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Be ye perfect

aymon de albatrus

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:48 AV)

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2Co 7:1 AV)

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see Him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (1Jo 3:2-3 AV)

“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Heb 12:4 AV)

Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Now this is a tall order for us humans, indeed impossible. In no way we can be perfect on our own as God is, for our spiritual hearts are continually evil (Gen 6:5) and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9).

The context here is in the relation between ourselves and other humans, in that we are to do good to all men as God that is perfect does good to all men. He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat 5:45). So our perfection in this context is to: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10 AV)

But we are to be perfect in all things striving against sin (Heb 12:4), and yet we are not sinless. This is known by all and if anyone says that he is without sin, he is a liar to God, to men and to himself: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1Jo 1:8,10 AV).

How can we then be sinless and perfect to enter Heaven? Definitely not made perfect by our own devices, but made perfect by the holy blood of Christ shed for us on the cross. (Heb 9:14; 1Pe 1:18,19)

By perfect Scripture here means a Finished Product, complete in all its parts, brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, fully grown in human integrity and virtue, mature and perfectly consummate. The Lord Jesus in His human nature was always morally perfect, yet scripture speaks of His being ‘made perfect’. Though the Son, yet He learned obedience (not to be understood as ‘to be obedient’) by the things which He suffered; and being made ‘perfect’ (that is, glorified) after He had finished the work of redemption, He became the author of eternal salvation to all that obey Him (Heb 5:9; 12:2).

The disciples were exhorted to be perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect, for He sends His blessings on the evil and the good. (Mat 5:45), in other words to do good to all men, especially to those of the household of God. Being perfect is also applied to being a ‘full grown’ man to the full stature of Christ (Eph 4:13). In Phi 3:12 Paul says that he was not yet perfected but was pressing on to perfection in Christ, exhorting us to do the same.

This word ‘perfect’ in the Bible commonly means: finished, complete, pure and holy. It refers to completeness of parts, or perfection, when no part is defective or wanting. Thus Job is said to be perfect: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1 AV), of course not holy as God, or sinless, for fault is afterwards found with him, (Job 9:20; 42:6) but that his piety was proportionate, had a completeness of parts, was consistent and regular, he exhibited his religion as a prince, a father, a patriarch, an individual, a benefactor of the poor. He was not merely a pious man in one place, but uniformly. He was consistent everywhere. This is the meaning in Matthew 5:48. Be not religious merely in loving your friends and neighbours, but let your piety be shown in loving also your enemies; be perfect; imitate God; let the piety be complete in you, and proportionate, and regular. This every Christian may be; this every Christian must be.

In this part of chapter five of Mathews the Lord intends perfection in our attitude towards fellow men and not that we may, or can, or ought to be perfect in love to men to the same degree God is, for that is impossible for us, but to do our utmost to achieve that. The “as” here is denoting not equality but likeness, i.e. such as, those who profess God as their Father ought to imitate Him for their love to men. This we can endeavour to do in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. A man that shows regard in a providential way to all men, good and bad, just and unjust, and his tender mercies are over all his works. So men ought to love all men with a natural affection, and hate no man, not even their enemies that hate them (Luk 6:27,35), for he that loves only his friends, and not his enemies, loves imperfectly for he does not take in the whole meaning of love as God loves sincerely, and without dissimulation, and so should they. To be "perfect" is to be sincere and upright showing true love to all men as stated in Deu 18:13 which is the passage Christ seems to refer to here.

“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” (Phi 3:15 AV) Here Paul spurs believers to reach perfection.

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded Or, rather, those who would be perfect or who are aiming at perfection. Of course the Apostle knows perfectly well that his interlocutors are not already perfect, for he had just said of himself that he had not attained to such state. But those whom he addressed might be supposed to be aiming at perfection, and he exhorts them, therefore, to have the same spirit that he himself had, and to make the same efforts which he himself puts forward and to be thus minded.

be thus minded; as the apostle was in reckoning all things but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ; to be willing to suffer the loss of all things to win Him and to be found in Him (Phi 3:8). To forget the things behind and reach to those ahead pressing towards the mark which is Christ, the prize of eternal glory, (Phi 3:13,14). He would have them to be thus minded as he himself was, in renouncing all carnal confidence, acknowledging their gradual imperfection, and still to be striving and contending to a fuller measure of holiness, till they come to be perfect in Christ.

And if in any thing ye be otherwise minded. That is, if there were any who had not as yet these elevated views and aims, and who had not been brought to see the necessity of such efforts, or who had not learned that such high attainments were possible, to change their minds. There might be some who had been very imperfectly instructed in the nature of discipleship; those who entertained views which impeded their progress, and prevented the simple and earnest striving for perfection and who were still hindered and embarrassed by erroneous opinions.

God shall reveal even this unto you. God will correct their erroneous opinions, and disclose to them the importance of making this effort for perfection. Those who were sincere and true Christians, God would yet make a full revelation of the nature of discipleship; He would lead them on so that they would fully understand it. They who are acquainted with godly things and have been truly converted, God will teach and guide until they shall have a full understanding of divine things. These are those who sincerely strive to do God’s will (Joh 7:17 Eph 1:17).

We conclude then that it is impossible for us humans to make ourselves perfect, still Jesus says be ye perfect!? But if it is impossible, why does Jesus command us to do it? God never gives any commandments except He prepares a way for men to accomplish the things which He has commanded them! Even though I am convinced that it would be impossible to attain perfection in this life, on our own power, nevertheless I believe that we can do whatsoever God commands us to do but only in Christ (Phi 4:13). This may appear as a contradiction, but it is not. What makes it possible is the atonement of Jesus. Where we fail (and we will fail often enough), Jesus will heal the imperfections if we turn to Him and relay on Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit (Psa 51:17).

Love (Agape) is then the basis of perfection, and our love is made perfect in Christ Jesus (Eph 3:17-19).