25 August, 2016

Rev. Christopher J. Connors on Matthew 5:44-45

[Source: The Biblical Offer of the Gospel—available to read online.
Rev. Connors is a minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia]

In these passages God’s redeemed and regenerated elect are commanded to “do good” and show mercy and kindness to all men in order that we may be perfect as is God our Father. The verses direct attention to God’s ultimate perfection, His overflowing goodness. The point is, that God according to His perfection of goodness always does good, never evil; so must we! The striking nature of God’s goodness is that God is good to all without exception and regardless of their nature or attitude toward Himself. This is the pattern for our love. This universal goodness of God showered upon all men is the pattern for our conduct toward our fellow man. We must love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us etc. (Matt. 5:44). Only in this way do we, as children, reflect the image of our Father in heaven. God loved us as His elect even while we hated Him. How could we then do any less toward our fellow man, any one of whom could be God’s elect? Thus, the command is, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

We may not assume, however, that the rule for God’s goodness and the rule for man’s love are identical. God as the sovereign Lord of all, necessarily does good to all, but always in harmony with His own perfection, and freely according to His own good pleasure. We however, as creatures redeemed into the service of Christ, are given God’s law (the preceptive will) as the rule for our perfection. This law requires that we love our fellow man. God’s revealed will must govern all our actions toward our fellow man. Obedience to the second table of the law, as summarized in loving our neighbor as ourselves, is the God-ordained way believers must fulfill their calling as children of God. This calling is universal, is to be shown in a disinterested love in fulfillment of God’s law and has God’s universal goodness as its pattern.

We remind ourselves, however, that the fact that God commands us to love all men, does not mean, nor may we legitimately conclude from it, that God must love all men. As we have seen, we may not argue back from man’s duty revealed in the precept to God’s purpose and attitude of grace. What we can conclude from these verses, however, is that God’s perfection of goodness according to which He does nothing but good, even to the unthankful sinner, must be the pattern for all our dealings with our neighbour, if we are to reflect the perfection of our heavenly Father.”

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