My Thoughts. . .
Thursday, April 18, 2019
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
This passage is tossed around to mean several things. Some believe it refers to one being as sinless as God is. As one brother stated, “Whatever it means, we don’t do it.”
If Jesus wanted us to be perfect as the Father is, why did God add to the saved those who were “of the circumcision” [circumcision party, RSV] (Acts 11:2). Were they perfect? If so, why did Paul and Barnabas later engage in “sharp debate” with them, making it necessary for a trip to Jerusalem to settle the issue (Acts 15:1-6ff)? A church convention, composed of the apostles and Jerusalem elders, met to settle that question for all the other congregations. Men were chosen from the Jerusalem congregation to deliver that message to the Gentile assemblies. Later, it is these same brethren who put fear in the apostle Peter’s heart causing him to act hypocritically (Galatians 2:11-16). Were they perfect and Peter wasn’t? Or were they both at fault? Later, when some bound circumcision upon the Gentiles, Paul wrote, “Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12 The Message). Weren’t these individuals perfect? Had God not added them to the saved as far back as Acts 11? Why would God add someone to the body of Jesus who held that view when one is to be “perfect” or sin free? Where is the perfection when the mother church has to settle a dispute for all the others (Acts 15:7)?
When you stepped out of the baptistry, how long did your perfection last? How did you regain it? If you managed to regain it, how long did you keep it? Are you certain that you possess it now? Are you in a state of confusion not knowing if you are imperfect or perfect? Do you go from day to day with your salvation hanging by a thread not knowing if you are saved or lost? One’s prayers often reveal his lack of security. They magnify his doubts of whether be believes he presently possesses that perfection. Prayers such as, “we pray that we will be found faithful at death,” or “Lord, forgive us for any unforgiven sins which we may have committed since we last prayed.” Questions bombard such individuals with, “What if my faithfulness is not faithful enough?” or “What if the congregation I meet with isn’t 100% sound?” or “What if my ‘imperfection gap’ is too large for God’s grace to cover?” For some, those doubts and fears control them, making assurance little more than a wishful vapor!
One’s efforts in failing to be perfect originated in the Garden of Eden. Some equate the sign in front of their building, the way the congregation sings and partakes, and how and what is said when someone is being baptized, as their guarantee that they and their congregation have reached perfection. Sadly, such assemblies fall short of their expected mark. The idea that a congregation is not as bad as Laodicea, Sardis, Ephesus, Corinth, or even Jerusalem does not equal perfection. Actually, such statements indicate that the one making them believes a sound congregation is acceptable to God without perfection! Wouldn’t that mean that person believes his congregation’s infractions are passable, but those they frown on have errors that aren’t?
As human beings we are cursed and in need of salvation due to our imperfections. We are not co-saviors with God. Must we obey? Yes, but whose obedience is our standard for perfection? Yours? Mine? How obedient must one’s obedience be in order to accomplish and maintain perfection? According to Paul, no one has been successful (Romans 3:10, 23). That’s why we need Jesus!
How complete does a person or congregation’s practice have to be, to be perfect? How faithful must one be for his faithfulness to be perfect? Those who claim perfection are guilty of believing their own lie. Satan is the author, not God. Jesus was sent because we are sinful, and our “perfection” could not cleanse us of that ugliness. God is the eternal cleanser. He chose Jesus to be the perfection we needed. We either believe it or reject it (John 3:17-18). Some of the Pharisee Party, that were part of the saved, chose to reject that truth and preach “another gospel.” Some believe their righteousness is their payment for their salvation, supplementing what Jesus’ blood could not cover. They reject God’s Good News that Jesus took our ugliness upon himself and blessed us with his perfection. It was not a fair exchange, but he was willing to pay the price (1 John 4:10 NIV). It was God’s love that made that provision (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV, NIV, TLB)!
How can one be perfect when he rejects the righteousness of God by substituting his own? Isn’t that “another gospel”?