Christ is not a milk toast fence-straddler. He went “all in.” He laid it all on the line, “all” seeming to be the operative word. He said that all would be fulfilled in the law (Mt. 5: 18); that all our needs would be met if we seek His kingdom and righteousness first (6: 33). He healed all that were sick (8: 16). He preached the gospel of the kingdom in all the cities (9: 35). This is just to name a few.
In fact, the word “all” appears 105 times in the book of Matthew alone. “All” appears 5,621 times in the whole Bible (https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=all&t=KJV#s=s_primary_0_75).
Christ pegs the needle as He commands us to “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” As a newly reborn babe in Christ, one might respond with, “Yeah, right.” Yet the Spirit commands us to do some very difficult things like “pray always” and “pray without ceasing.”
Christ Magnifies the Law
Christ taught that to be like Him, we would have to do much more and go much deeper than just what is written on the surface of the letter of the law, the Ten Commandments. More is expected of us in order to be the manifested sons and daughters of the King. We are talking about being like the Father here, the Father in human form, as in “each seed bears its own kind.” We are born of the Spirit and have the Spirit now in our hearts. Much has been given to us; therefore, much is required of us. A grave responsibility has been attached to our walk with Christ. He expects us to go all in. And He shows us what He expects from us when we do that. His expectations for us are in the Sermon of the Mount (Matt. Chapters 5-7).
Christ magnified the law in that sermon and thereby created a standard of what a full grown Christian looks like. The Greek word translated “perfection” indicates completeness of the growth cycle or maturity. Several translations have it as “maturity.”
Christ was saying that it wasn’t enough to just not murder someone. That is what the law required. But even unregenerated sinners can do that. He put it like this: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, You shall not murder… But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” Anger is the spiritual root cause of murder. Christ was showing that the Father’s offspring will have a heart like His, a heart of love and not anger and hostility (5: 21-22).
Christ magnified the law when He spoke of worship. It is not enough to go to a house of worship every week, faithfully paying your tithes and offerings, if your brother has something against you. He said, “First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift at the altar.” Here Christ puts agape love for each other over formal church giving (5: 23-24).
It is not enough to not commit adultery. He continues, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” There it is. It is in the heart. God looks on the heart. It is all about the heart. Many people down through history have lived a life without committing the physical act of adultery. Some can do it in their own strength for whatever reason. He shows us that it takes the Spirit of God within us to not look on a woman and secretly desire her. We see again here how Christ magnifies the law as He digs down into the heart of the matter (5: 27-28).
Moreover, Christ tells us that it is not enough to love those who love you. He elucidates, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” And then Christ sums it all up with this command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5: 43-48). Grow to the point where you are spiritually mature like the Father who was in Christ and His apostles and who is now in you.
Christ Is Showing Us His Nature in Action
Christ in this sermon shows us what a fully matured Christian will look like and how they will act. In fact, He is showing us how we will be when the Father is fully formed in us. He is demonstrating how it will be when the Father has fulfilled His purpose in us. And what is His purpose? He is reproducing Himself in us. He is agape love, and He is giving us the standard of the ultimate growth in God.
The apostle Paul knew all about the Father’s purpose of multiplying and reproducing Love—Himself. He taught that we are to be “glorified together” with Christ; that we are waiting for the manifestation of the sons [and daughters] of God; that we are waiting for our redemption, which is our new spiritual immortal bodies—just like Christ’s; that “we know that all things work together for good…to them that are the called according to His purpose”; and that because of that purpose, we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8: 17-33).
Setting a High Standard
Christ’s magnification of the law sets a high standard of spiritual conduct. It describes how we will be when the Spirit has grown up in us fully. This growth should be the desire of every Christian—to be like their example, to walk as He walked.
But this 100 fold growth will not come until we thoroughly know and do Christ’s teachings, which became the apostles’ doctrine. It is through His doctrine that we learn how to grow.
So we must study His teachings. I know; you thought you had finished school. So let me welcome you to the School of the Apostles and Prophets. It is only through prayerful study of His teachings that we may receive God’s approval—that He would consider us His friend and an able and valuable worker in His vineyard, and that we might not be ashamed, and that we would be spared the heartbreak of being rejected as an “unprofitable servant,” who was afraid and hid His Master’s talent in the earth… (II Tim. 2: 15; Matt. 25: 14-30).
The early prophets and apostles saw Christ’s vision and embraced it and studied it and taught it. And they wrote it down and left it for us to walk in, thereby fulfilling God’s purpose for our day. We have a great responsibility and have much to learn. Studying the apostles’ doctrine is how we will get that knowledge. Those who go “all in” will study it all out and will come to this revelation: It is no longer I that lives but Christ that 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” (Gal. 2: 20).
The first two teachings of the apostles’ doctrine are found in that quote.