In our continuing sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount, we have worked our way through Jesus’ discourse on the law of Moses, and concluded Sunday’s message with the closing words posed by Jesus in Matthew 5:48 --
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. “
After a lengthy discourse in which Jesus addressed not only the outward letter of the law, but also the evil intents and inclinations of our hearts, the reader finally arrives at verse 48 with a self-condemning heart, understanding that perfect righteousness is far beyond the flesh’s own doing. If His prior words set the bar out of our immediate reach, then the summation command, “Be perfect,” places the bar completely out of the bounds of the universe itself.
Impossible to attain. Yet, there it is.
So, how does one become perfect? Let’s look at two means by which perfection is NOT attained:
- Human effort does not make one perfect.
Galatians 3:3 - "How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?"
(for the best commentary on this verse, read the entire book of Galatians; Paul articulates the futility of human effort)
- The law does not make one perfect.
Hebrews 10:1 - “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”
Hebrews 7:19 - "For the law never made anything perfect."
(again, for the best commentary, nothing beats the Bible itself; the book of Hebrews speaks to this subject at length)
'Perfection' comes from God alone.
- Romans 12:2 - "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."
- Colossians 4:12 - "Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God."
- Hebrews 10:14 - "For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy."
- James 1:2-4 - "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
- James 1:21-25 - "So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it."
Perfection is a process. We will never be perfect in this life time, yet He works perfection in us as we yield to Him; just as we can never become righteous by our own efforts, yet “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”
By God’s standards, nobody could ever achieve perfection, or even be qualified to receive salvation. It is impossible.
Jesus’ disciples increasingly understood this truth, culminating in the question, “Then who in the world can be saved?”
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible,” Jesus responded. “But with God everything is possible (Matthew 19:26).”
Want to be perfect? Then don’t hide your weaknesses, but boast in them, for God says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a).”
Love In Christ,