Sunday, May 11, 2008

Perfection - Part 2 of 2 - The good news

I'll start this one off with some brief technicalities and then get on with it.

The words that are translated as "perfect" or "perfected" originate as two Greek words:

Teleios (Strong's 5046) is the adjective form of the word, and it's used more commonly. It means "brought to it's end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect; that which is perfect."

The word that is used a little less often is Teleioo (Strong's 5048). It's the verb form of the word and it means "to make perfect, complete; to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end; to be found perfect; to bring to the end goal."

(The root word for both words is Telos (Strong's 5056), which, simply put, means "the end, the termination, the limit, the purpose, the end, the aim, the end to which all things relate.")

I bring all this up simply to give a bigger sense of what "perfect" means, but in short the words are all related and they have to do with being complete, finished, mature, lacking nothing, perfect, brought to the end goal.

In the first post I attempted to point out the "bad news" about man's lack of perfection. Jesus came as a masterful teacher of the law, and in case anyone thought they were doing ok in regards to being perfect or complete through keeping the law, Jesus made it perfectly clear that they fell far short. The rich young ruler, for example, after claiming to have kept certain laws since his youth, asked Jesus, "What do I still lack?" (In other words, "in what ways do I still fall short of perfection?"). Jesus answered him, "If you want to be perfect (teleios), go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." The man went away sorrowful.


I'll just cut to the chase. It's because it's impossible for sinful man to become perfected (complete, brought to the end goal, perfect) through anything he does (!) - no matter how well he thinks he has performed. We can pick on the rich young ruler for not wanting to give up his riches, but who among us could have a conversation with Jesus in which we bring to Him our mighty list of accomplishments and leave Him satisfied with our supposed state of perfection! To me, the whole purpose of the Sermon on the Mount was to get that point through to man's thick, self-righteous skulls!

But I said I was getting to the good news. :) Actually, I think Jesus gives the good news near the beginning of His Sermon, right before spelling out the bad news, and I think we zip right past it without realizing it. He says, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matt 5:17). That's an earth-shattering statement!

"Excuse me, Jesus. Did I hear you right? Did you say you've come to FULFILL the law?"


Jesus goes on, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt 5:18).

From that point on, He begins to lay out the bad news about the consequences for those whose righteousness does not "exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees."

"You will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."

Those words, along with the rest of the bad news in Matthew 5-7, make the good news all the more clear: Jesus came to fulfill the law! I believe that one reason Jesus went on to spell out all the bad news was to show how extremely important it was that He came to fulfill the law!

When sinful man finally realizes the truth about his lack of completeness and lack of perfection and lack of true righteousness, he can see much more clearly that standing perfect before God can only come as a gift. He will finally see that he can never earn it or attain to it through anything he does. If the Sermon on the Mount, in addition to the Law, doesn't get that across to sinful man, I don't know what will.

The good news is that Jesus fulfilled the law! And the result of that, along with His sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection is that "He has perfected (teleioo) forever those who are being sanctified" (Heb 10:14). Everything that was lacking in sinful man was completed, accomplished, carried through completely, perfected... through Jesus and only through Jesus.

Col 2:9-10 says, "For in Him (Jesus) dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power."

In Christ... and in Christ alone... we have been perfected and we are complete. We can't add to it or take away from it! This is our actual, factual standing before God. Perfect, complete, holy, justified, sanctified, righteous.

Of course there is another use of the word perfect/perfected. It can also mean to be mature or complete in the things we do, in how we live our lives. This, of course, is something that doesn't happen instantly, in the way that our perfect and complete standing in Christ did. This is a matter of a lifetime of being transformed on the outside to the reality of what is true on the inside. Now, if you think that following the Law or the Sermon on the Mount plays any part in this, please understand the true meaning and the true depths of the Law, and please read the Sermon on the Mount again... and again... and again... until you understand that Jesus is not talking about Christian growth and maturity!

But if you do find yourself truly growing in grace and growing in the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - not through your own efforts but through resting in Christ, who fulfilled the Law - you may just find your outward performance naturally lining up with some of what you see in the law and with the things Jesus said! If you truly find this happening, I can guarantee that you won't ever make the claim that it's all because you've followed the Law or the Sermon on the Mount. Either that, or you've deceived yourself into thinking you have!

I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in Me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in Christ. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness (or perfection!) comes through the law, then Christ died in vain (see Gal 2:20-21). This is good news!

(By the way, I'm soliciting all comments about any or all of this - whether negative or positive, or neutral. This is my personal take on things, and I'm open to hear what you have to say).


  1. Joel - I've been following you around a bit- not like a stocker or anything :)

    I am a friend of Livingsword and I have listened to some of your podcasts and read some of your comments on Steve Sensing's blog.

    You've been talking about Grace and sin in a way that I have never heard before. Bloggers are echoing these thoughts.

    The message that I listened to about "having a childlike faith" especially spoke to me. I happened to be covering religious spirit in my little bible study that I lead and when I listened to your message I knew that was the element I was to bring to the group. It was about pressure and trusting the Lord.

    Anyways - I feel I have had some freedom in my heart about the pressure to be perfect.

    Keep talking it up cause it's getting through!

  2. Hi Ruth,

    Glad to have you here! I do enjoy traveling around to quite a few other blogs, and participating in some of them when I have time. Livingsword and Steve S, although I've had limited interaction with them, seem like great people.

    The things I share on my blog and that we share on the podcast are simply the thoughts that we have regarding grace, faith, life in Christ, etc. It hopefully reflects the truth of the gospel of Christ. But we certainly don't claim to know it all or to be right 100% of the time. :)

    Like you, as I look around, I see that so much of this talk of grace is being echoed all around the blogosphere, and it's really exciting to see!

    Thanks for your encouraging comment, and you're welcome here anytime!