Be ye Therefore Perfect
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Just as a good foundation is important to a building in the natural world, a good spiritual foundation is important for the believer.
The parable of the two builders teaches us that our spiritual foundation must be built on the Word of God.
The man who built on a wrong foundation heard the Word of God but did not take personal action on what he heard. He is called a foolish man and compared to a man who built without a foundation (Luke 6:49). His house was built on the sand instead of the rock (Matthew 7:27).
You build on the sand spiritually when you base your life on the traditions or religious beliefs of man. It is thinking you can make yourself spiritual by good works, church attendance, religious ceremonies, rituals, etc.
Jesus' story of the two builders reveals another great truth. It is the nature of life to be stormy. Circumstances of life result in many personal crises. You must face death, disease, and disaster.
Hebrews 6:1-3 reveals that the foundations of the Christian faith are:
-Repentance from dead works
-Faith toward God
-Doctrine of baptisms
-Laying on of hands
-Resurrection of the dead
These are basic doctrines of the Word of God on which you are to build your spiritual life.
In Hebrews 6:1-3 Paul gives an additional step which is necessary in building your spiritual life:
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection. (Hebrews 6:1)
Repentance from dead works, faith toward God, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment are all principles of the doctrine of Christ.
Two extremes are common among believers. One is that they have a knowledge of the Word of God but do not apply that knowledge to daily living. The other extreme is that believers emphasize experience and ignore doctrine. Both doctrine and experience are important. A proper understanding of doctrine results in experience. But experience that is not based on Biblical doctrine is not trustworthy.
You must not only understand the basic doctrines of Hebrews 6:1-3 but you must also experience them. Once you have built your life on these doctrines through experience, you must learn how to "go on unto perfection.”
The word "perfection" means complete, finished, and mature. The Bible uses the word "perfection" rather than "maturity" to describe a spiritually mature believer. A "perfect" Christian is one who has achieved spiritual maturity. This means his body, soul, and spirit are under the control of the Holy Spirit.
The word "perfection" is similar to the word "sanctification" or "consecration" which are also used in the Bible. "Sanctification" means holiness and "consecration" means to be set apart in righteousness.
There are two dangers if spiritual foundations are emphasized without attention to perfection:
One danger is to lay a good spiritual foundation and not go on to spiritual maturity.
The other danger is to attempt to build a "superstructure" of perfection on a faulty spiritual foundation.
A foundation is not a completed building. A superstructure must be built on the foundation. A superstructure is that part of a building which is visible above the foundation. A good spiritual foundation is not the final goal for a believer:
Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him. Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (Luke 14:29-30)
Many people begin with God. They hear the Gospel, repent from dead works, and have faith toward God, but they never progress beyond this point. They never complete their spiritual foundation and go on to perfection.
A partial foundation in the natural world is not functional. You cannot construct a building on a partial foundation or it will collapse under stress. You must complete the foundation and then construct the building.
Believers who have not completed their spiritual foundations will have difficulty under stress. They will live "up and down" lives spiritually.
Their spiritual building will not weather the storms of life. They cannot go on to perfection [spiritual maturity] because their foundation is incomplete.
In the natural world, a foundation alone is not very functional. It is the building constructed on that foundation that serves as a home, office, or school. The reason some people are spiritually immature is because they only lay a spiritual foundation and never finish the building by going on to perfection.
Paul spoke of these spiritually immature believers:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: For he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
Paul told the Corinthian believers that it was time they should be teaching others the Gospel. Instead, they were having to be taught the first [foundational] principles of God. He compared them to babies who only could drink milk. By "milk" he meant the first principles of God.
Milk is very healthy and brings growth, but there comes a time when a baby goes on to solid foods:
Whom shall He teach knowledge? and whom shall He make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. (Isaiah 28:9)
Just as weaning from milk is necessary in the natural world if a child is to develop properly, it is also necessary in the spiritual world. Believers must go beyond first principles on to spiritual maturity [perfection]. Spiritually mature believers are able to feast on the meat, not just the milk, of the Word of God.
Jesus calls His followers to perfection:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
This perfection reflects the presence of God:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfect in one. (John 17:23)
It results in spiritual maturity:
Brethren, be not children in understanding...in understanding be men. (I Corinthians 14:20)
Perfection was a goal of the early church. Paul wrote:
For...this also we wish, even your perfection...
...Be perfect... (II Corinthians 13:9,11)
Individual perfection results in your being perfectly joined together with other believers in the Body of Christ:
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (I Corinthians 1:10)
Divisions in the Body of Christ are a result of spiritual immaturity.
The Example Of Perfection
Jesus is the example of perfection for believers:
For even hereunto were ye called: Because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. (I Peter 2:21)
For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him. (Hebrews 5:9)
God planned believers to be conformed [be made like] Jesus who is our example of perfection:
For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The Standard Of Perfection
The standard of perfection by which believers are measured is God's Word. Jesus was the example of perfection and conformed perfectly to the Word because He was the visible revelation of God's Word. God has set standards in His Word which are to govern our lives. The first standards He gave man were called the "law" and are recorded in the first five books of the Old Testament.
Much of the history of the Old Testament records the inability of man to keep God's laws. God knew man would not be able to keep the law through his own efforts. But God had some specific purposes for giving the law. One of the purposes of the law was to show men their sinful condition. Another purpose was to show them that they could not become righteous by their own efforts:
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: For the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)
God did not leave us in this hopeless condition. Through the law He promised the Messiah:
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which He shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19)
In Acts 3:22-26 these same words are quoted by the Apostle Peter and applied to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament, various sacrifices were required by God for sin.
After Jesus sacrificed His life for the sin of all mankind, the Old Testament sacrifices were no longer necessary:
For the law having a shadow of good things to come...can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect... For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:1,14)
The purpose of the law is summarized in these words:
But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:22-24)
Man could not keep the standards of a righteous God through self-effort. The law showed the need for a Savior and led man to Jesus Christ. It is through Christ, not self-effort, that you are perfected. It is through Him that you are conformed to His example of perfection and to the standard of the Word of God.
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [Christ] did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. (Hebrews 7:19)
There are two levels of perfection:
In I Corinthians 1:2 Paul calls the believers "saints" which means "sanctified ones.” Yet in the same letter he corrects these "saints" because of sin. They were believers and sanctified in Christ, but some of them were not living right in their daily conduct.
These believers had received initial perfection. They were forgiven of their sins through redemption from dead works. These sins were forgiven once and for all (Hebrews 10:14). This initial perfection was received at the time they accepted Jesus as Savior. But these Christians had not gone on to perfection. They had not continued to put off the "old man" of sin:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6)
Paul told them it was not right to continue living in sin after conversion. He said:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17)
As a believer you should live a new life. It is not right to continue in sin. Paul said:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Therefore...we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1,2,4)
We must go on to perfection.
Initial perfection from sin at the time of salvation is the start of a progressive life of sanctification. After salvation, you are to live a new life in Christ:
I am crucified with Christ: Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Paul described progressive perfection in his own life:
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12)
Paul had not attained complete perfection, but it was his goal. He described his struggle for perfection in another passage:
For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:15-23)
Paul wanted to live by God's standards, but he realized that by himself [in his flesh] he could not achieve this goal. There was a constant battle between his flesh and his spirit. His spirit wanted to keep God's laws (verse 22). His flesh wanted to sin. He discovered that the only way he could achieve perfection was through Christ:
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His spirit that dwelleth in you.
...but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:10,11,13)
It is only through the Spirit of God that you can overcome the evil desires of the flesh and conform to God's standards. When the flesh results in you doing those things we would not, God has provided a way to restore you to perfection.
For if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
You do not have to try to live this new life in your own strength. You live it through "faith in the Son of God.” Whenever you fail, you can be restored to perfection before God by confessing your sins and asking forgiveness.
When you are born again, you are just like a baby in the natural world. You have much to learn spiritually. While you are learning you make mistakes. When you make mistakes, you must confess your sins and God will forgive you.
As a believer, you fight your enemy, Satan. This is a spiritual battle which takes place in your mind and through the circumstances of life around you. On occasion, you may lose a battle to the enemy. But this does not mean he has won the war. You may temporarily go down in defeat but through confession of your sins you can rise again in righteousness to continue on to perfection.
Jesus has already judged Satan. Satan was defeated by Jesus at Calvary. The power of God within you is greater than the power of the enemy:
...Greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.
(I John 4:4)
You go on to perfection through the strength of this power, not human effort. Going on to perfection is not a course in self-improvement. It is learning to live as the new creature you are through faith in Christ Jesus.
The Perfection Process
The following things are necessary for the perfection process to occur in your life:
A Good Foundation:
A good spiritual foundation is required to go on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1-3).
Response To The Word Of God:
One of the purposes of the Word of God is to provide correction which results in perfection:
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. (II Timothy 3:16-17)
Just studying God's Word will not perfect you. You must make a personal response to the Word:
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:21-25)
You must not only look into God's law, but "continue" [live] according to it. You must make a personal response to the Word by laying aside all "filthiness and naughtiness.” Being a doer of the Word brings assurance of salvation:
But whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: Hereby know we that we are in Him. (I John 2:5)
Prayer results in perfection:
...always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)
By consecrating your life to God you will know His perfect will. Consecration means to be set apart. When you consecrate your life to God you refuse to conform to the standards of the world. You choose to conform to the standards of God's Word.
Gifts Of The Holy Spirit:
One of the purposes of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is to assist the perfection process in your life. As you learned in a previous chapter, God has ministry gifts in the church for...
...the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13)
The role of spiritual leaders in the perfection process is revealed in Paul's writings:
Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith. (I Thessalonians 3:10)
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 1:28)
...always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)
...this also we wish, even your perfection. (II Corinthians 13:9)
No one likes to suffer, but when suffering comes in the life of a believer it can have a positive purpose: Suffering results in perfection:
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (I Peter 5:10)
Patience during times of suffering results in perfection:
But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:4)
Part of the process of perfection is learning self-control. We are told to...
...cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
One of the most difficult things to control is the tongue. But control of the tongue is a key to self-control of your whole life:
If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:2)
Responding To Spiritual Correction:
Correction received from mature believers is also part of the perfection process:
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
You will be restored to perfection if you respond properly to such correction.
Spiritual maturity does not mean advancing in God's favor. It does not mean the work of salvation is incomplete. It does not gain you access to Heaven, because this was done through the death of Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus you are justified before God. It is through Him you are saved and have the promise of Heaven.
Perfection does not come by maintaining a set of standards. It is possible for a person to maintain standards that give an outward spiritual appearance yet be unspiritual and maybe even unsaved.
Spiritual maturity does not depend on how you feel emotionally. It does not come automatically through years of being a Christian or by Christian service. Spiritual maturity [perfection] comes through an increase in and application of spiritual knowledge. This increase in knowledge comes by study of God's Word.
This study results in understanding of the processes for perfection and the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ. Personal application of what you learn leads to spiritual maturity through the enabling power of God.
Perfection (Spiritual Maturity)
Study Of God's Word Leads To
An Increase In Spiritual Knowledge When Applied Through God's Power This Leads To
Spiritual Maturity (Perfection)
As Paul said, you must now...
...go on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1).
Continue your study of perfection by using the following references:
New Testament References
Commands To Be Perfect:
I Corinthians 1:10
II Corinthians 7:1; 13:9,11
Hebrews 6:1; 13:21
Things that prevent perfection:
Hebrews 7:11,19; 9:9; 10:1
Reasons to be perfected:
II Timothy 3:16-17
James 1:4; 2:22; 3:2
I John 2:5
How we are perfected:
II Corinthians 7:1; 12:9
Colossians 1:28; 3:14
II Timothy 3:16-17
Hebrews 2:10; 7:11
James 1:4,17,25; 2:22; 3:2
I Peter 5:10
I John 2:5; 4:12; 4:17-18
Old Testament references
Abraham was to be perfect before God: Genesis 17:1
Hezekiah was perfect before God: Isaiah 38:3
God's way for us is perfect: II Samuel 22:31
Read the books of I and II Kings. You will find the phrase "his heart was not perfect" used often to describe evil kings who ruled Israel. As you read their stories, observe why their hearts were not perfect and the results of this lack of perfection.
Perfection in the Psalms
Study what David said about perfection:
God's way is perfect: Psalms 18:30,32
God's law is perfect: Psalms 19:7
The end of the perfect man is peace: Psalms 37:37
We are to walk perfectly before God: Psalms 101:2,6