This word 'Perfect' or 'Perfection' has probably caused the most controversy and tension in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, especially in the last 40-odd years.
The one text that initially comes to mind and has been thrown around greatly is, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48
What does this text mean? Does it mean exactly what it says? It has been said that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, which it was, but the word 'perfect' in this particular text is more of an indirect reference meaning something else like 'one who has reached the goal' or 'complete' or 'limit' or something similar? I have struggled with that, as I have my Bible given to me, in what I believe has been preserved for the English speaking world in exactly that language – English. So I have spent some time going through the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy to eliminate doubts and fuzzed edges on the topic to see just what that word means for me.
Well the word 'perfect' and its derivatives appear 123 times in the Bible. If we turn to the Spirit of Prophecy, the word 'perfect' alone appears 7167 times, and with its derivatives, appears 10,538 times. It obviously has some significance and demands our attention to some degree. Because of the sensitivity of the subject, and the faulty reasoning of my frail brain, I will stay mainly with the inspired word, to what it means for me.
The first mention of the word 'perfect' we find in the Bible is at the time of Noah. “These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” – Genesis 6:9
Did Noah ever attain to that perfection in Jesus Christ? ”By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” – Hebrews 11:7
“The world is no more favorable today for the development of Christian character than in Noah's day. Then wickedness was so widespread that God said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. . . . Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God’ (Genesis 6:7-9). Yes, amid the corruption of that degenerate age, Noah was a pleasure to his Creator.
“We are living in the last days of this earth's history, in an age of sin and corruption, and like Noah we are to so live that we shall be a pleasure to God, showing forth the praises of Him "who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." – 1 Selected Messages, page 90
“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.” – Genesis 17:1
Did Abram, who became Abraham – 'father of many nations' – attain to that perfect walk with God?
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” – Hebrews 11:8-10
And again, Abraham receives a double blessing of faith in the same chapter. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. – Hebrews 11:17-19
“For thou art my lamp, O LORD: and the LORD will lighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: And he maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet: and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. – II Samuel 22:29-35
Did David find favour with God at all even to the point of having a perfect walk? One would hardly think so when he committed such atrocities, of adultery and murder, classed as crimes even in our debauched world today.
Yet, we have this verse, “And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.” – Acts 13:22
“I was shown that it was when David was pure, and walking in the counsel of God, that God called him a man after his own heart. When David departed from God, and stained his virtuous character by his crimes, he was no longer a man after God's own heart. God did not in the least degree justify him in his sins, but sent Nathan his prophet, with dreadful denunciations to David because he had transgressed the commandment of the Lord.” – Spiritual Gifts 4a, page 87
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” – Job 1:1
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” – Job 1:8
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” – Job 2:3
What was it about Job that gave him such a report from God Himself?
“It were well for parents to learn from the man of Uz a lesson of steadfastness and devotion. Job did not neglect his duty to those outside of his household; he was benevolent, kind, thoughtful of the interest of others; and at the same time he laboured earnestly for the salvation of his own family. Amid the festivities of his sons and daughters, he trembled lest his children should displease God. As a faithful priest of the household, he offered sacrifices for them individually. He knew the offensive character of sin, and the thought that his children might forget the divine claims, led him to God as an intercessor in their behalf.” – Review & Herald, Aug. 30, 1881
New Testament Examples
In Jesus' prayer, He wanted every soul to attain that perfect character. “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” – John 17:23
Paul encouraged all His listeners and readers to attain for the perfect walk in Jesus Christ. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. – Romans 12:2
“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” – 1 Corinthians 2:6,7
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 1 Corinthians 12:9
“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” – II Corinthians 13:11
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:” – Colossians 1:28
“That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” – II Timothy 3:17
“Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:21
“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” – James 1:4
“For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” – James 3:2
“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.” – I Peter 5:10
“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. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.” – I John 4:17-19
What Does Perfection Mean To Us?
This is only a few selected verses chosen specifically to do with peoples' character and their walk with God. But what can we learn from all these examples of a perfect being in Christ Jesus?
Well back to our opening verse, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48. For me English is English and perfect means perfect. So here are some very direct statements that tell us in no uncertain terms what the word ‘perfect’ means for us.
“God requires moral perfection in all. Those who have been given light and opportunities should, as God's stewards, aim for perfection, and never, never lower the standard of righteousness to accommodate inherited and cultivated tendencies to wrong. Christ took upon Him our human nature, and lived our life, to show us that we may be like Him by partaking of the divine nature. We may be holy, as Christ was holy in human nature. Why then are there so many disagreeable characters in the world? It is because they do not suspect that their disagreeable ways and rough, impolite speech is the result of an unholy heart...” – This Day With God, page 32
“Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand. And let us do all that we can to help others to gain heaven. We are to have an intense interest in Christ Jesus; for he is our Saviour. He came to this world to be tempted in all points as we are, to prove to the universe that in this world of sin human beings can live lives that God will approve.” – Review & Herald, March 9, 1905
“Every day we should make advancement in gaining perfection of character, and this we shall certainly do if we press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus. Let us not talk of the great power of Satan, but of the great power fo God.” – Sons and Daughters of God, page328
“We are to make continual advancement in the perfecting of Christian character, that we may be no more ‘children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine... but speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.’” – Sons and Daughters of God, page 331
This by no means does justice to such an extensive subject, but even with these brief quotes, with the limited space available, there need be absolutely no doubts as to what our God is able to do for us through the gift and example of Jesus. What He accomplished in Noah, Abraham, David, Job, Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy, Hebrews, James, Peter and John, He is willing and able to accomplish in every one of us today. His power is not weakened, His saving arm is not shortened. He holds out the invitation for us to follow Him all the way to that perfect walk in His love, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” – I John 2:1
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This will put an end to all sin, and will bring an eternity of perfection. Can you do it? Yes, you can do it through Jesus Christ.
What is the definition of perfection in Jesus?
We are told we can attain it, but will never know if we have,
So day by day we live up to the light that God has given us.