Sermon: Perfection for Saints
Scripture: Matthew 5:48
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means to be perfect as God is perfect, that it is a work of God that involves the past, the present, and the future.
Theme: God’s Working
Now, of course, when we have said this we have also made it clear that no one lives up to the standard of the Lord Jesus Christ. For all men fall short of such perfection, and in doing so they show themselves to be sinners. This is what sin is. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The verb in that verse is a word taken from the practice of archery, and it refers to the arrows of those who fall short of and therefore miss the target. In other words, if a target was to be set up at one end of a football field and all of the archers were to line up at the other end of the field and shoot their arrows, the verb would refer to the shots of all those who did not reach the target. The verse says that this is what all men have done. God’s standard is a bull’s eye, and no one has hit it. All men fall short. Consequently, no one will ever enter heaven by his own efforts.
Now you say, “Well, then, what is a person to do? What am I to do?” The answer is that you must turn away from your own efforts completely, and you must receive the perfection that God has already taken steps to provide for you. Nothing that you will ever do will be perfect. Only what God does is perfect. Hence, if you are to reach the perfection God requires, it must be as the result of His working for you and in you.
In the course of my preparation for this study, I looked up all of the verses in the Bible that speak about perfection and I came across a paragraph that I had never noticed before but which was striking to me, chiefly because it makes this point so succinctly. In Psalm 18, David speaks of perfection twice: once of God’s perfection and once of man’s. The point of the verses is that God is responsible for both kinds. In verse 30 David writes, “As for God, his way is perfect.” Then, two verses further on he adds, “It is God who girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect” (v. 32). Who is God? God is the one who is perfect. And what does He do? God works to perfect sinful man.
Now how does He do it? The answer to that question is a tremendous answer because it involves the whole counsel of God. It has several parts. First, God begins by perfecting the record. Second, He works at perfecting us in this life. Third, He perfects us completely in all ways at the moment of our death.
How does God work to perfect the record? And what does that mean anyhow? Well, the background to what that means is to be found in the fact that sin consists in far more than what it does merely to the individual sinner. Sin involves others, and sin is an offense to God’s justice. It cannot be ignored or even simply forgiven. It must be dealt with. Consequently, God the Father sent God the Son to die for the sin of others, bearing sin’s penalty and cancelling all claims of justice against the sinner forever. This is the meaning of the cross of Jesus Christ. It is not simply an example, still less a meaningless tragedy. It is the place at which God punished sin and cancelled its claims against all those who should believe in Jesus. The author of Hebrews speaks of this aspect of God’s work of perfecting His children when he writes, “For by one offering [Christ] hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14).
Explain the meaning of Romans 3:23. What does it mean to “come short”?
How does David speak of perfection in Psalm 18?
What does it mean for God to perfect the record?
Prayer: Do you know anyone who seems to be trying to please God by his own efforts? Pray for opportunities to point him to God’s grace shown at the cross of Christ.