You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
I have been thinking on this one for a few days.
In case anyone is left with any delusions of grandeur, any realm of possibility that it is possible to earn righteousness by following the Law, Jesus kicks up the bar–detailing the backstory of the heart of God captured in these carved tablets: clarifying adultery, murder, divorce and love to far beyond my reach.
There is the little tricky translation problem here as well, because of course Jesus spoke Aramaic, which was then translated into Hebrew, then Greek, and then English. Therefore, be shlemim (complete) even as is your Av shbaShomayim. Or perhaps, a reference to Leviticus 11:44, be kadosh (set apart) as I AM holy. Or is it t'mim (blameless), in reference to Genesis 17:1?
Or, there is another approach: When he spoke to Abram, God used the Hebrew word translated “perfect” in Gen. 17:1, taw-mam (תָּמַם). The best way to determine the meaning of an ancient word is to see how it is used in other contexts. The actual meaning of taw-mam is almost the opposite of what most Bible translations and the Bible reference books tell us it means. Taw-mam can actually mean expended, exhausted, depleted, spent, completely empty or to come to an end, as in “come to the end of oneself” (#8552, Strong’s Concordance)
Walk before Me and be perfect. (King James)
A more literal and accurate translation of Gen. 17:1 can be: Walk before My faces and be empty of yourself.
The Hebrew words for “Almighty God” in Genesis 17:1 are El Shaddai, the “All-sufficient One.” The contrast is obvious in the Hebrew. Abram, the completely empty one, the spent one, the depleted one, the totally reliant one is walking in the faces of the completely full and sufficient One. This is what Christians are supposed to be – totally dependent upon their Maker, not trusting in the arm of their flesh, especially for “righteousness’ sake.”
Remember, Isaiah calls the righteousness of men, all men and women, filthy menstrual cloths.
This is where Paul takes it. Let us become perfect in the same manner our father in the faith, Abraham, was perfect – let us pour ourselves out, that our Maker might fill us with the good works which He has before ordained that us should walk in.
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
So. Jesus gathers His followers around Him, sits them down, and explains to them what true righteousness looks like, something far deeper and far broader than we, sinful man, can do on our own. We absolutely need God the Father to reach down and be our provision, to fill us up with Himself.
Thus, these words, Be perfect as I am perfect are not a command, but a promise. Jesus is telling us that when we have truly come to the end of self-effort – when we have emptied ourselves of the self-life, then we will find the promised rest. Then the LORD God will perform through us His very own words, works, ways and will. He is capable of loving His enemies, we in self, are not.
Stephen, his face like that of an angel, was able to fall on his knees as the rocks were pelting down and cry out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
Dear El Shaddai, may I walk before You today, empty of self.
Holy Fire burn away,
My desire for anything
That is not of you and is of me,
I want more of you and less of me, yeah.
Empty me, yeah,
Fill, won't you fill me,
With you, with you, yeah.