One of the most important teachings of the church is that God is one. This was a truth revealed in the Old Testament and held highly by the Jews, especially as the other nations looked to many gods. When the revelation of the Son and the Spirit came, the people of God had to understand three Persons in one God. This remains one of the fundamental doctrines of the faith.
So, if I were to ask you where the Father dwells, what would you say? Heaven? Everywhere? How about in you? No, you probably wouldn’t say that because you weren’t taught that. We were taught that the Spirit dwells in us. Maybe Jesus. Not the Father. The Father is holy and separate and majestic and big.
But the Scriptures clearly teach that the Father is in those who belong to Him. He dwells in us. He is far greater than us, of course; but God the Father dwells in us. That’s what Jesus meant for us to understand when He said:
At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. John 14:20 (NKJV)
There is a oneness between the Father and the Son and a oneness between Jesus and us. That means, by simple logic, that there is a oneness between the Father and us. And that’s exactly what Paul tells the Ephesians:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:4-6
If I died with Christ on the cross (Colossians 3:3) and rose with Him from the dead (2 Tim 2:11) and He is now my life (Galatians 2:20), then I am what He is. And if Jesus is one with the Father (John 10:30) and Jesus is one with us (1 Cor 6:17), then the life of the Father is now in us. We share in His holiness, His righteousness, His life.
Keep this context in mind as we look again at that verse that has been used in such a deceitful way to discourage so many.
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48
Now follow me here: if the Father is perfect, then so are you. Those who belong to God through a relationship with Jesus, have the Father’s life in them. The Father is perfect. Therefore those who belong to God are perfect.
Jesus is not telling the people to become perfect. They couldn’t do that. They might have interpreted Him that way, but they couldn’t have done it. No, He is saying that if God is their Father they are already perfect and they should live like it. Whether God was their Father was the real question.
So here’s the point: those who are in Christ are perfect, as He is perfect. Because He is perfect. Do we live that way? Absolutely consistent with who we are? No. But that’s the call He gives. Live according to who you are.
No one will ever become perfect by living a good-enough life. That’s the clear message of the Scriptures. Christ is the perfection of the Father in us. He has already given to us what we could never gain for ourselves. His love accomplished that for us and in us. And He gave it as a gift to those who would receive it.
So the call is for us to live according to who we are. Be who you are.