Perfection Demanded - God Required By Thomas L. Waters
Matthew 5-7 records a Sermon by Jesus usually called the Sermon on the Mount. As any good sermon should be it is exegetical and expositional, orderly and progressive, informative and exhortative. The subject of the sermon is the Kingdom of heaven.
In 5:20 Jesus says, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” So how righteous were the Pharisees? And by how much must one’s righteousness exceed the Pharisees to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Well, the Pharisees were very moral and religious. The very name Pharisee means separate. They were the religious fundamentalists of their day and sticklers concerning the Law of Moses. They fasted often and prayed long. Their diet was strict and they did not mingle with sinners. And when it came to tithing, they tithed right down to the seasonings in the cupboard.
So, by how much must one’s righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees to enter the kingdom of heaven? By 10%? 25%? 75%?
In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” What? Perfection? Is this some sort of special code? Is Christ speaking metaphorically or being hyperbolic? The short answer is no!
The word perfect has various meanings. In the Old testament one word used is tam or tamin, meaning without defect or blemish. Another word was shalem which denotes wholeness. A primary word in the New Testament for perfection is teleios which means complete. The perfection required in 5:48 is without blemish, sound, complete, blameless.
You protest, “But no one is perfect or can be perfect for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Yes, that is an undeniable fact, all people are sinners. So then, with the Apostles in Mark 10 we should be astonished and inquire, “Then who can be saved?”
Now if you asked that question, you are beginning to grasp the Gospel the good news. The Gospel is not “Five ways to be Happy” or even that Christ makes salvation possible. No. The Gospel is Jesus Christ saves His people from their sins! (Matthew 1:21).
So who can enter heaven? Can the unforgiven, polluted sinner? Can the deaf, lame or halt sinner? NO! ONLY THE PERFECT! And perfection (as is salvation) is the work of God.
The sinner has a bad heart. Yes, and God regenerates and gives a new heart. The sinner has a bad record. Yes, and God justifies and expunges the bad record. The sinner has an imperfect body. Yes, and God resurrects the body imperishable, immortal and glorious (1 Corinthians 15:42-55).
Who then can enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Who can be saved? Who will be in heaven? Only the perfect and only God can make the sinner wholly perfect. Perfection demanded. God required!