‘Perfection’ in the scriptures seen in the last posts seems to be an abstract description. In what are we to be perfect? He identifies his perfection as he describes what it means to be perfect. “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” (I John 4:17). The complete expression is “perfect love.” The “perfect love” is defined in this scripture as being “as he is,” that is, like Christ. This is not after judgment day. He says “Herein is our love made perfect . . . in this world” (I John 4:17). Earlier the Lord gave the same definition for perfection as being like Christ in his letter to the Ephesians:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Eph. 4:11-12).
He first lists the gifts Christ gave which comprises the entire teaching force of his church. Then he describes the purpose of his giving these teachers to the church. The first purpose listed is “for the perfecting of the saints.” The word ‘Perfect’ here (katartismos) is the noun form of the same word for perfect in Luke 6:40 (katartizo) – which is to be like Christ. The teaching force of God’s church was thus to make us like Christ. This same teaching force wrote the scriptures – which, he states, were written for the same purpose: “All scripture is inspired of God and profitable. . . That the man of God may be perfect (artios)” (2 Tim. 3:17).
He states this same truth in yet another way. The description is even more specific in his definition in the next verse.
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 fulness of Christ: (Eph. 4:13).
His ultimate purpose – is to go on “unto a perfect man.” In verse 12 he used the word ‘katartismos’ but in 13 he uses a different Greek word; ‘teleios.’ ‘Teleios’ is the most common word which is translated ‘perfect’ in the New Testament scriptures. He then defines this word ‘perfection (teleios)’ as being in “. . . the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). No matter which Greek word is used, perfection is defined as being like Christ. Nor is that all. This is the identical purpose he gives in the previous chapter – stated in different terms.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (Eph. 3:14-20).
The Lord’s ultimate purpose is that the Ephesians would be “filled with all the fulness of God.” This is the same as being like Christ. Christ has all the fulness of God in him (Col. 2:9) for he is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:1-3). Whether his disciples are “filled with all the fulness of God,” “partakers of the divine nature,” ‘perfect’ (artios), “perfect” (teleios), or are in “the image Christ,” it is all one and the same. This is God’s purpose, aim, goal, or mark for the race, for each of his children. The automatic response is often: “I can’t do it.” That is correct. We can not fulfill God’s purpose – alone. The power is not in man but it is in the God who, immediately after he states his ultimate purpose states that He is: “. . . able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).
We can not do it, but God can work in us! What is our part? He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask!” We can not do it, but we can ask God to work this in us. We can ask to become like Christ, and God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask. . .” We can ask to be rooted and grounded in love and to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height. We can ask to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge. Our Father is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask. . .” The power of God is not what is lacking! The faith in us is what is lacking! We need to seek and trust him! If we ask for a fish, he will not give us a scorpion. If we ask for the heart of Christ, “. . . how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him” (Matt. 7:11)? He knows how to give good gifts to his children. He knows how to give eternal gifts (2 Cor. 4:18) which includes the hope of glory, which is Christ in us (Col. 1:27). This was Paul’s ultimate goal. Paul pointed to this very mark in his description of his race to the mark (for the prize).
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. (Phil. 3:12)
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: (Col. 1:28).
Paul’s aim for all of God’s children was to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” If that were Paul’s goal, it ought to be our goal also. This was God’s purpose, for Paul said: “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). God was working mightily in Paul for the same purpose – to present every man perfect in Christ. The Hebrew writer encouraged God’s children to go on unto the same goal: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection” (Heb. 6:1). Paul told the Corinthians: “For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection” (2 Cor. 13:9). “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect” (2 Cor. 9:11). Paul’s testified to his fellow-laborer’s prayer: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). James shows God’s highest purpose for each of his children when he says:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).
Peter was used to teach the very same purpose:
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you (1 Pet. 5:10).
John tells how to attain perfection and shows the power it has on judgment day: “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).
No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us (I John 4:12).
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 (I John 4:17).
One major reason that the New Testament was required to replace the Old Testament is because the Old Testament law could not make the comers perfect.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? (Heb. 7:11) “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God” (Heb. 7:19).
Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience (Heb. 9:9).
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (Heb. 10:1)
Four times the Lord states that the reason there had to be a new covenant is because the Old Testament could not make a man perfect. What was his goal in the Old Testament? What is his goal now? Paul was used to show us that the New Testament scriptures were given for that very purpose, “That the man of God may be perfect” (2 Tim. 3:17). Thus far we have seen that God used Matthew, Luke John, Paul, Peter, James and (if it were not Paul) the writer of the Hebrew letter, to direct us to go on unto perfection. Keep in mind that “perfection” in the scripture is to be like Christ (Luke 6:40).