Just what is perfection? Paul admonishes us to go on to perfection, but is that possible? We often reason away our imperfections with the rationale, "Well, I'm not perfect...." Others use the common dodge, "There was only one perfect man...." Armed with these ready phrases, we can go through life not squarely facing or accomplishing Paul's instruction. Will this let us off the hook? Is our Judge in sympathy with our excuses, or will He require performance? We need to know where God stands on the issue of perfection so we can put ourselves in line with Him.
1. What is perfection? Colossians 4:12; Luke 8:14; Ephesians 4:13.
Comment: The context of these passages show perfection to entail completeness, ripeness (like fruit), and the fullness of the stature of Christ. The biblical Hebrew and Greek definitions of perfect and perfection include "without spot or blemish," "complete," "full," "sound," "undefiled," "whole," "mature" and "ripe." These all describe Christ's character, who embodies all these traits.
2. Does this definition fit what Paul admonishes us to be? Hebrews 5:12-14; 6:1-12. Does perfection come easily? What should we expect? I Peter 5:10; Hebrews 2:10; 5:7-9.
Comment: In his analogy Paul compares babies to adults. Little children are unskillful at many tasks, often becoming discouraged and quitting when the going gets tough. A sure sign of approaching maturity is endurance, but this is not passive waiting. Paul urges diligence in becoming perfect and complete, following those who endured great trials. Peter warns us that we will suffer during the perfecting process. We can not expect to escape what Christ Himself endured, learning perfection by the things He suffered.
3. Can we be perfect apart from others? Matthew 5:43-48; 19:21; Luke 6:39-49; John 17:20-23; Romans 8:35-39; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 138:8.
Comment: The Bible links perfection with human relationships. Christ urges us to be as perfect as our Father in heaven, and ties the process to how we treat each other. The Kingdom of God is about eternal, peaceful relationships. We cannot withdraw from people and still develop the necessary relationship skills, just as God never leaves us but continues to work with us. Life would be easier for Him if He ignored us, but He works on, helping us develop our relationships with Him. He is the One who works perfection in us.
4. No one really expects "perfection." If we were perfect, however, would it make us everyone's friends? Psalm 64:2-5; Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; Isaiah 53:3-9.
Comment: Jealousy is the rage of a man! Those who begin to reach a degree of spiritual maturity will constantly suffer the arrows of those who compare themselves among themselves. By God's own mouth, Job was a "perfect" or mature man, but his friends—and even his wife!—turned bitterly on him when they thought they saw the first sign of imperfection. Christ, the paragon of perfection, was despised more than any man has ever been.
5. What are the fruits of perfection? How can we judge our progress toward it? Luke 8:14-15; Psalm 37:37; II Corinthians 13:11; Romans 12:2-3; Acts 3:16; James 1:4; Hebrews 13:21; James 3:2; II Timothy 3:17; I John 4:17; Matthew 19:21.
Comment: These verses can help us quickly check how we are doing. Is the direction of our life producing peace, soundness, patience, faith and good works? Is our tongue under control? Are we still fearful? Perfect love casts out fear! The young rich man had to be willing to give up what was dear to him for God and man, a fruit he was not willing to produce!
6. Does perfection ultimately mean we are completely without fault? Matthew 5:48; Philippians 2:5; II Corinthians 10:5; James 3:2.
Comment: Perfection, as used in Scripture regarding everyday life, means maturity and completeness. We can certainly attain an increasing level of spiritual maturity, yet we cannot truly complete the process until changed into God—until our human nature has been totally changed. Only then can we reach the stated goals of being perfect "as our Father in heaven," having "the mind of Christ," bringing "every thought into captivity," and never uttering a wrong word.
7. Is there hope for us? Philippians 3:12-15.
Comment: Though Paul urges us on to perfection, he was admittedly not completely there himself. He struggled to leave the past in the past and pursue the future. He shows that part of the process is maintaining a perfect attitude—a mind ready, willing and seeking after the prize of the high calling of Christ.
8. What promises are associated with perfection? Proverbs 2:21; Hebrews 11:38-40.
Comment: Those who "go on to perfection" will never be cast out of the land—their inheritance is eternal. Even those we consider spiritual giants in Hebrews 11, mature and complete as they were, will not receive their inheritance ahead of those of us now being perfected. They must wait in their graves for us, and we will inherit God's Kingdom together!