Q: In Matthew 5:48, Jesus instructs His disciples to, “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect;” how is that possible, living in a sin cursed world with a body that has not been redeemed?
A: There has been much conversation amongst Christians, that some take this verse literally, to mean that we’re to reach ‘perfectionism’ in every area of our lives, because, that’s what the Holy Spirit demands, and He’s available, here in the earth to assist us in accomplishing this feat.
The New Testament is written in Greek, therefore, it’s always a good school of practice to do a study of words, when reading sacred Scripture, and trying to understand the definite meaning of a text. In this verse, the word translated “perfect” literally means “complete.” So, with that in mind, Christ was not speaking of degrees of excellence, we’re to achieve as Christians, but the kind of excellence that would distinguish His disciples in this world, and thus characterizes the statement He made in John 18:36, “My Kingdom is not of this world …” We’re to resemble here on earth, what heaven looks like, according to Matthew 6:10, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Only God is perfect, in the sense of being “absolutely” righteous, or sinless, which is the consummation, of all good. On the other hand, we’re to reach levels of spiritual maturity in our Christian growth, that reflects the character of our heavenly Father.
Last but not least, as long as we’re in this sin cursed body, there will be struggles with sin: Throughout the Bible we hear from noted saints that struggled with bringing their minds and bodies, into subjection to the will of God, through His word. Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament coined this statement in, Romans 7:14-21, “ For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” However, he ends this declaration by declaring our victory in Christ Jesus: that is to say, God always gives His children enough grace to overcome any sin; therefore, with every temptation we meet, God gives us a way to escape it.