One More Summary Message of the Law: Be Perfect
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides a startling summary of the law of God: “be perfect.” Our Lord had just been teaching about God’s law. His instruction provided a much deeper understanding of the law than the teachers of Jesus’ day had grasped. He showed how the law goes far beyond external behavior alone.
The format Jesus used was “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you.” In Matthew 5:27-28, He addressed the commandment on adultery in this fashion. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.‘ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” When lustful imaginations are entertained in our thoughts, adultery has already occurred, as far as God is concerned.
In verses 21-22 Jesus used this same pattern of instruction to reveal God’s perspective on murder: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” When vengeful anger floods our thoughts, this is harboring a murderous spirit within the heart. Actual murder and vindictive anger both deserve the same judgment. Clearly, God’s commandments can be transgressed by the unseen attitudes of the heart, as well as by the visible actions of the body.
Again, Jesus summarized such teaching on the law by saying: “be perfect.” In the law, God requires a perfection that measures up to the perfect character of Himself. The law is saying that we are to hold within our hearts and manifest through our actions a character that matches God’s. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.“
Dear Heavenly Father, these words are so humbling and convicting. You are so perfect in every way. I am so imperfect in every area. Lord, even actions that I think are acceptable in Your sight can be polluted by unacceptable attitudes that fall far short of the standard of Your perfections. Thus, I cast myself upon Your mercy and grace, looking to You for the only remedies that will ever suffice, even Your forgiveness and Your transforming power, through Christ my Lord and Savior, Amen.
Another Summary Message of the Law: Be Loving
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”(Matthew 22:36-40)
In His response to the question, Jesus supplies another summary of the messageof God’s law: be loving. “Love the Lord your God…love your neighbor.” Jesus then revealed that “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Every command in the law of God is related to one of these two commandments.
“Love the Lord your God.” The primary demand of the law is an all-out love relationship with the Lord God Almighty. God is to be loved “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” From the depths of our being, love is to be flowing out toward the Lord. In every expression of our personality, love is to be poured out toward God. In every thought of our minds, love for God is to be the motivation and the content. Any aspect of life that does not indicate a comprehensive, unrestricted love toward God is in violation of His law.
“Love your neighbor.” The secondary demand of God’s law is an unselfish love toward every other person. We are to love others “as ourselves.” Some have wrongly used this phrase to urge obedience to an imaginary third commandment: “We need to learn to love ourselves”?! No, Jesus said there are only two commandments here. This second one is a call to give others the consideration and care that we all have given to ourselves throughout our lives. Jesus later intensified this second command by saying, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you…” (John 13:34).
The message of God’s law is: be loving. Love God fully. Love others sacrificially.
Dear Lord God, I bow before You as the God of infinite love. I have come to love You, because You first loved me. Yet, my love for You is so feeble in light of what You deserve and what You command. O Lord, my love for others is so often diminished by my own selfishness. I humbly ask that You would work in me a more profound love for You and a more selfless love for others, in Jesus’ name, Amen.