August 24, 2008
Many people misunderstand the meaning of the word perfection. Many people think that it means to be without fault, or without sin. It actually means to be complete, or mature. Once we understand that, it is easier to understand what it means to be perfect in Christ Jesus.
by Bernie Parsons
Presented to the Globe Church of Christ on 08-24-2008
Matthew 5:48: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
For years, I misunderstood this admonition of Jesus. I thought that it meant that I had to be completely sinless in order to go to heaven. After all, is not God without sin?
Luke 13:31: "The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.
32: And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.
33: Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem."
Jesus here speaks of being perfected when He was to go to the cross. What does death have to do with perfection? It has everything to do with the perfection of Jesus.
Hebrews 2:10: "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
Hebrews 5:8: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9: And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;"
In these two passages, we see that Jesus, the righteous and obedient son, was perfected when He suffered. What does this mean? Was He not already sinless?
1 Peter 2:21: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:"
Since Jesus was sinless in this world, but was not perfected until He suffered, we need to understand the meaning of perfected. The word perfect means complete, or mature. As we read in Hebrews chapters 2 and 5, Jesus had to be perfected, and His knowledge of human suffering was necessary so that He could be complete as our Savior.
Not only was Jesus to be perfected, but the Christians"the saints"are to be perfected.
1 Peter 5:10: "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."
Colossians 4:12: "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God."
For us to be perfected, we must first be born again as Christians.
John 3:3: "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4: Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5: Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Just as a baby is born into this word amidst water, blood, and the spirit of life, when we become Christians, we are born in the water of baptism, the blood of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God.
1 John 5:6: "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
7: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
8: And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."
Romans 6:3: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4: Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5: For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
1 Peter 1:18: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19: But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
21: Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
22: Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
23: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
We are born again in the water of baptism, washed in the blood of Jesus, and God"s holy spirit comes to live within us. We become babies in Christ, newborns in the word of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Being newborns in the Lord, we need to then be perfected, or grow to maturity.
Hebrews 5:12: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13: For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14: But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
6: 1: "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2: Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3: And this will we do, if God permit."
Repentance and baptism are foundational to the Christian life, as is the understanding of resurrection of the dead, and our eternal judgment. Once that foundation is laid, we have to grow to full spiritual maturity, or completeness.
1 Peter 2:2: "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:"
2 Peter 3:17: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
18: But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen."
1 Corinthians 3:1: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2: I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3: For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
Paul rebuked the Corinthian Christians for their lack of growth and spiritual maturity. Envy, strife, and divisions are fleshly products, indicating spiritual immaturity.
How do we achieve this stability, this spiritual maturity?
2 Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
Ephesians 4:11: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
The apostle Peter gives some good advice on our spiritual development.
2 Peter 1:5: "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6: And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7: And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8: For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9: But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10: Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
11: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
At the root of it all is the concept of charity, which is unearned and undeserved love.
1 Corinthians 13:8: "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10: But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
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.
12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
Colossians 3:14: "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness."
1 John 2:5: "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."
1 John 4:12: "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."
When we learn to love the way that God loves, through charity, we are spiritually mature.
To reach spiritual maturity and become bearers of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we must first be born again. Only Jesus can save us. Only His blood washes away our sins and assists in our spiritual rebirth. Won"t you come to Him, and start your journey toward perfection?