God says “Therefore you shall be perfect,
just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
People say, “Nobody’s perfect,
so why try?
When it’s God vs. people, guess who I want to go with every time! Because I know there’s great reward in doing what God says.
But wait a minute! The Apostle John tells us flat out “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). And the Apostle Paul admitted in Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected.”
So what to make of this? God says be perfect and two of his Apostles say we won’t be while in this human flesh.
The Greek word for “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 is TELEIOS and can be translated “mature.” This isn’t referring to growing older and grayer; it’s talking about spiritual development and character because there is a
“Close relationship between character and destiny”
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words says that’s what God is talking about plus “an end accomplished as the effect of a process.”
TELEIOS also means “complete.” The purpose of the Bible is to help the man or woman of God become “complete” (2 Timothy 3:17). Our Christian life is a lifelong test, but thank God it’s open book! And we can consult with others for the answers!
The Greek word in Timothy is a different one—EXARTIZO—and means furnished completely. When we complete the process, we are going to receive new digs that will be furnished more than we can imagine: a spiritual body with “all the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This will happen in the resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary says “It is the duty of Christians to desire and aim at and press toward a perfection in grace and holiness.”
Paul concurs in 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Therefore having these promises, beloved let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,
Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Paul said he strives for excellence and that means the standard of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8-15). Developing the mind of Christ by thinking and living like Him. Luke concurs that a disciple who is “perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
For that joy unspeakable goal, Paul forgets those things behind and reaches forward. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call for God in Christ Jesus.”
God doesn’t expect giant leaps; rather, steps no matter how small, reaching forward and looking upward. Not mired in the past, paralyzed in the present or fearful of the future.
Paul concludes in verse 15 “as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise God will reveal even this to you.” And so this time of year we do what Paul advises and “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
So why try to be perfect?
Our blindness keeps us from seeing what Matthew said: Our destiny is to be perfect like God our Father and Jesus Christ our Brother! We are going to become their perfect sons and daughters!
Who wants to be changed into a perfect spiritual being with all the fullness of Christ at the resurrection when He returns! This is the better resurrection—double portion for a firstborn (Deuteronomy 21:17)—because you will be part of His Bride and be in on the ground floor of His Kingdom on earth.
C.S. Lewis said Matthew 5:48 is
“Not idealistic gas”
In Mere Christianity Lewis counters naysayers: “He is going to make good His words. He will make the feebleist and filthiest of us into a god or goddess. Nothing less. He meant what He said.”
There’s more! In one sense you can be perfect now! Thanks to Jesus Christ being our Passover lamb and our living Unleavened Bread of Life, He is able to ”present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:22-23).
When the Father looks at us, He sees the reflection of His Son and sees perfection that is not yet as though it be (Romans 4:17).
Perfection in resurrection. Imputed perfection now.
That’s why try!
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