Perfection is a troublesome word. What does it really mean? What doesn't it mean? Some believe that it is spiritually unhealthy to emphasize the subject of perfection. But perhaps part of the problem is that we have not defined our terms carefully. Let us take a close look at this much-avoided subject to see if it is as fearsome as it seems. Perfection has four different meanings, which may be part of the reason it is misunderstood.
How is God described?
"For I am the Lord, I change not." Malachi 3:6
_____ True _____ False - God changes periodically.
Only God can be described in this way. Only God never needs to change or adjust His thinking or actions based on new information. Since God knows all things--past, present, and future--there is no possibility that He will be surprised by new information. No created beings, including angels, can be described in this way, for all are subject to new information which will change their ideas and actions. Lack of information will always lead to imprecise and perhaps wrong conclusions.
How is Jesus described?
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8
_____ True _____ False - Jesus changes periodically.
Since Jesus is described in the same way as God, it is clear that He shares in this unique attribute of God. This is ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. It means that there will never be a mistake made or a misjudgment based on faulty information. Sometimes it is said that human beings can never be absolutely perfect. This is correct, because absolute perfection describes God alone. There is no other absolute perfection. Thus, absolute perfection is never possible for created beings--not for human beings and not for angels. "Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden." (Our High Calling, p. 45)
How was man created?
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them....And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." Genesis 1:27,31
(A) _____ Man was created imperfect.
(B) _____ Man was in need of much development.
(C) _____ Man was created in God's image--very good.
God created Adam and Eve in the full perfection possible to finite beings. He made mankind in His own image--as close to God as could be possible for created beings. This is NATURE PERFECTION. Man's very nature was in complete harmony with God and the rest of creation. His mind and body worked perfectly together. He did not have to fight discordant feelings and emotions. His impulses and drives were in balance and in complete agreement with God's laws. Everything worked properly!
What will happen to us at the resurrection?
"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption....In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." 1 Corinthians 15:42,52,53
(A) _____ We receive immortality at the resurrection.
(B) _____ We receive immortality in a moment.
(C) _____ We receive immortality when we die.
Two correct answers
Our corruptible, sinful human nature will be changed by God at the second coming of Christ into an incorruptible, perfect human nature. After that time there will be no more sinful promptings from within our nature. Thus nature perfection, which involves removal of temptation from within, will occur only at the second coming of Christ. We cannot experience nature perfection before then.
How much of our heart does God ask for?
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Matthew 22:37
_____ True _____ False - God asks for all of our heart and mind.
At the moment of conversion, when we surrender our lives completely to Christ, we are counted perfect in Christ. The one thing that God asks of us in the conversion process is to give him our whole heart. He will not accept a divided heart, in which we love God and the world equally. The one condition we must meet to be saved is total and complete surrender of our entire lives to God. He will accept nothing less. Even though we are just beginning our walk with Christ, He accepts our CHARACTER SURRENDER and we are counted perfect in Christ.
How does a plant reveal this process?
"For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." Mark 4:28
_____ True _____ False - The blade is as necessary as the ripe fruit.
Even though a plant is very immature when the first blade of green appears above the ground, it is no less important than the fully grown plant. Without that first growth, no harvest will be possible. The tiny blade is perfect, because it is all that it could be expected to be. At each stage of growth the plant may be perfect as it grows to maturity. Likewise, when our character is fully surrendered to God, that is a perfect surrender at that time, with the knowledge available to us then. We are fully surrendered to the degree that we understand ourselves and God's will for us. God will accept the full surrender of all that we know about ourselves at that time. Thus our character surrender is perfect, because it is counted as perfect by God. Incidentally, this is the only requirement for salvation, now or in the future. God does not demand wisdom or education or years of living, as is illustrated in the story of the thief on the cross.
What is God's plan for us?
"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." Ephesians 4:13
(A) _____ God doesn't care whether or not we grow.
(B) _____ God expects us to grow to maturity.
(C) _____ We can never become perfectly mature.
While God is very gracious to give us time to learn and develop, and He counts us perfect during that time, He wants us to grow up to full maturity. He even says that we can grow to the stature of the fullness of Christ. The gospel is a tremendous power that God is willing to share with us, to bring us to heights that we could never imagine. CHARACTER MATURITY is simply the ripening of the harvest in the individual life. We are becoming mature in Christ when we are no longer choosing to sin against God. If Jesus does live within us through the process of justification and sanctification, then when He controls our lives, we do not sin because Christ does not sin.
What can God accomplish in us?
"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
(A) _____ God's plan is that we do not sin.
(B) _____ God knows that some sin is inevitable.
(C) _____ The new birth makes it possible for us to stop sinning.
Two correct answers
This concept can be expressed in a simple but clear way. Christ in--sin out. Sin in--Christ out. We cannot have both Christ and sin reigning on the throne of the life at the same time. Christ will not accept a divided heart. In a mature character Christ is controlling totally, and therefore we are not making rebellious choices. We are choosing not to rebel against God in thought, word, or action. Right here we are focusing on what God can do, not on what I can't do.
In defining perfection, we have found that the two definitions that are important for our study are those categories over which we have some control. If we believe that sin is by choice, than we will also believe that we can choose to obey. We can choose to surrender, and we can choose to grow to maturity. Because Christ provides the power for victory, a perfectly mature character--like Christ's--is possible for all surrendered Christians.
The new birth brings perfection in Christ, which is always sufficient for salvation. We are saved on condition of complete surrender. The problem is that we interrupt our surrender to Christ. The power of Christ does not change, but our surrender to Christ is not constant. It is the interruptions that can and should cease, for we should let Christ control us totally at all times.
By nature we will always be sinful until Christ comes. But we can decide to make no choices against God's will. We can actually have a sinless character in a sinful nature. If Christ overcame the promptings of His fallen nature by the Holy Spirit's control, then the same power is available to us.