"BE YE THEREFORE PERFECT, EVEN AS
YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT"
These words seemed even more startling than the ones which God had already spoken. Surely this was too much! Could any mortal ever hope to be perfect? Yet surely God would not ask me to do something which He knew I could not do! And without doubt, this was the voice of God. I had asked bread of my heavenly Father, and I knew that He would not give me a stone. How thrilling to my soul when I learned that this, too, was a quotation from scripture! I found it in Matt. 5:48. It was Christ's own command, not only to me but to all who would be the "children of your Father which is in heaven" (verse 45). Perfection is the GOAL set by Christ for every Christian. Not every Christian has reached that goal. No Christian has a right to boast that he has attained it. Even the great Apostle Paul declared, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after" (Phil 3:12). No Christian worthy of the name will be satisfied to be less than perfect. No Christian should make excuse for his own imperfections, but should recognize them as failure to keep the command of Christ, and strive earnestly to overcome them. PERFECTION IS THE GOAL!
For the benefit of those who may have been taught that no person except Christ was ever perfect, let us note that GOD HIMSELF ascribes perfection to a number of men. They did not claim perfection for themselves, but God declared that they were perfect.
First of all, Job, the hero of the oldest written book of the Bible was a perfect man. His friends didn't think he was perfect; they accused him of hypocracy (see Job 8:6,13.) Satan did not think he was perfect; he accused him of serving God only because of the material blessings which God had given him. Job himself was willing to admit that he was imperfect, for he declared, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes," Job 42:6. But when satan accused him before the Lord, God himself declared, "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a PERFECT AND AN UPRIGHT MAN?" Job 1:8. And then for the benefit of all who might read this scripture, God added his definition of human perfection -- "one that feareth God and escheweth (shunneth, avoideth) evil."
Many object to the teaching of possible perfection on the grounds that they have never seen a perfect man. In Job's day, God declared that there was only one. Again, in Noah's day there was only one. Yet God declares that Noah was PERFECT! "Noah was a just man and PERFECT in his generations, and Noah walked with God." Gen. 6:9.
Some declare that if one should become perfect, he would immediately be translated, as was Enoch, carelessly disregarding the fact that the scripture declares that Enoch 'walked with God" for at least three hundred years before he "was not", Gen 5:22, and that "BEFORE his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Heb. 11:5.
All these Old Testament saints were perfect, before even the law was given. No divinity, nor superhuman perfection is attributed to any one of them. They were MEN, subject to like passions as we are, but they knew and feared God, kept his commands, and carefully avoided the overflowing evils of the idolitrous people among whom they lived, in some of the most outstandingly evil ages in history.
Was perfection possible under the law?
Moses, speaking God's message to the entire congregation of Israel, declared "Thou shalt be PERFECT with the Lord thy God." Deut. 18:13.
Man is sometimes more critical than God. When Mirian and Aaron complained against Moses, God took his part, speaking to them out of the pillar of cloud and saying, "My servant Moses -- is FAITHFUL in all mine house!" Numbers 12:7. While this does not use the word "perfect", surely it meets the definition given in Job 1:8.
David was not persuaded that perfection was impossible, for he declared, in one of his inspired Psalms, "I will behave myself wisely IN A PERFECT WAY. I will walk within my house with a PERFECT HEART." Ps. 101:2.
All these, and no doubt many others (such as Daniel, Joseph, Abraham, Elijah, and Elisha, etc.) lived lives of holiness (perfection) in the days before many of our advantages were given. It was to his New Testament church that God gave the complete scriptures. "ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable -- that the man of God may be PERFECT, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. II Tim. 3:16,17.
It was not until our own dispensation that Christ was preached, "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man PERFECT in Christ Jesus." Col. 2:28.
It was to his New Testament Church that Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, 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.
Unto them, the glorious outpouring of the Holy Spirit, our constantly abiding Comforter, teacher and guide, (John 14:26) had not been given. But to us he is given -- to every one who will obey God (Acts 5:32).
How much easier it should be for us, with all these advantages, to be perfect than for those who lived before these things were given!
God says to us, "Ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them . . . . Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from ALL filthiness of the flesh and spirit, PERFECTING HOLINESS in the fear of God." II Cor. 6:16-7:1.
These promises are ours! We CAN cleanse ourselves from ALL FILTHINESS! We can PERFECT HOLINESS in the fear of God! Like Job, we can fear God and shun evil, and be perfect in the sight of God.
This is not a "new thing". The doctrine of entire sanctification has been taught by many outstanding servants of Christ throughout the church age, and is accepted as sound doctrine by a number of major denominations. Since this is only a small book, space prevents quoting from the statements of fundamental truths of many groups. I will quote here from only one, that found in the Constitution of the General Council of the Assemblies of God. (Minutes and Constitution, with Bylaws, Revised (1949 edition), Page 38, Section 9.)
Entire Sanctification (br)
The Scriptures teach a life of holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. By the power of the Holy Ghost we are able to obey the command, "Be ye holy, for I am Holy." Entire sanctification is the will of God for all believers, and should be earnestly pursued by walking in obedience to God's Word. Heb. 12:14; I Peter 1:15, 16; I Thess. 5:23, 24; I John 2:6."
Call it what you will -- perfection, holiness, entire sanctification -- it is not only possible, it is not only our priviledge, it is God's COMMAND.
"Be ye holy in ALL MANNER OF CONVERSATION." I Peter 1:15.
"Be ye therefore perfect." Matt. 5:48.
You say, "I know a lot of Christians, even preachers, who say you can't be perfect, and there is no use to try."
We know them, too. They are not healing the sick nor casting out demons! Sin is the devil's bridgehead in your life. Let him hold the bridgehead, if you will. But it will rob you of power!
Jesus did not allow the devil to maintain a bridgehead in his life, for he declared just before he was crucified, "The prince of this world (satan) cometh, and hath NOTHING in me." John 14:30. He had power to accomplish the work he came into the world to do because satan had NOTHING -- not even one little bridgehead of pet sin or self-indulgence -- in Him.
We, his followers, are admonished to keep the coasts of our lives free of "bridgeheads" too. "Neither give PLACE to the devil." Eph. 4:27. It is his business to make you think that you can't expect to keep your life entirely free of his hideouts and landing strips. If he can get you to leave him a place to work from, he can sabotage every effort you make for God, and rob you of the power you have longed for. The work God has given you to do will go undone. The sick will not be healed, the captives not set free. Should you attempt to cast out demons, they will laugh in your face, saying, "You let us remain in your own life, and then would cast us out of others!" Demons know the power of Christ, and they know and fear the power of a Christ filled Christian. But they have no fear of one who is not holy.
Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew and chief of the priests, decided that they could say the same words which Paul used, adjuring the demons in Jesus name to come out of those who were possesed, without being careful to have the background of holiness and consecration which Paul had. (See Acts 19:13-15). The evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but WHO ARE YE?! Then the man in whom the evil spirit was, leaped on them, and overcame them, so that they fled naked and wounded. They didn't think holiness was necessary, but they found to their sorrow that it CAN NOT BE OVERLOOKED, if one is to exercise the miracle working power of God! The reaction is not so immediate and violent in every case, for these "vagabond Jews" had tried it before, and only once did this happen. But never once did they succeed in casting out a demon. Demons flee only before the power of Christ, or of a Christ-filled life. There is no way to have power with God without holiness -- for Jesus himself said, "Every one that is PERFECT shall be AS HIS MASTER." Luke 6:40.
There is much that could be said about perfection. An entire book could easily be written in defense of the possibility of obeying the command of God, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." I Peter 1:16. However, enough has been said to open the eyes of the person who is hungry for truth, and eager to have the power which Jesus promised to his followers, THE MIRACLE WORKING POWER OF GOD.
But it will take more than knowing that holiness is possible. You want to know how you can attain it.
Not every Christian has reached the goal. Not every follower of Christ has the power which he promised. The twelve chosen disciples, even after having healed many that were sick and cast out many demons in Jesus' name, met a demon one day who refused to go at their command. Matt. 17:15. When Jesus had cast out the demon, the disciples asked him why they could not do it. He gave as the reason their UNBELIEF, and lack of fasting and prayer. These twelve chosen men were at times found to lack in the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit, and to show evidence of such works of the flesh as pride (Mark 10:37), jealousy (Mark 10:41), anger (Matt. 26:51). They slept when they should have prayed (Matt. 26:40), and deserted him in times of trial (vs. 56). They failed to discern the plan of God, and rebuked Jesus because he told them that he would be killed, so that Jesus said to one of them, "Get thee behind me, satan: -- Thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." Matt. 16:23. These men had not reached perfection, but they earnestly desired to be perfect, and worked diligently to attain the promises of God, and God honoured them, and was not ashamed to be called their God.
Do not be discouraged because you have not attained unto perfection. There is an ultimate perfection which will only be reached when we see Jesus face to face at his coming. There is a growth in grace, growing toward perfection, which must continue so long as we remain in the flesh. Our perfection may be likened to the fruit on a tree. From the time the bud appears, the apple on the inside, though very tiny, can be perfect. It has not taken on the size, color, nor flavor which it will eventually have, but nevertheless in its present state it is perfect. As it is nourished, and fed, and protected from frost and disease -- as the sun and the rain touch it, and the heat and the cold, it grows into a perfect little green apple, and finally the large, beautiful, rich, full-ripe fruit.
It was this "unripe fruit" perfection which Paul referred to in Phil. 3:15 -- "Let US (including himself) therefore, as many as be PERFECT be thus minded." Three verses before, he had said, "Not as though I had already attained, either were ALREADY PERFECT." (vs. 12.) Here he was speaking of the ultimate perfection of the full ripe fruit, the perfection which will only be complete with the resurrection of the dead. Paul was not unmindful of the perfection which had already been attained, but with the true Christian spirit, he was not satisfied to remain in that state, but, though he didn't claim to be perfect, declared, "I follow after." "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are before, I PRESS TOWARD THE MARK." (vs. 12,13,14.)
There is no stopping place short of ultimate perfection. Although the immature Christian may be perfect in God's sight, HE WILL CEASE TO BE PERFECT WHEN HE IS WILLING TO STOP GROWING! When the little green apple stops growing, it will soon wither and fall from the tree. Perfection must be attained, and constantly striven for.
Growth must be maintained through FOOD "Desire the sincere milk of the word (the Bible) that ye may grow thereby." I Peter 2:2. A good appetite for the word of God is very necessary if we are to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior." 2 Pet. 2:2. A real love for the Word of God is a part of our perfection NOW, and means much toward our ultimate perfection when Jesus comes. "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." 2 Tim. 3:16,17.
Many have plenty of time to read comic strips, magazine, novels -- everything else but the Word of God. But they are just too busy to study their Bibles! No wonder they do not grow! No wonder they have no power to heal the sick and cast out demons. No wonder they are not perfect, and do not expect to be. They are not feeding their souls the right food. "Grow in grace and in the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior." 2 Pet. 2:3. This knowledge comes through study of God's word. Read it a great deal. And read it as God's revelation to you. Believe it as you read it. It is the word of Him who cannot lie. He means EXACTLY WHAT HE SAYS!
Ample protection is provided for those who abide in Christ. Whatever our temptations may be, we need not sin for "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but with temptation also make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it." I Cor. 10:13.
"He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil 1:6.
The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you and KEEP YOU FROM EVIL." 2 Thes. 3:3.
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you FAULTLESS before the presence of his glory." Jude 24.
Hallelujah! It is possible to be kept by God, and to live on a higher plane than sin.
We are not ignorant of the devices of satan. He can quote scripture, too. How quickly he comes to comfort the imperfect Christian, by quoting the last half of Matt. 26:41 -- "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." This portion should never be quoted without the first part of the verse -- "Watch and pray, that ye ENTER NOT INTO TEMPTATION!" Thus may we overcome the weakness of the flesh.
Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Gal. 5:16. (You may be sure satan will not add this passage to his quotation.) "Now the works of the flesh are manifest -- of the which I tell you -- that they which do such things SHALL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD." Gal. 5:19-21.
"For to be CARNALLY (fleshly) MINDED is death." Rom. 8:6.
Hide behind the weakness of the flesh if you like, but do not overlook what God says will be the result! Do not accept satan's suggestion, even when he quotes scripture. "RESIST THE DEVIL AND HE WILL FLEE FROM YOU!" James 4:7.
You can be perfect! God says you can. Only satan says you cannot.
God has provided food for you in his word, protection for you through his spirit, and a mighty agency for your perfecting in his Church. In order that the church might serve to this end, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets: and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the PERFECTING of the saints --." Eph. 4:11,12.
Do not think that you shall attain the perfection which God desires for you if you fail to heed his warning, "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is." Heb. 10:25. Find a good church home, where God's word is taught and BELIEVED, where the power of God is present and welcome, where God is confirming his word with signs following, and where God's people "Speak the things which become SOUND DOCTRINE." Titus 2:1. Then make it a practice to be present whenever God and his people meet. Only thus can you be perfected by the ministry gifts which God has placed in the church. Every service in your Spirit filled church is planned of God to contribute something to your perfection.
Patience also has a part. "Let patience have her perfect work that ye may be PERFECT AND ENTIRE wanting nothing." Jas. 1:4.
The tongue also plays an important part, for "If any man offend not in word, the same is a PERFECT man and able also to bridle the whole body." James 3:2.
"And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." Col. 3:14.
Christ is sufficiently interested in pointing out the way, that if you desire to find the way of perfectness, he will place his finger on your pet sins, and show you what is keeping you from the goal. A young man once fell at the feet of Jesus and asked the question, "What must I do?" Although this young man was inquiring the way of salvation, Jesus pointed out to him the way to perfection. "If thou wilt be PERFECT, go ----." Matt. 19:21. He laid his finger upon the young man's pet sin. Like so many others the young man felt that this was too much. Yet it would have been a small price to pay for perfection here, and eternal life in the world to come. Jesus is just the same today. When you come inquiring how you can be perfect, he will not send you away without an answer.
Perfection and more perfection is always the Christian goal. "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, AS MANY AS BE PERFECT, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, GOD SHALL REVEAL EVEN THIS UNTO YOU." Phil. 3:14,15.
As you read this book, satan will probably whisper to you many times, as Pharaoh said unto Moses (Ex. 8:25) "Sacrifice in the land." In other words, it isn't necessary to go so far, to separate yourself from the things of the world in order to have power with God. If you insist, he will say, "All right then, only don't go too far." He infers there is danger in going too far.
You can't go too far with God. You may go too far in sin. You may go too far in self righteousness. But if you are walking with Jesus, in the Spirit, you need not fear going too far. No believer has gone as far as God wants him to go until the signs follow his ministry. We have not gone as far as we should go until we can lay hands on the sick and see them recover! No church has gone as far as the Lord meant it should go until all nine gifts of the spirit are in operation in its services. DON'T LET PHARAOH (SATAN) KEEP YOU BACK! Go on! Go all the way. God's grace is sufficient for you. Don't let anything keep you from appropriating the promises of God in your own life, whether you be lay member or minister.
"Let us go on unto PERFECTION!" Heb. 6:1.
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