Within the last two weeks or so, I have heard more than one person saying: "God doesn't expect us to be perfect", "I'm not perfect, just forgiven", or something similar. Just recently, I personally said something like this in my last post. I was referring to my fellowship, and I said, " None of us are perfect, but we are all striving for perfection (Philippians 3:12)." But it was when I read this quote on Twitter, that I really started to think about what was being said:
"Jesus doesn't expect followers to be perfect, but He does call us to be authentic."
That just didn't sit well with me; I couldn't help but think about a Princess Bride quote:
But all kidding aside, after reading that quote, and after giving it some thought, I challenged the author with the verse from Matthew 5:48:
**Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (KJV)
By the way, when I say I "challenged" the author, I did not mean in a rude way, I was just hoping to have dialogue, which we did, albeit very limited because, after all, it was on Twitter. The author clarified his reasoning, and it helped a little, but I kept thinking about the word "perfect", and how, generally speaking, it isn't understood to be doable. Personally, I used to have the understanding of "perfect" as always and only meaning "without flaw" or "without sin". Because I perceived it as unattainable, being perfect seemed to be a somewhat vague notion to me (the same thing with being "holy").
So, what does it really mean to be "perfect"?
According to the list I found on www.blueletterbible.org site, the first time the word "perfect" is used is found in Genesis 6:9, which reads:
These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. (KJV)
The English word for "perfect" here is the Hebrew word tamiym, which means:
- complete, whole, entire, sound
- complete, whole, entire
- whole, sound, healthful
- complete, entire (of time)
- sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity
- what is complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact (neuter adj/subst)
The next use of the word is in Genesis 17:1:
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. (KJV)
Both of those verses are referring to men being perfect. Hmmm! Well, that makes sense because according to Yeshua, we have been commanded to "be perfect", and if perfect means complete, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity, in accord with truth and fact - well then, that sounds doable to me!
Is tamiym the only Hebrew word for perfect? I did find another one in 1 Kings 11:4:
For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God,
as was the heart of David his father. (KJV)
Here, the Hebrew word shalem is used, and it means:
- complete, safe, peaceful, perfect, whole, full, at peace
- full, perfect
- safe, unharmed
- peace (of covenant of peace, mind)
- perfect, complete (of keeping covenant relation)
I find this verse referring to Solomon very interesting, because it says that Solomon was not perfect, which according to this definition it means that Solomon was not complete, safe, peaceful, or whole. He was not complete of keeping covenant relation.
So how does someone become perfect? Would Yeshua tell us to do something that was unattainable?
I found this picture using my Logos (free) software. I thought it was a good one to use because the circle in the center reminds me of a target - a mark. For most of my spiritual life, I heard the definition of sin as "missing the mark". But the thing is, it was never explained to me what the mark was! Since I didn't know what the mark, or the target, was, I never really knew if I was even getting close, let alone hitting the target!
Again, let me refer to the Princess Bride quote, " I do not think it means what you think it means!"
So what is sin?
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law:
for sin is the transgression of the law.
1 John 3:4 (KJV)
So, imagine with me, if you will, that in the center of the blue circle on the picture above, is the word Law (or, as I prefer, Torah). THAT is the mark/target!
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Psalm 19:7 (KJV)
As for God, his way is perfect:
the word of the LORD is tried:
he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
Psalm 18:30 (KJV)
Blessed are the perfect in the way,
Who walk in the Torah of Yahweh.
Psalm 119:1 (ISR)
Something else I looked at during my word study was that the Hebrew word tamiym used in Genesis 6:9, was translated in Greek as teleios (see the LXX Septuagint):
Genesis 6:9 αὗται δὲ αἱ γενέσεις Νωε Νωε ἄνθρωπος δίκαιος τέλειος ὢν ἐν τῇ γενεᾷ αὐτοῦ τῷ θεῷ εὐηρέστησεν Νωε
Teleios is the word that is used in Matthew 5:48:
Matthew 5:48 ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν
- brought to its end, finished
- wanting nothing necessary to completeness
- that which is perfect
- consummate human integrity and virtue
- of men
- full grown, adult, of full age, mature
And according to this resource:
Cognate: 5046 téleios (an adjective, derived from 5056 /télos, "consummated goal") – mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, i.e. developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process (spiritual journey). See 5056 (telos).
[This root (tel-) means "reaching the end (aim)." It is well-illustrated with the old pirate's telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).] (emphasis mine)
For Christ is the end (teleios) of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Romans 10:4 (KJV)
Or a better translation (in my opinion) is:
For Messiah is the goal (teleios) of the ‘Torah unto righteousness’ to everyone who believes. Romans 10:5 (ISR)
Referring back to Noah and Moses in the Genesis verses, both of the verses said that they "walked", or were to "walk" with Yahweh. The verses in Psalms talked about the way of Yahweh, and equated it with Yahweh's Torah.
So, if I am understanding all of this correctly (and I am open to correction if not), then being perfect is not a vague notion that I will never attain. If the target is the Torah, and the target is Messiah, and if I walk in His ways, I believe that through Yeshua my Messiah, I can be perfect (tamiym)- complete, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity, in accord with truth and fact. And when I abide in Yeshua (John 15), I can be perfect (shalem) - complete, safe, peaceful, or whole, and complete of keeping covenant relation. I can be perfect (teleios) as my Father in heaven is perfect!
I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me!
**Yeshua was quoting Deuteronomy 18:13