Matthew 5:48

ESV You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
NIV Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
NASB Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
CSB Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
NLT But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.
KJV Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

What does Matthew 5:48 mean?

How much righteousness does God expect from His followers? Jesus has demonstrated in one example after another that truly godly righteousness, the kind that would earn a person eternal salvation, is well beyond what they had been taught by the Jewish religious leaders (Matthew 5:20). It is far more righteousness than Jesus' listeners were expecting of themselves.

Jesus clearly teaches that the heavenly standard of righteousness is absolute. You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. That doesn't mean salvation is only offered to those who are "good enough," mostly because no one is ever "good enough" (Romans 3:10). That's why God offers salvation by grace through faith (John 3:16–18; Titus 3:5).

Two things follow from Jesus' teaching in this chapter and in this final sentence. First, simply following the law of Moses as it was taught by Israel's religious leaders was not nearly good enough. Those who would follow Jesus' teaching, His disciples, must live out righteousness which begins with their inner lives (Matthew 5:21–22, 27–28). That righteousness means surrendering personal rights for the good of others (Matthew 5:31–32, 33–37, 38–39). This extends even to the point of loving and praying for their enemies (Matthew 5:43–47).

Second, it quickly becomes clear that it is absolutely impossible for sinful human beings to live up to God's standard or righteousness in our own power. That's why the Apostle Paul will famously state in his letter to the Romans, "None is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). He and Matthew and the rest of the New Testament writers will make it clear that perfect righteousness as Jesus has described it in this chapter can only be received as a gift from God through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:23–25).
What is the Gospel?
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