When we think of God’s grace, we usually think of his saving Grace. Not because of works or good deeds we’ve done, but because of his Grace he chooses to redeem us from the eternal punishment that our sin deserves and instead of judgment we get what we don’t deserve, heaven! But we are not only saved by grace, we are also sustained by grace. The Galatians, who were saved by grace, were trying to live the Christian life by observing the law. Paul, rebukes them and reminds them that living the Christian life is also a matter of God’s grace rather than our own goodness. Coming to faith in Christ, we often, like the Galatians turn then to our own means in an effort to achieve the “perfect” life by trying to observe all the standards of our own understanding of the law. In our flesh, we feel we can contribute to our salvation, if not to our eternal salvation, at least as it is worked out in our lives every day. But God will have none of that! He is constantly bringing into our lives the purging truth of our sinfulness. His amazing grace purges the “me” out of us so that it will be all about him and not about us or our efforts or works. The refining fires of God’s grace will purge us of ourselves!

There are many verses that have troubled scholars for years. One in particular is Matthew 5:48, which says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” There have been many opinions regarding the meaning of the word “perfect” throughout church history, but I’d argue that it means just what it says: BE PERFECT! That is like the sacrificial lambs must be “without flaw” or like Noah “blameless” in every way! But please don’t miss the context. Jesus summarized his teachings that the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the day aren’t righteous enough to inherit the Kingdom of God. In order to get to heaven, one’s righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. How much better must one be? Oh, let’s see!! 75% better? No 90% better? Well, Jesus made it clear that nothing but “perfection” can enter into the kingdom of God. Therefore he says, “you must be perfect.” Throughout church history there have been numerous efforts to demonstrate how we can achieve perfectionism in our lives. Unfortunately, these “theologies” remain completely hypothetical for no one has ever achieved it! But we can make our lives miserable by trying!

Jesus wasn’t trying to get us to try harder when he said “be perfect.” He was trying to bring us to repentance. He wants to purge the “me” out of us. He was offering an opportunity for us to acknowledge the truth that “there are no righteous people, no not even one,” and that “we have all fallen short of God’s standard. It wasn’t a standard of being better than others that was the basis for admittance into the kingdom of God, it was a completely perfect standard that could never be achieved by one’s own efforts. I love the way J.M. Boice put it in his commentary. He writes regarding Jesus’ statement, “Jesus now answers with a statement that is devastating to all human attempts to earn heaven, a statement that is meant to turn men to God’s grace and away from all man-made attempts at salvation.”