Does ‘Perfect’ mean Sinless?

Is Sinless Perfect?

“Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Not long ago I read a letter in the newspaper written by a local pastor.  In the letter the woman commented several times that she was ‘not perfect’ as an excuse for rationalizing things that were less than virtuous and honorable in her life.  I wanted  to laugh, if it wasn’t so sad.

“Perfect” in the the Greek is teleios which means ‘mature and adult’.  So, in essence when this pastor wrote “I’m not perfect” what she really said was,  “Please excuse the sins in my life.  I’m not behaving maturely and acting like an adult.”  What a sad commentary on the power of God in her life.

Most of the world and even people in the church think of ‘perfect’ in the same way this pastor does – incapable of sinning.  Consequently, they just muddle along rationalizing their disobedience and never experience the victory of God in their lives.  As a pastor who should be teaching and guiding a flock of God’s people, her words mock the Father who is perfect, and Yeshua who told us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father.’

Of course, sinning and ‘falling short’ are inevitable in life, but that is not the same as being and acting immature.  We must learn from those mistakes be transformed into maturity and not make excuses for our immaturity.

How does the Bible define maturity?

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:6).

Maturity involves wisdom that is not of this world and does not act in the ways of this world.

“Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Maturity involves the way a person thinks in regards to evil.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, argued like a child; now that I have become a man, I have finished with childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:10-11).

We are to put away childish behavior and act like adults. 

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). 

Maturity involves growing up spiritually, eating solid food,  being trained in righteousness so good from evil can be discerned.  Again, there is a reference regarding evil so evil must be important concept when growing into maturity.   (For the milk or elementary teachings, read Hebrews 6:1-3).

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Messiah Yeshua, sends greetings.  He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12).

Maturity means being fully assured that you are in God’s will and you stand firm.

Noah

“This is the account of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

The Hebrew word in this verse for blameless is tamim and means ‘perfect, blameless, sincere, whole, complete.”   This word carries with it the idea of being free from objectionable practices.

Tamim is also used in reference to the people of God being called to avoid the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy  18:13).  Though there are no Canaanites today, there are many idolatrous practices that the people of God should be avoiding, but instead they lack the discernment that maturity provides and sin.

Tamim also implies that a person externally meets all the requirements of God’s law or Torah.   In other words, there is nothing in a person’s outward activities that are odious to God.  Because of the inward condition of their heart, they meet the requirements of God’s Torah 

According to Genesis, Noah walked with God and tamim describes his relationship to God.   Noah was a mature man.  He used wisdom in a corrupt world and his maturity to discern good from evil.   He took no part in the idolatrous activities going on around him; he remained separate and his life exemplified this separateness.    He stood firm in God’s will to build an ark while the world around him went from bad to worse and mocked his  faith in an unseen God.  Noah had the correct internal disposition of heart and therefore walked externally blameless or perfect before God.

Did Noah sin?  Of course he did.  He planted a vineyard, got drunk, and lay naked in his tent.   He was shamed by Ham.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord.

Abraham

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God El Shaddai; walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).

Abraham left Bablyon and its idolatrous ways.  He lived in tents with his family apart from the rest of the world. He obeyed God’s commands, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah.  He is called the ‘father of faith’ and was given the sign of circumcision.  He is also tamim, mature and blameless.

Did Abraham sin?  Of course he did.  Twice, he lied about Sarah not being his wife.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord.

King David

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

David had faith in God like no other Israelite soldier.  He trusted in God when he stood before Goliath with only a few stones and a slingshot.  When Goliath was killed, he credited God for delivering him from the hands of the Philistines and certain death.  As a warrior David cleansed the land of Israel from idolatrous people through war.   With skillful hands David led the armies of Israel.  As a King, he shepherded the people of Israel with integrity of heart (Psalm 78:72). 

Did David sin?  Of course he did.  He sinned when he cut off the tzizit of King Saul, God’s anointed king.  He sinned when he had Uriah the Hittite killed.  He sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord.  He was called tamim, blameless and a ‘man after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14).

Zechariah and Elizabeth

“Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were called tamim.  As  a descendant of Aaron, Zechariah did his Temple duties as prescribed for his lineage through Abijah.  Elizabeth was barren.  They desired a child.  An angel comes to Zechariah and tells him he is going to have a son.  He doesn’t believe the angel and is rendered mute until the boy is born.

Did Zechariah and Elizabeth sin?  There is nothing in Scripture that says they did; however they were human beings.  Perhaps Zechariah not believing the angel could be considered sin, and if it was, it didn’t change Zechariah’s or Elizabeth’s maturity in the sight of God. 

The Body of Messiah

“You must be blameless (perfect) before the LORD your God”

(Deuteronomy 18:13).

“You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity] as your heavenly Father is perfect”  (Matthew 5:48, The Amplified Bible).

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Messiah” (Colossians 1:28).

We must be perfect before God just like Noah, Abraham, King David, and Zechariah and Elizabeth.   We are commanded to be so.  As born again believers in God’s Kingdom, we have been given the Spirit of God that empowers us have victory over sin and death and live blameless lives in a world as corrupt as ‘the days of Noah’.  We must keep ourselves spotless from the corruption of the world and mature in discerning good from evil.   In order to do this,  we must live according to the Spirit of life that is found in the divinely inspired teachings and instructions of God called the Law, the Torah.    “I am not perfect” is no excuse for sinful behavior any more than being ‘under grace, not law’ should give us the freedom to disobey God’s commandments and sin.     When we do, we put ourselves back ‘under the law of sin and death,’  and forfeit the same amazing grace of God that was given to Adam and Eve.

©2012 Tent Stake Ministries (from Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.)

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