In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined a “game plan” for His followers. He showed us how to correctly apply the Scripture to our daily lives with this repeated pattern: “You have heard it said [God’s Word], but I tell you [real-life application].” Smack-dab in the middle of this sermon Jesus drops this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
You might say, “But ‘perfect’ doesn’t really mean perfect, does it?”
Actually, it does. The Greek word telios means the end goal of being complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character. In other words: complete in body, soul, mind, spirit—just like Jesus.
Think about it: Jesus never misspoke, He never waited too long to act, He never acted too quickly, He never overstepped God’s boundaries, He never needed to apologize.
Again, you might push back with, “Yes, but He is Jesus. He is God!”
You are absolutely correct, but—miracle of miracles!—Jesus chose not to use His deity while He was on earth (Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:6-7). He lived a perfect life as a human, not playing His “God card,” to show us that it was possible. Jesus demonstrated that He needed to rely on the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, 4:1, 14; John 5:19-20, 12:49-50).
This is what Jesus wants for us as well, which is why He told His disciples to wait for the empowerment that came with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On our own, perfection is impossible. But when we baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live perfectly.
Remember the definition I gave for perfect (telios): complete in body, soul, mind, spirit. That’s exactly how Dr. Luke described Jesus, and it’s also how Jesus described our perfect love of God (Luke 2:52, 10:27).
On our own: this is impossible. But with the baptism in the Holy Spirit: we are empowered for perfection.
Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit, what would make us think we could live with anything less?!
If you missed any of the other posts in this series, you can find them all listed here.