BE PERFECT! Perfected as the Master.
'Do ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. ... The disciple is not above his master: but every one who is perfected shall be as his master.'—Luke vi. 36, 40.
IN his report of part of the Sermon on the -*- Mount, Luke records that Jesus says, not: Be perfect, but, Be merciful, as your Father is. He then introduces the word perfect immediately after; not, however, in connection with the Father, but the Son, as the Master of His disciples. The change is most instructive; it leads us to look to Jesus, as He dwelt in the flesh, as our model. It might be said that our circumstances and powers are so different from those of God that it is impossible to apply the standard of His infinite perfection in our little world. But here comes the Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, tempted in all things like as we are, and offers Himself as our Master and Leader. He lives with us that we may live with Him; He lives like us that we may live like Him.
The Divine standard is embodied and made visible, is brought within our reach, in the human model. Growing into His likeness, who is the image of the Father, we shall bear the likeness of the Father too: becoming like Him, the first-born among many brethren, we shall become perfect as the Father is. 'The disciple is not above his Master: but every one who is perfected shall be as his Master.'
'The disciple is not above his Master.' The thought of the disciple being as the Master sometimes has reference to outward humiliation: like the Master he will be despised and persecuted (Matt. x. 24, 25; John xv. 20). And sometimes to inward humility, the willingness to be a servant (Luke xxii. 27; John xiii. 16). Both in his external life and his inner disposition the perfected disciple knows nothing higher than to be as his Master.
To take Jesus as Master, with the distinct desire and aim to be and live and act like Him— this is true Christianity. This is something far more than accepting Him as a Saviour and Helper. Far more even than acknowledging Him as Lord and Master.
A servant may obey the commands of his master most faithfully, while he has little thought of through them rising up into the master's likeness and spirit. This alone is full discipleship, to long in everything to be as like the Master as possible, to count His life as the true expression of all that is perfect, and to aim at nothing less than the perfection of being perfect as He was. 'Every one who is perfected shall be as his Master.'
The words suggest to us very distinctly that in discipleship there is more than one stage. Just as in the Old Testament it is said only of some that they served the Lord with a perfect heart, while of others we read that their heart was not perfect with the Lord (1 Kings xi. 4, xv. 3; 2 Chron. xxv. 2), so even now there are great differences between disciples. Some there are to whom the thought of aiming at the perfect likeness of the Master has never come: they only look to Christ as a Saviour. And some there are whose heart indeed longs for full conformity to their Lord, 'to be as the Master,' but who have never understood, though they have read the words, that there is such a thing as 'a perfect heart' and a life 'perfected in love.' But there are those, too, to whom it has been given to accept these words in their Divine meaning and truth, and who do know in blessed experience what it is to say with Hezekiah, 'I have walked before Thee with a perfect heart, and with John,' as He is, even so are we in this world.'
As we go on in our study of what Scripture says of perfection, let us hold fast the principle we have learnt here. Likeness to Jesus in His humiliation and humility: the choice, like Him, of the form of a servant, the spirit that does not exercise lordship and would not be ministered unto, but girds itself to minister and to give its life for others,—this is the secret of true perfection. 'The disciple is not above his Master, but every one who is perfected shall be as his Master.' With the perfect love of God as our standard, with that love revealed in Christ's humanity and humility as our model and guide, with the Holy Spirit to strengthen us with might, that this Christ may live in us, we shall learn to know what it is that every one who is perfected shall be as his Master,