Q: “Matthew 5:48 instructs us to be perfect but how is that possible?”
A: The word “perfect” for you and me does not fit in the same category as God being perfect. For example, God is perfect in who He is. He is all inclusive, sufficient and never varies from His attributes, while we are sinners in a doomed state. He remains true to His deity, for He is perfect because of His state of holiness. In other words, He is transparent because there is no darkness in Him, while we possess the darkness of iniquity in our inner character due to Adam’s fall in the garden. God is perfect in His ways in the sense there is no deviance in what He does, while our human ways prove to be strange and perverted to Him and will lead to death. God’s will, will always prove to be perfect in the end. His will towards us is pure, and it is His desire to do good things on our behalf, while our will is self-serving and proves to be indifferent to others (Malachi 3:6; Proverbs 14:12; 21:8; Luke 12:32; Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 3:5; James 1:17).
To understand what it would mean for us to be “perfect” as the Father in heaven is, we have to understand what the word “perfect” means. According to Wuest’s Word Studies, perfect in the New Testament has four meanings. It points to heirs being of “full-growth” that have attained “spiritual maturity,” something being in “good condition” or “work-ability,” something that possesses “soundness” of heart and mind which points to wisdom, and has been brought to a “completeness”.
To have perfection before the Lord, one must first of all have a pure heart (Matthew 5:8). A pure heart points to a right spirit and attitude. In other words, our motives must be pure and our attitude right to ensure that whatever we do unto the Lord will be received. A pure heart points to one who is receptive to the things of God and with child-like faith receive it in a proper spirit as to not defile it (Matthew 18:2-5).
To be in a “good condition” spiritually speaking comes down to a humble state (1 Peter 5:5-10). We can’t be disciples of Jesus unless we possess a state of humility where we are made perfect in Christ by the Spirit of God. This requires us to be willing to submit to His leading, open enough to receive His instructions, trustworthy enough to obey them, and faithful enough to see unpleasant hindrances and challenges through to the end to complete the task entrusted to us.
The Bible stresses we are saved unto good works, being made into a type of workmanship that is able to bring glory to God. We are clay vessels being formed in such a way we will be made fit for the Master’s use. We are to be instruments of righteousness, ready to be used at all times (Romans 6:13-20; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Timothy 2:19-21).
To be perfect we have to be sure of what we believe, sound in our convictions, and grounded in what is true. We can’t be like an unstable wave on the ocean that can be driven by every new religious or super-spiritual fad and we must not have a divided heart towards God, be double-minded about what is true and right, and be easily swayed by others because we lack integrity towards the matters of God (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 4:14; James 1:8).
We finally come to completeness. Completeness points to balance in our approach due to the Lord being our sufficiency, well-rounded in our character because we are founded on the Rock, and mature about responsibilities due to the fruit of the Spirit, and godly in our conduct. Completeness also points to abundance. A complete life in Christ points to a fruitful life (John 10:10; 15:1-8; Galatians 5:22-23). This life is satisfying and rewarding.
Perfection for Christians is not something they become; rather, it is a type of state they are placed in when being positioned in Christ. It is a place of purity that they are brought to through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and in the end, it is manifested in their lives through the byproduct of sanctification that shows itself through spiritual maturity and godly living.