Paul's Passing Thoughts

Romans 12:2 B; Perfection

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on September 17, 2013

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Tonight and next week we will be looking at Romans 12:2 as we continue in our verse by verse study of Romans. For those interested in catching up to where we are at, all of the messages are available online, and in the first volume of “The Gospel: Clarification in Confusing Times.” Let’s begin by reading Romans 12:2;

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Next week, we will focus the “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God.” Tonight, we will focus on the last part of this verse, “what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As we reveal God’s will to ourselves and the world, it is the “good and acceptable and perfect.” I want to focus on the word, “perfect.” Following is the definition and a comprehensive list of references regarding the word’s use in the New Testament. I list the references for your own person study as we will only be borrowing from a few of them tonight.

g5046. τέλειος teleios; from 5056; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); neuter ( as noun, with 3588) completeness: — of full age, man, perfect. AV (19)- perfect 17, man 1, of full age 1; brought to its end, finished wanting nothing necessary to completeness.

MATT 5:48 -You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

MATT 19:21 – Jesus said to him, ” If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

ROM 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 COR 2:6 – Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.

1COR 13:9 – For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

1 COR 14:20 – Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

EPH 4:13- until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

PHI 3:12 – Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

PHIL 3:15 – Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

COL 1:28 – Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

COL 4:12 – Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

HEB 5:12- For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

HEB 9:11 – But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

JS 1:4 – And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

JS 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

JS 1:25 – But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

JS 3:2 – For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.

1JN 4:18 -There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

I want to focus on Matthew 5:48, for many times in the Bible we are commanded to be holy as God is holy, and perfect as God is perfect. What’s up with that? And of course, the teaching that is in vogue today is the idea that Christ deliberately commands things that we are not able to do in order to humble us and continually drive us back to the cross for resalvation. Supposedly, as we revisit the gospel “afresh,” we experience the original joy of our salvation and keep ourselves saved by faith alone.

The word for “perfect” in the New Testament and its use is a very difficult study, but let me suggest a few observations.  By “perfect,” Christ probably didn’t mean perfect in the same way as we think of it. This can be seen in the definition itself and the references above. James, in one of the above references, using the same word, called the Bible the “perfect law of liberty.” The Bible isn’t perfect. There are several different versions, right? Yet, no truth is lost in these translations, and truth is always perfect and sanctifying (JN 17:17), but the versions themselves are not perfect in the way that we think of perfect. Perfection is found in the Scriptures, but not always exhibited in translation by men.

What I want to do in borrowing from one of the references above is look at the way our Lord uses the word “perfection” in context of Matthew 5:48:

Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Many coincide Christ’s commentary on the Pharisees with the idea of him demanding that we be perfect in the normal sense that we would think of it:

See, see, he is saying that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the Pharisees were really, really good at keeping the law.

Not so, the Pharisees were horrible at keeping the law. They were the ones who relaxed the law and taught others to do the same. I devote a whole chapter in one of my books  to explain how Christ indicted the Pharisees for being lawless on the inside and outside both. Their thinking was lawless, and their behavior was lawless. Christ then gives examples of how the Pharisees replaced the law of God with their traditions in Matthew 5:21-47.

Ok, so evidently, Christ commanding us to do things we can’t do to make a point isn’t the point. So what is? At least in regard to the point I want to make which by the way only scratches the surface of this topic, the key is Matthew 5:17,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Here we go again; this verse is also used to tout the aforementioned idea as well:

See, see, Christ came to fulfill the law because we can’t keep it. He fulfilled it in the life He lived on earth perfectly, and that is imputed to us in our Christian life as part of the atonement—if we live by faith alone.

Not so. Christ came to fulfill the law IN US, that’s what He is talking about. But in what way do we fulfill the law perfectly? Is that possible? Well, yes and no. Let’s begin by looking at the following text in your notes:

Romans 8:1-There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

That’s how Christ intends to fulfill the law, through us. But, the law takes on two different forms for two different people groups. We have learned in the book of Romans how the unregenerate are “under law” and the saved are “under grace.” The law has a different relationship to each group. In the text we just looked at, it is the “law of the Spirit of life” for those under grace and “the law of sin and death” for those who are under law.

Remember the two relationships? Those under law are enslaved to sin, free to do good, provoked to sin by the law, and will be judged by the law. Those under grace are enslaved to righteousness, free to sin, provoked to righteousness by the law, and will not be judged by the law.

The apostle Paul also taught us in the book of Romans that there is no law in justification, that we are justified apart from the law, but the law (the Bible) informs our sanctification (the Christian life).

Remember, this is only a basic principle that scratches the surface of much deeper issues, but we must now make another distinction between the relationship of the law to those under grace and those who are under law:

James 2:8 – If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2:10 is often used by teachers to once again posit the idea that Christians cannot keep the law to any benefit or merit before God. If you break the law at one point, you are guilty of breaking all of it. This is John Calvin’s very theses in JCICR 3.14.9-11. Only problem is, there are two relationships to the law here; those who are under the law and are guilty of breaking all of it, and will be judged by it, and those who are under grace, and will be judged by the “law of liberty.” Remember that one? James uses that term first in 1:25.  And here is the way these two relationships are different:

In the same way that the whole law is violated by one infraction by those who are under it, the whole law is fulfilled by those who exhibit one act of love towards their neighbor on God’s behalf:

Galatians 5:14 – For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Matthew 22:34 – But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12 – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Christians are under grace and judged by the law of love, the royal law of liberty, and also known as the “law of Christ.” The apostle Paul further elaborates on this law in Romans 13:8-10:

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

This is also known as the “law of Christ”:

Galatians 6:1 – Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Paul also distinguishes between these laws in 1Corithians 9:19-23,

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

If you have been with us throughout Romans, you know what Paul is talking about here. He makes it a point that he is NOT under the law for obvious reasons. He is speaking of those under the law (the Jews) and those outside of the law, but under the law of their consciences. Those who have never been under Bible teaching will be judged according to every time they violated their consciences. Those who sit in church and do not confess Christ will be judged by both. Paul makes it a point to say that he is NOT under either law, but under the law of Christ. One who endeavors to love God and others as prescribed by the perfect law of liberty is perfect because they fulfill the whole law in doing so. And even though they don’t exhibit the full love of God, they manifest it in part and are therefore perfect. Note:

Matthew 19:16 – And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The Ruler could not obtain perfection by keeping the law because as one under it, a perfect keeping is required. In contrast, following Christ, that single act of love, makes one perfect because the law is fulfilled in love. When we love, we demonstrate God’s love and His perfection, though not in totality.

In the end, you will either be judged by the law of Moses or the law of Christ. By believing that Christ died for all of your sins under the law, whether of Bible or conscience, and that He rose again to give you life in the Spirit that lives by the law of Christ, you will escape the coming judgment, what the Bible calls the “second death.”

What would keep you from doing this? It is something that you do not want to give up in your life. For the rich young ruler, it was the love of riches that he wasn’t willing to give up to love others. Christ put his finger right on the problem: “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor.” Being rich isn’t the problem, not being willing to love  with your money according to the law of Christ is the problem. No, the ruler wanted to get into heaven on the cheap, by his own terms, just like the masses who want to live life according to their own desires rather than the law of Christ.

Let’s close by looking at these two judgments. The first are those who will be judged by the law of Christ:

1Corinthians 3:10 – According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

The next judgment are those who will be judged by the law:

Revelation 20:11 – Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

That is the judgment we all want to escape by being perfected in love. I will close with the following:

1John 4:18 -There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

And remember, obedience to God’s word is love: “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

One Response

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on September 17, 2013 at 3:23 PM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.

    Like


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