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Can a Local Church Be Perfect?

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No doubt you have heard the standard quip: “If you find the perfect church, don’t join it!” Well, friends, it is a bad quote, because every local church should be perfect!

It is supposed to be a clever quote, but it is a good example of very poor Biblical understanding. God’s word tells us that we must all seek perfection. Obviously, if God demands a state of perfection, it must be attainable! So – can a local church be perfect? Yes.

To be critical of perfection in this life is to disregard what God says and to misunderstand what ‘perfection’ means. In this brief paper we will look at what this perfection is. For those who are not convinced we can be perfect, what do you make of the following text from scripture?

Matthew 5:48

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.”

These are the words of Jesus – want to criticise Him, also? “Be ye”, esomai, is “I will be”; that is, ‘to be’. This is a verb meaning something exists, or ‘to be present’. The word “therefore”, the particle, oun, means ‘consequently’, so it has a direct link to what precedes it.

Whatever precedes it, the command is to be perfect because of it. ‘Perfect’, teleios, refers to something finished and complete, wanting for nothing. For human beings it means utmost integrity and virtue, to be spiritually mature. The root, telos, includes the idea of ‘eternal’… which links to the notion of being perfect like God the Father: He is the end to which all things relate.

The perfection spoken of in Matthew 5:48 does NOT mean men are absolutely sinless, or that they never make mistakes. This is a theory held by many heretical factions, including some charismatics.

The meaning must be, then, as the text proves, that God is complete and eternal, so everything He does is always in accord with His holy plan. So, those who are saved must copy that state and live within that plan. When we do that we are ‘perfect’. Though the word indicates something extant, it also conveys the idea of continuance in that state. The rest of scripture speaks of this continuance; thus, Paul says we must run the race and fight the fight until we reach the goal. For humans, then, perfection is running that race set by God until we reach the goal – Heaven.

There is more. Because this perfection is already in God’s plan, He considers those who are saved to be perfect already, because of the utter perfection of His Son, Jesus Christ! Therefore, whilst we must work towards that perfection, for reasons of entering Heaven, God already thinks of us as being perfect!

This is what Romans 12:2 tells us: Paul says that God’s will is perfect, acceptable and good. We must work towards that same quality, so that we can test it in our own lives… we must be like-minded and perfect, by renewing our minds and hearts, to be in-line with God. This transforms or changes us.

In Philippians 3:15, we see that “as many as be perfect” are of like mind. Importantly, those who are not yet convinced WILL be changed by the Biblical argument, because God will reveal it to them. Obviously, if some will not accept it, it proves they are not of God, or are sinning extremely. The words “be perfect” tell us that the condition (being perfect) is already a reality in the person’s life, and all who are perfect will continue to be perfect together, believing the same things and doing what is good and acceptable. The rest are to be ‘marked’ and shunned, as enemies of God.

Still think it is impossible to be perfect?

James 1:4

“But let patience have (her) perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Note: “that ye may be perfect”. It is attainable and commanded by God. It is obtained through patience, hypomonē: steadfastness, endurance in all trials. This equates to Paul’s running the race and to the testing of gold.

Local churches are made up of saved men and women… or should be. Every one of those members is considered to be perfect, and must thus work towards it. When each one does that, the local church is ‘perfect’ according to God’s own terms.

Do not, then, scoff at the idea of a church being perfect!

The same scoffers also think Man is defined only as ‘Adam’, human beings known for their fallen state. This is not so. Scripture defines his attributes with many words, such as Ish, Enosh, Gever, Metim, etc. Ru’ah (spirit) refers to man as having spiritual power and energy from without (God), whereas Neshamah refers to the physical side of man. Perfection is encapsulated in earliest Jewish teaching, so God is not using language unknown to those who first received the Gospel.

Those who have a low view of God will also have a low view of saved man. Hence the refusal to accept that a church, or a man, can be perfect. It is an excuse to keep on sinning and not to work at one’s spiritual health.

© June 2010

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom