Be Ye Therefore Perfect

Matt 5:43-48


    48Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect..                                                    Matthew 5:48   ASV


Perhaps no words of Jesus’ teaching have given more hesitation to honest hearts than these words. With an appreciation to their significance, combined with a conviction that our Lord, is always reasonable in what He  expects of us,  we approach this text.


And in doing so, it is of great importance that we should guard ourselves against two perils which threaten us.  This of course is true  any text we study of course.  First, we must be careful not to exclude from these words any of the Lord’s meanings for us. We must not say, that our Lord did not quite intend what He said. We must not involve ourselves in any form of pernicious Bible criticism, attempting to conform the words of Jesus to our own  experiences of inability


Secondly, we must not include any more than Christ intended for His words to convey to us.  It will be helpful for us this morning if we can relent any preconceived ideas and approach this text  with an open heart and mind.


We hear much of Christian perfection, a most beautiful phrase.  I have occasionally had Christians, say  to me  "Do you believe in Christian perfection, or being a perfect Christian" And there is involved in this question,  a conception, an interpretations, based upon the meaning we normally give to the word perfection, namely "without spot and blemish, flawless" .


Someone may say to you reproachfully of course "You think you are perfect don't you?". My wife may have uttered these very words.  By this they mean without a flaw.  From this idea, I hope to steer you away.


With regard to the 2nd of these perils,  that of including nothing which our Lord did not intend, allow me to say  at once that the reading we find in our Revised Versions are both  most important and accurate. The mood of the verb is future indicative, and not imperative. Jesus did not say "Be ye therefore perfect",  but rather  "Ye shall therefore be perfect.". 


The indicative mood simply states a fact. The Lord’s  words always involve responsibility. Here then, is a declaration of what He expects of those who wear His name,   Christ came to restore to man the dignity he formerly had before his fall in Eden, and we can be restored only in Christ. Confronting His own disciples, but speaking in the hearing of the multitudes that had gathered about Him, He said this: ……" Ye shall therefore be perfect …even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. "   


Let us consider in this study then, the central idea of being perfect. Next the perfection of the Father, when Christ  said, "as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." and finally the perfection to which you and I should attain by these words, "Ye shall therefore be perfect "


First then the general idea of perfection. No doubt the arresting word of  Matthew 5:48 then Is the word perfect for it appears twice.  Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  This is  word which gives rise to much  thought,  and is the word that we have been so anxious to undervalue. “You know the lord didn't really mean what he said, Perfect, No one can be perfect…..What HE really meant is that we are to be as good as we can be. 


What  then does the word perfect mean? I point you to the actual word of the Greek New Testament, let us get behind the actual word, from which our word "perfect" came.


Take away it inflections first and go directly to its root, — it is a simple word, [tevleio"]meaning "to set out for a given point, not to go indiscriminately, but to go toward a definite place". It suggests

That Of Traveling Toward A Goal.  That is its root idea.


From this another meaning was derived meaning a limit, the successful conclusion of a journey,   the destination of the traveler, the place toward which the journey was taken, and so the word came to mean "a termination,  a result,  or successful completion"  and from that word comes our word "perfect"


In classical Greek, this word is used of adults as distinguished from children who are undergoing discipline.  In pagan religions of ancient Greece, the word was used of those who had passed beyond  the state of  being a novice. They had arrived as teachers and masters, they had attained their goal.


In the Greek N T this word occurs only in my text and in one other place in the gospels. In Matthew 19:16  a young man ask our Lord  Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” He was immediately pointed to the law of Moses and the commandments.  "All these things have I observed: what lack I yet?."  was his reply.  Then  Jesus said (Matt 19:21) “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”


If you would reach your goal, the ultimate goal and  destination of that of which you ask, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me   22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions”.


Jesus now turns again to His disciples and teaches  this lesson.

23Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24).


 I illustrate the varying value of perfection in order that we may get a better grasp of it.   Here is a baby in its mother's arms. Is it perfect? Ask the mother, (grandmother).  Meet the child again 16 years later. Is he perfect? Ask the young man. Add a dozen years to this teenager. Is he perfect? Ask the young lady who is to be his bride.  Perfect as a baby, perfect as a teenager, and perfect as a young man, but always room for growth.


Perfection means then, “arrival at particular stage of completeness, but not without the possibility of proceeding to another”. Perfection is the reaching of a given limit, yet when realized our eyes are cast to a higher goal, a new vision,  greater heights. 


Jesus also gives us the barometer by which we are to measure ourselves hear the passage again.  Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Here then is the standard for which we are to strive.


But continuing, “What then is the perfection of the Father”? This word perfect is never elsewhere used of God in all the New Testament.  Jesus never again made use of this word with God, if the word means reaching a goal toward which a man has traveled toward,  then immediately we are faced with this, God is not traveling toward any goal, He knows nothing of youth, never a novice.

The vision of Daniel, chapter seven, strangely illuminating says it this way  "the Ancient of Days." He is taking no journey toward a larger perfection. His perfection is absolute and final.


Christ’s use of the word is an accommodation in order to teach an essential lesson to His disciples. It is imperative that we interpret Christ’s use of the word in light of all His teaching about His Father. But for the present purpose I confine myself to the Sermon on the Mount.  What did Christ teach us about God from this sermon?


 First, that He is in the heavens. I think we often lose a great deal by not being more literal in our translations. Jesus said: "Your Father which is in the heavens"  He taught us to pray "Our Father which art in the heavens,"  always in the plural. I think there is at least in this a suggestion of the omnipresence of our Father.


He also made these simple declarations concerning God: "Your Father seeth,   Your Father knoweth,   Your Father feedeth…"   And then look back to His earlier words, and those of our text  Matthew 5:45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  


Do not shrink back from this illustration.  It is not mine, I did not choose it, it is the Lord’s     The last verse the one we are studying, rises right out of this thought, and must be interpreted by the context in which the Lord placed it. 

"Ye shall be perfect, just as the Father in the heavens is perfect."    "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and   He sendeth His rain on the just and the unjust."


Here then is a revelation of God, love is His essence, "God is love" John declares,  He is a loving benevolent God, who without regard to the person, gives care.


Now watch as we read the text together.  Matthew 5:43-48

43Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: 44but I say unto you, love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; 45that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. 46For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Gentiles the same? 48Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ASV)     


Here is the idea of perfection to which we are to strive,  love your enemies, bless them that curse you…do good ,pray.   Why…45That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust


Could war last for 24 hours if love mastered all people? Every social problem that confronts us today would be solved if only we could make men live a life governed by love as stated here by the Lord. This then is our Lord’s description of the perfection of the Father.


How shall we achieve this? I believe the answer to be in the text and context.  There are many figures the Lord could have set before us —“ Be perfect as your King  in heaven is perfect” — He didn't say that did He?  Be perfect as your Father is perfect”.


Now the word that grasps my attention is not perfect, but “Father”. I look at that word and I go back to the beginning of Jesus' sermon.  In Matthew 5:16 I find the first time Jesus is telling men the purpose for which they are called and I read

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heavens”.  Jesus never uses this figure of speech again until He came to end of our text

Matthew 5:45  That ye may be the children of your Father…. Ye shall therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father…..


As I studied the sermon on the mount, I began to look at the word Father, and then things began to fit into understanding . Take the sixth chapter at your leisure, and do what I did while reading it, high light or mark the  word "Father"  watch it! 


Beginning (verse 1) Life is to be lived before our Father righteousness before Him and not before men to be seen of them…   Your alms are to be given so that "your Father" may seen them, and "your Father" who sees in secret will recompense you…  When you pray verse 5  pray to the “Father” alone, and "your Father" will reward…..  When you forgive,… remember “the Father will forgive you….  When you fast —  do it alone with "your Father".. Don't be anxious about the necessary things in life..  "your Father knoweth  that you have these needs  In these things then we are to reach for perfection, we are to leave childhood, becoming mature adults.  In Ephesians 4:11-15

11And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: 13till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 15but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;


And finally the philosophy of the beloved apostle Paul —

13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded           Philippians 3:13-15


Jesus say's live your life before the Father, and like Him “ye shall be perfect” Paul says, keep stretching for maturity.. tevleio".         


If we can be of further help to you in your search for God and what He would have you do in order to be saved in that great day, please contact:

 Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ


phone:  (678)617-9658