After every test taken within the halls of academia, at least one student is praying that the teacher will graciously grade on a curve. Due to a lack of preparation or a believed impossible standard, the student just hopes that enough of his classmates did as poorly as he thought he did that the teacher will be forced to bump all grades up. If the highest score were an 85, then all students would receive an additional 15-point curve which might ensure that some students live to procrastinate yet another day.
Much like that teacher, many people are praying that God grades on a curve. The cosmic test is difficult and thorough, and we are in desperate need of assistance in order to pass. Throughout life, an individual realizes that he is not the most upright being in the world. He understands that to be welcomed in heaven, he’s going to need some help. He believes that he’s not as bad as everyone else, but he’s not the most righteous either. If God requires an A+, he’s hoping that the Grade-on-a-Curve God comes through and bumps up everyone’s score. Surely he will level the playing field, right?
The legalist correlation trap is a subtle yet severe danger. Since we are painfully aware of our unholiness, we would rather intentionally point out everyone else who is worse than us. It seems more advantageous for us to refocus God’s attention to their rampant sin rather than addressing our unfortunate issues. Holiness based on comparison is not a noteworthy goal in our culture. To be holier than most of those around you may not be that impressive of a feat. Even if God granted a significant curve for most of us, would it be enough?
The belief that God judges us on a scale compared to others is rampant and rampantly wrong. There exist two pivotal problems with this prominent view of God: 1) God doesn’t grade on a curve, and 2) Jesus is the supreme curve-buster anyway. God demands holiness, and Jesus provided it. Jesus came as God wrapped in human flesh and lived perfectly for his entire life. If we were hoping for a curve, Jesus robbed us of that possibility.
God does not grade on a curve. God is holy.
The Holiness of God
The task of defining holiness is an infinitely arduous task in of itself. While we tend to think of holiness as referring to something sacred, it really implies that something is set apart from something else. If holiness is to reveal the set apart nature of something, then God is the definition of holiness.
God’s holiness means that he is entirely distinct from everything else in creation.
God is holy. He is utterly unlike any other. While history records multiple ethnicities showing devotion to numerous deities, the God of the Bible claims to be in a category all by himself. Fundamentally, no other gods actually exist. Practically, many other gods do exist. The holiness of God demands a uniqueness that can be rivaled by no other.
Our souls are wired to require awe. In the holiness of God, we finally arrive at the stupefying splendor of which we were destined to behold. God is the magnificent majesty that is the needed remedy to get our poisoned eyes off of our sickening selves. His glory should bring an alarming reckoning to our spirits as it puts us on notice to wake up to our apathetic attitude. Our frivolous nature of approaching God on our own terms is an offense to the holiness of God. When will we wake up to the immense quality of his glorious uniqueness? We are not equals with him. We cannot approach him on our own terms. If we dare approach him, we must approach the throne of grace with confidence in Jesus, the great high priest (Heb. 4:16), not in us the unholy transgressors. God is the standard of holiness. He does not reach up to some standard above him. He will not stoop to some expectation beneath him. The measure even derives from within himself. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Prov. 9:10). To understand holiness, we must comprehend God.
If we only speak of God as gracious, we belittle him. God’s grace is more extensive than our capacity for a scandalous imagination, but it is not so cheap that it fails to expect a standard of holiness. If we render God so gracious that he cannot establish moral lines, we have gone too far.
God’s holiness is needed to be so intense to make his grace so amazing.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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