Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48, HCSB)
The Biblical Illustrator has the following comments on this passage:
Perfect. I. What is not to be understood by this requirement, or what Christian perfection is not. Not perfection of knowledge, freedom from temptation, conflict, etc.; II. What is the perfection here required? Perfect obedience to the law of God; III. That this perfection is a duty. For God requires it; and IV. That it is attainable. It is commanded-God wills it; it is promised; it is the object for which the Holy Spirit is promised and given, etc.
The first thing to understand is what perfect does not mean.
We will not be perfect in knowledge this side of heaven and we grow day by day (1 Corinthians 13:11-12; 4:15-16; Colossians 1:10; 1 Peter 2:2; and 2 Peter 3:18); though we have all we need in this present life, lacking nothing (2 Peter 1:2-4; Ephesians 1:3; Romans 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 3:21; and 2 Corinthians 9:8).
We will not be free from temptation (Hebrews 4:15 and James 1:14), but will be provided a way out (1 Corinthians 10:12-13; James 4:7; and Hebrews 4:16); and the power over evil if we chose to use it (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 3:20 and 6:10-18; Colossians 1:11; Galatians 5:16-17; and Romans 8:37-39); and he who endures even receives a reward (James 1:12).
We will not be free from conflict or trials (John 16:33 and I Corinthians 10:13), but rather count it all joy as trials are a part of life for our growth (James 1:2-5, 12). I hear so many Christians talk of conflict and trials as something that can be avoided but I cannot find that in the Bible, and believe me I have looked for it. We cannot pray ourselves out of conflict because we live in a fallen world, but we can pray for help and wisdom in getting through these times.
The second thing to understand is obedience is required (1 John 2:3-6; Matthew 28:20; and Romans 6:16, 26). There are imperatives (commands) after imperatives in the Bible. So believers think obedience is a work and grace will take care of everything. Once again I don’t find this in Scripture. We will address this passage from 1 John in a future blog, but for now recognize that obedience tells us certain things about our walk: it shows us that we really know Jesus and that the love of God is perfected in us.
The third thing to understand is that perfection is required (Matthew 5:48). I can get myself in trouble with this one! But as soon as you understand what perfection means in the Bible this becomes less hard to grasp, and that is my prayer for you and I in this blog series.
The fourth thing to understand is that perfection can be reached in the life of the true disciple or it would have never been commanded (Matthew 5:48). Perfection is a process that is past, present, and future. This should become clear with the blogs that proceeded and follow this post.