the incident of Nadab and Abihu to understand this. We also see God’s grace at work here. Look what He said:
The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons when they approached the presence of the Lord and died, and the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother that he must not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil-canopy in front of the atonement plate that is on the ark so that he may not die, for I will appear in the cloud over the atonement plate.
God’s grace, mercy, and love moved Him to protect Aaron and his sons from His consuming glory by only allowing them to come into His presence one day a year, only one man.
In Ezekiel 36:19 God tells us that He judged the Israelites ‘in the manner of their life and actions.’ This might sound as though God was demanding perfection, something we cannot accomplish.
Or can we?
Throughout scripture we see that the call on our life is to be holy, perfect.
- for I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, and you are to be holy because I am holy. – Leviticus 11:45
- for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16
- So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:28
So you see, even Yeshua calls us to be perfect. ‘Impossible!’ you say? That’s where grace comes in.
God knows our strengths and weaknesses. Paul tells us that He never gives us more than we can accomplish. This is why nothing can separate us from the love of God in Messiah Yeshua. When we fail to do that which God has asked, we repent and fall on the sacrifice that is ever before the Father; covering that sin with His perfect blood.
Yet that does not relieve us of our responsibility to walk in perfection. We are called ‘children of God’. As His children, we represent Him here on earth. The way we behave – our actions and the manner in which we conduct our lives – reflect on Him and His character. When we continuously walk in sin, depending on His forgiveness when we finish satisfying the sin desire, we profane His name. (Think tantrum-throwing-child-in-grocery-store. What does their behavior say about the parents?)
God takes His name and character seriously. He judges and saves not because of our merit, but for the sake of His reputation among the nations. God’s desire is for all men to be saved, to return to fellowship with Him. Our behavior will either aid or hinder the realization of His desire.
Many today, preaching a grace gospel that doesn’t ask for repentance from dead works, are guilty of profaning God’s name. We cannot earn our salvation, that is something God alone accomplishes. But we are called to perfection, leaving behind the sins of the flesh.
As Paul says, “are we to say, ‘Let’s keep on sinning, so that there can be more grace’? Heaven forbid! How can we, who have died to sin, still live in it?”