Matthew 5:48
Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(48) Be ye therefore perfect.—Literally, Ye therefore shall be perfect—the ideal future that implies an imperative.

Your Father which is in heaven.—The better reading gives, your heavenly Father. The idea of perfection implied in the word here is that of the attainment of the end or ideal completeness of our being. In us that attainment implies growth, and the word is used (e.g., in 1Corinthians 2:6; Hebrews 5:14) of men of full age as contrasted with infants. In God the perfection is not something attained, but exists eternally, but we draw near to it and become partakers of the divine nature when we love as He loves:

———“Earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice.”

5:43-48 The Jewish teachers by neighbour understood only those who were of their own country, nation, and religion, whom they were pleased to look upon as their friends. The Lord Jesus teaches that we must do all the real kindness we can to all, especially to their souls. We must pray for them. While many will render good for good, we must render good for evil; and this will speak a nobler principle than most men act by. Others salute their brethren, and embrace those of their own party, and way, and opinion, but we must not so confine our respect. It is the duty of Christians to desire, and aim at, and press towards perfection in grace and holiness. And therein we must study to conform ourselves to the example of our heavenly Father, 1Pe 1:15,16. Surely more is to be expected from the followers of Christ than from others; surely more will be found in them than in others. Let us beg of God to enable us to prove ourselves his children.Be ye therefore perfect ... - The Saviour concludes this part of the discourse by commanding his disciples to be "perfect." This word commonly means "finished, complete, pure, holy." Originally, it is applied to a piece of mechanism, as a machine that is complete in its parts. Applied to people, it refers to completeness of parts, or perfection, where no part is defective or wanting. Thus, Job JObadiah 1:1 is said to be "perfect;" that is, not holy as God, or "sinless" - for fault is afterward found with him Job 9:20; Job 42:6; but his piety was "proportionate" - had a completeness of parts was consistent and regular. He exhibited his religion as a prince, a father, an individual, a benefactor of the poor. He was not merely a pious man in one place, but uniformly. He was consistent everywhere. See the notes at that passage. This is the meaning in Matthew. Be not religious merely in loving your friends and neighbors, but let your piety be shown in loving your enemies; imitate God; let your piety be "complete, proportionate, regular." This every Christian may be; this every Christian must be.

Remarks On Matthew 5

1. The gospel pronounces blessings on things far different from what the world has thought to be a source of happiness. People suppose that happiness is to be found in mirth, in wealth, in honor, in esteem, in freedom from persecution. Christ says that it is to be sought in the reverse. Often people are most happy in poverty, in sickness, in persecution, when supported by the presence and promises of a merciful God. And if God appoints our station there, we should submit to it, and learn therewith to be content.

2. We may see the evil of anger. It is a species of murder. If secretly cherished, or exhibited by contempt and injury, it must bring down the displeasure of God. It is a source of misery. True enjoyment is found in meekness, peace, calmness, and benevolence. In such a firmness, and steadiness, and dependence on God as to keep the soul unruffled in the midst of provocation, is happiness. Such was Christ.

3. We see the evil of indelicacy of feeling and sentiment, and the strictness and severity of the law respecting the contact of the sexes Matthew 5:28. And yet what law is more frequently violated? By obscene anecdotes and tales; by songs and gibes; by double meanings and innuendoes; by looks and gestures; by conversation, and obscene books and pictures, this law of our Saviour is perpetually violated. If there is any one sentiment of most value for the comfort, the character, the virtuous sociability of the young - one that will shed the greatest charm over society, and make it the most pure, it is that which inculcates "perfect delicacy" and "purity" in the contact of the sexes. Virtue of any kind never blooms where this is not cherished. Modesty and purity once gone, every flower that would diffuse its fragrance over life withers and dies with it. There is no one sin that so withers and blights every virtue, none that so enfeebles and prostrates every ennobling feeling of the soul, as the violation of the seventh commandment in spirit or in form, in thought or in act. How should purity dwell in the heart, breathe from the lips, kindle in the eye, live in the imagination, and dwell in the conversation of all the young! An eternal, avenging God is near to every wanton thought, marks every eye that kindles with impure desire, rolls the thunder of justice over every polluted soul, and is preparing woe for every violator of the laws of purity and chastity, Proverbs 7:22-23; Proverbs 5:5; Proverbs 2:18.

4. Revenge is equally forbidden. Persecution, slander, a spirit of litigation, anger, personal abuse, dueling, suicide, murder, are all violations of the law of God, and all must call down His vengeance.

5. We are bound to love our enemies. This is a law of Christianity, original and unique. No system of religion but Christianity has required it, and no act of Christian piety is more difficult. None shows more the power of the grace of God; none is more ornamental to the character; none more like God; and none furnishes better evidence of piety. He that can meet a man kindly who is seeking his hurt; who can speak well of one that is perpetually slandering and cursing him; that can pray for a man that abuses, injures, and wounds him: and that can seek heaven for him that wishes his damnation, is in the way to life. This is religion, beautiful as its native skies; pure like its Source; kind like its Author; fresh like the dews of the morning; clear and diffusive like the beams of the rising sun; and holy like the feelings and words that come from the bosom of the Son of God. He that can do this need not doubt that he is a Christian. He has caught the very spirit of the Saviour, and he must inherit eternal life.

48. Be ye therefore—rather, "Ye shall therefore be," or "Ye are therefore to be," as My disciples and in My kingdom.

perfect—or complete. Manifestly, our Lord here speaks, not of degrees of excellence, but of the kind of excellence which was to distinguish His disciples and characterize His kingdom. When therefore He adds,

even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect—He refers to that full-orbed glorious completeness which is in the great Divine Model, "their Father which is in heaven."

Perfect here is not taken in that sense as it is taken in other texts of Scripture, where it signifieth sincerity and uprightness, as Job 2:3, or where it signifieth a comparative perfection, as Paul saith he spake to those that were perfect; but for an absolute perfection, such as is in our

Father which is in heaven, and so much is signified by the proposing of our heavenly Father as our example. Nor will it therefore follow, either that this is a mere counsel, not a precept, or that an absolute perfection in holiness is a thing in this life attainable. But that it is our duty to labour for it, forgetting what is behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, as the apostle speaks, Philippians 3:13,14. Proverbs perfecto est qui perfecto proximus. God accounts him perfect who is nearest to perfection. Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father,.... This perfection is to be restrained to the subject Christ is upon, love to men, and not to be referred to any, or every other thing; wherefore, in Luke 6:36 it is, "be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful"; and regards not a perfection of degree in that, but objects and quality: that is to say, not that men may, or can, or ought to be as perfect in love, as to the degree of it, as God is; that is impossible: the "as" here, is not a note of equality, but of likeness: such, who profess God to be their Father, ought to imitate him, particularly in their love to men, which ought to be extended to the same objects, as the divine goodness is; that, as he 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 ought they to love all men with a natural affection, and hate no man, no, not their enemies: for he that loves only his friends, and not his enemies, loves imperfectly; he does not take in the whole compass of objects his love is to extend unto; and as God loves sincerely, and without dissimulation, so should they. To be "perfect", is to be sincere and upright: in this sense is the word often used, and answers to the Hebrew word which signifies the same: see Deuteronomy 18:13 which is the passage Christ seems to refer to here; and the sense is, be ye sincere and upright in your love to all men, as your heavenly Father is hearty and sincere in his affections to them. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 5:48. Ἔσεσθε] imperatively.

οὖν) draws a deduction from Matthew 5:44-47, where the emphatic ὑμεῖς forms the sublime antithesis to the last-mentioned publicans and heathens. The highest summary of the unending obligation of Christian love.

τέλειοι] ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι, Jam 1:4. Euth. Zigabenus well remarks: οἱ μὲν ἀγαπῶντες τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀτελεῖς εἰσιν εἰς ἀλάπην: οἱ δὲ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς, οὗτοι τέλειοι. Comp. Luther: “after the example of the heavenly Father, who does not piece nor divide His love,” and already Ignatius, ad Philad., interpol. 3. Thus the closing admonition stands in close relation to what precedes. Others (Beza, Fritzsche, Kuinoel, Ewald, who also regards Matthew 7:12 as originally belonging to this passage): integri, sine vitiis in general, without exclusive reference to the commandment of love. They consider the verse as the top-stone of the whole discourse, directed from Matthew 5:20 onwards against the Pharisees. But this anti-Pharisaic tendency is still continued also in ch. 6, and the pointing to the example of God would at least not be appropriate to Matthew 6:27 ff. and to Matthew 6:31 ff.

ὥσπερ] equality of the moral modality, Matthew 5:45, by which the relation of the adequate degree is not required, and yet the ideal task, the obligation of which is never exhausted (Romans 13:8 ff.), is for ever made sure. Observe, moreover, how this ὥσπερ corresponds, indeed, to the Platonic conception of virtue (ὁμοιοῦσθαι τῷ θεῷ); the latter, however, is surpassed, on the one side, by the specific requirement of love as similarity to God; and, on the other, by the idea of God as the heavenly Father.Matthew 5:48. Concluding exhortation. οὖν, from an ancient form of the participle of the verb εἶναι (Klotz, Devar.) = “things being so;” either a collective inference from all that goes before (Matthew 5:21-47) or as a reflection on the immediately preceding argument. Both come to the same thing. Godlike love is commended in Matthew 5:44-47, but the gist of all the six illustrations of Christ’s way of thinking is: Love the fulfilling of the law; obviously, except in the case of oaths, where it is truth that is enjoined. But truth has its source in love; Ephesians 4:15 : ἀληθεύοντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ, “truthing it in love”.—ἔσεσθε, future, “ye shall be” = BE.—ὑμεῖς, ye, emphatic, in contrast with τελ. and ἐθν., who are content with moral commonplace and conventional standards.—Τέλειοι: in general, men who have reached the end, touched the ideal, that at least their purpose, not satisfied with anything short of it. The τέλειοι are not men with a conceit of perfection, but aspirants—men who seek to attain, like Paul: διώκω εἰ καὶ καταλάβω, Php 3:12, and like him, single-minded, their motto: ἓν δέ. Single-mindedness is a marked characteristic of all genuine citizens of the kingdom (Matthew 6:33), and what the Bible means by perfection. All men who attain have one great ruling aim. That aim for the disciple, as here set forth, is Godlikeness—ὡς ὁ πατὴρτέλειός ἐστιν. God is what His sons aspire to be; He never sinks below the ideal: impartial, benignant, gracious love, even to the unworthy; for that, not all conceivable attributes, is what is in view. ὡς, not in degree, that were a discouraging demand, but in kind. The kind very necessary to be emphasised in view of current ideas and practice, in which holiness was dissociated from love. The law “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44) was taken negatively and worked out in separation from the reputedly sinful. Jesus gave it positive contents, and worked it out in gracious love.48. Be ye] Lit. Ye shall be perfect. Either (1) in reference to a future state, “if ye have this true love or charity ye shall be perfect hereafter;” or (2) the future has an imperative force, and perfect is limited by the preceding words = perfect in respect of love, i. e. “love your enemies as well as your neighbours,” because your Father being perfect in respect of love does this.Matthew 5:48. Ὑμεῖς, you) In honourable contradistinction to them.—τελέιοι, perfect) sc. in love towards all.[239][240]

[239] See Colossians 3:14.—(I. B.)

[240] Bengel, J. A. (1860). Vol. 1: Gnomon of the New Testament (M. E. Bengel & J. C. F. Steudel, Ed.) (J. Bandinel & A. R. Fausset, Trans.) (138–185). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.Verse 48. - In Luke 6:36, "Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful," we have certainly a reminiscence of the same saying, and, almost as certainly, from the smoothing away of difficulties, a less original form of it. Be ye therefore perfect; Revised Version, ye therefore shall be perfect (ἔσεσθε οϋν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι). The form is based on Deuteronomy 18:13, τέλειος ἔσῃ. While the introduction of ὑμεῖς emphasizes the contrast between Christ's disciples and those who followed the usual deduction from the Law, the position of ἔσεσθε (reversing that of Deuteronomy) shows that still greater emphasis is placed on their "perfection" as something to be attained. Also, while in the parallel passage of Luke the stress is upon the change that must take place (γὶνεσθε) - unless, as is possible, it has the simple meaning "show yourselves" (cf. ver. 45, note) - in Matthew the possibility or even the certainty of attaining it is definitely stated. You shall make this your aim, and shall attain to it. Therefore. A deduction from the principle laid down in vers. 44-47. From the consideration of the example of your Father, and of the insufficiency of being like publicans and heathen. Perfect (τέλειοι). In the Gospels here and Matthew 19:21 only. The word denotes those who have attained the full development of innate powers, in contrast to those who are still in the undeveloped state - adults in contrast to children. Thus the thought here is - Ye shall be satisfied with, and shall attain to, no lower state than that of maturity. But what is it as to which they shall be mature? Surely not the whole Law as illustrated by all the examples since ver. 21; for vers. 31, 32 are excluded by the comparison with God immediately following. It must be the subject with which the sentence is closely connected, vers. 44-47 (cf. Meyer); love to others even though they have done you wrong. In this respect, viz. love to others, you shall admit, says our Lord, no lower ideal than that of' maturity, even such maturity as is found in him who sends sun and rain on all alike. Some (Augustine, Trench) have seen in this a merely relative maturity, itself capable of further development; but the subject rather demands absolute and final maturity. This does not imply that man will ever have such fulness of love as the Father has, but that he will fully and completely attain to that measure of love to which he as a created being was intended to attain. It may, however, be in accordance with true exegesis to see, with Weiss, for such apparently is his meaning, also an indication of further teaching - the nature of the revelation made known by Christ. For whereas "the fundamental commandment" of the Old Testament, "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44, 45), was the more negative thought of God's exaltation above the impurity of created beings, our Lord now puts forth "the positive conception of the Divine perfection, whose nature is all-embracing, self-sacrificing love. And in place of the God, for ever separated from his polluted people by his holiness, to whom they can only render themselves worthy of approach through the most anxious abstinence from all impurity, and by means of the statutes for purification contained in the Law, there is on the ground of this new revelation the Father in heaven, who stoops to his children in love, and so operates that they must and can be like him" (Weiss, 'Life,' 2:156). The simple and straightforward meaning of the verse, however, is this - You shall take no lower standard in love to enemies than God shows to those who ill treat him, and you shall, in fact, attain to this standard. Upon this (for the limitation of the meaning to one point makes no real difference) there arises the question which has been of so much importance in all ages of the Church - What is the measure of attainment that is really possible for Christ's disciples upon earth? ought they not to expect to live perfect lives? But the text gives no warrant for such an assertion. No doubt it says that attainment to maturity - to perfection according to creaturely limits - is eventually possible. That is implied in ἔσεσθε (vide supra). But when this attainment can be made is not stated. Many will, indeed, affirm that, as our Lord is giving directions to his disciples concerning things in this life, the attainment also is affirmed to be possible in this life. But this by no means follows. Christ gives the command, and by the form of it implies that it shall be carried out to the full. But this is quite consistent with the conception of a gradually increasing development of love which, in fact will attain maturity, a state in which God's love has ever been; but not immediately and not before the final completion of all Christ's work in us. The words form, indeed, a promise as well as a command, but the absence of a statement of time forbids us to claim the verse as a warrant for asserting that the τελειότης referred to can be attained in this life. Trench ('Syr.,' § 22.) explains the passage by saying that the adjective is used the first time in a relative, and the second time in an absolute, sense. But this does not seem as probable as the interpretation given above, according to which the adjective is in both cases used absolutely. His following words, however, deserve careful attention. "The Christian shall be ' perfect,' yet not in the sense in which some of the sects preach the doctrine of perfection, who, so soon as their words are looked into, are found either to mean nothing which they could not have expressed by a word less liable to misunderstanding; or to mean something which no man in this life shall attain, and which he who affirms he has attained is deceiving himself, or others, or both." Even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect; Revised Version, as your heavenly Father is perfect; so the manuscripts. The epithet, ὁ οὐράνιος, is wanting in Luke, but Matthew wishes to lay stress on their Father's character and methods being different from those of an earthly father. Observe again not "the Father" but your Father; nerving them to fulfil the summons to likeness to him (cf. ver. 16).



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