Matt. 19:21.

1868 112 This word "perfect" seems to intimate that character of mind which is answerable to God in the given place or dispensation He is at the time occupying.*

[*"Every one that is perfect shall be as his Master."]

"I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." Abram had just failed in acting according to the all-sufficiency and might of Him who had revealed Himself to him as the Quickener of the dead: he had taken Hagar through unbelief. He was therefore imperfect, not in company with the character in which God was dealing with him. (Gen. 17:1.)

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." The divine perfection here is that of paternal goodness, of One who gives without respect to the worthiness of the object. Our perfection is like-mindedness with this, doing good, and wishing well to others, though they may hate and curse and despitefully use us. (Matt. 5)

Paul's use of the term is the same, as I judge. "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." And again, "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect be thus minded." (1 Cor. 2; Phil. 3) He speaks in reference to those who have, if I may so express it, the mind of the dispensation. The Corinthian saints came short of that when they were valuing something beside the wisdom of "Christ crucified;" and the Philippians would come short of it (in another character of it) if they were not pressing up the hill, saying (as a sweet fervent hymn expresses it, eyeing the angels ascending Jacob's ladder), "Nearer, my God, to Thee; nearer to Thee." And so I say as to the use of the same word in Matthew 19:21.

The Lord had been in heaven on the holy hill, His Spirit seems still to be there from Matt. 17 to 20; for He takes up subjects and looks at objects in the light of heavenly glory. In His judgment on the law of marriage, for instance, which opens this chapter (Matt. 19), we find His thoughts in connection with God and not with Moses, with the garden of Eden before the fall, where the mystery of Christ and the Church had been foreshadowed — that mystery which is to be realized in heaven. And so in leading the rich young man far beyond the requisition of law, and in leading Peter and the disciples by the parable of the labourers in the vineyard far beyond the computations of the mere moral sense, we find the heavenly mind in Him still. (See Matt. 19, Matt. 20:16.)*

[*At Matt. 20:17, the Lord, in spirit, begins another journey. He is setting out, not as One who was descending from heavenly places, but as One who had, in His prospect, Jerusalem, or earthly places.]

For what is perfection here? "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me." This is the perfection here delineated and demanded. And this is that perfection which suits the heavenly calling, which alone is answerable to those dispensational thoughts which at that moment were filling His mind, as I have suggested. This perfection is, indeed, too high for anything else; but however we may fail in presenting it, it is the only thing answerable to, or worthy of, such a challenge. Jesus had already been in heaven. The glory that shone there was now everything to Him. And what rule could He prescribe less than the surrender of the whole earth, when in sight of the heavenly glory and the holy hill?

Peter, I may add, was thus perfect, when he was on the hill; he saw the glory and he forgot every thing but it. "Master," says he, "it is good for us to be here, let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias." He would fain abide there, forgetting all he had known and valued before, all on the earth.* Now this was a sample of the perfection which the Lord here prescribes to the rich young man. I do not say that we are debtors to Peter's heart, so to speak, for this utterance of his lips on the hill of glory; it was rather the power of the place which spoke in him. But this makes it the more significant. The heavenly glory was of so commanding a character that when it really shone out it displaced everything. It makes a man "perfect" in that perfection which sells all and follows Jesus, a condition of heart which is alone worthy of it.

[*This may remind us of Abram. Because the God of glory appeared to him and called him, he could forsake all, kindred, home, and country. (I doubt the exact interpretation here and elsewhere, but as the truth is intended, I say no more as to the real character of some texts alluded to. — Ed.)]

The Hebrew saints, I may say, knew of this perfection, when, in the day of their illumination, they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods because they knew of their heavenly inheritance. (Heb. 10) This perfection was finely illustrated there.* But how quickly does the poor heart forget the holy hill! Peter himself forgot it, perhaps, in measure when he spoke as in verse 27 of this chapter. But Jesus, the living model of all perfection, retained it in His spirit, saying, "sell all, and come, follow me." (Ver. 21.)

[*Very blessedly in the same Epistle to the Hebrews does the apostle teach another perfection, perfection in the conscience, because of perfection by Him who undertakes in grace to purge it.]