“PERFECTION”—Written by Michael Lee
Be ye therefore perfect even as your FATHER is perfect…Matthew 5:48
that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish…Ephesians 5:27
See perfect, perfected, perfecting, perfection, perfectness.
Perfect: adj. 1. Lacking nothing essential. 2. Being without defect or blemish.
3. Completely suited for a particular purpose; ideal.
Synonyms: consummate, flawless, faultless, impeccable.
“Perfection”—by Michael Lee
The word “perfect” as used in the Word of GOD is one of the most misunderstood words in the church. The concept and reality of “Perfection” in CHRIST is well-established in the Bible and the teachings of CHRIST; as well as the writings of Paul, and others in the New Testament. The devil has used the ignorance of the church (MY people die from lack of knowledge) to give his own definition, twisting this beautiful word into an unattainable ideal, that it is even a “sin” to consider attaining it. The leadership of the church, by and large, has cooperated with the enemy to rob the church of this prize and its rewards (why attempt to reach toward perfection it if is unattainable?)
The following statement is commonly heard in the pulpits of the church everywhere: “Well, we’ll never be perfect, at least not in this life,” or some variation of it, like “Nobody’s perfect,” and other such nonsense and lies. Perfection in the LORD is so offensive to religious spirits, that the mere mention of the word is almost guaranteed to cause a rage of self-righteous indignation and wrath, fueled by willful ignorance and false humility. The “worm theology” of most mainstream protestant religions do not permit the possibility of being “perfect.” To say, “We’ll never be ‘perfect,’” (meaning the individual in CHRIST, or the Body of CHRIST), is in direct contradiction to clear teachings in the Word of GOD.
Question: Would the LORD JESUS command his disciples to do anything that HE would not EMPOWER them to do? Consider Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore PERFECT”… This study does not propose to go into detailed discussion of the long war that the adversary has waged against this powerful command; but rather to define the word “Perfect” more properly, in the context of the Word, and in the understanding of the “Mind of CHRIST.”
Study on “Perfection”: http://end-times-prophecy.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Perfection.pdf
In the Hebrew scriptures (OT), the precept of being “perfect” was well-known and developed. “Noah was a just man, and PERFECT in his generations” (Genesis 6:9). The LORD had preserved Noah’s lineage “perfect” in order to have pure and uncorrupted human stock with which to “replenish” the earth after the flood; and bring the CHRIST to us.
While establishing and confirming HIS eternal covenant with Abram (Genesis 17:1) GOD commanded Abram to: “Walk before ME and be though PERFECT.”
The Hebrew word translated “PERFECT” in these passages is “tamim,” one of the two most basic words used in this context. The definition of tamim is: To be entire, whole and complete, to be morally sound, honest, sincere, and upright in one’s conduct; especially towards GOD. Tamim is the divine standard which man MUST attain. (Lexical Aids to the OT: Zodhiates Hebrew Greek Study Bible) The LORD also demanded perfection (tamim) from the Nation of Israel. “Thou shall be PERFECT with the LORD thy GOD” (Deuteronomy 18:13). It must be stressed here that these a Commandments of GOD, to be accomplished in this life.
One might ask the question, and rightly so: “How can one possibly be “tamim” (perfect)? James, the half brother of CHRIST, wrote in his epistle: “Every good gift and every PERFECT gift…cometh down from the FATHER” (James 1:17). So PERFECTION is NOT A WORK OF MAN, but a “GIFT” of GOD. This is reflected in King David’s declaration, “HE maketh my way PERFECT” (tamim) (Psalm 18:32, 2 Samuel 22:33). GOD gives the POWER to be “PERFECT,” that is, to a willing and obedient vessel.
The other Hebrew word translated “PERFECT” is “Shalem” and is derived from the root “Shalem” meaning: To be whole, sound, safe, and secure, and to have peace and friendship. It carries the sense of being in complete harmony with GOD, or in today’s language, to be totally “sold out” to the LORD. Being “PERFECT” or “SHALEM” was to be in a full and personal relationship with the Living GOD, and an attitude of the heart in which a relationship with GOD is possible.
Only two men are recorded to be “Shalem” with GOD. “Asa’s heart was perfect with the LORD all his days” (1 Kings 15:14). “Hezikiah had a perfect heart” (2 Kings 20:3). However, it should be safe to assume that others such as Enoch, “Enoch walked with GOD” (walked: to be continually conversant with, to follow in an ongoing, growing, and greater way.)
Moses, “The LORD spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). Also, the LORD said, “Thou has found grace in MY Sight, and I know thee by name” (Exodus 33:17).
King David, “A man after MINE Own Heart” (Acts 13:22)…and countless others, who enjoyed a FULL relationship with the LORD, were “SHALEM” or “PERFECT” in heart with GOD.
It should be noted here that it is recorded that all of these men who were “PERFECT” were human beings of flesh and blood and prone to mistakes, misjudgments, and even outright sin as in David’s case, (2 Samuel 11) yet GOD in HIS Grace and Mercy was forgiving to the truly repentant soul.
One other person in the Old Testament deserves notice in this study. In one of the most powerful and poetic books of the OT is the epic study of one “PERFECT” man’s confrontation with injustice and suffering. The LORD said that Job was “a PERFECT and UPRIGHT man” (Job 1:8). The Hebrew here is Tam; and is used almost exclusively in reference to Job. Tam is a diminutive derivative of Tamam or Tamim, meaning complete, whole, and upright—always in the moral sense, to be ethically and morally mature, and is a loving term for a special person. A number of variations of Tam or Tamam were used to describe Job, (see Job 1:1, 8; 2:3,9; 12:4; 27:5; 31:6) translated “PERFECT”; “UPRIGHT”; “INTEGRITY” (twice). The significance and character of Job has been endlessly discussed, but the conclusion declared by GOD HIMSELF, was that Job had spoken rightly concerning the LORD (Job 42:7) and “the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10) and “blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12). (Interesting Note: An excellent case can be made that Job is an allegory describing the church and its persecution and ultimate victory in CHRIST. Job means “persecuted one.”)
A few other interesting aspects of the word “PERFECT” in the OT: GOD Commands PERFECTION in business dealings (Deuteronomy 25:15). The people of GOD should pray for a PERFECT heart (1 Chronicles 29:19); PERFECT behavior is an act of the will (Psalm 101:2). There are rewards for the PERFECT man (Job 8:20; Psalm 37:37; 101:6).
The world’s attitude toward the precept of being “PERFECT” is also evident in the scriptures. The world sees no “profit” in making his ways perfect” before GOD (Job 22:1-3) and the wicked speak “bitter words” about the “PERFECT” (Psalm 64:4).
There was a created being “Lucifer,” who was “perfect” in beauty and “perfect” in his ways…until iniquity was found in thee. Obviously, “perfection” is a universal divine concept, which GOD intends for all creation as we shall see in the rest of this study as we move into the Greek scriptures.
One final scripture that affirms being “PERFECT” as a work of the LORD: “The LORD will PERFECT that which concerneth me” (Psalm 138:8).
“PERFECTION” In the New Covenant
“The disciple is not above his Master; but everyone that is PERFECT shall be as his Master” (Luke 6:40).
At the beginning of HIS Ministry, CHRIST renewed GOD’s Commandment for HIS people to be “PERFECT.” The body of teaching commonly known as the “Sermon on the Mount,” is the foundation that CHRIST built HIS Gospel on (Matthew 5-7). The sayings in this sermon contain some of the most radical statements ever made concerning human behavior and relations, as well as the divine viewpoint on man’s relation to the ALMIGHTY GOD. In a relatively short set of declarations, CHRIST established moral and spiritual standards that the world has discussed, debated, argued, and struggled to attain to for nearly two thousand years. In the midst of these powerful pronouncements and principles, the LORD again issues that Command that is so repulsive and impossible for the world and for the sinful, religious heart: “Be ye therefore PERFECT even as your FATHER in heaven is PERFECT” (Matthew 5:48).
What did the SON of GOD mean when HE uttered these words? To answer that question, we must look at the definition of the Greek words used and the context of scripture. There are 10 Greek words translated “PERFECT” in the King James Version. This study will focus on the three most commonly used Greek words: “Katarizo,” “Teleios,” and “teleioo.” These three words have quite different meanings which are very significant when considered in context. The word used by the LORD in Matthew 5:48 is “teleios,” the most commonly used of the three we will study. This word is also the one most used in the NT referring to the spiritual state attained in CHRIST. The “teleios” or “PERFECT” is defined as: To be complete, as in growth in mental and moral character, or full-age, mature and adult. The “teleios” is one who has attained his moral end; the goal set for him by GOD, with each individual differing according to his GOD-given ability, the goal for which he was intended. Namely, to be a man obedient in CHRIST.
“PERFECTION” in this sense, is not a static state. When one is “teleios,” it does not mean that he has had all the grace available bestowed on him. It may be true, though, that having reached this attainment, other and higher ends will open up before him in order to have CHRIST formed in him more and more. (Zodhiates Lexical Aids to the NT). This goal is reached by growing in the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom of GOD’s Word and SPIRIT, with the accompanying spiritual experience, and full manifestation of the HOLY SPIRIT.
The other question that must be asked is: What are the characteristics and qualities of the teleios? A full discussion of what the teleios is, is beyond the scope of this study. However, we will examine some of the most relevant scriptures dealing with this precept, and hopefully revealing, somewhat, GOD’s perspective on this critical aspect of the Christian faith and life.
The passage immediately preceding Matthew 5:48 is very important concerning what the LORD considers “teleios” or “perfect.” We must remember that CHRIST was not interested in “religion,” which HE defined as the “traditions and commandments of men.” CHRIST said that HE did not “come to destroy the law or the prophets….but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:47) and then proceeded to change or rather expand and extend the moral precepts taught by Mosaic Law. In examining and teaching on six different aspects of human relations (anger, sin, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and enemies) CHRIST heralded the alteration of the Law with, “You have heard that it was said (in the Law)….but I say unto you…” it was quite shocking to the audience to hear CHRIST so casually, yet authoritatively “PERFECT” the Law which was literally “carved in stone” with the finger of GOD and had been in force for 1,400 plus years (see Matthew 7:28-29).
In Matthew 5:21-26, CHRIST warned of the danger and sin of being “angry without cause,” name calling, and the necessity of being “reconciled to your brother” regardless of the problem, fault, or situation.
In Matthew 5:27-30, CHRIST taught that sin was an intention and attitude of the heart.
In Matthew 5:31-32, HE closed the door on divorce except for the “cause of fornication.”
In Matthew 33:37, CHRIST stressed the fact that a man is only as good as his word—“Let your communication be yea, yea, or nay, nay…” (Matthew 5:32).
In Matthew 5:38-42, CHRIST made the radical demand, “Resist not evil but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” (Matthew 5:39) and to cooperate with those who demand one’s services or property.
Finally, in Matthew 5:43-48, CHRIST completed these revolutionary commandments and judgments with these “impossible” (with men!) statements: “Love your enemies which despitefully use and persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44).
What did CHRIST expect from these drastic modifications of the Divine Standards? What were these new standards supposed to produce? Why did the LORD command HIS people to ascend to unheard of heights of morality and behavior? “That you may be children of your FATHER which is in heaven…” (Matthew 5:45).
It must be pointed out here that living up to these principles only qualifies one to be “children of your FATHER.” The command, “Be ye therefore PERFECT…” is stated in the future tense, indicating a spiritual state yet to be achieved. The doctrines of the “Sermon on the Mount” are simply the foundation from which a child of GOD might grow into the state of being “teleios,” that is, into the state of being complete in mental, moral, and spiritual growth, mature and of full development in CHRIST.
The second word translated “perfect” in the King James Version is “katartizo,” and is more descriptive of the process of attaining “perfection” than “teleios,” more a verb than a noun. The fundamental meaning of “katartizo” is: to be thoroughly completed, adjusted, positioned, to fully train or instruct, and to be fully equipped for a particular purpose or function.
CHRIST used this word in Luke 6:40—“The disciple is not above his Master, but everyone that is perfect shall be as his Master.” It is significant that this statement comes in the midst of a parallel passage of Matthew 5:7; the “Sermon on the Mount.” That is the “Sermon on the Plain” of Luke, Chapter 6.
Luke 6:40 gives us insight into what CHRIST defined as “PERFECT.” “Everyone that is PERFECT shall be as his Master.” Every disciple of CHRIST WHO is “thoroughly completed, fully adjusted, and positioned, fully trained, and fully equipped for HIS purpose,” shall be like his MASTER, CHRIST. John backs up this promise with testimony that he and others had evidently reached this state in this present life. “Because as HE is, so are we in this world,” (1 John 4:17).
One of the purposes of the church leaders is for the work of the “perfecting of the saints,” (Ephesians 4:11-16) “for the work of the ministry…the edifying of the body of CHRIST…the unity of the faith…the (full) knowledge of the SON of GOD…that we be no longer children…speaking the truth in love, may grow up into HIM in all things, which is the Head, even CHRIST.”
The last word in this study that we will examine in any detail is “teleioo”: To complete, accomplish, consummate (in act or character), to reach connection with the Christian walk and life. It is often the word used to describe CHRIST’s work on the cross. Hebrews 2:10 and 5:8 state that CHRIST was made “PERFECT” through obedience and suffering. James, in his controversial teaching on “works” (chapter 2), wrote that “by works faith was made ‘PERFECT’” (a finished product, complete, accomplished, etc.).
Finally, in the most powerful way, John describes the greatest aspect of “PERFECTION”—“If we love one another, GOD dwells in us and HIS Love is ‘PERFECTED’ in us…Herein is our love made ‘PERFECT’ that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as HE is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but PERFECT love casts out fear; because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:12, 17-18).
It is clear from this study that the word “PERFECT” in its various applications has been grievously misunderstood by the church, and the teaching of “PERFECTION” in its proper definition, process, and purpose has been terribly, even criminally neglected by the “apostles…prophets…evangelists…pastors…and teachers,” whose responsibility it is to bring the body of CHRIST “unto a ‘PERFECT’ man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of CHRIST,” (Ephesians 4:13).
Part of the problem, as previously stated, is the work of the enemy in our midst, redefining this critical, powerful, and wonderful word “PERFECT” into an unattainable goal, not even to be considered by a child of GOD. It is the research for this study, was the word “sinless” found in connection with the various forms of the word “perfect.”
Working hand in hand with the enemy is the woeful ignorance of the Word of GOD, the language of GOD, and knowledge of HIS thoughts and ways. “All scripture is given by inspiration of GOD and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of GOD may be PERFECT, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
It is past time that we wake up to the promises, power, and potential we have in CHRIST, in maturity, full instruction, and complete knowledge.
In conclusion, we must reiterate that it is the LORD WHO accomplishes “PERFECTION” in HIS people. “But the GOD of all grace, WHO has called us unto HIS Eternal Glory by CHRIST, aster that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish you, strengthen and settle you. To HIM be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.
Recommended reading: “Christian Perfection,” sermon by John Wesley.