Be Ye Therefore Perfect

… Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. – Genesis 6:9

… the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. – Genesis 17:1

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. – Job 1:1

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. – Matt 5:48

We see there are many accounts in the Bible where God either declared a person to be perfect or compels them to perfection. This I believe to be clear and there should be no controversy in regard to God’s expectation of perfection. Herein lies the perplexity… What is biblical perfection? When does it take place, if it does? Where does it take place, if it does? Is it when we get to heaven? Is it here on earth?

I was at a church recently and a member was challenged by the message that was shared in regards to perfection. It was her belief that when Jesus said, “be ye therefore perfect”, He meant to be perfect in love and that perfection can never be achieved here on earth. She shared that this belief was promoted by her pastor.

In another instance a certain official of influence asked the following question in regards to perfection, “How is it working out for you?”  Of course we know that it was asked sarcastically and in jest, but it leads to my next question, “How do we measure perfection? How do we know if we have obtained it? Do we have a part to play in it or is it all the Lord’s work?”

Let’s begin with the first basic principle: Biblical perfection takes place in stages. The word “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 comes from the Greek word téleios which means: complete, full age, brought to its end, finished, full grown adult, of full age and mature. In Romans 2:20, 1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Peter 2:2 – the Bible speaks of babes in Christ. In Hebrew 5:14 the Bible says “strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age.”

Let’s look at this practically. The Bible states that there are some people who are old and mature in age and physique but yet still “babes” in Christ. Looking at this from a practical standpoint, we know that babies grow in stages. At age three we know what their capabilities are and what to expect of them. Likewise, we are not content when a seven-year-old manifests only the maturity of a three-year-old. The same principle applies with us spiritually. God does not expect us to be at the same stage in our Christian walk year after year, every round must go higher and higher and we are expected of God to walk in the light that has been revealed – 1 John 1:7. Further we are admonished, “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).

The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” In chapter 14 verse 20 he also states: “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” The word “men” in the Greek is the same as perfect.

Now here is the key, a three-year-old cannot be a perfect seven-year-old. He can only be a perfect three-year-old. At that stage he should be challenged to be a perfect three-year-old. At all stages of our Christian experience, God challenges us to be perfect in that particular stage. Whatever sins are placed before us we are to overcome those sins through the power of the indwelling Christ.

Note these beautiful words of inspiration:

God proves His people in this world. This is the fitting-up place to appear in His presence. Here, in this world, in these last days, persons will show what power affects their hearts and controls their actions. If it is the power of divine truth, it will lead to good works. It will elevate the receiver, and make him noblehearted and generous, like his divine Lord. But if evil angels control the heart, it will be seen in various ways. The fruit will be selfishness, covetousness, pride, and evil passions.  {1T 188.1} 

Note the same words from Titus 2:11-12,  “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” So how does the Lord prove His people in this world? God leads His people on, step by step. {1T 187.1}. 

Does a baby fall when they are learning to take those steps? Most certainly. Does a Christian fall when they are beginning to take those steps in their Christian walk with Christ? Most do. However should they be content with falling? No, they need to learn to get up? “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” Proverbs 24:16We have the wonderful promise through the prayer of David Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip notPsalm 17:5. In addition, Jude 24 says that Christ is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless.

Let us continue with the reference:

He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart. Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next. At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer. If the professed people of God find their hearts opposed to this straight work, it should convince them that they have a work to do to overcome, if they would not be spewed out of the mouth of the Lord. Said the angel: “God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people.” Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness. If any will not be purified through obeying the truth, and overcome their selfishness, their pride, and evil passions, the angels of God have the charge: “They are joined to their idols, let them alone,” and they pass on to their work, leaving these with their sinful traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels. Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation. {1T 187.1} 

The question remains, can we obtain perfection here on earth? The answer is undoubtedly, yes. Can we measure perfection? Certainly not. While we can see the tokens of God’s goodness in our lives and know that the Lord has given us decided victories, we will never be able to say that we have obtained perfection. Even though God declared Job perfect in Job 1:1, Job said of himself in Job 9:20-21, If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.” The wise man also said “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” –Proverbs 20:9

The question is “do we have idols in our lives that we are cherishing? Idols that we love more than Jesus? Idols that Jesus lived and died to give us the power to overcome?” Let’s lay the idols at the foot of the Cross and claim the victory through Jesus Christ. Let us lay our sin on Jesus the Spotless Lamb of God, He bears them all and frees us from the accursed load. We cannot accomplish this victory without Christ but with him all things are possible. When we allow Him to combine His divinity with our humanity we will not commit sin. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1 John 3:9. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…” Hebrews 6:1

In our next article we will answer the rest of the questions including how to practically obtain these victories through Christ.