Summary: We often confuse the word "perfect" with ’sinless perfection. This study of the word "perfect" shows that God wants us to be ’complete, spiritually mature, and spiritually sound’.
WORDS OF DISTINCTION – “perfect”
INTRODUCTION: We CONTINUE in our series of “Words Of Distinction”. This will be the LAST in this series.
TONIGHT we take at a look at the word “perfect”. I have to confess to you, that this word always bothered me as a young Christian. ESPECIALLY in Matthew 5:48 – all turn.
How could Jesus tell me to be “perfect”? I always had a hard time with that! WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU READ THAT VERSE?
How can I be “perfect”, like God is “perfect”? That’s IMPOSSIBLE! There’s no way I can ever match up to God’s “perfection”.
NOW, I realize that my NEW NATURE is “perfect”. That’s how I’m able to get into Heaven. When I die, my OLD NATURE (imperfect) will be done away with … AND … all that will be left is my NEW NATURE … which is “perfect”. My OLD NATURE was given to me when I was born PHYSICALLY. My NEW NATURE was given to me when I was “born again”. AND … it is GOD’S NATURE … which, of course, is “perfect”.
BUT … that’s not what the Scripture talks about, when it tells us to BE “perfect”. In my NEW NATURE, I might do some things that please God. BUT … I AM NOT “perfect”.
The CONFUSION lies in our understanding of the English word “perfect”. WE THINK of “perfect” as ‘sinless perfection’. i.e., being without any sin. For us, until we get to Heaven, that’s impossible.
The Greek word for “perfect” is ‘teleios’. It doesn’t mean ‘sinless perfection’. HOWEVER, there IS a Greek word that DOES mean “sinless perfection” … the word ‘anamartetos’. Jesus used it in John 8:7 – “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” It is a DIFFERENT WORD in the Greek, than “perfect”, ‘teleios’.
What, then, does ‘teleios’, “perfect” mean? It has a variety of meaning, depending on how it is used. It means: ‘full-grown, mature, complete, in good working order, sound, fully instructed, to reach your goal’.
Let’s take a closer look at Mathew 5:48. We are to be “perfect”, like God is “perfect”. BUT … NOTICE the word “therefore”. Whenever you see the word “therefore”, you have to look back to see what it is “there for”. Look at 5:43-48.
What is the THEME here? “love”. 5:48 is telling us that God loves with a “perfect” love. AND … we are to “love” the same way He “loves”.
o We are to be ‘complete’ in our “love” for others, like God is.
o We are to be ‘fully mature’ in our “love”, like God is.
o We are to be ‘in good working order’ when it comes to “love”, like God is.
This verse (5:48) ISN’T telling us that we could ever become “sinless”, like God is. BUT … we are to “love” like God “loves” … with a “perfect, mature, complete, full-grown, sound” love for others … even our enemies.
God loves His enemies. At one time, we ALL were His enemies. Romans 5:10 – “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” If God didn’t love His enemies, then no one would be saved.
Over and over again, the Bible tells us to be “perfect”. But, it doesn’t mean that we are to be “sinless”. That’s not what Jesus meant when He told the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:21 – “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” Jesus was telling him, THAT, if he wanted to be ‘in good working order, complete, spiritually mature, spiritually full-grown, spiritually sound’ … he needed to forsake that which was standing between him and following Jesus … his RICHES.
The next verse tells us what happened. He DIDN’T want to be ‘spiritually sound’ … Matthew 19:22 – “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
Paul used this word for “perfect” to mean ‘complete, in good working order’. 2 Cor. 12:9 – “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” The strength that Jesus would give Paul for his “thorn in the flesh”, would make Paul ‘complete’, and put him ‘in good working order’.
Let’s look at some other verses that tell us to be “perfect”.