(by Robert L. Waggoner
Proposition: You can be perfect, just like Jesus commanded.
Text: “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, love your enemies, bless
those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those
who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45that you may be sons of
your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on
the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you
love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax
collectors do the same? 47And if you greet your brethren only, what do
you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
48Therefore you shall be perfect, (telios) just as your Father in
heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
1. Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your
Father in heaven is perfect” (telios) Matthew 5:48.
2. A typical reaction: `Now isn’t that silly? No one is perfect!’
3. But would Jesus command his disciples to do what is impossible?
4. Our intent here is to discover what the Bible means when it
uses the word `perfect’
I. Perfection in the sense of faultlessness is unattainable.
A. Paul said, “Not that I have already attained, or am already
perfected (telioo); but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for
which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” Philippians 3:12.
B. John said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us”
1 John 1:8.
C. James said, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does
not stumble in word, he is a perfect (telios) man, able also to bridle
the whole body” James 3:2.
II. Yet Perfection is Commanded.
A. Of Abram by God, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the
LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk
before Me and be blameless”
B. Of Israel by Moses, “You shall be blameless before the LORD
C. Of Israel by Solomon, “Let your heart therefore be loyal to the
LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as at
this day” 1 Kings 8:61.
D. Of Solomon by David, “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God
of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing
mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent
of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you
forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” 1 Chronicles 28:9.
E. Of Disciples by Jesus, “Therefore you shall be perfect
(telios), just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (telios) Matthew 5:48.
F. Of Corinthians by Paul, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become
complete (“be perfect” KJV – 2675). Be of good comfort, be of one
mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” 2
G. Of Hebrew Christians, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the
elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection
(teliotees) , not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead
works and of faith toward God” Hebrews 6:1.
III. Furthermore, Inspired persons have prayed for perfection
A. David for Solomon, “And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to
keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do
all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made
provision” 1 Chronicles 29:19.
B. Epaphras for Colossians, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a
bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you
in prayers, that you may stand perfect (telios) and complete in all
the will of God” Colossians 4:12.
C. Paul (?) for Hebrews, “Now may the God of peace . . . make you
complete (2675) in every good work to do His will, working in you what
is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory
forever and ever” Hebrews 13:20-21.
D. Peter for Christians, “But may the God of all grace, who called
us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a
while, perfect (2675), establish, strengthen, and settle you” 1 Peter
IV. In Addition, Certain persons in the Bible are described as Perfect
A. Noah, “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations” Genesis
B. Jacob, “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, Nor has He seen
wickedness in Israel” Numbers 23:21.
C. David, “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives
turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the
LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David” 1 Kings 11:4.
D. Hezekiah, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked
before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good
in Your sight” Isaiah 38:3.
E. Asa, “Nevertheless Asa’s heart was loyal to the LORD all his
days” 1 Kings 15:14.
F. Job, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job;
and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and
shunned evil” Job 1:1.
G. Zacharias & Elizabeth, “There was in the days of Herod, the
king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of
Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was
Elizabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all
the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (273)” Luke 1:5-6.
H. Nathanael, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of
him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” John 1:47.
I. Elders, “A bishop then must be blameless (423)” 1 Timothy 3:2.
V. Therefore, Perfection does not mean sinlessness or faultless.
What, then, does it mean?
A. That O. T. persons were “perfect in their generations does not
mean that in accordance with their standards they had achieved the
best possible life and that we have a higher, better standard today
after which we are to strive.
B. “Two O. T. roots signify ethical or religious perfection. . . .
Both imply completeness, wholeness, . . . Perfection in the O. T. is
maintaining right relationship to God, the standard and judge of
perfection, whose ways are perfect.” Baker’s Theological Dictionary.
C. Thus, in commenting on Matthew 5:48, Albert Barnes writes,
“This word commonly means finished, complete, pure, holy. Originally
it is applied to a piece of mechanism, as a machine that is complete
in all its parts. Applied to men, it refers to completeness of parts,
or perfection, where no part is defective or wanting. Thus Job (1:1)
is said to be `perfect;’ that is, not holy as God, or sinless – for
fault is afterward found with him; (Job 19:20; 42:6); but his piety
was proportionate – had a completeness of parts – was consistent and
regular. He exhibited his religion as a prince, a father, an
individual, a benefactor of the poor. He was not merely a pious man in
one place, but uniformly. He was consistent everywhere. . . . This is
the meaning in Matthew. Be not religious merely in loving your friends
and neighbors, but let your piety be shown in loving your enemies;
imitate God; let your piety be complete, proportionate, regular. This
every Christian may be; this every Christian must be.” – Albert Barnes.
VI. Examples of Perfection in the sense of completeness or wholeness
A. 2 Timothy 3:17, “that the man of God may be complete (739),
thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (i.e., he is perfect in the
sense that he is completely (1822) equipped with necessary spiritual
B. James 1:4, “But let patience have its perfect (telios) work,
that you may be perfect (telios) and complete, lacking nothing.” (A
believer, in patience, lacks nothing that contributes to his
C. 2 Corinthians 13:9, 11, “For we are glad when we are weak and
you are strong. And this also we pray, that you may be made complete.
(2676) . . . 11Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. (2675) .
. .” (Putting into a proper condition by equipment or training.
Sometimes improvement is involved as in the above references, where
the passive mood means `mend your ways.’)
D. Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all
things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to
make the captain of their salvation perfect (telioo) through
sufferings.” (Perfect in the sense that the desired purpose is
achieved. Thus Jesus, already sinless, is made perfect!)
VII. Characteristics of Perfection:
A. Compassion on the poor, “Jesus said to him, “If you want to be
perfect (telios), go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you
will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” Matthew 19:21.
B. Patience: “But let patience have its perfect (telios) work,
that you may be perfect (telios) and complete, lacking nothing” James 1:4.
C. Love toward enemies, “”You have heard that it was said, `You
shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you,
love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who
hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun
rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on
the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward have
you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet
your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the
tax collectors do so? 48Therefore you shall be perfect (telios), just
as your Father in heaven is perfect (telios)
VIII. Comparative usage of the word “Perfect” applied to those
who are in Christ.
A. 1 Corinthians 2:6, “However, we speak wisdom among those who
are mature (teleios), yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the
rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.”
B. Philippians 3:14-15, “I press toward the goal for the prize of
the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Therefore let us, as many as
are mature (teleios), have this mind; and if in anything you think
otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”
C. In an evangelical sense,
1. Colossians 2:10, “and you are complete (4137) in Him, who is the
head of all principality and power.”
2. Ephesians 5:27, “that He might present her to Himself a glorious
church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she
should be holy and without blemish (299).”
3. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin
for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
1. Christians are not therefore perfect in the sense of
faultless, but are rather perfect in the sense of wholeness,
completeness, . . . loving both friends and enemies.
2. One can be made perfect only in Jesus Christ. If you would be
perfect, you must be in him. Come, therefore to Jesus, the “author and
finisher” of faith!
Linguistic Notes on Vocabulary:
8549 tamiym, taw-meem, from 8552; entire (lit. fig. or mor.); also (as
noun) integrity, truth: – without blemish, complete, full, perfect,
sincerely (-ity), sound, without spot, undefiled, upright (-ly), whole.
8552 tamam, taw-mam, a prim. Root; to complete, in a good or a bad
sense. Lit. or fig. trans. or intrans. (as follows): – accomplish,
cease, be clean [pass-] ed., comsume, have done, (come to an, have an,
make an) end, fail, come to the full, be all gone, X be all here, be
(make) perfect, be spent, sum, be (shew self) upright, be wasted, whole.
2675 katartizo, kat-ar-tid’zo, from 2596 and a der. of 739; to
complete thoroughly, i.e., repair (lit. or fig.) or adjust: – fit,
frame, mend, (make) perfect (-ly join together), prepare, restore.
5046 teleios, telios; from 5056; complete (in various applications of
labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neut. (as noun, with
3588, the article) completeness (men. Or mor.): perfection (-ness).
5048 teleioo, telioo; from 5046; to complete, i.e. (lit.) accomplish,
or (fig.) comsummate (in character): – consecrate, finish, fulfil,
5056 telos, telos; from a prim. (to set out for a definite point or
goal); prop. The point aimed at as a limit, i.e. (by impl.) the
conclusion or an act or state (termination [lit., fig. or indef.],
result [immed., ultimate or prophetic], purpose); spec. an impost or
levy (as paid): -+ continual, custom, end (-ing), finally, uttermost.
Copyright © by author, Robert L. Waggoner, 2002. Permission is
granted to duplicate and distribute this sermon outline, if unchanged,
for non-commercial educational purposes. All other rights reserved.