You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:48 ESV

I used to believe and many teach that Matthew 5:48 talks about perfect law keeping. I was wrong. It is talking about a much higher standard of perfection that simply keeping the written law can never attain.

We should be very thankful that God gave us the written law we see in the Ten Commandments as opposed to insisting we keep the perfect spirit of the those Commandments or come under judgment. God’s perfect standard is actually watered down in the Ten Commandments which will appear easy to keep once a person realizes Gods perfect standard cited below. The commandments are only a shadow the reality.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities… (Heb 10:1)

The Ten Commandments can only tell us what not to do. However, many do not know that the spirit of these Commandments, all of Gods laws in fact, is LOVE. Not just love as we define it, it is love as God defines it. The spirit of a written law is the intent of the author who writes the law. The spirit is always higher than the letter. It is the only thing that can actually fulfill the intent of the author who wrote the law.  Many verses including these reveal the spirit of the letter.

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8-10).

If God had just given Moses written on stone “Love as I Love” and when you fail you will come under judgment, we would be even worse off than we found ourselves with the Ten Commandments which are easy to keep for fallen man in comparison. Here is a sample of what would be required to avoid Gods judgment if “Love as I Love” was given as the written law, with judgment and condemnation as consequences for disobedience.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers,iwhat more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:38-48)

In the above verses, God is telling us that he loves the just (righteous by faith) and the unjust (non-believer) enemies. He then goes on to tell us that as he does, so should we do. These verses depict perfect love, the higher standard of our heavenly Father. Even as a believer for many years, I do pretty darn good at keeping the written law but still fall far short of keeping the spirit of the law. It is very humbling to see how poorly I actually do in comparison. Thank God for grace.

Most people think that Jesus just fulfilled the letter of the law. This is totally false. As a matter of fact, Jesus broke the letter of the law on the Sabbath according to the best law keepers around. However, he fulfilled the spirit of the law, love,  at the same time. The Pharisee’s did just the opposite over and over again. You can see this in the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Woman caught in adultery. They would keep the letter and violate the spirit. In the end they totally ignored the spirit of Gods law and used the letter to kill the author of the law.

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” (John 19:7)

The real truth is that as believers who often like to point out the sins of others. We often do the exact same thing as the Pharisee’s by ignoring the spirit and using the letter to kill. One perfect example that comes to mind is judging other believers for divorce, staying married ourselves to adhere to the letter of the law while not loving our spouse as Christ loved the church. I am not advocating divorce, but I am guilty of that one and it saddens me. I need your help Father.

Jesus did not just fulfill the lower standard of the letter of the law. Jesus fulfilled the intent of the laws author, the highest standard, the spirit of the letter. Jesus the author of the written law, fulfilled the spirit of the letter, when he died for sinners, all of us, Gods enemies.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom 5:6-10)

Since love must be a free choice and cannot be legislated, God did the next best thing, the only thing besides removing free will which would remove the ability to love also. God legislated morality to protect fallen man who is incapable of loving as God loves. He did this to guard us from harming each other until we could come to a saving knowledge of Christ (Gal 2:23-26), while still giving us the ability to choose Gods highest standard of love. God’s standard of love is defined not by our love for him but his love for us. When we choose Jesus we choose love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:7-12)

There is good news. God is love.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1:John 4:16)

The following verses describe your Father and shows us how love brings no condemnation.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13: 4-8a NIV)

And great news, there is no fear of punishment in Gods perfect love. Perfect love casts out fear.

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is (Jesus) so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:17-19)

Faith and hope will no longer be needed when we see Jesus face to face. Only love will remain.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1Cor 13:13)

We have been made ministers of the spirit of Gods law and not the letter.

who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:6)

that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor 5:19)



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