June 1, 1991 Issue
by Jack Cutter

This subject should prove to be interesting and significant. Actually, without an understanding of perfection, the Christian system cannot operate effectively. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection...," Heb 6:1. "Night and day praying exceedingly, that we may see your face, and may perfect that which is lacking in your faith," 1 Thess 3:10. These two passages are examples of the many scriptures which teach "perfection." The word itself means: "it denotes a fulfillment, completion, perfection, an end accomplished as the effect of a process," (W.E. Vines Dictionary). J.W. Shepherd defines it: "perfect means the attainment of its ends and entire completeness in all its parts," (The Gospel Advocate Commentary on Philippians). With these definitions in our minds, let us notice some specific usages of this word.


Interestingly, absolute perfection cannot be realized by a Christian in this life. In Philippines 3:11-12, the apostle Paul related, "if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect..." He further explains that before he could be perfect, he must be resurrected from the grave. In this sense, absolute perfection could not be realized until after death.

Another important way which absolute perfection is unattainable in this life is that a Christian will never reach a point when he or she will be sinless. Other than Jesus Christ, there isn't a person who has ever lived that can claim "I never sin." Sinlessness is unachievable while living in this "body of flesh," 1 John 1:8-10. However, a child of God must live without habitually sinning, 1 John 3:9. Therefore, because of the occasional lapses into sin by a disciple, the absolute state of perfection is unattainable in this life.


The only way perfection can be realized is in this way. The word "relatively" (adv.) as rendered by Webster's means: "in relation to or compared with something else, not absolutely."

It is used in this sense by the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:15, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect..." J.W. Shepherd in the Gospel Advocate Commentary on Philippians comments, "Here he speaks of those having passed from the law of Moses into the complete and perfect revelation of God through Christ who lacked the experience and development which others have obtained." Thus, a babe in Christ is relatively perfect. It is much the same as in the physical realm. A newborn healthy baby can be described as being a "perfect baby." In Philippians 3:16, the apostle Paul teaches, "only, where unto we have attained, by that same rule let us walk." Notice J.W. Shepherd's comments again, "In this passage there seems to be the same double reference which pervades all Paul's teachings. He is anxious for two things -- that they should keep on the same course, and they all should keep on together. In both senses he addresses the perfect; he will have them understand that they have attained only one thing -- to be in the right path, and that it is for them to continue in it." In other words, the more mature Christians are to be patient with the "imperfect" and help them grow and develop; rather, than be a disrupting force to them. (Study Rom. 14 and 1 Cor 3:1-4.)


Jesus taught His disciples the growth process. In Matthew 28:19-20, 'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations." And once this was accomplished, they were to teach "them to obey everything I have commanded you..." (NIV.) In Acts 2:41-47, the baptized (saved) were added to the church. Therefore, the instructions on growth and development begins in the church after a person is converted. In summary, while Jesus was upon this earth, he recruited, taught and trained twelve disciples. These twelve, (actually eleven) were left by Jesus to undertake the great work of establishing His church. (Acts 2).


The church is essentially a ministering body of believers. As much, it reaches out evangelistically, benevolently, instructionally, liturgically, etc. But its character and work is always driven by ministry, Matthew 20:20-28; John 12:46.


The church must develop its leaders as it perceives itself in terms of ministry. Its leaders must be active examples of what the Church is all about. They are able to inspire others only to the extent they have learned and developed leadership competency in a ministering church. They can gain this competency in living experiences in ministering.

The following scheme illustrates the process of growing ministering leaders.

INTRODUCTION - Every convert, having been attracted to Christ for salvation, should be introduced to the church as a ministering body. It would stifle his/her growth to see only a partial view of the church.

FOUNDATION INSTRUCTION - Every new member in the ministering church must be well founded on apostolic teaching. It is out of the seed-bed of doctrine that spirituality and fruitfulness grows. It is out of ignorance that error, division and barrenness spring.

PREPARATION - Every member must be aided in the discovery of personal gifts and helped to develop each gift in view of ministry.

INVOLVEMENT IN MINISTRY- Every member is gifted, should be trained and therefore, must use his/her gifts in ministering. There is no place in the ministering church for unfruitful servants.

APPOINTED TO MINISTRY - There must be an expanded leadership with an expanded ministry. From among the ministering body members must be chosen and identified by the congregation to help promote the ministry. They are chosen because they can give leadership by their accomplished ministry skills and ethical qualities. These specifically appointed members are diaconoi or ministers/deacons.

DIRECTIONS OF MINISTRY - From the body of appointed ministers, as a natural growth process, others are further chosen and appointed by the congregation to lead the ministering church. These have grown through every state of the ministering church and are prepared to lead the church in its life of ministry. They are called elders because of their experience; bishops for their close care of the church; pastors for their teaching efforts.

If any of the foregoing stages are ignored, distorted or comes deficient, the church will be hindered in becoming or maintaining its divinely assigned function.

In conclusion, the growth process for an individual begins at conversion. With the assistance of a mature disciple(s), the new convert is taught, trained and developed within the framework of a ministering congregation. At each level of the individual's growth pattern, it can be said that he/she is perfect. However, if the convert fails to cooperate or to grow properly, it places the individual in an "imperfect" condition. Or, on the other hand, the congregation for whatever reason fails to supply the leadership necessary to develop the new convert, it will have a dual affect. It will render the "babe in Christ" - useless. And, it will place the congregation in a suspect condition.

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