“Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Not long ago I read a Letter to the Editor written by a local pastor. In the letter the woman commented several times that she was ‘not perfect’ as a rationalization for the list of things that were less than virtuous and honorable in her life. I would have laughed, if it weren’t so sad.
“Perfect” in the Greek is teleios and means ‘mature and adult.’ When this pastor wrote, “I’m not perfect,” what she really was saying in a Biblical sense was, “Please excuse the sins in my life. I’m not behaving maturely and acting like an adult.” Though we are to forgive the sins of one another, this is a sad commentary on the power of God in the life of a pastor!
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 experiencing 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. We must learn from our shortcomings and mistakes. We must be transformed into maturity, making wise decisions for our actions, not making foolish excuses regarding our ‘imperfection.’
“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 a transformation of mind to a 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).
Maturity puts away childish behavior and acts like an adult.
“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, and using discernment when it comes to evil. With another reference to evil, it must be an important concept to understand when growing from a babe drinking milk and basic elementary teachings into maturity (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.
“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 they lack the discernment that maturity provides so they embrace this 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 God’s standards of living rightly before Him.
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 a right heart and therefore walked 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 because he had obeyed God and received His mercy.
“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 as evidence of his faith. He is also called tamim – mature and blameless.
Did Abraham sin? Of course he did. Twice he lied about Sarah not being his wife nearly killing the kings of Egypt. However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord because he believed God and witnessed His provision.
“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’ because when he sinned, he repented and retained the Spirit of God (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 and they raised the last prophet who proclaimed the coming Messiah.
The Body of Messiah
“You must be blameless (perfect) before the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 18:13).
Yeshua quoted this command from the Torah because he understood the Kingdom of his Father and how its citizens must behave. If he didn’t believe it was possible to be ‘perfect’, he would never had commanded his followers to be so. The Amplified Version of the Bible adds moreunderstanding to Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:48:
“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.”
Accordingly, we must be perfect, growing in complete maturity of godliness in mind and character before God just like Noah, Abraham, King David, and Zechariah and Elizabeth. As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we have been given His Spirit that empowers us to have victory over ‘the law of sin and death’ and live blameless in a world as corrupt as ‘the days of Noah.’ We must keep ourselves spotless from the world’s corruption and idolatrous practices so that mature and can discern good from evil and reach the proper height of virtue and integrity. In order to do what Yeshua commanded, we must live according to the Spirit of life that is found in the teachings and instructions of God. To claim ‘imperfection’ is no excuse for sinful behavior any more than being ‘under grace’ should give us the freedom to disobey God’s commandments and break the law.
“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Messiah” (Colossians 1:28).
©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article, please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.