Matthew 5, what is Perfect?

A word study… PERFECT: Matth 5:48.

Mat 5:48
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The average reader, sees this and freaks out. The first thought is, “It can’t mean what it says, so I must say what it means!”

You see the word “strive” added in this verse a lot. And yet it’s no where in here in context, nor in Greek. So why would someone add it?

Because they don’t understand it.

Why not take the time to understand it?

Because it invokes fear, fear of failure. How on earth can WE be perfect like God is perfect? We can’t, so I’m doomed to fail. Perhaps if I fail I’m not saved. But I’m told I’m saved no matter what, right? That’s what my pastor says!

So, once threatened, the normal person attacks the source of the fear to make it go away.

You must STRIVE to be perfect. Jesus didn’t mean what he said, so we are going to change it and “fix” it for Him. Lord knows Jesus isn’t competent to say what He meant.  Right?

Well, I want to show you what the key words mean, and the context, and maybe do my little bit to stop this perpetually bad teaching.

Perfect, in Greek Teleios, or some variant, at the time of the KJV translation was presented in English as Perfect. Since the KJV only people cause such a stink on any thing they perceive as a change, most translations leave it as perfect it today. It is correct, technically, but does it portray the meaning of the authors?

However, in today’s English, a more fair representation would be, complete, finished, filled, full grown, or mature…. It shows us that there is a growth process, or something with a beginning that is not yet ended if you are “to be” perfect.

This doesn’t help some people. They will still be freaking out over “perfect”. “You mean I’m supposed to grow up to be perfect??? IT CAN NOT HAPPEN!!!!!” Sigh. We have to find a way to let the fear loose to read the text.

Jesus has been talking about HOW TO LOVE since verse 1. At the end of the chapter, he gives a couple of scenarios…

Mat 5:39
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Mat 5:40
“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.

Mat 5:41
“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

Mat 5:42
“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

4 easy examples of ways that are loving as Jesus sees it. Good thing he’s not here to see His church today with the LGBT marriage thing. 5:40, 41, 42 would be thrown into the toilet and flushed. Gotta wonder how He’d react to that. (Hint, there is no judge the person asking for assistance first, hint to these verses…)

So when we get to the last section, in 43-48. We see He coaches, God loves His enemies. Anyone can love those that love them. But God loves His enemies, and that love provides for His enemies. In other words, it manifests into action. It’s not a “thought only” or a “warm fuzzy” sorta love. It’s a love that becomes an action.

Jesus has used GOD as an example of how to love. At the end of that description, when He says, “be perfect like HE is perfect,” remembering the word means MATURE, or full grown, or finished, I think it’s easy to see a more realistic goal here.

Love as completely as God does in the example I gave you above. Stop your selective loving, and love even your’s and God’s enemies, in a way that manifests into action.

That’s it.

There is no UTOPIAN, without flaw, concept at play here. The word doesn’t relate to the Utopian concept at all. That “flavor” of the word has only been with us for less than a coupla hundred years.

At the time of King Jim, and especially the Christ, the concept never existed. A “perfect” boat, could be scratched up, have some leaks, be missing a sail, but if Peter could get in it, and go catch fish and bring them to shore, it would be Perfect.

 

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3 comments on “Matthew 5, what is Perfect?

  1. trustyeshua says:

    I enjoyed the article, but I believe you are leaving out vital scriptures that cross reference this idea.

    http://biblehub.com/1_peter/1-16.htm

    Notice the other verses say be holy because I am holy. There is no way around the fact that Jesus wants us to be perfect and holy. Now I agree with you to a certain extent that this means perfection of the heart in love, but it goes a little deeper than you suggest. I noticed you left out the other verses prior to chapter 39. Why is that? The other verses should also be included in a proper exegesis. We not only need to be perfect in our love for others, but in our love for God. If we are perfect in our heart towards God then we will never want to sin against Him, and take up our cross daily following him in holiness. Of course we have an advocate with the Father when we mess up, but that same verse says if we sin not when we sin. So walking according to the Spirit includes an absence of sin, which should be the norm, and a heart that is perfect towards God and others.

    • 🙂 Thank you for taking a gander at my thoughts. 🙂 I’m going to respond in line below to your comments…. I really just want folks to take a look at the words, and consider them in a fresh light. They say what they say, mean what they mean, and people change that to suit their fancy….
      ——-
      +++++
      ——-

      Notice the other verses say be holy because I am holy. There is no way around the fact that Jesus wants us to be perfect and holy.
      ————
      Those two words are no where in scripture together. The Greek word for perfect has a meaning. The context you just used it in seems it’s the modern English meaning, not the Greek.
      ============

      Now I agree with you to a certain extent that this means perfection of the heart in love,
      ——-
      Nope, we aren’t agreeing there. The term means FINISHED, COMPLETE, MATURE. But the context of Matt 5:48 means finished love, because that was the conversation Jesus compared us to God over.
      ============

      but it goes a little deeper than you suggest. I noticed you left out the other verses prior to chapter 39. Why is that?
      ————-
      I had to cut it off somewhere…. I could run from Genesis to Jude and it’s the same message all over the place…. I only have so many characters to go. If you’d like to join me in breaking down the whole chapter, I’m game. 🙂
      ==============

      The other verses should also be included in a proper exegesis.
      ————-
      They were discussing how to love. I’m OK with that. However, as the 43-48 are ONE THOUGHT, of many thoughts on the same conversation, I did not err in breaking them down for that one thought to examine it.
      ===========

      We not only need to be perfect in our love for others, but in our love for God.
      ———
      Can’t do one, without the other, any more than you can be in the water, without being wet. Again, this wasn’t a lecture on how to love… it was a discussion on what PERFECT means… The word…..
      ============

      If we are perfect in our heart towards God then we will never want to sin against Him,
      ————-
      Errrrrr that “never want to sin against him” is no where in scripture……
      ==============

      and take up our cross daily following him in holiness.
      ———-
      Errrrr,,,, what do you think holy means? Set Apart….. right? If you still sin, how are you set apart to anyone but God’s perception of you???
      ============+

      Of course we have an advocate with the Father when we mess up, but that same verse says if we sin not when we sin.
      —————
      Yes it does. It also allows for if you do not sin, you need not have a mediator. The verse doesn’t say you sin forever until you die…. So, I’m not sure what the point is here???
      ===============

      So walking according to the Spirit includes an absence of sin, which should be the norm, and a heart that is perfect towards God and others.
      ————
      Still sounds like you are using the word Perfect, in the modern English interpretation, not the Greek meaning of the word….. So while I’d use the same words, I suspect we disagree.

      • trustyeshua says:

        I think we are taking about the same things here. I posted that and read your previous post afterward, which clarified it a little. Are you promoting sinlessness in the Christian walk? If so are you saying it is a process based on the word study of ‘perfect’? How does that add up with Jesus telling the people to go and sin no more? And if you are saying this verse is more about being mature in love, and doesn’t have to do with not sinning, (which is what I was assuming when I commented about verses prior to 39), why is he addressing actual sins and showing the true depth of them before saying be perfect?

        Not trying to be argumentative, like I said I liked the article, just looking for clarification. I personally believe we can live a life free from sin, and it sounds like you believe that as well.

        By the way are you the same person that posted this on Fb? Or was that someone else?

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