I have said before – and correctly – that it is possible to be perfect. Otherwise God wouldn’t have commanded people to do it (Genesis 17:1, Deuteronomy 18:13, Matthew 5:48, etc), praised people who DID it (Job 1:8) and been mad when people didn’t do it (Revelation 3:2).
Not to mention the fact that it would be most capricious of God to command someone to do something that they couldn’t do. It would be like asking your three year old child to ride a bicycle – then being angry when he failed!
And yet every single time I tell someone all this, they throw up a mental block and scream “But you CAN’T be PERFECT!!” They demand answers to questions like “are you telling me you can go ONE SINGLE DAY without sinning? Without even THINKING a bad thought?” “And what about Paul, who in Romans 7 berated the thoroughly UNperfect nature of himself?” “And 1 John 1:8 says that if we say we don’t have sin, the truth is not in us!”
And it is for those people that I now thoroughly define “perfect”. Perfect does not mean without carnal nature. Christ was “perfect”, and yet he had human nature just like we do.
Hebrews 2:16-17 (Murdoch) For he did not assume a nature from angels, but he assumed a nature from the seed of Abraham. Wherefore it was right, that he should be in all respects like his brethren; …
He had to take upon Himself the nature that Abraham had, the same nature that you and I have, in order to be in ALL respects like His brothers, in order (as it goes on to say) that He could be a just and fair high priest to us.
The big stumblingblock that people trip over when they confront God’s command to be perfect is that they equate a single incorrect thought, immediately suppressed, with a sin. LUST IS NOT SIN!
Yes, you heard (read, actually) me correctly. And shocking though it is, I did not make it up myself, God did.
James 1:14-15 But every man is TEMPTED, when he is drawn away OF HIS OWN LUST, and enticed. Then WHEN LUST HATH CONCEIVED, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Lust is a TEMPTATION to sin – a LONGING to sin – but NOT A SIN ITSELF! Think about it; if lust TEMPTS you to sin – unmistakably what verse 14 says – then lust CANNOT BE SIN! And being TEMPTED to sin cannot be sin, any more than being TEMPTED to eat 14 chocolate sundaes can add 5 pounds to your hips!
But if that lust CONCIEVES – if you GIVE IN to that longing for those chocolate sundaes, THEN it becomes sin, and THEN you will have to pay the penalty for that sin! Is that so complicated? No, of course it isn’t.
The point is, every stray thought you have, every half-formed thought about stealing, IS NOT A SIN! Every time your eyes flit subconsciously to follow a pretty girl, IT IS NOT SIN! But if you GIVE IN to that sin, and COVET her, or commit adultery in your heart with her, IT BECOMES A SIN!
Being perfect doesn’t mean your heart isn’t carnal; and it doesn’t mean you are never tempted to sin. That’s not it at all. That is something that will happen one day – at the resurrection…
1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
But it is something that no man can possibly achieve, and something that NOT EVEN CHRIST HIMSELF ACHIEVED IN LIFE!
Shocking, eh? I’ve got a full-length article on this subject – “Christ had a sinful nature”- but in short, consider this;
Christ took upon him the nature of Abraham (Hebrews 2:16, quoted above). Was Abraham’s nature carnal, or perfect? Carnal, of course. Now Christ was tempted in ALL points like we are, right?
Hebrews 4:15 (Weymouth) For we have not a High Priest who is unable to feel for us in our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in every respect just as we are tempted, and yet did not sin.
Christ was tempted just like you and I are. Now where does the Bible say temptation comes from – without, or WITHIN?
James 1:14 But every man is TEMPTED, when he is drawn away OF HIS OWN LUST, and enticed.
By putting together those basic, clear scriptures you can draw no other conclusion than that Christ”s nature – the one he borrowed from Abraham – tempted him to do evil. Otherwise, He wasn’t tempted just like you and I and… well, then we’d just have to throw out the Bible.
You see, this throws a whole new light on things; because when the devil took Christ up to a high mountain and offered Him all the kingdoms of the world, if only He would worship him, CHRIST’S NATURE HAD TO DESIRE THE OFFER!
It was a TEMPTATION. Think about what that word MEANS! If I were to say to you “Hey, if you’ll just worship me I’ll give you a penny!” would that be a TEMPTATION to you? Would you be TEMPTED to break the first commandment in exchange for a shiny new penny? Of course not! For it to BE a temptation requires that your HEART LUSTS AFTER THE REWARD!
But for that to become a sin YOU HAVE TO GIVE IN TO IT! Jesus was tempted, and He had a carnal nature JUST LIKE YOU, BUT HE DID NOT SIN! Because when His soul “lusted to envy” (James 4:5) HE SAID NO! He RULED His spirit, just as YOU should, and told Satan that He wasn’t interested – the price was just too high!
Similarly, after not eating for 40 days, when Satan tempted Him to make bread – which Jesus later showed was fully within His power – JESUS WAS HUNGRY! I’ve gone several days without food, and can’t imagine going 40 – but I can promise you, that after 3 days knowing that you could eat right this second IS TEMPTING!
But again Christ refused to let that “lust of the flesh” turn into sin. And after refusing a third temptation, the devil left Him “for a time”!
James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
How do I explain that scripture, you were probably thinking? Very easily. The holy spirit is not tempted to sin. It doesn’t want to sin. It isn’t the slightest bit interested in ill-gotten gains and no high profit or short skirt can turn its head. The divine nature is FLAWLESS according to the law and never even briefly considers sin as an option.
But we don’t have the divine nature, do we? Why, actually we do – we may even have quite a bit of it! When that spirit lives in us, we have God’s nature in our own mind, and that nature ISN’T tempted to sin. But there is ANOTHER nature already in our mind – one that is hard-wired in – and that nature IS tempted to sin! And so, we find Paul describing this internal conflict between these two natures…
Romans 7:21-23 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Paul saw that in his mind he had TWO SPIRITS! His own, carnal spirit – born into slavery to sin and desperately wicked – and the spirit of God. And he finds that when the spirit of God prompts him to do good, his nature resists it!
And when GOD – Jesus Christ – became a man, and adopted the nature of Abraham AND the holy spirit without measure, HE HAD THE SAME PROBLEM PAUL DID! Because now He COULD be tempted to sin, JUST LIKE WE CAN BE! Didn’t you ever think this verse was strange?
Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Either Jesus was lying, or He wasn’t good. We know He didn’t sin, and we know He was perfect. But HE – that is, HIS NATURE as a man, WAS NOT GOOD! Who will you believe, if not HIM? Jesus was simply saying that “in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth NO GOOD THING” (Romans 7:18)
BUT THAT ISN’T SIN! not as long as you OVERCOME that nature, and defy the temptations as Jesus did! We WILL die with the nature of Abraham in our minds. Hopefully, if we’ve been doing our jobs right, it will have been pretty well beaten into submission by then, but it will always be there. There will always be a war in our members, as long as we are men. But that doesn’t mean that ANY of that is a sin!
And this brings us closer to the conclusion of our question; the definition of perfection. Perfection doesn’t mean that you personify the holy spirit on earth. That is quite impossible, and nowhere is it commanded in scripture. Look for it if you like. But if God didn’t command us to do it, He hasn’t got much of a complaint coming if we don’t do it, now does He?
So what DOES it mean to be perfect?
Roman 5:13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
I may be sinning on a hundred different points; but if I don’t know about any of them, it’s not my problem. It doesn’t count! It isn’t a sin to me, and I AM PERFECT!
James 4:17 Therefore to him that KNOWETH to do good, and doeth it not, TO HIM IT IS SIN.
But the second I learn about any one of those sins – however minor – I lose my flawless status before God. I become tainted. The death penalty hangs over my head.
Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, SIN REVIVED, and I DIED.
Now I have to repent in order to be perfect again. So I do. I stop that sin, God applies the blood of Christ to me and I am PERFECT once again because once again, I AM DOING ALL I KNOW!
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
I may have a thousand sins! And to say that I have no sins is foolish! But I can still be PERFECT if I have no sins OF WHICH I AM AWARE! AND if I do all I know and all that I can find out I will be perfect and WITHOUT BLAME before God for WHERE THERE IS NO LAW, THERE IS NO SIN!
And where there is no sins – not the occasional flawed thought or lustful impulse, but an honest-to-goodness case where you gave into that lust and it brought forth sin – where there are no sins, YOU ARE PERFECT!
And so a “perfect” definition of “perfect” would be “obeying God to the fullest limits of one’s knowledge while seeking more, with a clean conscience and a pure heart and a pristine faith”.
Genesis 17:1-2 … 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.
It is FULLY within your grasp to be perfect, and if you do not walk before God, and be perfect (which is your side of the bargain!) God is under no obligation to keep HIS side and keep His covenant of faith with you and cleanse you of your sins!
So can you go before God and say “I am perfect, as you commanded”, with this new definition in mind? If not, you would be wise to harbor grave doubts about the state of your salvation, and wiser still to take steps to correct it, posthaste.