There’s no denying it: we are living in an Information Revolution. Swipe and tap, point and click – voila! We can know within milliseconds the latest transactions on Wall Street, the hottest gossip from across the globe, or the remotest facts from four thousand years ago. But while we are spending increasing hours on our electronic devices, with easier access to more information than perhaps any other generation in history, are we losing sight of the most important knowledge in the universe, the knowledge of God Himself?
The scriptures are plain. How could Christians misunderstand? When Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, he used a phrase that not only taught them how but taught them a deeper level of understanding of points in that prayer. One such phrase was: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Then he went on to say, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). God made the promise that if we do not forgive men for what they do against us, he will not forgive us.
Persecution and tribulation were a sign or token that the disciples were on the right path.
And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me (Phil. 1:28-30).
This suffering was ‘given’ to these Christians. The Old Testament prophets were on the same pathway.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matt. 5:10-12).
The Corinthian’s salvation was made effectual by suffering the same suffering that Paul and Christ had suffered.
Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation (2 Cor. 1:3-6).
The Greek word for ‘effectual’ is generally translated by the verb ‘to work.’ Their salvation is effectual or works by enduring the same suffering Paul was suffering. Paul said that the suffering of Christ abounded in him which is to say that Paul and the Corinthians were following in the same pathway Christ walked.
God calls men out of the world to walk in the same steps of suffering that Jesus suffered. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).
The popular notion that Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to suffer is simply not according to the scriptures. He suffered so that we would follow his example. In fact, we are commanded to have a mind to suffer. “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” (1 Pet. 4:1-2).
The disciple is not above his master and must follow the same steps. “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20).
This is a promise, and the Lord’s disciples must have a mind to endure as he suffered. This is a critical reason that many are not able to follow Christ. In the parable of the sower he describes the disciple who falls away.
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended (Matt. 13:20-21).
He did not say ‘if’ tribulation or persecution arises, but ‘when’ it arises. This is the plan the Lord has for his children.
God has always had the same eternal purpose for each person. Whether it was Noah or Abraham–many years before the Old Testament law, David under the law, or Christ, the apostles or his children under the new the law, he aimed to have his eternal love in each mind and heart. He said: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5), Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind (1 Pet. 4:1).
His plan is for every child to be thoroughly prepared for every good work is based in the perfection (completion) of a good heart (2 Tim. 3:17). His plan to furnish his children unto every good work is accomplished by first purging the evil out of the inner man (2 Tim. 2:20, 21). His plan to prepare the church as a bride for her husband (Rev. 21:2) is accomplished by taking out every spot, wrinkle and blemish (Eph. 5:26, 27).
God provided a way for men to be perfect before Christ, even though the Old Testament law could not make anyone perfect. The Old Law itself was never meant to accomplish this purpose and goal. However, the Father was able to give his truth through his prophets to accomplish that purpose. Abraham was one of these prophets. Consider the purpose God had for Abraham.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly (Gen. 17:1-2).
Notice Abraham’s part of the covenant God made with him to walk before God and be perfect. Some would redefine these words, as do some of the modern translations. We need to be honest enough to listen to the words that proceeded from the mouth of God and not change the words it to fit our preconceived notions.
The radical (literal) definition of the Hebrew noun tamiym is entire, complete or whole. It comes from the verb tamam which is literally defined as to complete, finish or end. Another major noun translated perfect is the Hebrew word tam (tawm), which is also literally defined as complete and comes from the same verb as tamiym. These Hebrew words are almost identical to the Greek noun teleios (complete) which comes from the verb teleo which is literally to end. It is very interesting to note God’s purpose for his children as described in James 1:4 “…that you may be perfect, and entire, lacking in nothing…” is identical to these words. Let us keep in mind that the complete expression in the New Testament is “the complete love,” which is the complete love of Christ and God. This word is used of material things as well as of spiritual things. He shows his definition of this Hebrew word used in a physical context.
But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you. And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect (tamiym) to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen, or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the LORD, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the LORD. Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts, that mayest thou offer for a freewill offering; but for a vow it shall not be accepted (Lev. 22:20-21).
The offering had to be perfect to be accepted. He defines that physical perfection as having no blemish or spot, and as “…nothing superfluous or lacking in his parts….” Without all the parts it was unacceptable to God, and if it had more than all of its parts, it was not accepted. This is the word perfect in the Old Testament. Spiritually, it is the same way. Anything less than all of the parts of God’s love in the heart is unacceptable, and anything more is unacceptable.
Another major noun translated perfect in the Old Testament is the word shalem (shaw lame) and is also literally defined as complete. It comes from the verb shalam (shaw-lam’) which is literally translated as to be safe. In our study we want to center on the most commonly used words, tamiym and tam listed above.
God testifies that several godly men were perfect (tamam, tamiym or tam) during the Old Testament era. Noah was “…perfect (tamiym) in his generations…” (Gen. 6:9). As noted above, Abraham was commanded to be perfect (tamiym) as his part of the covenant of promise. Abraham must have obeyed God’s command to become perfect for he inherited the promises (Heb. 6:12). We will also inherit if we walk in Abraham’s steps (Rom. 4:17-24). God himself says “. . . and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1, 8, 2:3). Satan did not deny the truth when God reminded him of it (Job 1:8,9). David said “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psa. 101:2). He testified that he would behave himself in a perfect way, which is understandable because he had a perfect heart (Psa. 101:2). No doubt this is the reason that God testified that he was, “. . . a man after mine own heart,” which indeed is a perfect heart (Acts 13:22). David testifies “. . . he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me” (Psa. 101:6). We must conclude that there were others in David’s day who were also of a perfect heart. Our Father is calling us to walk in the steps of these good men.