Understanding Jesus’ Command to Be Perfect

The last verse of Matthew 5 is a command from Jesus to be perfect.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

Most of my life, I’ve always heard that perfection is unattainable and that Jesus was the only one who was able to obtain perfection, and that Jesus is the only one who ever can obtain perfection (meaning that we cannot today). So I tossed this question out to the Internet: “If perfection is impossible, why would Jesus command us to be it?” Based on my understanding of God, which knows how good He is, and how He wants that no one should perish (2 Peter 3:9), He wouldn’t give Jesus a command to give to us, unless it were somehow possible.

I received some feedback that I’d like to dive into. I’ve copied the quotes from the thread later in this article, but I’m choosing to keep them anonymous, to protect their privacy. Before we get into these quotes, I’d like to first state my understanding of the answer to the question I posed.

My Understanding of Perfection:

  1. Through human means alone, perfection is impossible. There never has been and never will be any human, who by their own means can achieve perfection under the law.
  2. The only way that this is achievable is through following the example laid out by Jesus’ own life and that is to submit fully to the Spirit of God. That means, denying our own desires, and following the Spirit of God fully no matter the earthly consequences.
  3. Through this, we can achieve oneness with God, in that our vessels (our earthen bodies) have been able to do the will of God, fulfilling the purpose for our lives, to the Glory of the Kingdom.
  4. This type of perfection is only achievable to us, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, through faith in what God accomplished through Jesus’ life because of Jesus’ own sacrifice of his own will to the will of the Father.
  5. Because of faith and through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, we are given the choice to repent of our own way of life, be baptized for the repentance of our sins, and receive the Holy Spirit.
  6. Through receiving the Holy Spirit, which previously was only given to those that God hand-picked, but was made available to all who have faith in Jesus; we are given the opportunity and ability to achieve a similar perfection to that which Jesus achieved, through full submission to the will of the Father as instructed and led by the Holy Spirit.
  7. It is only through this submission to the will of the Father that we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, Jesus’ was both the way, the Truth and the life and his own life example is the way, the Truth, and the life that we must all follow.

I’ve previously written an article called “The Truth that Set Me Free” which dives into the details of what I’m talking about above in many different ways. I believe wholeheartedly that it is only through this means of “dying to self” or, put more simply, choosing to accept and do only the will of the Father and denying the flesh of its own desires, that we can achieve the level of relationship we are meant to have with God and fulfill the purpose that God has for our lives.

Since we know that once we have freely given our lives over to God, through the submission to baptism, belief in Jesus, and receipt of the Holy Spirit, we know then that we are no longer flesh, but a spiritual being, in a body of flesh. It is the Spirit of God that even gives our flesh life (Romans 8:10).

Therefore, the key to achieving the perfection that Jesus is commanding is simple. We have to stop living of our own fruition and fully rely on the Spirit of God for our guidance into all truth and for the fulfillment of our purpose. At the point that we are transformed, since we were once living in sin, it allows God to achieve an even higher form of perfection in us than would be possible without sins existence in the first place. This is because we must, by our own choosing (free will), decide to give up our own lives and our own purpose for the fulfillment of the purpose of God.

In doing this, we also fulfill the greatest command which is to Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (Matthew 22:37). And we know that to love God, is to obey his commandments (1 John 5:3, also John 14:15). I have discussed some of these in an article on the overview of the teachings of Jesus.

Now, it is intriguing to me, having been born of a family that regularly went to church as a kid, that I hadn’t ever really heard this before. Naturally, it has taken me some time, study, prayer, and testing of Spirits and ideas to come to the conclusions that I’ve arrived at above.

I do believe wholeheartedly, that if you’re reading this for the first time, and are likewise a bit “shocked” as I was when God started relaying some of these things to me, that God will lead you into the full truth if you are willing to submit fully of your own will and work with God on it. I rejected it for the longest time. I rejected it because it was easier for me to believe that I was saved simply because of what Jesus did and that was “good enough for me.”

But upon further reading of Jesus’ own teachings, a ton of prayer, reflection, and tearing down of strongholds, the Holy Spirit has given me these revelations. Indeed it was the Holy Spirit who even asked me to pose the question that is the subject of this article in a public forum.

This was the original verse that bothered me and led me to decide to dig deeper and it comes at the tail end of Jesus’ sermon on the mount:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’

Matthew 7:21-23

That was really scary to me and deserved a deeper dive because we know that the Words of Jesus in the Bible are True (capitalized intentionally). The Holy Spirit testifies today and did then to this truth, by the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion.

In this verse, Jesus is saying that even those who understood the spiritual authority given to them, by faith in Jesus, would not make it into heaven unless they did the will of their Father in heaven. And since we know that spiritual authority isn’t covered in any “Christianity 101” courses, we can assume that Jesus is speaking of people who are more advanced in their Biblical knowledge.

I believe that it is God’s will to break the spiritual strongholds of the enemy in our theological doctrine as a church, to lead us into the full truth and understanding of the knowledge of God, especially in this season as God’s children.

This command from Jesus calls for endurance.

 

Examples of Traditional Theological Rebuttal

Below is a comment that I received in posing the question above. I’ve kept the identity of the commenter intentionally anonymous for their privacy’s sake.

Here are the full comments and rebuttals posed to the question I asked and they’re good ones.

Romans 3. we all fall short of the glory of God, but we are justified by grace. The deeper the intimacy the more fruit of righteousness, and the fruits of the spirit. Ephesians 2:9, not by works. salvation is a gift. Not a rat race to being the most perfect, that’s why His blood is something to always be stoked about. Not using grace as an excuse to sin though, Romans 6:15. It’s fixing your eyes on Jesus and what He did, so that we wouldn’t have to do what needed to be done in the Old Testament to be seen as clean and “perfect”

What’s the significance of His death and resurrection if we still measure ourselves to what “perfection” is in the eyes of man? That’s why Jesus died. 1 John 1:7, His blood purifies… daily haha we’re sinners. It’s our sin nature. Thank GODDDDD for the Blood.

 

Now I’d like to break down the individual topics of discussion here.

Let’s start with Romans 3.

The verses being quoted here are Romans 3:23-24:

‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. ‘

Romans 3:23-24

That seems pretty straightforward if you just look at and quote those two verses. However, if you add the two additional verses there is additional important context available.

‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as the mercy seat by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and justify the one who has faith in Jesus. ‘

Romans 3:23-26

Paul’s words are often used in the church or by Christians to say that we are freely justified by grace continually. But there is a key portion of this that is important to understand that Jesus also covers and that is “the redemption that is IN Christ Jesus” and “God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time so that he would be just and justify the one who HAS FAITH IN JESUS.”

And what does Jesus have to say about being “In Him”?

Well, he has a couple things to say about it in John 14.

1. We know that to have “faith in Jesus” we must believe in Jesus.

Here is what Jesus says about those who “believe in him”: We will do the works that he does.

“Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. ‘

John 14:12

2. He also says, that if we believe in him, and love him, he will not leave us as orphans, but we will receive the Holy Spirit. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we will know that Jesus is in the Father, we are in Jesus, and Jesus is in us. And that if we LOVE Jesus, we will keep his commands:

“If you love me, you will keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

John 14:15-21

Next, let’s move on to Ephesians Chapter 2

The comment: “Ephesians 2:9, not by works. salvation is a gift.

The commenter only mentioned 2:9 but I’ve added the full context around it to understand the fullness of the thought Paul is speaking of here.

‘For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. ‘

Ephesians 2:8-10

We are saved by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus and it is not from ourselves. This is correct.

This was a gift from God, that he completed through the obedience of Jesus to the Spirit of God. The gift/grace of it all is that God even created a way to salvation. It is thanks to the sacrifice and obedience of Jesus to the death of the cross that this pathway was even created.

But as we’ve discussed above, if we are to have faith, we must believe, and if we believe, we are to follow God’s commands. This is true faith.

There is another way to rebut the claim that this is done through only the human understanding of belief (in other words to agree with mentally) and that’s James (the brother of Jesus) chapter 2: 14-26 where he explains faith throughout the ages, even before the time leading up to Jesus:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe — and they shudder. Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness , and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.’

James 2:14-26

So then, we are saved by grace, through faith. It’s just important that we understand the full context of what this really means so that we don’t fall into the trap of maybe believing that as long as we “believe” in the human sense of the word and not the biblical sense of the word, we will be saved.

Now let’s move on to this thought:

Not a rat race to being the most perfect, that’s why His blood is something to always be stoked about. Not using grace as an excuse to sin though, Romans 6:15. It’s fixing your eyes on Jesus and what He did, so that we wouldn’t have to do what needed to be done in the Old Testament to be seen as clean and “perfect”

A lot of what is being said here is absolutely correct.

  • It isn’t a rat race for us, of our own fruition, to be the most perfect. We are to humbly submit ourselves to the will of the Father, by full submission to the Spirit of God. The rat race, so to speak, was everything that took place before Jesus received the Holy Spirit. Jesus finished the race when no one else could, by submitting fully to the Holy Spirit, so that anyone who believes in him and is baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and repents of their own way, would receive the Holy Spirit, who would guide us into all truth and towards our purpose to achieve the “perfection” that our lives can achieve according to God’s purpose and not our own.
  • Because Jesus did this, we can plead the Blood of Jesus over our lives, through faith in Him, as an additional layer of spiritual protection over our lives. Since Jesus did conquer, and as long as we are working towards the same goal in our own lives (through obedience to the Spirit), this layer of spiritual protection is available to us.
  • Fixing our eyes on what Jesus accomplished, is incredibly important because it gives us hope that because Jesus was able to do it, and we received the same Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus, we can do it too.
  • This gift, that we were given, IS NOT an excuse to sin, rather a sign that gives us hope & assurance that we too can overcome by the blood of the lamb, and through following the example of Jesus.

There is a portion here that I’ve heard that is a misconception amongst the church and Christians today and that needs to be addressed as well:

It’s fixing your eyes on Jesus and what He did, so that we wouldn’t have to do what needed to be done in the Old Testament to be seen as clean and “perfect

It’s the latter half of this statement that is the problem. Nowhere, in any of Jesus’ ministry, does he say that we do not have to follow the law of the Old Testament. 

Here are verses to back that up:

“Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:17-20

Some Christians will use a portion of this verse “until all things are accomplished” and point to the cross as being the “all things were accomplished” making the Old Testament null and void.

If that were true, and all things were accomplished, then why does the book of Revelations exist and why are we waiting for the second coming of Jesus to accomplish all things?

With this, we can have confidence then, that we are to follow the law. Jesus gives us the greatest commandment that is to be followed to fulfill the law and the prophets and that is “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”

If we follow this and genuinely seek to be reconciled to God, through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, God will guide us into how we can become who God needs us to be. This is how we walk in relationship with God. This is how we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and pleasing to God which is our true worship. (paraphrased Romans 12:1).

Here is that verse:

‘Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. ‘

Romans 12:1

 

Now let’s look at the final point:

What’s the significance of His death and resurrection if we still measure ourselves to what “perfection” is in the eyes of man? That’s why Jesus died. 1 John 1:7, His blood purifies… daily haha we’re sinners. It’s our sin nature. Thank GODDDDD for the Blood.

A few things:

We should never measure ourselves in terms of the eyes of man or the world. Ever. See James 4:4 and Romans 12:2 below for further explanation.

‘You adulterous people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the friend of the world becomes the enemy of God. Or do you think it’s without reason that the Scripture says: The spirit he made to dwell in us envies intensely? ‘

James 4:4-5

‘Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. ‘

Romans 12:2

 

1 John 1:7 is quoted here to say that the blood purifies, daily we’re sinners. I’ve included 1: 6-10 below for full context.

‘If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.’

1 John 1:6-10

His blood purifies if we walk in the light (i.e. walking in obedience to the Spirit of God), we have this promise. WE, in our physical bodies, are incapable of this, therefore we must rely on the Holy Spirit, relationship with God, the Word of God (which is the sword of the Spirit), and endurance to overcome.

Jesus had to go through this same exact thing when he was taken to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He used the Word of God to overcome. But he had to endure it and overcome it before he could step into his ministry. Again, the article “overview of the teachings of Jesus” discusses this.

Finally, and this is the most important question that was asked in rebuttal. “What is the significance of His Death and Resurrection?”

The significance of this is three-fold:

  1. At the moment of his submission of his will, to that of the will of the father (think prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane) and submitted his life to be given up on the cross (which was the will of the Father), God fulfilled the requirements of the law through Jesus’s life.
  2. The resurrection is important because it proves that those who follow the same example of Jesus, can also defeat death and have eternal life.
  3. Finally, this created the way that God would spread the ministry and message of Jesus to anyone who believed in Jesus and gave up their lives to follow the way and the truth in their lives. God did this by taking the Holy Spirit from only being available to those that God hand-picked (like the prophets of the Old Testament) and turned it into something that we all could receive of our own free will, as a gift. But some requirements go along with it.

Jesus speaks about these requirements as well when discussing what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

See Luke 14 for confirmation:

“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ “Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:28-33

Please check out the article “what it means to be a disciple of Jesus” for additional context. There is an excellent gut check in there for those who are seeking to be disciples of Christ (at least it was for me when I started down this path).

As always, I want to encourage you to take what I have said here, and bring it to God and test it through the Word. I should never be your source of truth, there is only one source of Truth and we all have access to it thanks to the sacrifice and life of Jesus Christ and God’s fulfillment of His purpose through Jesus’ life.

If you haven’t decided for yourself that you’d like to receive this gift of salvation through faith in Jesus and get started on your own path towards fulfilling God’s perfect will for your life and if after reading this article you are ready to do so, all you need to do is say this prayer:

“God in heaven, I need you.

I repent of doing things my own way and ask that you would forgive me today.

I believe that your son Jesus died, and he rose from the grave, for the forgiveness of my sins and I ask that you would cover me with the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins.

Today, I am committing the rest of my life to following your way, that you revealed through your son Jesus. Father please come into my life, renew my spirit, and teach me your ways so that I may walk with you in relationship.

Holy Spirit, please direct the steps of my path and lead me into all truth.

Not only for the promise of eternal salvation, but to bring your Kingdom glory on earth through my life which you have given me.

Thank you Father for creating a way, thank you for your love.

I ask this of you in Jesus’ name – Amen.”

If you prayed that prayer today, please send me an email at harrison@omnisye.com. I’d like to rejoice with you, pray for you, and see if there is anything that I can do to help you on your journey.

God Bless!

If you have already done this previously, have been baptized, and have received the Holy Spirit, then your next step should be to review the gut check from above with God. I know what God has been saying to me, I know what God has been saying through His word to me – but that doesn’t mean that your purpose is the same as mine, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I should be your source of information and Truth. There is only one, we both have access to it, we just have to make sure that we use it properly.

Pray, read, listen & do. That is how simple our instructions are after we’ve received the Holy Spirit. We just have to get our will out of the way.

If you’re in this position, and you’d still like prayer, please feel free to email me or reach out in the prayer requests section of our contact us page. God’s got you, I believe in you, and I know that if you’re willing to submit to the will of the Father, your life will be fruitful for the Kingdom.

4 thoughts on “Understanding Jesus’ Command to Be Perfect

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