Doctrine of Christ
Let Us Go On Unto Perfection
The perfection of Godís elect is one of the fundamental reasons that Jesus came and gave himself to be the perfect sacrifice. And very early in His ministry He gave His disciples commandment concerning its attainment. "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) It is apparent that Jesus persisted in this theme, because just before His crucifixion, He prayed to the Father to make His disciples "perfect in one."
In Heb. 7: 11,19, Paul explained that it was necessary for Jesus to come and to change the system so that Godís people could attain unto perfection. He said, "If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the Law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God."
We are not talking about some high ideals which are beyond our reach as mortals. The goal of the life hidden in Christ is perfection; it was only the means of its attainment which was in question. It is one of the main aspects of the plan of God for mankind. God knew that the law could not accomplish that goal, but He gave the law to Israel as a schoolmaster to teach them of the things which God would accomplish in Jesus Christ.
There are at least three aspects of perfection mentioned in the Holy Scriptures:
1) The Perfecting of The Conscience
2) The Perfecting of The Personal Life
3) The Collective Perfecting of The Saints.
The Perfecting of The Conscience
Paul said, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." (1 Cor. 2:6) This is a clear declaration that some of those who followed Paul were already perfect in some sense: Apparently they had received sanctification of the spirit. (2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 10:14)
God accepted those who believed in Him, both before and during the administration of the Law. However, there was no change in the nature of the worshiper. He was still carnal, and weak in the face of temptation. Without Jesus Christ, man has an inherent carnal nature. He can neither do the good he should do, nor resist the temptation to do evil. The Law of Moses could not help mankind to overcome this deficiency. As Paul said in Heb. 9:9, "The Law could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." The strength to overcome was not available. But "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (Rom. 5:6)
The change in the person who receives this benefit in his heart is quite marvelous. It is referred to several different ways in the scriptures: having an operation on your heart, being transformed by the renewing of your mind, being raised from the dead, etc. (Deut. 10:16; Rom. 6:1-11; Rom. 12:1,2 and 1 Pet. 1:22,23)
Paul cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." And again, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 7:24,25; Rom. 8:1-9)
"the Law having a shadow of good things to come, that the worshipers once purged should have no more conscience of sins. Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Heb. 10:1-14)
Therefore, when we have yielded our lives to Jesus Christ through repentance and faith and have submitted to the circumcision of our hearts, He perfects our conscience (sanctifies our spirit). Then, and only then, can we follow our Lord unto the perfecting of our lives.
The Perfecting of the Individual Life
"Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Cor. 7:1) Obviously you must have holiness before you can perfect it by "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5)
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." (Rom. 12:1) In this instance God called the condition of our experience in Jesus Christ "holiness." Then He showed that we must work at developing and improving our lives; perfecting our attitudes and manner of life, if we are to be "accepted in the beloved."
How shall we accomplish this? "By taking heed according to the word of God." (Psa. 119:9) And He whose prayers are always heard cried unto God for His Elect, "Sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is truth." (John 17:17)
The Collective Perfecting of the Saints
"Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection." (Heb. 6:1,2)
Jesus instituted the doctrine of perfection, and the Apostle to the Gentiles enlarged on it, and pointed the way to its attainment. Perhaps he was thinking of Prov. 4:18, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." And again Paul said, "The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." (Rom. 1:17)
The Holy Ghost was sent unto God's "handmaidens and servants" for much more than to give them another blessing, or to complete the gospel. It was to work with us until we all (Jew and Gentile) come "to the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man." (Eph. 4:8-13) He is talking about that "one new man," in Eph. 2:15-22; and that new man is "The Church." (See John 16:13 and 2 Tim. 3:16,17). Therefore, once we have received a revelation of "all truth" we can, and must, be perfected in it, because light is given for us to walk in. (1 John 1:7; John 12:35,36)
By the Spirit of God, the Apostles of Christ knew how to understand and fulfill prophecy. (Acts 1:20-22) We must fulfill prophecy also, for it is a part of our work and perfection, and is essential for the perfecting of those who did the prophesying. For he said, "They without us should not be made perfect." (Heb. 11:39,40)
Peter showed clearly in Acts 3:20,21, that Jesus will not return until we have accomplished that prophetic work which was spoken of by those prophets of old. He further admonished us to take earnest heed to the progress of prophetic fulfillment, so we will recognize and accept the forerunner of Christ Jesus when he comes up before our face (Nahum 2:1) just prior to the return of our king. (2 Pet. 1:19-21; Heb. 13:8) It is this forerunner of Christ who, together with an anointed group of ministers, will lead us to perfection. (Mal. 3:1-6; Eph. 4:8,11-16) "When He ascended up on high, He . . . gave gifts unto men. And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man."
"Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." (Eph. 5:25-27)