by Steven Chan
18 September 2011
In the earlier articles, two reasons why we need to study the Bible diligently were given, namely, for our Salvation (1 Tim 4:16) and for our Transformation (Rom 12:1,2; 3 Cor 3:18; Col 3:10). A third reason for studying the Bible diligently is to facilitate Perfection or Maturity in Christ – or becoming Complete so that we can be Stable in doctrine, Spiritually Growing & Working for the Growth of the Church in Love ( Eph 4:11-16).
In Heb 5:12- 6:1, the Bible states as follows: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection…”
Thus the Bible tells us that we need to grow in our knowledge of God so that we can become “skilled in the Word of righteousness” and we will “have our senses exercised or trained to discern good and evil” and thereby “go on to perfection”. We cannot remain unskilled in the word of righteousness or not progressing beyond the elementary or foundational doctrines of our faith. We must build on that foundation and go on unto Perfection.
Some things we are to “perfect” or “make complete”:-
1. We need to perfect our holiness: 2 Cor 7:1: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Although it is not be possible to be sinless like Christ (1 John 3:5), we are nonetheless expected to press onwards towards being holy. 1 Peter 1:15-17: “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;”
2. We need to perfect God’s love in us, as love is the bond of perfection (Col 3:14; John 17:21; Matt 22:37-40). 1 John 4:12: “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” 1 John 2:5-6: “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Similarly, in our relationship with those who “spitefully use us and persecute us”, we are required to do good to them and to pray for them: Matt 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But 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, that 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
3. We are to perfect our faith with patience and appropriate works/actions. James 2:22: “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” James 1:2-4: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 1 Thess 3:9-10: “For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?”
4. We are to perfect our standing (and under-standing – being fully persuaded) as regards all the will of God: Col 4:12: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”
5. We are to perfect our works for God: Rev 3:2: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.” James 1:22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”.
So, the apostle Paul and his fellow workers laboured unceasingly so that “we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”(Col 1:28, 29)
The man who is perfect in Christ would be one who is Christ-like in behaviour, stable in doctrine, speaks the truth in love, growing up in all things into Christ the head and working closely with one another for the growth of the Body of Christ – as outlined in Eph 4:11-16:- “The Lord Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
In Phil 3:12-15, 20-21, the apostle Paul encouraged everyone of us to press on towards the goal of perfection which is found in Christ: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature/perfect, have this mind;…For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
Clearly, all Christians are required to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet 3:18) even “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”(1 Peter 2:2). There are yet many areas (as outlined above) that we need to perfect or make complete in our lives. It is evident that we cannot remain babes in Christ for we are to grow up and be mature in Christ (Heb 5:12-6:1).
As we press on unto perfection we need to recognize that it is God who is able to make us perfect or complete in doing His Will: Heb 13:20-211: “Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen (ASV). Heb 10:1: “For the law… can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.” But Jesus “who has been perfected forever” (Heb 7:28) is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).
God gave us the Holy Scriptures to equip us so that we can be perfect, throughly furnished unto every good works: 2 Tim 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”(KJV)
God also gives us His Grace to help us as we press on to perfection – that is: in all that we are to be and to do. 2 Cor 12:9-10: “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 1 Cor 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Heb 4:16: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 2 Cor 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” God supplies what we lack as we press on to perfection (Phil 3:12; Heb 6:1).
The danger of failing to press on to perfection is that one may fall away through unbelief or the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:12, 13). That is the warning immediately following the exhortation to go on to perfection in Heb 6:1: Heb 6:4-7: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” We need to grow or we may fall away.
So, as exhorted by the apostle Peter in 2 Pet 3:18, we need to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ by studying God’s word diligently so that we can grow unto maturity as the scriptures guide us in the way we should go in doing God’s will – and we also need to grow in God’s grace as God through His grace empowers us to overcome the challenges and obstacles that we face as we press on unto perfection (Heb6:1).
We need to ask ourselves: Am I growing spiritually? How has my spiritual growth been? Am I making every effort to perfect or make complete my personal holiness, love, faith, works and my standing and understanding of God’s will through reliance upon God’s grace?
Are we “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1) as “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”( 1 Cor 10:13)?
We need to study the Word of God diligently so that we can grow and become perfect or complete in all these areas (2 Tim 3:16,17) as manifested/practised in our lives as we exercise our senses to discern both good and evil (Heb 5:14). May we also continue to abound in His grace and mercy.