No man can be perfect in the world’s definition of perfection. However, God’s ‘perfection’ and the world’s ‘perfection’ are not the same ‘perfection.’ The world tends to define the word ‘perfect’ as ‘never making a mistake.’ Some insist that if a man were perfect like Christ he could never have sinned at any time during his lifetime. To live an entire lifetime without sinning even once is impossible, for: “For all hav sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). This is not the Lord’s definition of perfection.
Someone may ask why there is such a determination to teach perfection. The obvious answer is because it is part of the whole counsel of God. Who would not want to teach everything the Lord teachers. Second, it is a command of God (Matt. 5:48; Heb. 6:1). Third, Paul’s aim was to ”. . . present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28). Fourth, this word incorporates descriptions of the pathway of spiritual growth (Eph. 4:12,13, James 1:2-4). Before we consider the pathway, we first need to have a more complete picture of the goal itself.
Jesus gives his own definition of perfection. “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40) This is a general description which applies to all masters. Perfection for any disciple is being “as his master” (Luke 6:40). John the Baptist and the Pharisees made disciples (Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33). When John the Baptist’s disciples were finished, they were like John, and the Pharisees’ disciples were like the Pharisees. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord” (Matt. 10:24,25). Jesus’ disciples would naturally be like Jesus when they were completed. In line with this purpose he said “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5) and “. . . arm yourselves likewise with the same mind . . .” (Pet. 4:1, 2). If we obey the command to have the mind of Christ, we will be that much like Christ.
Jesus called for disciples to follow him in order to become like him. Before they could be like him they had to know him. Jesus called for men to know him. He said “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (Matt. 11:28-30). The disciple can not become like Christ unless he first knows what he is. Jesus described what they should learn about him: “. . .for I am meek and lowly in heart.” If his disciples follow him, they also will become meek and lowly in heart, like their master. “And Jesus increased in wisdom. . .” (Luke 2:52). Jesus disciples will also seek to grow in wisdom as their master did. Jesus said: “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (John 17:19). He left his disciples an example so they would sanctify themselves. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). Jesus learned to obey by suffering. His disciples will also follow his example and learn obedience by being willing to suffer what Jesus suffered. What did Jesus suffer in order to learn obedience? “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:18-21). Jesus did not suffer so that we would not have to suffer. He left “us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” The scriptures inform us that Jesus was not born ‘perfect’ but was “made perfect” (Heb. 5:9). “For it became him, for whom are all things . . . to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10; 5:9). Jesus is the captain of our salvation. He was ‘made perfect’ by the things which he suffered. He “suffered being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). Jesus’ faithful disciples will grow to be perfected by following in his steps.