“Being perfect. The Bible even says so. We all fall short of the glory of God. No one is righteous before God, not even one.”
“That’s funny. Jesus said ‘Be perfect, even as my Father in heaven is perfect”.....
What perplexity for a serious follower of Jesus Christ. “Be perfect even though you can’t be” is more than a paradox. It is sheer frustration. Why aim at a bull’s eye that cannot be hit? Yet not aiming, and not hitting it, is disobedience. How can these contradictions be resolved?
The analogy that explains it most adequately, is that of joining the army. The status of a soldier, and the process of learning to do what soldiers do, is much like perfection, at least as God views it.
The person who signs up and takes his oath, is a full-fledged soldier from the moment of his acceptance. The private is no less a soldier than the 4-star general. But the new recruit’s problem is that he doesn’t know how to behave like a soldier. So boot-camp begins, and he learns the skills of soldiering.
No one enters the army by putting on a uniform and marching around carrying a gun until someone proclaims him a soldier. Soldiers begin by becoming soldiers, and advance by learning how to act like what they already are. Being told, “You are a soldier” seems to motivate their efforts.
People who have been called by God into the spiritual army of believers are very similar. When they believe in Christ and receive Him, they are instantly perfected in Him. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. All things have become new.” (II Cor. 5:17)
Given the fullness of Jesus Christ, a “spiritual private” has all that is needed to be what God requires. A new Christian is no less perfect, in God’s sight, than one who has walked with the Lord for many years.
Like a solder, the person made perfect in Christ also has to learn how to act like what he is. He has to learn to behave in harmony with what God has put within, turning from old habits, and living as Christ.
Ephesians 2:8,9 say, “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and that is a gift from God. It is not of works, lest anyone should boast.” God accepts His “recruits” by grace through faith. No one comes into His army by putting on an outer uniform of piety and by doing good works. They begin by becoming Christians and advance by learning how to act like what they already are.
Ephesians 2:10 goes on to say that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works...” which, without Him, are impossible. We can only do the perfect works AFTER receiving His perfect nature.
So the answer to the paradox is that both sides of it are true, yet each must be given proper application.
God’s Word constantly reminds believers that “You are complete in Christ... You are holy... You are perfected in Him...” and these reminders motivate us to act like what we already are. But the Bible also reminds us from where our perfection comes. It is in Him, the One who lives in us, the perfect Son of God.