“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” —- Matthew 5:48.
It is very easy to misunderstand this bible verse if we read it out of context which is what we mostly do. So we give up and say “That’s not possible, I can’t be perfect like God.” However, I want us to look at the definition of perfect as used in this bible verse and the context which it was used.
Definition of perfect
The Greek word for perfect is teleios. The amazing thing is the word “teleios” is translated using various English words in the BIble, such as “complete, finished, full grown, mature, men, adults, etc.”In 1 Corinthians 14:20 (NIV), “Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults (teleios). In some other translation of 1 Corinthians 14:20, “mature and men” were used instead of “adult.” In Hebrews 5:14 (NIV), “But solid food is for the mature (teleios), who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”And it is used as “perfect” in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect (teleios) as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
So, we can say the word teleios or perfect means complete, finished, full grown, mature, men and adult. It does not mean sinless and flawless as we might assume.
The Context of Matthew 5:48
If we start reading from Matthew 5: 21 – 48, we can see that Jesus was talking about the laws in the old testament and he was literally raising the bar on the ten commandments. He raised the bar on murder, by telling us that murder actually begins in the heart. Being angry, keeping a grudge and calling someone a fool is also as bad as murder. Adultery is also not just a physical sexual contact with someone’s spouse, a lustful heart is also as bad. He went on to talk about divorce, making vows and oaths, retaliation, and love for our enemies. In vs 43 – 47, the talks about loving our neighbors and our enemies. For if we only love our friends and neighbors there’s no difference between us and the unbelievers. Even God our heavenly father loves everyone, good and evil. So we ought to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (vs. 48). We are to be perfect in love like God. Or like it says in Luke 6: 36, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Or like it says in 1 Peter 1:16, “Be holy for I am holy.” Therefore, we are to imitate God in all that we do (Ephesians 5:1).
So, looking at the Bible verse Matthew 5:48 in context makes it clearer and we understand it better. The Bible says we are made in the image and likeness of God. He is our Father and as his children, we should carry his characteristics. One of which is perfection. Deuteronomy 32:4 (NIV) says, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
So, we have a perfect Father and as his Children, we ought to be too. However, God does not expect or wait for us to be perfect before he saves us, he wants us to come as we are, with all of our flaws. But after salvation, we are called unto perfection in Christ Jesus. “Good enough” is not good enough for those in Christ. In the beginning, God created a perfect and good world, with perfect humans (Adam and Eve) before sin, death, imperfection, and flaws were introduced through disobedience into the perfect and good creation of God in Genesis 3.
However, God didn’t stop there. In-fact, before the creation of the world, he had already chosen Christ to die for our sins. 1 Peter 1: 20 (NLT) says, “ God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.” That we might be restored back unto perfection.
Now, this perfection is not a one-day automatic reset that happens when you give your life to Christ. It is a spiritual journey. I am not talking about physical perfection, someone who is a perfectionist in all the physical things they do but someone who is being perfect in Christ. Someone who has allowed Christ into their life and exchanged their imperfections for his perfection, their weakness for His strength. Someone who knows that this spiritual perfection is NOT possible by human effort and power but by the power and grace of God working in us. And has willingly allowed the Holy Spirit to continue to work in them as he perfects the fruits of the spirit in them. Fruits like love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22 – 23).
Fine we were flawed before we came to Christ and we still have some of those flaws in us but because we have Christ in us now, we have been crucified with him and raise with him. He now lives in us, so when God looks at us he sees Christ in us. And we must continue to aim and pursue righteousness and perfection in Christ Jesus. When Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, “ He knew it wouldn’t be possible by our own power. In fact, Jesus said in Mark 10: 27 (NLT), “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” That is why He had to leave so he can send us the Holy Spirit who will help us grow in Christ, lead, guide us in the path that Christ has laid down for us. This path is one that heads toward being Christlike. Being Christlike is to be perfect, for Christ is perfect. So, as Christians, we must aim and strive for perfection and pursue it with the whole of our heart. Don’t settle for good enough.
In Ephesians 4: 12 – 14 (NLT), “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature (perfect, complete, full grown) in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.”
The Bible passage above literally just showed us the difference between a spiritually immature (baby) Christian and a Spiritually mature (adult, grown, perfect) Christian.This is the person is being perfected, completed and continues to grow in Christ. This is the difference between someone who says, “I can’t be perfect, so when I sin, God will pour out his grace and forgive me,(spiritually immature)” and someone who says, “God help me to be perfect and matured in you, help me to hate sin as much as you do, pour out your grace upon and teach me to live in godliness (spiritually mature).” A spiritually mature (perfect) person is not necessarily a sinless person because if we say we ain’t sinner we are liars and truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). But someone who strive and press forward in Christ waiting for that day they can be free from this sinful body and be permanently perfect and complete in Christ.
Titus 2:11-14 (GNT), “For God has revealed his grace for the salvation of all people.That grace instructs us to give up ungodly living and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this world, as we wait for the blessed Day we hope for, when the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ will appear. He gave himself for us, to rescue us from all wickedness and to make us a pure people who belong to him alone and are eager to do good.”
So, as we wait in this world, true grace not only covers our sins and leads us to forgiveness, but the true grace of God hopes to completely transform us and lead us away from sin. Until the day of Christ Jesus. Because permanent perfection and a life with no sin will never be reached here on earth and in these fallen earthly bodies. But in our resurrected spiritual bodies and by the second coming of Jesus Christ we will be made perfect. Because I am certain and confident that God, who began the good work within us, will continue his work until it is finally finished (completed and perfected) on the day when Christ Jesus returns – Philippians 1 – 6 (NLT). However, we must start working towards that perfection now by surrendering our lives to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, or we won’t have any work in us waiting to be perfected and completed at all.
Tap into the abundant essence of the GRACE of God which is to lead you to become a mature (perfect) Christian in Christ Jesus. And like Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3: 12 (AMP), “Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own.
Let us also keep pressing on and striving towards perfection in Christ, for it is possible.
Perfect is not overrated, it is who you were created to be. #Christlikeness