Be Perfect As Your Heavenly Father Is Perfect – Matthew 5:48 Explained
In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said to:
“Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect”.
How’s that working out for you? Are you perfect JUST LIKE GOD?
Of course not, and you couldn’t be, even on your best day.
Anyone who actually understands what Jesus was teaching in the sermon on the mount would realize that Jesus was actually trying to crush the hopes of EVERYONE listening to it. Let me explain why.
Over and over Jesus calls them to do impossible things that no human could ever do. And asking them to be perfect, just like God was no different.
We find this sermon in Matthew 5-7. It starts off in Chapter 5 with what we call the ‘Beatitudes’. This would be the part addressing believers.
- “Blessed are the meek” – Who are the meek? Christians are.
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”.
- “Blessed are the merciful”. Again, a Christian attribute.
- “Blessed are the pure in heart”. Do unbelievers have a pure heart? Of course not.
Then in verses 11-12 Jesus talks about them being insulted because of Him. He tells them to be glad, because they have a reward in heaven.
So we can all agree that part was to believers.
But then, people seem to miss this. Jesus does a 180. He starts to talk about the LAW.
Don’t forget that Christians are not under the law. We are free from the law. Christ is the end of the law for all who believe.
So why even bring it up? We’ll answer that very question in a moment.
Matthew 5:17 “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”.
Jesus started out talking to believers. The blessed ones. Now he’s going to tackle the unbelieving Jews.
Consider this. If not Jesus, what are the Jews chasing after for righteousness?
They’re chasing after the law.
Don’t you think Jesus would have a heart to save the Jews? What better way to do it than to show them that no one could be found righteous through the law?
So, Jesus gives the most amazing sermon to teach them the impossibility of getting right with God through the law.
Don’t look with lust, or it’s the same as adultery – Matthew 5:27
There are few, if any, men in history who would not be guilty of that. And if the wages of even one sin is death, then that single statement from Jesus just killed every man on the planet.
Don’t be angry, or it’s murder – Matthew 5:21
Don’t forgive and you won’t be forgiven either – Matthew 6:15
And what’s the solution to being saved from these sins? For Christians, it’s believe in Jesus. But the Jewish unbelievers have a different solution.
Here’s how they need to do it:
- Cut off your hands.
- Gouge out your eyes.
- Be perfect just like God.
Now, does anyone really think that’s God’s heart? Of course not. God wants us to receive Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
Yes, it’s true, if you reject Jesus, you better do everything you can to avoid sin. If you don’t want to look with lust, then you should gouge out your eyes. I agree that’s better than being thrown into hell for eternity.
But again, Jesus realizes no man can do all this stuff. He’s literally burying them under the true standard the law.
Jesus talks about leaving gifts at the altar. Altars were where the Jews sacrificed animals. Believers do not need altars. I often wonder why some churches still have them.
And this sermon keeps getting worse for Jews.
If someone slaps your face, do you give them the other cheek? Verse 39
If I wanted to sue you, would you just let me, and also give me your shirt and coat? Verse 40
How about Matthew 5:41
‘Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’
How are doing with that one?
If Christians really did have to give to anyone who wanted to borrow from us, we’d all be broke. Every unbeliever would take advantage of us.
Do you love your enemies? What if they did the unthinkable to you or your family. Would you love them then?
What about the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9:15?
Did you ever notice verse 12?
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Note: This verse means you only get the same amount of forgiveness as you are willing to dole out.
Verse 15 puts the nails in the coffin. It says:
‘if you don’t forgive others, then God won’t forgive you’.
That is not the gospel. God is not forgiving your sins based on how well you forgive others.
The gospel is the opposite of law. Look at how this changes after the cross;
‘forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you’ – Colossians 3:13
‘Forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ’ – Ephesians 4:32
In other words, pass it on. The law says you only get what you deserve. Grace says you are totally forgiven, so forgive in the same way you have been forgiven.
Jesus was showing the Jews what life under the law was like. He was showing them how impossible it was for them to get right with God through human performance. i.e. not looking with lust. Not getting angry. And yes, Being perfect JUST LIKE GOD. No human can do any of this.
Jesus told his disciples to go and teach ALL that he taught them. Have you ever noticed they did not teach all the harsh stuff that Jesus taught? Nope. Instead they taught a message of being made right by faith, NOT performance. They were teaching what Jesus taught them, not what Jesus was trying to teach the Jews who were chasing after the law for righteousness.
So, if you’re still trying to be perfect like God is, you can stop. You’ve missed the point. Jesus was leading everyone to understand we can’t be perfect like God is. When we finally understand that, that’s when we realize we need another way.
We realize we need Jesus.
Too many people are trying to apply the Sermon on the Mount to Christians. They are literally teaching people to try and get right with God through human effort. The law.
So, you can try to get right with God by giving away all of your stuff. Forgiving people with total perfection. Loving evil people who hurt you. Or you can realize that what God really wants is for you to see what the Jews needed to see. He wants you to see that human performance can never be the way to righteousness. God wants you to look at the law and say the same thing the disciples said in the story about the rich young ruler.
The rich ruler wanted to know how to inherit the Kingdom. Jesus responds by giving a bunch of rules and laws to inherit the Kingdom. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Sell everything. And look how even the disciples responded.
‘The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Mark 10: 26
Even they knew this was impossible. And that’s what the law should make us all say. We should be freaked out by such a standard.
And Jesus gives them the real answer. It’s for the rich young ruler. It’s for the Jews at the Sermon on the Mount. And it’s for you and I.
‘Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27
Avoid sin? Of course. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. But no amount of sin avoiding will ever save us. It won’t make God like us more. It won’t make us perfect.
We can never be made perfect through the flesh. Let’s not be like the Galatians who were saved by faith, but then suddenly were deceived and started trying to keep right with God through the flesh. And do you remember how the Apostle Paul responded to them?
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? – Galatians 3:3
The takeaway is this:
Sin is horrible. Avoid it. How can we who died to sin, still want to live in it?
But you are not defined by your perfection or lack thereof.
You are the righteousness of Christ. You are blameless. You are holy. You are Justified.
Your effort had nothing to do with it. Your faith in Jesus and His work on the cross is what made you totally right with God.
So, if you’re still trying to be perfect through effort, let me encourage you to stop. You are perfected by your identity in Jesus. You didn’t do it to yourself. He did it to/for you.
I leave you with this verse in Hebrews 10:14
‘For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.’
God Bless You All!
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.
It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.