Pastor James J. Barker

Text: MATTHEW 5:38-48


  1. Probably one of the most misunderstood words in our Bible is found here in Matt.5:38 – "perfect."
  2. Before I explain what our Lord meant when He said, "Be ye therefore perfect," let me explain what He did not mean.
  3. He did not mean "sinless." No one can be sinless this side of heaven, except of course our Lord.
  4. Perfection is the Christian ideal and aim, but absolute perfection cannot be attained until we leave this world.
  5. Christian perfection involves the whole conduct and the whole man. As I have been trying to bring out in recent messages, too many people fall into the trap of associating holiness and perfection with certain dress standards. The Pharisees dressed pretty sharp but Jesus said that inside they were "full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness" (Matt.23:27).
  6. The true born again Christian ought to be continually moving toward perfection, looking to our Lord as our Model (cf. Heb.13:20,21).
  7. Before we get into today’s message, I want to draw your attention to another word found here in Matt.5:48 – "therefore." This ties verse 48 in with the preceding verses.



    1. Remember, our Lord never criticized the law. That would be impossible for God gave the law and Jesus is God (cf. Matt. 5:17,18).
    2. Remember, our Lord was criticizing the Pharisaical misinterpretation of the law. The law referred to here in Matt.5:38 was a good law, a fair law, and a wise law. All of God’s laws are good, fair and wise.
    3. This law kept people from forcing the offender to pay more than his offense deserved. It was "an eye for an eye," not "two eyes for an eye" (Matt.5:38; cf. Lev.24:17-20).
    4. The object of this law was not to urge men to seek vengeance. Rather it was meant to avoid the terrible tendency man has for seeking excessive punishment.
    5. Men should not seek revenge. As Christians we should gladly suffer loss if it will further the cause of Christ. But this only goes for individuals, not for nations. Rulers have a responsibility to punish wrongdoers. As individuals, and especially as Christians, we have a responsibility to leave things in God’s hands.
    6. We must not retaliate. God can fight our battles for us. He does not need any help from us.
    7. The principle behind this "eye for an eye" law is that repayment should be of an equal value to the damage inflicted. It was meant to limit the punishment. The penalty was not to exceed the crime.
    8. Today in modern, permissive America this seems so foreign to us! Today the situation is just the opposite. Murderers, thieves, rapists, liars, and other criminals get very light sentences (if they are even sentenced at all) and are back on the street in no time.
    9. What our Lord is saying here in 5:39 is that we are not to resist evil people. Retaliation brings only temporary satisfaction. We are to turn the other cheek, not hit back.
    10. What our Lord is saying is that while worldly people demand their rights, spiritual people will voluntarily give up those rights. Righteousness, godliness, and holiness do not demand their rights.
    11. The Lord Jesus is the supreme example of this, for He stood before Pontius Pilate with false, unsubstantiated charges leveled against Him (cf. I Peter 2:21-24).
    12. I have been preaching a lot about love lately. One of the chief characteristics of love is that it does not seek its own; it seeks the good of others.
    13. Jesus said that if a man sues you for your coat, let him have your cloke as well (5:40).
    14. Some here tonight are thinking – I cannot live on this high plane; I am not ready. Brother, I am not there yet either; it is difficult. But I am trying. Remember Matt.5:48. We are striving for perfection.
    15. This same principle is also taught in the apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans (cf. Rom.12:9-21).



    1. It is very easy loving our close friends. It takes little effort to love friendly people, kind people, happy people (5:46). But God wants us to love our enemies (5:43,44).
    2. The law did not teach that we should hate our enemies (5:43). Again, this is another example of how the Pharisees twisted the law (Lev.19:18; Ex.23:4,5).
    3. We must learn to die to self. "There was a day when I died, utterly died to George Muller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God" – George Muller.
    4. Remember – Jesus loved us even when we were His enemies (Rom.5:10).
    5. Our Lord asks, "What do ye more than others?" (5:47). God expects more from His children. Are you one of His children? It is a good testimony to be loving and longsuffering. It is a poor testimony to act just like worldly people.
    6. I remember years ago I was hired by a contractor after being referred through a job placement service. I was mistreated by the foreman and after being laid off, I called up the building department because they were working without a permit. I will never forget the reaction from the man at the job placement office. "You are going to Bible College, preparing for the ministry and you did that?" It was a rebuke and he was right.
    7. We have heard a lot about standards the past few months, but this is the most important standard and this standard was completely overlooked (5:46-48).



  1. Again, please let me remind you that "perfect" does not mean "sinless."
  2. Perfection in the Bible usually means spiritual maturity. The preceding verses show us how to reach that level of maturity: turn the other cheek, love those that hate us, pray for those who persecute us, and to be friendly and show kindness to everyone.
  3. Christian perfection is that spiritual maturity which enables a Christian to imitate God in dispensing blessing to everybody without partiality (5:45).


  1. Back in the times of Christ, Palestine was occupied territory, with Roman soldiers everywhere.
  2. Soldiers had to move from place to place. The method of transporting a soldier’s belongings was to conscript men who would carry their burdens for them.
  3. So when a Roman soldier moved from one village to the next, he would take some able-bodied man from the village and compel him to carry his luggage to the next village.
  4. To protect the rights of their civilians, Rome enacted a law which said that the soldier could only conscript a man to carry his burden for only one mile.
  5. But our Lord said that if someone conscripted you to carry his burden the required mile and you came to the end of the mile, "go with him twain (two)" (Matt.5:41).
  6. Maybe our Lord wants you to go that second mile.

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