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CHAPTER 32

PERFECTION

There is no prejudice against the use of the word perfection in connection with human affairs generally. Who objects to a tailor who makes a perfect fit for his customers? If, in a piece of cloth purchased, an imperfection is found, it is promptly returned; if, in a tool a flaw is discovered, it is replaced by a better one. The doctor does not suffer in reputation by effecting perfect cures; nor does the lawyer in making for his client a perfect defense. Why should any who claim to be Christians be intolerant of the use of the word perfection in connection with Christian character? Why should they deem it almost blasphemy for one who was on the point of spiritual death, to affirm that Christ has affected for him a perfect cure?

Instead of the Scriptures forbidding us to be perfect, as might be inferred from the teachings of some ministers and churches, they expressly command it.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”—Matt. 5:48.

The phrase “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” does not denote the degree to which we are to be perfect, but the reason why we should be perfect. Be perfect servants of a perfect God.

I am the Almighty God: walk before me and be thou perfect.”—Gen. 17:1.

The Apostle Paul tells us that his object, in preaching Christ was, not to encourage men to believe that if they called themselves Christians they would of necessity be saved, not to build up a society, but to produce in each of these a perfect Christian character.

Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom: that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”—Col. 1:28.

For this same purpose the truths of the Bible were revealed to man.

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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—II Tim. 3:16, 17.

What shall we do with these plain passages of the Word of God? Of course they can be explained away to the satisfaction of worldlings and cavilers in the churches. So can any other texts that teach doctrines, or enjoin prohibitions or precepts repugnant to the sensual, worldly spirit of the age. This is done to a fearful extent. The cross is wreathed with flowers, and instead of being the symbol of the maligned, despised, persecuted religion of the man of Nazareth, it has become the symbol of baptized worldliness and a refined sensualism and fashionable sentimentality. The religion which takes the Bible for its basis, but claims the right to eliminate from its teachings whatever is distasteful to the “culture”of the day, is not the Christianity of the New Testament. It may adopt its forms, use its language and claim to be its representative, but it is all a delusion and a sham. There is not in it the one essential of true religion—submission to God. Stress is laid upon what it is fashionable to observe.

We have no right to reject the words of the Bible or the ideas which they represent and still claim to be Christians.

The word “perfect”is, then, a New Testament term with a well defined meaning. We must accept the word in its Scripture meaning, and neither reject it nor explain it away.

The command “be perfect,” does not express any well known, definite act like the command “repent;” nor any particular experience like being “born again.” It is taken in a wider sense; with a greater latitude of meaning. It applies to a child of God in various stages of his experience. A blade of corn may be said to be perfect in a dozen different stages of its growth. But if, before it was ripe, it stopped growing, it would not be perfect. So, at a certain period of his experience, a person may be said to be a perfect Christian, and yet his attainments in piety be small in comparison with what they are after years of toil and sorrow.

A young man leaves the district school for the academy. He has studied hard and begins to reap some of its fruits. The teacher, proud of his pupil, says: “He is perfect in his mathematics. He can solve every problem in the hardest arithmetic.” After three years in the academy with a lesson every day in mathematics, he is sent to college, recommended as “perfect in mathematics.” He is well versed in algebra, geometry and trigonometry. After studying mathematics in college four years, having completed his course, he graduates with the highest honors of the mathematical department. He then goes to some special school and spends perhaps three years more in studying mathematics as applied to astronomy or to civil engineering. Then again he is pronounced perfect in his well-mastered study. At the close of a life of unremitting study, we hear him say with the immortal Sir Isaac Newton, “I seem like a child standing upon the shore of the ocean gathering pebbles. I have picked up here and there a pearl, while the great ocean of truth lies unexplored before me.” So when one becomes a Christian his conversion may be perfect; when his heart is purified by faith he may be perfectly sanctified; and still after years of growth in grace we hear him saying with Job when he got a sight of God, “Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Yet God had twice pronounced him perfect.

Hence the Apostle says of himself,

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.”—Phil. 3:12.

Yet almost in the same breath he says, “Let us therefore as many as be perfect.” This implies that he counted himself among those that are perfect.

We never read in the Bible of any being made perfect by faith.11 We read of persons being “justified by faith.”—Rom. 9:30; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:24: “sanctified by faith.”—Acts 15:9; Acts 26:18; but never once a person being made perfect by faith. Quite another element enters into the making of the saints perfect. “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”—Heb. 2:10. The perfection which the Gospel enjoins upon the saints can only be attained by fidelity in doing and patience in suffering all the will of God. A symmetrical, well-balanced, unswerving Christian character is not obtained at once. When Paul, and Barnabas would “confirm the souls of the disciples,” they did it by

exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”—Acts 14:22.

We must not confound the perfection which the Gospel requires with perfect love or entire sanctification. The Scriptures do not use these terms as synonymous.

We are not to seek Christian perfection so much by praying for it as a blessing to be received in an instant by faith, as by “patient continuance in well-doing” We are to seek it as a well disposed boy seeks a vigorous manhood by shunning the vices and overcoming the temptations to which he is exposed, and by doing faithfully the duties to which he is called.

We must not conclude that we shall by any natural process grow out

of our imperfections and become perfect Christians, without any special effort in that direction. Grace, in every stage and in every degree, is from God. The prayer of Peter for the saints is, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”—I Pet. 5:10.

The Apostle gives a good example of the way to profess perfection:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”—Phil. 3:12-15.

The Bible teaches us that we are to render a perfect service to God. Nothing short of this will meet our obligations.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”—Matt. 5:48.

This is a plain command. But many err in supposing that this perfection is one of knowledge or of judgment. It is no such thing. In this sense God only is perfect. The perfection which God requires is a perfection of love.

In many things we are necessarily imperfect, and always shall be. But, by the grace of God, we may become perfect in love. Our capacity for this kind of perfection does not depend upon our talents or our circumstances. He who has but one dollar can give all the money he has, just as well as he who has a million. I can love God with all my heart; an angel can love God no more than with all his heart. The requirements of God are reasonable. They cover only what we are, or what we are capable, by His help, of becoming. Whatever our defects, we may have the

love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us.”—Rom. 5:5.

When this is the case—when we love God with all the heart, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves—then have we perfect love. Not that it is incapable of increase. As our capacities enlarge, our love will increase, but as we now are we can do no better; and it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not. If we have this perfect love to God, it will be manifested—not in words only, but in actions.

We shall keep His commandments. Our study will be to know His will, with an honest intention of doing it, with whatever losses or crosses it may be attended. We shall ask, What does God require?—not what is pleasing to self or popular with the world.

We shall manifest our love to God, by acts of kindness, just as far as we have the opportunity, to all of His creatures. We shall take the greatest delight in those who love Him most.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”—I John 4:20.

This is emphatic. It shows that our professions of love to God amount to absolutely nothing, unless we love our fellow-men especially those who are striving to keep His commandments. The charity that Paul speaks of in the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians, without which the strongest faith and the largest faith and the largest gifts, and even martyrdom for the truth, will profit us nothing, manifests itself in tender feelings and kind conduct towards our fellow-men.

Do not profess perfect love, if you are cross, unamiable, and unkind at home. If you have not natural affection, you certainly have not supernatural. If you do not do as well as the brutes, do not profess to be like the angels of God. If you are not kind to her whom you have sworn to cherish, or to those whose protector nature has constituted you, stop your professions at once. You have already sins enough to sink you to hell, without adding hypocrisy to them.

If you cannot treat your brother, whose opinion may not always coincide with yours, as civilly as men of the world treat each other, do not profess perfect love. It does not require any grace to love those who agree with our opinions, and who yield in willing deference to our authority. Common sinners do as well as that.

If you are injuring your brother’s influence by unkind words and injurious insinuations, do not profess perfect love. Remember that

Love worketh no ill to his neighbor.”—Rom. 13:10.

Therefore if you are doing him harm by talking against him when at the same time you say that you love him, you show that at the best, you are self-deceived. You are mistaken in your profession. You do not enjoy that state of grace that you think you do. A little candid reflection would convince you of this. There is always a care for the reputation of those that we tenderly love.

If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”—I John 4:12

[Transcriber Note: Without desiring to be hypercritical of this fine book or of its author, I make this observation: B. T. Roberts’ teaching on the subject of perfection, in this article, seems to be somewhat muddled, especially in this and several following paragraphs. He doubtless believed that “Perfect Love” was received by faith. However, in this article he does not clearly distinguish the perfection of love from the “perfection of maturity” received by perseverance and growth, or from the “perfection of the body” which shall be received by the saints at the resurrection of the just.—DVM]


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