Matthew 5:48 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Can I tell the unsaved that he must be perfect to get into heaven because Jesus commanded it?
ESV - 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
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My opinion is that yes, Matthew 5:48 can be used to tell an unbeliever that God is holy and we are not. "Be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." We are sinful and cannot save ourselves. This is also the view of a [PDF]Download this tract (PDF) - Evangelism Explosion “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 But it must be downloaded from the evangelism explosion website. The objection to my view is that "perfect" means "mature" and is for believers. But indirectly it may be applied because the Scripture is replete with verses about God's holiness and His intolerance of sin in His presence (Heaven) -- Habakkuk 1:13a, Psalm 5:5, Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Psalm 11:5 ESV The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
I can only speak from a personal perspective on this question. When I was lost, if you had told me I was commanded to be perfect, or that being perfect was my "only" way to heaven... you would have been slathered with a few choice words as I insulted you and asked if you thought you were perfect. I would have made it my personal goal to show you that you were just as imperfect as I was. I would've never thought that to be any sort of an evangelical tool, rather a tool in my hand to heap persecution on your head! Once I accepted Jesus into my heart and knew Him as the Prince of Peace, you could begin to teach me a lesson like this. I could ask Jesus to help me be perfect for Him. Do I believe that I am perfect now? No! But, Paul said "I die daily!" Die to what? All the things that are not perfected yet. Mark 7:20-23. I thank God for the blood of Jesus that washes and makes me clean every day! Be blessed, Lena
First, I would like to address Matthew 5:48 which is a great source of debate for many. In the NT KJV, the word "perfect" (Greek Teleios) appears 42 times meaning "complete in labor, growth or moral character (e.g. John 17:23; 1 Cor 2:6; 14:20; Phil 3:15; James 3:2). The Bible term of "perfection," as far as the believer is concerned, never means "sinlessness." Noah was "perfect in his generations" (Gen 6:9), king “Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord" (1 Kings 15:14), nonetheless, the Scripture tells that these men were not sinless. It means that that they were spiritually mature, fully grown in spiritual understanding. A "perfect" Christian is one whose heart and mind are constantly committed to God (Ps 119:97, 98). Noah, Abraham, and Job were also "perfect," yet they were not sinless. The true Christian life is not void of sin; however, the Christian experience should be one of victory and not constant defeat (Rom 6:11-15). When we trust Christ, by His power we can fight daily against all sin and overcome it (Phil 4:13). The true Christian experience is not defined by an occasional good deed or bad dead, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts. As long as we abide in Christ, victory over sin is possible and with God’s help we can overcome our sinful tendencies and sinful natures (Rom 7:24-8:2). Peter could walk on water - although when he took his eyes off Jesus he start to sink. What kept Peter on top of the sea was Christ’s power that overruled the law of physics. The Christian life isn’t any different (Gal 5:16-18; 1 John 1:8-10). What God wants from us is “perfect” love - if we love Him as much that we would rather die than disobey Him (like Daniel, for example) - in my view, that means Christian perfection. Daniel, David and Moses weren’t sinless but they all loved the Lord with all their heart. Now, going back to the initial question - would a non-believer be able to understand the need to put his trust and to love the Lord with all his heart? Probably not. How can anyone love and trust someone he doesn't know! Personally, I would start with a more generic theme, telling the non-believer about God's love for the fallen human race - how Christ took upon Himself our sins and died so we can have eternal life with Him. As the person appeared to be interested, the Holy Spirit will give wisdom and understanding in deeper teachings about the Trinity, of how sin affects us and God, and about God's great plan of salvation.
This verse, Matthew 5:48, comes from Deuteronomy 18:13. "You shall be blameless before the Lord your God." Genesis 17:1, "When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.'" Abram was commanded to walk before God. He was to behave in faithfulness to the Lord. He was to have integrity in whatever he did. Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24 walked with God. This is pleasing to our God. How is this possible? We are all born sinful in nature. This verse can open a conversation about Jesus' life and work. Then you could add 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, "Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel...For I delivered to you first of all that Christ died for our sins..." Then you could tell that the only way to be saved is by faith in Him. When you are In Him, you are perfected in God's eyes. Jesus' blood covers our sins. It is all about believing the finished work of the cross! Nothing else counts. So easy, yet so hard! You must choose to allow Him into your heart and life and repent, and walk daily with Him!
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