Be Ye Therefore Perfect
Study No. 62
Matthew 5:48 is one of the most important, yet least understood verses in the Bible. It states, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Being "perfect" certainly is a commanded goal of the Bible. We are to be perfect in the same way that our heavenly Father is perfect. Is this possible? What does it mean to be perfect?
Perfection Is Possible
John is clear on this subject in I John 1:8-10, "If we [you or I] say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves . . . we make Him a liar and the truth is not in us." Even mature believers do sin. The purpose of the Almighty’s instruction in the Bible is that we sin not, I John 2:1. Those who say that sin is inevitable, that true, mature believers sin every day are excusing and condoning sin.
Job was the servant of the Eternal, perfect and upright, one that feared the Almighty and eschewed evil, Job 1:1, 8. The LORD appeared to Abraham and told him: "walk before me, and be thou perfect [margin: upright, sincere]," Genesis 17:1. "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God," Genesis 6:9. David was able to say, "The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath He recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also upright before Him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity" Psalm 18:20-23.
Is perfectness, uprightness, and integrity only for the Bible greats such as Job, Noah, and Daniel? Is this perfection something that we cannot obtain? If we cannot be righteous such as they were, then we have no hope of deliverance. "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it [the house of Israel] they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness . . . they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness" Ezekiel 14:14-20.
We must all become perfect to be delivered. "Thou shall be perfect with the LORD thy God," Deuteronomy 18:13. Not only is perfection possible, but it is a command, which our Savior reiterated in Matthew 5:48.
Marks of Perfection
What does it mean to be perfect? The Greek word "perfect," found in Matthew 5:48 is telios. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means "brought to its end, finished, wanting nothing necessary to completeness, perfect, full-grown, adult, mature." Uses of this word in the New Testament show what it means to be perfect.
1. Above and beyond keeping the Ten Commandments, perfection is having love and concern for the poor, by giving to them, Matthew 19:16-22.
2. Perfection is being a daily living sacrifice of service, and not being conformed to this world, but transformed by the Holy Spirit to act upon the perfect will of the Almighty, Romans 12:1-2, I Corinthians 2:1-16.
3. The purpose of the ministry is for the perfecting of the saints, that we will be united in the one true faith, complete in the knowledge of the Messiah, a perfect man like He is perfect, no more children tossed about, Ephesians 4:11-16, Colossians 1:27-29.
4. Those who are becoming perfect have the Creator’s mind, a mind of humility and service to one another, Philippians 2:2-5, 19, 20; Philippians 3:15. Epaphroditus, or Epaphras, is an example of perfect service to the brethren, Philippians 2:25-30, Colossians 4:12-13.
5. Unless we have advanced beyond the basic doctrines and beyond the milk of the word, and are able to teach others, we are not mature believers, Hebrews 5:9 to 6:6. Notice the words translated "of full age" in 5:14 — the Greek word is telios. We who have been schooled for so many years in the truth ought now to be teachers, skillful in practicing the word and able to teach others.
6. Patiently overcoming trials and temptations results in perfection, James 1:2-8,12; I Peter 5:10.
7. Perfection comes from the Father who is perfect, James 1:17- 18. Like Father, like Son, we have to be perfect.
8. The spiritual law is a perfect law of liberty, those who do it are perfect, James 1:23-25, 2:22.
9. The perfect man holds his tongue, James 1:25-27, 3:1-18.
10. We must have perfect love, the bond that makes us perfect, I John 4:18, Colossians 3:12-17. The Almighty’s love is to be perfected (matured, ripened) in us, I John 2:3-6. How is this done? By loving the brethren, I John 4:11-21.
Sacrificial Law Made Nothing Perfect
The ceremonial laws of animal sacrifices given under the Levitical priesthood made nothing perfect, Hebrews 10:1-5; 7:11, 19; 9:19. Through the offering of the body of the Messiah we are sanctified, for by His one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified, Hebrews 10:10-14. When we have the laws of God written in our hearts and minds, we have remission of our sins, no more need for offering for sin, verses 15-18. The Savior’s body is a perfect tabernacle, Hebrews 9:11.
What the Savior did for us has made perfection possible, even so that children can sing praises of perfection, Matthew 21:16. With His mind in us, the church can be perfectly joined together in the same mind, I Corinthians 1:10. Paul, His servant, labored immensely to perfect that which was lacking in the brethren’s faith, I Thessalonians 3:10.
The sacrifice of our Savior was so that we could be perfect, II Corinthians 13:5-14. After all, it is the Almighty who resurrected Jesus Christ, through the blood of the covenant, that makes us perfect in every good work to do His will, Hebrews 13:20-21. It is the mind of Jesus Christ, which God gives us through His Holy Spirit, that causes us to become perfectly mature, lacking in nothing.
A Perfect Leader
So many people today are arguing against perfection, excusing imperfection. "Nobody’s perfect," is a common expression, even among believers. Once we take our eyes off our Saviour, perfection at once seems to be out of the realm of reality. Indeed without the Messiah, perfection is impossible!
With the Messiah, we have a perfect example to follow, a perfect leader to help us become perfect. Luke 6:40 says that everyone that is perfect shall be as his master. The purpose of His coming was to finish (perfect) His Father’s work, John 4:34, 5:36, 17:4. Even more, to perfect, or come to completion, fulfilling the word, John 19:28. What was the work He perfected? He brought His people together in a oneness with each other, and with the Father and the Son. Also, He made it possible that "they may be made perfect in one," John 17:17-23.
The Savior is the captain of our salvation, made perfect through suffering and obedience, Hebrews 2:9-10, 5:7-9. The examples of faith in Hebrews 11, "though they trusted God and won his approval, none of them received all that God had promised them; for God wanted them to wait and share the even better rewards that were prepared for us" (verses 39-40, Living Bible).
These verses show that we have a truly awesome responsibility. Dead saints await our perfection, and together we will share in all the promises of the Almighty. Truly, the Savior is the author and finisher (teliotees, perfection) of our faith, Hebrews 12:1-15. We must yet undergo suffering comparable to the Messiah’s in which our strength is made perfect in weakness, II Corinthians 12:7-10.
As someone has said, "Our most important messages [lessons of life, learning experiences, opportunities to grow and overcome and produce good fruit] grow out of our greatest weaknesses." Do you have a problem, a fault, a trial? Use it to produce perfection through the Holy Spirit. Even the apostle Paul had a great weakness, a thorn in the flesh. It led him to perfection: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after . . . I press toward the mark . . .," Philippians 3:12-15.
Have you come to perfection? If not, you are not yet ready for the return of the Messiah; you have not yet brought forth fruit to perfection, Luke 8:14. Are you not yet ready? Don’t give up! Lift up your hands, get up from your feeble knees, start walking in the right way. Realize that without holiness, that is, perfection developed through overcoming with the Spirit, you will never see the Lord, Hebrews 12:12-14.
Perfection is not an illusory goal; it is our daily way of life. Our every effort is directed toward it. At the Mount Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem, with the angels and the church of the firstborn, is the Almighty, the Judge of all, and the spirits of just men, made perfect, Hebrews 12:22-23. Noah, Daniel, and Job will be there. How about you? W
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