The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Matthew 5:38-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN
EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist
him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him
the other also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let
him have your coat also. 41 And whoever shall force you to go one mile,
go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away
from him who wants to borrow from you. 43 You have heard that it was
said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ 44
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you
45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He
causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the
righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you,
what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47
And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do
not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as
your heavenly Father is perfect. (NASB)
This morning we consider the closing verses of the Sermon on the Mount.
Four weeks ago, we considered the “Blessed are thou” portion of the sermon.
That was followed by you Christians are the salt and light of the world. Don’t lose
what I have given to you.
In the midst of that, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the
Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” and that not one
iota or dot will pass away from the Word of God till heaven and earth pass
away.” He also taught that if we are going to try to be righteous by virtue of the
law, then our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.
Then to show us that sinful human beings have absolutely no possibility of
keeping the law and exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,
Jesus restores a right understanding of the Law to those who listen. There is no
loophole or escape clause. There is no one who is good, except God Himself. The
rest of us sin in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and what we have
left undone. The law applies to the whole human being; heart, thoughts, and deeds.
Now up until the assigned lesson for this morning, Jesus has covered the
negative side of the Law. He has told us what we are not to do and what we ought
not think or feel if we are going to keep the Law. In other words, He has shown us
that we break the Law at every point.
As if we haven’t failed enough, Jesus finishes us off in these last ten verses
by taking us to the “positive side” the Commandments. These are the things we are
to do if in fact we are going to abide by both the letter and spirit of the Law.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A
TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but
whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
40 “And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your
coat also. 41 And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.”
42 “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who
wants to borrow from you.”
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR
NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and
pray for those who persecute you.”
Having set this list before us, Jesus finishing the Sermon on the Mount with
this summary of the Law, our relationship to it, and our relationship to God
Himself. 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
perfect.” Jesus is saying the same thing that was said in Leviticus 19:2 “You shall
be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
That is the command, but all of Scripture teaches that perfection is
impossible for us. Our sinful flesh is simply incapable of it. That is true for the
Christian as well as the unbeliever. As St. Paul says, Romans 7:18 “For I know
that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in
me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but
I practice the very evil that I do not want.” We can’t even get to the good part
down, let alone the perfection required to equal that of our Heavenly Father.
In addition to highlighting the positive side of the Law, there is something
different about the list of things Jesus has given us to do. It is not an impossible
list. In these closing verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands things
that we can actually do.
When we are struck on one cheek, we can offer up our other cheek. We can
go the extra mile for someone and we have and do at times. We can give to the one
who begs and we have and do at times. We can even love our enemies and we can
pray for those who persecute us and we have done that too. We have and can do
all these things that Jesus instructs us to do in these last ten verses of the sermon,
at least we have on occasion done so.
It is equally true that we do not do them to perfection and in every single
case. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never achieve perfection, especially in
the New Testament use of the word.
The Greek word used by Jesus here is telaiô. It means to be free from
blemish, that is to be flawlessness. But it means more than that. It means
completeness and fullness. Nothing is lacking. It means that you have not only
performed without failing, it means that you lack nothing, there is no deficiency.
This by the way is the same root word Jesus used as He hung on the cross
and was about to breathe His last. Jesus said, telaiô, “It is finished!” So it was.
The work of redemption was (and is) perfect, without blemish, lacking nothing,
full and complete in all respects. That is something that many of our fellow
Christians continue to misunderstand. They think there is something more to be
What they fail to understand is that the all-redeeming sacrifice of Jesus
Christ was filled not only with His perfect and joyful execution of Love, the Law,
and the doing of the Father’s will, it was also filled with Jesus’s full and complete
divine and human natures.
“You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The only way
we can have this kind of perfection is if it is given to us and we remain in it. Jesus
said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he
bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
People don’t seem to remember that last part. “Apart from Me, you are
nothing. You are woefully incomplete and imperfect.”
You have nothing to contribute to salvation. It is not a partnership. Christ
has already done it all—perfectly and completely. It is finished—perfectly and
completely! This is what we call “justification.”
Yet at the same time you are blessed of God. You are salt and light in
Christ. He is the vine and you are the branches. “You did not choose Me but I
chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your
fruit would remain.” John 15:16.
This is called “sanctification.” Your good works, apart from Christ are
sinfully incomplete. But in Christ Jesus you are not only forgiven, His works
become yours and your works become His, such whole and complete. Telaiô!
Jesus is both commanding you to be and giving you telaiô, perfect completeness in
Most Christians and the entire world thinks that in the Sermon on the
Mount, Jesus is giving us a list of things we need to do in order to be called
blessed of God. The reality is that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is putting to
death a religion of works righteousness.
He is calling all to live by faith in His person and work. He did not come to
abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. When Jesus commands us to
do things beyond our ability, He does so we despair of our own efforts, repent, and
acknowledge and trust that He has done it all in our stead.
Jesus was struck in the face. He endured the beating, mocking, and flogging
of the soldiers. He did more than carry a burden for a mile. He carried it up to
Goliath. He carried the sin of the world – your sin – my sin – our unloving sin of
gossip – our inability to love our enemies – our desire to exalt ourselves by
damaging others – He carried it all to the cross and there He died to pay for it all.
He gives us more than a cloak and tunic. He gives us the robes of His
When Jesus says to you, “Be perfect,” think of Him wrapping a coat of
perfection around you so that every bit of your imperfection is tucked away and
“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Again listen to Leviticus
19:2 “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” That is a future
promise. The promise was and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We have been made
holy and that holiness will be on display when Christ comes again for your sins
have been forgiven.
May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ
The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the