Christian Perfection (I)
How good does a person have to be in order to be saved?
Perhaps we can best answer that question by asking, how perfect is God?
Jesus said, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father
is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The LORD God told the children of Israel, “You shall be
holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2; cf. Deut. 18:13).
The Hebrew word tam or tamim means to be
“without defect” or “without blemish.” The Hebrew sacrifices had to be “without
blemish,” spotless and entirely without defect (Exodus 12:5; 29:1; 1 Pet. 1:19;
Eph. 5:27). Another word shalem means “whole” or “complete.” That which
is without defect or blemish is complete.
God’s righteous standard never changes because He does not
change. God is the perfect standard or He would not be God.
Jesus used the word “perfect” (teleioi from telos)
meaning end, goal, limit. It is the absolute standard of our heavenly Father.
Such a person is perfect or fully developed “in a moral sense.” Therefore, in
the moral realm it means “blameless.”
Jesus is the perfect example of that divine standard (1
The word “holy” in Leviticus 19:2 gives us the reason for
the sacrifices under the Mosaic law. God is holy and man is a sinner. Sin
separates man from God. The source of our sanctification is “the LORD who
sanctifies you” (20:8). The meaning is to set apart or separate.
God’s standard for man is complete, perfect, moral
rectitude. To be acceptable to God every human being must be as blameless and
sinless as Jesus Christ.
That standard of righteousness creates a moral and
spiritual crisis for all mankind. The Bible tells us we have all sinned and fall
short of such moral perfection. “There is no distinction; for all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God’s standard is a clean
heart and it is evident from studying the Sermon on the Mount that no one can
live up to its demands (cf. Matt. 5:20-25, 27). The center of our personality
condemns us. Jesus said, “Out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders,
adulteries, fornicators, thefts, false witnesses, slanders,” etc. (15:18-20). It
is the heart that has to be changed (2 Cor. 5:17).
I have a problem. I am a sinner. But my problem is even
greater than I ever imagined. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Our
sinning can be illustrated by an archer shooting his arrows from Tegucigalpa,
Honduras, Central America, at the North Pole. He will miss it every time. It
will always fall short. No one will ever get to heaven by his or her own efforts
because we miss God’s perfect standard.
God never lowers His standards to accommodate
sinful man. His absolute holiness is the standard. He will not accept half-way
or half-hearted obedience. God is infinite in His perfections. Jesus is saying
in Matthew 5:48, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
perfect.” We are to be “brought to completion, full-grown, lacking in nothing.”
How can that be since what has been written describes me?
Great! Because that is why Jesus Christ went to the cross and died as a
sacrifice for sin. “The wages of sin is death,” and Jesus died your death on
the cross. Based on the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as our
substitute, God can now save us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. God
credits to our account the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. God dealt in
full with our penalty by sending Christ to the cross to die for us. When we
believed on Christ, God the Father and Judge declared us acquitted based on the
saving work of Christ.
Every Christian struggles with holiness in his life, and
all of us will until we see Jesus Christ face to face (Phil. 3:12-16).
God makes us holy by changing us from the inside out (2
Cor. 3:18). It is a progressive sanctification, not a once-for all sinless
perfection before we die.
The ultimate goal of the believer is to live in harmony
with Matthew 5:48, and “to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”
We will be established “unblamable in holiness before God,
even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints” (I
It is to those who strive to attain the goal that the
victory is assured. We will reach the ideal goal of perfection when we see
Jesus in glory. It will be the perfect gift to the believer (Psa. 17:15); Phil.
1:6; 3:12; II Tim. 4:7, 8; Rev. 21:27; 7:14).
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
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