You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48).
Have you ever had anyone tell you: “I like the God of the New Testament, but I’m not a fan of this mean God from the Old Testament with his rules and laws. I like the love and grace of Jesus, not the law of God the Father?” I've said that.
I used to think that Jesus was the nice God and God the Father was the authoritarian mean God. Jesus was the hippie and the Father was the drill sergeant.
Then one day I started actually reading Jesus’ words and said “Wait a minute here, this guy is saying some hard stuff!.”
I began to read and see that he was requiring a lot from me. In fact, I would read where Jesus clarified the Father’s rules – he didn’t eliminate them or disregard them.
Yes, it’s true that Jesus talked about love, but he also made a lot of demands. In fact, he took things farther in the NT than Moses and the Prophets did in the OT.
How many times in the Sermon on the Mount does Jesus say, “You’ve heard it said, but I say…?”
The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel is absolutely brutal. It is not good news. Christ raises the standard ridiculously high.
He states that our righteousness must exceed the Pharisees (vs. 20), we are not allowed to be angry (vs. 22), if we lust in our hearts we have committed adultery in the eyes of God (vs. 28), and we must love our enemies (vs. 44). Then, Christ sums up the chapter with this statement: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (vs. 48).”
That is an outrageous demand to make. Where’s nice Jesus? Where is free-loving hippie Jesus?
Pentecost writes, “How good does a man have to be to please God? Christ’s answer was, “As good as God is.”
A not-guilty verdict depends on sinlessness. God demands perfection – not progress. This is bad news. Matthew 5:48 is not a gospel passage. If the gauge of righteousness is absolute perfection, what hope is there for anyone? We are in trouble.
Thankfully, the law isn’t the final word.
Continued in Part 2…