Even Now…Perfect In Christ
By Curt Wildy
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.
Perfection In Christ
We must remember that Christ is Truth and that all truth must have Him as its focal point. The Holy Spirit is also Truth, but it is the Spirit that testifies of Christ in this world. We can speak much on election, predestination, justification, propitiation, sanctification, but if we do not see Christ as the be-all and end-all of these things — we utterly miss the point. I truly believe that the Lord Jesus Christ should be at the very forefront of every scriptural teaching. He should be so prominently displayed that His majesty and beauty shine through in abundance. If Christ does not shine through in our message, then how dim a message it is. If He isn’t put forth as the Author and Perfector of all that is good in us, and all that is good flowing from us, then we are not putting forth a Christ-centered, Christ-glorifying message. Likewise, when expounding upon godly attributes and Christian virtues it should be made clear that our Lord Jesus is the chief source, author, and manifestation of them. More importantly, all of these things should be placed within the context of His finished work. We should not even be talking about growth in grace, bearing fruit, or bearing our cross without first putting these things in light of the atonement. When the focus is on Christ and His finished work, we give Him the glory; we put the emphasis on Him, declaring Him to be our all and all. It is within this mindset that we must consider our state in Christ. Men tend to dispute many matters of theology; however, the one thing that surely should never be debated is our completeness and perfection in Christ.
Faithfully proclaiming our perfection by and in Christ gives glory and honour to God and we should never seek to cover Him or have His glory held down. After the inner man, we are absolutely perfect, right here and right now. We are as righteous as He is, as pure as He is, as holy as He is, and as Perfect as He is. I do not say this to boast; I say this to glorify our Lord. I want everyone reading to know that Christ is our righteousness; He is our faith, He is our sanctification, He is our perfection, and He is the doer of everything necessary for our perfection. Hebrews 10:14 uses the perfect tense to describe the perfection that our Saviour wrought for us. As per the NTGreek.org website (and most every other scholarly source on the matter) “The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect.” I think this goes to the heart of what “forever” means. That word perfected is teleioo [G5048; τελειόω; tel-ei-oh’-o] and it means to complete; to accomplish; to make perfect. It does not mean that our Lord started the act of perfecting us and He will continue on doing so until He gets us just right. No, it states that we have already been perfected in Christ.
Completion In Christ
Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness [pleroma-G4138] of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete [pleroo-G4137] in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead
The word fulness, pleroma [G4138; πληρωμα; play’-ro-mah] literally means that which is filled, that which fills, or that with which a thing is filled. It originates from the word complete, pleroo [G4137; πληροω; play-ro’-o;] which literally means to make full; to fill to the full; to cause to abound; to furnish or supply liberally; to render full; to complete; to consummate. We see that in the like manner that the Godhead is the fulness and completion of Christ, so are we completed and filled in our Lord — these two words (fulness and complete) being directly related to one another in both origin and use. Concerning complete, it is a perfect tense, passive voice participle; this means that we are the passive recipients of the ongoing benefits of that one completed act of being filled, completed, made whole, and furnished liberally in Christ.
In light of the above, we see that right now, every quickened child of God is experiencing the results of our accomplished completion in our Lord. We experience this as we live out our Christian lives and grow in grace through the fiery trials, persecutions, chastisements, and other hardships that He sees us through. Consider also:
1 John 4:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
It is our oneness with Him that keeps us as He is in this world. Is Christ perfectly righteous? Then so are we in Him because He is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16). Is Christ perfectly justified and sanctified? Then so are we because it is Christ Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Note that the verse declares that the Lord is made unto us… this is the aorist indicative form which is treated as a past tense verb. Christ has already been made unto us these blessed things; and if He has already been made unto us these things, was He not made such things unto us — perfectly, wholly, and completely?
As He is, so are we in this present world. Can you even begin to grasp the weight and power of this declaration. Can you even begin to see the glory due Christ for His having so utterly saved us and perfected us and yoked us to Him? Shouldn’t this be our chief message?
The Perfect Gift Of Christ
We read in James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. The word every and the words for gift are all singular nouns. The first gift, the good gift is dosis [G1394; δόσις; dos’-is] and it means a giving or gift. However, the second gift, the perfect gift is dorema [G1434; δωρημα; do’-ray-mah] which means a (gratuitous) bestowment, gift, bounty, benefaction. There are variations, roots, and sibling words that tie-in; however, please consider:
Romans 5:15 But not as the offence, so also [is] the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, [which is] by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as [it was] by one that sinned, [so is] the gift [dorema – G1434]: for the judgment [was] by one to condemnation, but the free gift [is] of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 4:4 [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift [dorea; G1431; δωρεά; do-reh-ah’; gratuity] of Christ.
In a very real sense, the good Gift and the perfect Gift can be summed up as Christ, Himself, in you (the Hope of glory) — along with all that He provides in us and for us out of the abundance of His being. We read in:
John 4:10 “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God [dorea-G1431], and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.“
The Lord Jesus is the Gift from whom all other spiritual gifts flow. It is true that the Bible teaches that God the Holy Ghost is also a gift from the Godhead; however, the Spirit of God testifies of Christ in this age, redirecting our focus onto Him. Thus, the Father is the giver of our Perfect Gifts (having sent His willing Son into the world for the salvation of elect sinners and having sent the Holy Spirit into the world to testify of Christ). The Spirit of God is also the Divine conduit by which the fulness of Christ is made manifest in our lives. The Lord Jesus is the blessed Vine from whom we derive our eternal life. We are the branches of this divine Vine; all who abide in Him, and He in them, bring forth much fruit – even the fruit of the Spirit. Without Christ and without this vital union with Him, we can do nothing. The severed spiritual branch cannot survive apart from the vine. We derive all of our substance and all of our nourishment from Him. We bear fruit because of this Oneness; the Spirit of God revealing it to us and making us grow therein. It is the Vine that ultimately bears the fruit even though the manifestation of that fruit is seen in the branches. This is why, when we see a fig tree, or an apple tree, or any other fruit-bearing tree bringing forth fruit, we say “the tree is bearing fruit;” we don’t usually say “the branches are bearing fruit.”
Experimental Perfecting (The Maturing Of The Saints)
It has been alleged that declaring our perfection in Christ is a mistake because it can “confuse Christians” and lead them to think that they can live ungodly; I cannot even fathom such a bewildering argument. Nonetheless, to any of these mythological Christians, those who think that perfection in Christ allows for living like the wicked in this world, I say this: though we are perfect after the inner man, we must grow experimentally; we must grow in the realisation and manifestation of our perfection in Christ. We must have a hungering and thirsting after righteousness and a desire to live in a way that shews all good fidelity so that we may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things (Titus 2:10). Though Christians will have their stumbles and falls, and though we will do things that make us so very ashamed, we will nonetheless have a desire to live righteously; God will give us the strength to walk uprightly to the degree that He has foreordained that we should walk. Though we are yoked with this body of death, and our outward walk is anything but perfect, God will cause us to mature. That same root verb for perfected [teleioo-G5048] also has as a meaning to mature. Consider,
Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect [teleioo-G5048 — TVM: Second Aorist, Active, Indicative]:but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect [teleios; G5046; τελειος; tel’-i-os; finished, complete, perfect, wanting nothing, full grown, adult, of full age, mature], be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
The Apostle Paul here is not denying his finished, completed perfection in and by Christ; he is not denying his perfection after the inner man (the same perfection that allowed the thief on the cross to enter into heaven within hours of his being born from above). Paul is speaking of his experimental perfecting, that is, of his maturing in this life as an already perfected Christian. He is saying that even he, the great apostle that God had made him to be, was in need of further refinement in his daily walk. Paul knew that when it came to manifesting the perfection that Christ had already wrought for, and in him, he had much room for growth. Now if the Apostle Paul had such room for growth, consider how much more room we have.
Yet, our need for growth does not alter objective reality. We are as truly the sinless, perfected, spiritual sons of God (even in this life, despite our accompanying sinful flesh and ways) as newborn babes are truly the natural, imperfect, carnal sons of Adam (despite their lack of manifest sin). Even though the newborn child must grow in their human experience unto maturity (unto adulthood), their lack of maturity does not make them any less human than their adult counterparts. Likewise, even though we as children of God must grow in grace in our Christian experience (i.e. we must be conformed more and more to the image of Christ in this life), our lack of manifest maturity does not mean that we are not already the perfect sons of God. As we experimentally mature, as we are refined in our Christian growth by God’s pruning hand, our love grows in intensity and stability; our hearts, words, and actions begin to evidence this growth all the more. Sure our progress waxes and wanes; we go through fervent times, lukewarm times, and cold times — nonetheless, be it even as a spiral progression, we do grow upward in due time; and yet, even though we so grow, we will never see manifest perfection in this life or anything close to it. We all fall short of the glory of God in our daily experience. But this in no way negates the finished work of Christ nor should it give us cause to obscure it.
Therefore, though I fully recognise that we must march on towards spiritual maturity, I fully maintain that after the inner man, we are right now as perfect in Christ as we ever can be or will be. There is no growth in perfection, only growth in the evidencing of it as we mature. This sinful flesh must be done away with; it will never be perfected. We must receive a new spiritual body to be conformed to the image of Christ in that sense. However, our absolute perfection in Christ (in the here and now) can never be refuted — but, O how disheartening it is when we see people try.
Nonetheless, in all things…
To Christ be the glory.