– Dan DeVitis
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Mt. 5:48)
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1Pet. 1:16)
Sometimes we read scriptures that are straight forward, easy to understand, and given to simple obedience and faith. For example, “Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’” (Acts 2:38) Here, truth is revealed, one knows how to proceed and in what manner, and what to expect or experience in his/her life. When one responds in faith, they receive the promise into their life. They are never the same again.
However, there are times when we come across scriptures, as Mathew 5:48 and 1Peter 1:16 stated above that cause us to ponder. We ask ourselves, “How can I be perfect and holy even as God, our Father, is perfect and holy?” We realize the insurmountable gap between the awesome and glorious nature of God and ourselves. We may ask, “How can scriptures demand such obedience?” We may even conclude or relegate these two scriptures to “that day” of His second coming, and the resurrection. Or, we may conclude these scriptures are only “spiritual” in nature and that this is how God sees us in and through Christ our Savior. Although there is some measure of truth to these assumptions, they are not accurate interpretations of the scriptures.
Let us go on to a fuller understanding, and, in order to do so we will have to rely on some Bible helps in understanding Greek grammar with respect to these two verses. First, it is easy to understand that both “as your Father” in Mt. 5:48 and “for I am” in 1Pe. 1:16 are written in the present tense, meaning that God the Father is altogether perfect and holy even as the words are being spoken. God is perfect in that He lacks nothing. He is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. He is whole and complete in all the attributes of a glorious, powerful, and loving God. Nothing may be added. God our Father exists in absolute holiness, pure in every sense of the word, wholly separate from the common and mundane, and polluted. He is, in the present time, altogether perfect and holy. Remarkably, we are encouraged to draw near to this awesome God as a child to a father.
Secondly, we must understand the Greek grammar of: “be therefore perfect” in Mt. 5:48, and “be ye holy” in 1Pet. 1:16. These expressions are both written in the future tense with the idea of becoming, or shall be. It is a goal on the horizon. It is a mark or aim of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. It does not indicate a sudden lifestyle or behavioral change from being “unholy” to a state of holiness. Rather, it is a command that our all must be given to press toward both perfection (completeness, wholeness, maturity) and holiness (separated unto God). This, beloved, is the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Yes, it is as beholding oneself as a “diamond in the rough” on the one hand with all its imperfections, while on the other hand beholding God our Father and Christ our Savior as that perfectly cut diamond in all beauty, splendor, and glory. Each facet of His being (this diamond) reflects an aspect of His absolutely perfect and holy nature: mercy, grace, love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, patience, forgiveness, etc. We behold each not just in part or in measure but in absolute perfection and holiness.
We stand before this awesome and glorious God as a “diamond in the rough.” Just what is a “diamond in the rough”? Firstly, it is this precious stone as taken from the earth. It is amorphous (without form) and without beauty. It has much value because its molecular makeup causes it to be the hardest of minerals and can be used for all kinds of industrial purposes. But it is also highly valued for what it can become. Internally, this rough diamond possesses all that is needed to become a gem of beauty. It possesses a unique internal molecular structure that will allow a master craftsman to painstakingly chip off this amorphous exterior, a small piece at a time, revealing polished surfaces that reflect light that shine upon it and producing that radiant sparkle. The craftsman then painstakingly polishes each facet surface removing slight remaining imperfections. It is a work in process…a work unto perfection.
This master craftsman first secures this “diamond in the rough” in a vise-like grip, patiently studying its internal structure. Light is passed through it as he observes how the light rays behave as they pass through the interior of the mineral. This reveals just where to place his cutting tool. He most carefully and precisely positions the cutting tool. Then, with all confidence, he strikes the cutting tool with a small hammer. Chip! A piece of this amorphous exterior flies away exposing a beautifully fashioned reflective surface—a facet that is now a part of its becoming new nature.
I believe you now understand this analogy and how it applies to the believer. We are that “diamond in the rough.” Externally, this old man is nothing to behold. Of course I am not referring to this outward man (though it does seem our bodies become more amorphous with age), but reference is being made to this inward man. It is amorphous, lacking quality! However, within the core of our being, in our inner-most man, is the seed of Christ (1Jn. 3:9). This spiritual seed possesses qualities waiting to be revealed as a new man. Each facet, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, begins to be revealed: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal. 5:22) It is one thing to read and meditate upon these qualities of character. It is quite another to begin realizing the vast difference between the current temporary and fleeting nature of these attributes presently possessed, and their more permanent and abiding presence. How fleeting are joy and peace now enjoyed in the natural—here one minute and gone the next. That born of the Spirit enjoys an increasingly greater presence of these and other fruit in their lives. This is life more abundantly!
The good news is that it all begins from a position of rest, firmly gripped in the Master’s hand. He studies and tests us, passing His light through us to know just how to position that cutting tool and begin to chip away this old exterior of a man. “It is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13) Isn’t it comforting to know there is a mighty power that works upon us and within us and that we are not left to our own feeble strength to become something perfect and holy before God? It does require drawing close to God in faith and hope (expectation) in humility and brokenness. “It is not of him who wills, nor him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” (1 Cor. 9:16)
And, O’ yes, what of that cutting tool? That instrument used to cut away the old to reveal the new? One may think initially, “the word of God (which) is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb. 4:12 Yes it is the word. But this word (logos) goes well beyond Bible reading. The apostle Paul states, “The message (word or logos) of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1Cor. 1:18
You see, there is a message (logos) of the cross that works for us, on our behalf, for our salvation. See Acts 2:38 stated above. And, there is the message (logos) of the cross that works in us…who are being saved. The apostle Paul identified with this cross in Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. O’ there is so much to speak on regarding the cross that works in us.