What the Bible says about
Maturity, Trajectory Toward
(From Forerunner Commentary)
In the Hebrew text, the word perfect is tamîm (Strong's #8549), and its basic meaning is "complete" or "entire." It does not mean "perfect" as we think of it today, as "without fault, flaw, or defect." Other English words that translate tamîm better than "perfect" are "whole," "full," "finished," "well-rounded," "balanced," "sound," "healthful," "sincere," "innocent," or "wholehearted." In the main, however, modern translators have rendered it as "blameless" in Genesis 6:9.
This does not mean that Noah never sinned, but that he was spiritually mature and that he had a wholehearted, healthy relationship with God, who had forgiven him of his sins, rendering him guiltless. The thought in Genesis 6:9 extends to the fact that Noah was head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries in spiritual maturity. In fact, the text suggests that he was God's only logical choice to do His work.
The New Testament concept of perfection, found in the Greek word téleios (Strong's #5056), is similar to tamîm. Perhaps the best-known occurrence of téleios occurs in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Certainly, Jesus desires that we become as flawless as we can humanly be, using the utter perfection of the Father as our model, but His use of téleios suggests something else. His aim is that a Christian be completely committed to living God's way of life, maturing in it until he can perform the duties God entrusts to him both now and in His Kingdom. In harmony with this idea of spiritual growth toward completion, téleios is well translated as "mature" in I Corinthians 2:6, and in Hebrews 5:14, itis rendered as "of full age."
In addition, unlike Greek, biblical Hebrew is a rather concrete language, expressing itself in colorful, often earthy terms, and emphasizing its meaning with repetition and rephrasing. Because his vocabulary was limited by a relatively small number of words, a Hebrew writer relied on syntax, metaphors, puns, and other figures of speech to make his meaning clear. Perhaps chief in his bag of verbal tricks was parallelism.
Parallelism is similar to the use of appositives in English. When we say, "Fred Jones, the pharmacist, often rode his bicycle to work," we restate the subject of our sentence and add information at the same time. The Hebrew writer did the same thing, but he was not limited merely to renaming nouns; he worked in phrases, clauses, and whole sentences. For instance, a well-known parallelism appears in Psalm 51:2: "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Many of the proverbs of Solomon also follow this form, for example, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
In the same way, "perfect in his generations" acts as a parallel thought to Noah being "a just man." Just represents the Hebrew tsaddîq (Strong's #6662), meaning "just," "righteous," "lawful" (in accord with a standard), "correct." Noah was a man who lived in accordance with God's revealed will, unlike all others of his time. In writing this description of Noah, Moses' use of parallelism emphasizes Noah's unusual righteousness for a man living among the spiritually degenerate humanity of his day.
The thought of Noah being spiritually complete or righteous beyond all of his contemporaries fits hand-in-glove with the context.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace [favor, acceptance] in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5-8)
His fear of God, exhibited in his obedience to God's instructions—his righteousness—is why God chose Noah, not his supposed racial perfection! In fact, the verse contains no connotation of race at all but is entirely interested in Noah's spiritual résumé. God wanted Noah, a man of integrity and morality, to build the ark and reestablish human society on a godly footing. The biblical account testifies that he performed his responsibility as well as any man could.
From what we have seen, a fair translation of verse 9 would be:
These are the records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with God.
This is reinforced in Genesis 7:1, in which the Lord says to Noah, ". . . I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation." As God says in Isaiah 66:2, "But on this one will I look [have favor]; on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word." Such a man was Noah.
The apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:26-28:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Physical traits—such as genetic "perfection," social status, or gender—are not high on God's list of priorities regarding His children, but putting on the faith and righteousness of Jesus Christ is what impresses Him. In Noah's case, these qualities are what led to his salvation—not anything as insignificant as the color of his skin.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'
The Hebrew word rendered "blameless" (NKJV) or "perfect" (KJV) in Genesis 17:1 means "entire, complete, full, without blemish." The Greek word found in Matthew 5:48 translated "perfect" means "finished, complete, having reached its end," and implies being fully grown or mature. The definition of the English word perfect is "lacking nothing essential to the whole, without defect, complete." All three definitions contain the word "complete."
Perfection...Piece by Piece
In chapter 17, God more formally makes an agreement—a covenant—with Abraham, presenting its terms in a general way.
Abraham was to be perfect. Other Bibles translate this term as "upright," "blameless," or "sincere." Do not be misled by the word "sincere," because its meaning has changed over the years. To us, it simply means that we have good intentions, but that is not really what the word means. It actually means "without flaw," that is, no imperfections.
Under the covenant, Abraham had to meet some conditions. He had to live a life of obedience. He had to submit to God. God raised the standard so high for him, that one would almost think that he had to be without sin.
Perhaps this begins to bring something else to mind, say, Jesus' command in the Sermon on the Mount to be "perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." "Perfect" can also be translated "mature" or "complete." It is very similar to what God said to Abraham. What is Jesus doing? He is beginning to introduce concepts that are part of both the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant.
Abraham is very plainly called "the father of the faithful," as if he were the head of the family of all who have ever lived, with the exception of Jesus Christ, who is the model after which we are to mold ourselves. Jesus was not human in quite the same way as Abraham was and the rest of us are. He was "God in the flesh" while we are just "flesh" who have the gift of God's Spirit. He had the Spirit without measure, but we have to grow in it. He had to grow too, but there is a qualitative difference. Nevertheless, according to Galatians 3, if we are Christ's, we are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Seven)
We are those who are "perfected forever." However, "perfected forever" does not mean we are morally perfected. Rather, His one sacrifice is perfectly adequate to assure our standing before God. As we have seen, the sacrifices show Him proclaiming how He lived His life, but here we are seeing its impact, the consequences of what He did so well. We see man, sinning and imperfect, becoming at one with God through Christ.
By means of the burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass offerings, we see all of God's holy requirements met in Christ so that we might be quickened by His Holy Spirit, be in continual fellowship with Them, and grow to become fully at one with Them. Ephesians 1:3-6 adds Paul's thoughts on this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
The consequences of Christ's sacrifices do not end with our acceptance before God. Acceptance creates the requirement of being conformed to the image of the Son; we are expected to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Peter frames his instruction on our responsibility once we accept Christ's sacrifice in our stead in this way: "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:4-5).
This is in language any of God's children can understand. We are to offer up sacrifices in the way He did. There is not one record of Him ever making a sacrifice at the Temple. Rather, He lived their intent as a living sacrifice. This is why our identification with Him is so important. We are now part of His body; we represent Him. He lives in us, and we experience life with Him as part of us. Our conduct is open to the view of all who care to look. Are we glorifying Him?
Please understand that, though our offerings will be poor and weak in comparison to His, they are not worthless by any means. They are still acceptable to God because of Christ, and they are still a witness.
Consider these illustrations: If a couple have a small child of perhaps just a few years of age, do they expect him to run one hundred yards in nine seconds? Are they disappointed because he cannot drive a car or understand Einstein's theory of relativity? Of course not! If their child is only one year old, he may just barely be able to toddle across a room! If he falls a couple of times, do they lose their temper and put him out of the house?
Of course, they are neither disappointed at his present inabilities nor do they even think of putting him out of the house. Why? Because they know he is just a baby, and they adjust their expectations and judgments accordingly. They are confident he will get better as he matures and gains experience. They know that someday he will stride confidently across the room and much more besides. Someday, he may run a hundred yards in under ten seconds and grasp the essentials of the theory of relativity.
In other words, growth is anticipated. God's judgment of us is much the same. When we are first in Christ, He considers us as babes (I Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13). At this point, He very well may consider us as "perfect" for the time since our regeneration, and we are acceptable because of Jesus Christ. He allows us time to grow, even though we may make mistake after mistake because of our weakness and immaturity. Because of Christ, He keeps judging us as "perfect."
This is a wonderful gift! He is not overly concerned about our individual sins as long as He sees in us a steady, upward trajectory toward maturity in our conduct to reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. If a child falls as he toddles across the floor, will not his parents set him upright, dust him off, comfort him, and show him, "This is the way you do it"? Can we expect any less from God, in whose image we are? Therefore, our acceptance before Him gives us time to grow.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)
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