Saturday, August 26, 2006

'Be holy... Be perfect...' impossible expectation or Gospel promise.

I'm sure I'm not the only Lutheran who has been taught that as we witness to unbelievers we should use Bible verses such as 'Be holy as I the Lord Your God am holy' and 'Be perfect, as Your Father in Heaven is Perfect' as 'law' designed to intimidate people into humility and repentance. (Then we can tell them the Gospel - "so they don't have to work at being holy" ?!).

Yet to take such verses out of context and teach that such statements are made by God just to cripple human spiritual ambition with an impossible standard is to fail to see the real meaning in those words, not to mention missing any real Gospel glory in them.

In His redeeming grace and mercy, God has provided for us to be both holy and perfect and, indeed, such holiness is already the gift of God to those in whom His Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple, surely.

Furthermore, those who teach that such statements are intended to assert the unattainable heights of divine perfection are reducing God to the level of a bully who towers over a small child and flaunts his superior height.

Lets stop using these statements as proof-texts for law, and start showing people the heights of undeserved privilege that God is offering to share with us with the words 'Be holy, as I the Lord your God am Holy'.

They describe the exaltation of those in whom God's Holy Spirit dwells as in a Temple. 'Be perfect, as Your Father in Heaven is Perfect' are words of promise to those who, through faith in Christ, have a righteousness imputed to them that exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees and a standing with God that is variously described as sonship and royal priesthood - a holy nation. *

*See Exodus 19.6, Leviticus 20.26, 1 Corinthians 6.19, 1 Peter 1.14-16 & 2.9,

27 comments:

cheryl said...

Dave over at, "Orthodox Lutheran" shared similiar thoughts on this same topic:

Yes, perfect only in the sense that we "reflect" the "likeness" of God's perfection in his love for others. But not perfect in ourselves. And the reason I say this and believe this is that when I love my neighbor, like the good Samaritan, I am at one time obeying and fulfilling all the commands of the Law that have to do with loving others, from not committing adultery and murder, to helping my neighbor get his ox out of a ditch, to not talking bad about my neighbor, not coveting, etc. So when I pray for my enemies I am offering them grace just as God our Father offers grace all the time to even the most wicked. The only reason why I use the word Perfect here is because Jesus uses it that way, "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." But perhaps you could think of it this way, of being "blameless." When a three year old child writes a note to his father, it may look like scribble and perhaps a few letters which look awful. Yet when the father reads it he asks his child, 'What does this say?' The child responds, 'I love you daddy.' The father then gets overjoyed and even some tears in the eyes, over such a message of love from his child. The reason for this, as imperfect as the writing may be, it is "blameless" it cannot be condemned, because the child is loving his father just as the father loves the child. That's what Paul is saying, the fruit of the Spirit is love for God and love for our neighbor, and there is no law against that, it is perfect to God, it is what he has saved us for, it is blameless, no law can touch it.

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