Have you ever heard some one say, “Oops, oh well, nobody’s perfect?” This usually follows some kind of accident or mistake. It’s a good excuse, right? After all, no one is perfect. Yet Jesus said, “You are to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mt 5:48). What does this mean? We all know that God does not make mistakes. So how can we be as perfect as the Father? How can this be?
I’ve heard it explained that this is just a goal; that being perfect is not possible in this life. Really? Can you think of just one command from God that is not really a command? Commands are not suggestions! When I hear someone lessen the force of this verse, it reminds me of Genesis 3:1, where the serpent said, ” Did God really say—–?” So, the question is, “What is Jesus requiring of us here?”
Let’s first look at the word translated as perfect. Does it describe a state or quality only applicable to God, like omnipotent or eternal, or is it more like words that describe God’s character like just, faithful (reliable), merciful and holy? Qualities that are unquestionably demanded of all believers?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is tam, meaning complete, or tamim, also meaning complete, whole or entire. The word tam is applied to Job by God in Job 1:8 where it is translated as perfect or blameless. Job was, “upright and perfect.” The word tamim is used to describe Noah in Genesis 6:9; “Noah was tamim in his time and walked with God.” The word shalom usually translated as peace means, basically, wholeness.
In the New Testament the word usually translated perfect is teleios and means complete, finished, lacking nothing, mature. James says, “Let endurance finish its work that you may be teleios and entire, lacking in nothing” (verse 1:4 ). Kind of a semi definition, I think.
In the Bible being complete, whole, or finished is the ideal state to reach.
Evangelist pastors and teachers should be working to this end: “Warning everyone and teaching everyone, with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). In Ephesians 4:12-13 we see that Jesus, Himself, gave to us evangelists, pastors, and teachers, “To equip His people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
The warning and teaching itself must be perfect, that is complete or thorough, to cover all we need to know in order that we may be complete people. Especially, since no teacher knows what someone they are ministering to may be lacking in their faith. I think that it often takes God to identify this lack for us. Jesus does this in Mark 10:17. Remember the account of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus said, “Keep the commandments,” and the man replied that he had from his youth. Jesus then looked at him and loved him and said,”One thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me.” This man was faithful in obeying the commandments and yet lacked one thing.
God knows for sure when we are finished, but I think that we can too, if we are honest with ourselves.