The Concept of Perfection
Before reading this article, pause and think of the following: What is your opinion of the word “perfect”? Do you consider yourself perfect or are you perfect? Perfection in this article is different from the concept of “holiness” or “sanctification”.
When Jesus said, “Be ye perfect as your heavenly father is perfect [Matt. 5:48], what did He mean? If Jesus said we should be perfect before we can see God, what are the modalities for achieving this perfection? When God told Abraham to walk before Him and be perfect [Gen. 17:1] is it the same perfection Christ meant in His sermon on the mount? In other words, how do we compare the New Testament concept of perfection with that of the Old Testament, where for example, some kings such as David, Hezekiah and Jehoshaphat were said to have walked with God with a perfect heart. Or even those prophets who many consider “holy” and walked closely with God in their days such as Enoch, Elijah, Elisha and John the Baptist, who by comparison should also have the term “perfect” prefixed to their names, does it mean that these men were sinless? No! Because we read, for example, that Elijah was afraid of Jezebel and Ahab and went into hiding [1 King 19:1-4].
The concept of “perfection” has to mean more than “sinlessness” becasue neither New Testament nor Old Testament saints qualify to be termed “perfect” on this merit. New Testament saints merit their perfection by the “grace of Jesus Christ” not because we are physiologically different from those of the Old Testament. Before Christ came, Old Testament saints had to earn their “perfection” by their obedience to God’s word through the Law and the prophets. God pointed His searchlight into their hearts and saw how much their hearts yearned towards Him [Psalm 42:1-2]. He does the same for New Testament saints but now looks through the prism of the blood of Jesus at man’s heart [1 Cor. 6:11]. So those who were termed “perfect” in the Old Testament really exemplified themselves above the mortals of their time. They walked closely with God (although missing some few steps here and there), lived holy lives and obeyed His word. For example, David claimed his ways was “perfect before God”, and that stands in Scripture. However, we know he was an adulterer and murderer, a weakling at his son’s rebellion, a failure at disciplining his sons, etc, etc. Therefore “perfection” has to mean something other than sinlessness.
How then is perfection better defined and how is our perfection as New Testament saints superior to theirs? Old Testament had enough marks to pass on God’s scale of perfection but their perfection still was short of New Testament standards which is Christ. Our “perfection” is better than theirs because our perfection is Christ’s perfection IMPUTED to us. How do we receive this perfection? First by accepting Christ. It is through the blood of Christ that God now looks at our hearts giving us advantage over persons of the Old. Our perfection becomes reality when we are touched by His Spirit and desire His spotless nature so we can dwell continually in His presence in a clean state. Remember nothing unclean can dwell or be allowed into heaven.
How did the Old Testament saints earn their perfection? By their closeness to God. In Isaiah 6:1-8, where Isaiah entered into heaven bodily in an open vision, a coal of fire was used to touch the prophet’s unclean tongue which transformed him. This allowed him to stay in God’s presence and affirmed his call into the ministry as a prophet. We have the advantage of having Christ’s righteousness imputed to us but we still have to continue to yearn to be close to God so we do not fall out of grace. The type of touch Isaiah expereienced is what believers should yearn for so that we can experience the glories of heaven here on earth while we are still mortal.
Enoch and Elijah did not allow the flesh to rule them, neither should we as New Testament believers. They were men full of the Spirit and power of God throughout their stay here on earth. In our effort at pleasing God, if we fall short in our perfection momentarily, through falling into sin for example, God sees the perfection of Christ and restores us to fellowship with Him again as we repent of our sins. However, please note that frequent wilful fall into sin and untoward repentance to God by a believer is toying witht the grace of Christ and we cannot continue in sin while at the same time calling on the grace of God to abound [Rom. 6:1]. Rather such believers should heed to the command of Christ, “go and sin no more” [John 5:14; 8:11]. The following Scriptures points out the big advantage we have in this dispensation of grace.
1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world [1 John 2:1-2].
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world [1 John 4:17].
In summary, having understood what perfection in the New Testament means with the proviso that we should stay clear of wilful sins, we see that it is the grace of Christ that distiguishes our perfection from the Old Testament saints since they too had to contend with the power of sin. However, from 1 John 2:2, it appears they too were covered in retrospect by the death of Christ for their sins. Hence the bible reckoning them as “perfect” is because Christ died for the sins of all mankind. Enjoy the grace that is in Jesus Christ and God will accept you as perfect before Him.
1. Lord, purify my heart with your word.
2. Lord, saturate me with your spirit and your power in Jesus’ name.