Can We Be Perfect??

       Ever since Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, we as humans have acknowledged and perhaps even embraced our “humanity.”  We recognize that we are imperfect creatures, subject to the whims of circumstance and emotion.  To put it in a more modern vernacular, we throw out the phrase, “Every man has his price.”  Of course, in our current enlightened society and with increased sensitivity to political correctness, we probably should make that statement, “Every man or woman has his or her price.”  Regardless, you get the point.  We as a general populace readily profess that we are willing to sell our possessions, wives, kids, souls, reputations, and futures if the price is right.  As proof, check out the latest news wherein athletes, businessmen, and common individuals abandon contracts if offered a better deal elsewhere, common thieves sell their futures for whatever they can find in your car, and reputations are tossed aside if offered enough incentive.  Finally, Christians sometimes dismiss all that they have professed for years if faced with enough stress, disappointment, or temptation.

   Many churches accept the fallibility of people and actually build a church on the concept of inevitable imperfection.  Salvation and forgiveness are considered sort of like prepaid gift cards; since it is inevitable that we will fall, we make no attempt to avoid failure because we can always whip out the “forgiveness” card and make everything all okay.  There is no incentive to really change a life style. “Come as you are!” the churches proclaim, “and you can stay as you are, because, since we’re all imperfect, we’ll be a happy family of social imperfects.”  The informality carries through to the church service itself, where the pastor delivers the “word” in jeans and tee-shirt, the members appear as though they just came from Walmart, the music is hip and contemporary, and there’s plenty of snacks, drinks, and activities for everyone.  There are no requirements for membership…just come and join…and you’re in.

    Interestingly, in contrast to this contemporary, laid-back approach to religion, the scriptures give evidence that God has always demanded perfection from those who profess to follow him.  The history of the children of Israel in the Old Testament gives multiple testimonies of the explicit instructions God gave for worship, for sacrifices, for the building of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, for the Jerusalem temple, and even to individuals for various actions, and failure to follow the orders led to dire consequences.  We hear a lot of discussion in our schools today concerning “no tolerance” rules, which mean fundamentally “one strike, and you’re out.”  It appears that the God of the Old Testament was the originator of that concept.

     The definition of perfect is “pure, complete in all respects, without defects, flawless, complete excellence.”   There are no degrees of perfection….an item is either perfect or it is not.  An item is either pure or it is not; an item is either flawless or it is not.  Yet, in comparison to the word “charity” which appears only 26 times in the scriptures, the word “perfect” appears 124 times…usually to describe a person that God himself called “perfect” or to describe what God demanded as a life style for an individual.  Job was described as “a perfect man,’ and God told Abraham in no uncertain terms, “Be thou perfect.”  Note the following scripture…could this be the eleventh commandment?   Deuteronomy 18:13   “Thou shall be perfect with the Lord thy God.”  A sampling of additional verses:
  • Genesis 8:9   “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations.”
  • I Kings 15:11  “Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.”
  • Psalm 101:2   “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way…I will walk within my house in a perfect way.”
  • II Kings 8:61   “Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord your God…to walk in His statures, and to keep His commandments.”
    This requirement for perfection extends into the New Testament in the words of Jesus Christ himself:
  • Matthew 5:48  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
    And throughout the letters to the churches the apostles, repeated:
  • II Corinthians 13:11  “Finally, brethren, be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace…”
   The apostle even described the type of church that the Lord was preparing for himself:
  • Ephesians 5:27  “That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot,  or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish (perfect).”
    The most fascinating scripture, however, is the following where the apostle exhorts the brethren to “continue to press toward the mark for the prize…” and acknowledges that he is addressing “perfect” people:
  • Phillippians 3:15  “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded, and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you.”
     After reading these and most of the other 124 scriptures concerning perfection, I had to ask myself a question.  How can anyone who is a descendant of Adam’s race, born into imperfection, become perfect as scripturally required?   How can something imperfect ever be made perfect?  The answer lies in the following scriptures…just a sampling of many:
  • Hebrews 9:22  “And almost all things are by the law purged (purified, cleansed, made perfect) with blood; without the shedding of blood is no remission.”
  • Hebrews 9:14  “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge (cleanse) your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
  • Titus 2:14  “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify (perfect) unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
  • II Samuel 22:33  “God is my strength and power; and he maketh my way perfect.”
     Through baptism in the name of Jesus and the infilling of the Holy Ghost as describes in several chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, we are made perfect through His salvation.  We are described as becoming “new creatures in Christ,” but our salvation is just the beginning of our journey.  However, having been made perfect (pure) through remission in His name, how do we maintain our purity?
  • I Peter 1:22  “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit….see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”
  • I John 2:15  “Love not the world, neither the things in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
  • Phillippians 2:12-15  “Wherefore, my brethren, ….work out your own salvation with fear and trembling….That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke.”
  • Phillippians 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest….whatsoever things are pure…..think on these things.”
  • Matthew 5:8  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
When a potter picks up a lump of clay, he does not see a malformed, unsightly bit of wet dirt; what he sees is the finished product…a beautiful ceramic vase or other work of art.  The beauty of salvation is that, although God does demand perfection, when He looks on us, He does not see us as we are.  Rather, He sees what we can become if we allow Him to mold our live in accordance with His will.  Do we become the perfect creature overnight?  No, it is a process of development, and with our human nature resisting that spiritual nature we have taken on, we sometime stumble and make mistakes, but He understands:
  • I John 1:9  (The apostle was writing this letter to people already in the church.) “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • Psalm 86:5  “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call on thee.”