Since the fall in the Garden man has sought wholeness. He has looked for it in wine, women and song. King Solomon wrote about the endless search for meaning in Ecclesiastes. He said, “It is futile, a chasing after the wind.” Solomon was a very wise man, but it seems he spent a lot of time trying to find contentment in everything except the one that could give it.
In the Apostle Paul’s letters he too talks about the goal of wholeness or being made complete. The Old King James version calls it perfect. Being made perfect in Christ is the goal. In fact it seems this could have been accomplished in the beginning if Adam would have just reached over and picked the fruit from the Tree of Life rather than the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Apparently there was something missing in him that would have given him the ability to say no to the devil’s deceptive offer, but I’ll leave that for another time.
What I want to share with you is how Paul talked of this being made perfect, whole or complete in Christ in most of his letters. In Ephesians he tells us, “God gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect (mature) man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” He goes on to say this is so the church might grow up and stop being children, so we aren’t tricked by deceitful men.
To the Galatian church Paul said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.” He felt like a woman in labor wanting so badly for Christ to be fully formed, or grown up, in them. This is his way of telling the Galatians to grow up in their understanding.
Paul wrote the Colossians and revealed a mystery to them. He said it was “a mystery that had been hidden for ages and generations but is now revealed among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” If that isn’t enough he went on to tell them “We proclaim him…so that we may present every man perfect (complete) in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to his power, which mightily works within me.” Once again we see Paul groaning to see that everyone he came in contact with grew up in their understanding and faith in Christ.
The classic love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 tells us the same thing. He tells them they can be the most gifted church in the world, but if they don’t have love it’s worthless. He compares the Corinthians fussing over spiritual gifts to children that need to grow up. He tells them, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child. Reason like a child; when I became a man (mature, whole, perfect, complete), I did away with childish things.” Only the mature or whole person truly sees that love is the key without it we are doomed to a life of childishness. We will be filled with all sorts of division, strife, pettiness, jealousy, envy, anger, frustration and torment. If we simply allow the spirit of God in us to have his way we will grow up.
Paul’s driving passion in life was to see others come to full knowledge of their place in God’s plan. In the Philippian letter he tells us he hasn’t already become perfect and then turns around and calls himself one of the perfect ones. It has come to my attention recently how we can reconcile these seeming contradictions. In Philippians 3:12 He is apparently talking about not having obtained perfection as far as the body of Christ as a whole is concerned. In Philippians 3:15 I believe he is talking about himself, as an individual, being whole, complete (perfect). I think once someone receives Christ they are made complete. I don’t think there is anything anyone can or needs to add to that, it is truly Christ plus nothing=complete. However there is this matter of the body of Christ as a whole.
In the 11th chapter of Hebrews we find a list of Old Testament saints who lived by faith. This is sometimes called the Hall of Faith, but what I would like for you to notice is toward the end of the chapter. The last people mentioned in this list didn’t have such a great time. Some of these were sawn in two, lived in caves and were mistreated badly. Then in v. 39&40 we read, “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” God’s plan is for all of us believers, which walk by faith, to be made into one body with Christ himself as the head. There is a sense that we, that see our wholeness (perfection), are urging along all the others that haven’t quite gotten hold yet. This is how I have come to see how Paul could say he is still pressing toward the goal and yet in the very next verse claim he was complete (perfect.)
I know when someone starts to talk about being perfect it causes all sorts of strange emotions to rise up in you. What I would like for you to do is search out this matter for yourself and see if the Holy Spirit will illuminate you. Paul even says right there in those next couple verses of Philippians 3:15&16 “if you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.” In other words, whatever you do don’t let this be a cause of stumbling for you. If Jesus is perfect and he dwells in us, by way of the Holy Spirit, why couldn’t it be true that we are complete, whole, blameless, beyond reproach or dare we say even perfect in him?
Written by Louie