© 1999 James A. Fowler

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I. Representative Biblical references to "perfection"

    A. Old Testament
         Deut. 32:4 - "His work is perfect, all His ways are just"
         Ps. 19:7 - "The Law of the Lord is perfect"
         Song of Sol. 5:2; 6:9 - "my perfect one"
    B. New Testament
         1. Greek words teleios, teleiosis, teleioo, epiteleo
a. Meaning: "to perfect, finish, complete; perfect, mature"
              b. Root word telos means "end"
                  Matt. 5:48 - "you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"
                  I Cor. 13:10 - "when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away"
                  Phil. 3:12 - "not that I have already become perfect, but I press on..."
                  Phil. 3:15 - "let us...as many as are perfect, have this attitude..."
                  Col. 1:28 - "that we may present every man mature in Christ"
                  Col. 4:12 - "stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God"
                  Heb. 5:9 - "having been made perfect, He became source of eternal salvation"
                  Heb. 7:19 - "the law made nothing perfect"
                  Heb. 7:28 - "a Son, made perfect forever"
                  Heb. 12:23 - "the spirits of righteous men made perfect"
                  I Jn. 4:18 - "perfect love casts out fear..."

II. Divine essence of perfection

    A. God is absolutely perfect
         1. Character - Matt. 5:48 - "heavenly Father is perfect"
              I Jn. 4:18 - "perfect love"
         2. Activity - Deut. 32:4 - "His work is perfect..."
    B. Jesus Christ as the God-man was and is perfect
         1. Perfect in Being - Heb. 7:28 - "a Son, made perfect forever"
         2. Perfect in behavior - II Cor. 5:21 - "knew no sin"
         3. Perfect in benefit
              Heb. 2:10 - "to perfect the author of salvation through sufferings"
              Heb. 5:9 - "having been made perfect, He became source of eternal salvation"

III. Humanity and perfection

    A. It's been said that "no one is perfect." Is that true?
    B. Christian message pertains to God's perfection in reference to mankind.
    C. Perfection and the Law of God
         1. Law is perfect - Ps. 19:7 - "the Law of the Lord is perfect"
         2. Law does not make man perfect
              Heb. 7:19 - "law made nothing perfect"
              Heb. 9:9 - "sacrifices cannot make worshiper perfect"
              Heb. 10:1 - "the law can never make perfect"
    D. Perfection of spiritual condition in Christ
         1. Made perfect only by presence of Perfect One, Jesus Christ.
         2. Made perfect spiritually
              I Cor. 2:6 - "those who are perfect
              Phil. 3:15 - "as many as are perfect"
              Heb. 10:14 - "He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified"
              Heb. 12:23 - "the spirits of righteous men made perfect"
    E. Perfection of Christian behavior
         1. Command of Jesus - Matt. 5:48 - "be perfect, as God is perfect"
         2. Realistic impossibility?
              James 3:2 - "we all stumble..."
              I Jn. 1:8 - "if we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves"
              Phil. 3:12 - "not that I have become perfect..."
         3. Not a static stage or level of perfection
              Eph. 4:13 - "until we attain...to a mature man"
              Heb. 5:14 - "solid food is for the mature"
              Heb. 6:1 - "let us press on to maturity"
         4. Behavioral perfection is a dynamic process
              II Cor. 7:1 - "perfecting holiness in the fear of God"
              Jn. 17:23 - "perfected in unity"
              I Jn. 2:5; 4:12,17,18 - "His love is perfected in us"
         5. Christian perfection is by the grace of God
              II Cor. 12:9 - "My grace is sufficient, for power is perfected in weakness"
              Gal. 3:3 - "having begun by Spirit..perfected by flesh? No.
              Phil. 1:6 - "He who began a good work in you will perfect it..."
              Heb. 12:2 - "Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith"
         6. Christian perfection is the perfect character of God expressed in Christian behavior, one               choice at a time, moment-by-moment.
         7. Christian perfection consummated in future.
              I Cor. 13:10 - "when the perfect comes, the partial done away"
              Phil. 1:6 - "He who began good work will perfect until day of Christ"

IV. Extremisms of "perfectionism"

    A. Psychological perfectionism
         1. Personality pattern
              a. Caught in cross-fire of "do it" and "do it right"
              b. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well"
              c. Fear of failure and embarrassment
              d. Views life in polarities of "all or nothing," "good or bad"
              e. Conditional experience of life - shoulds, oughts
              f. Nothing is ever good enough
              g. Results in anxiety, self-depreciation, discouragement, hostility, loneliness, external                   emphasis
         2. Selective perfectionism
    B. Theological perfectionism
         1. Improper view of God and His intents
              a. God has perfect standards - legalism
              b. God hates world and sinfulness - monasticism
              c. God wants man to have perfect knowledge - gnosticism
              d. God wants man to overcome natural tendencies - suppressionism
              e. God wants man to transcend physical - mysticism
         2. Improper understanding of Christian's spiritual and behavioral perfection.
              a. Two examples
                   (1) Holiness movement
                   (2) Triumphalism
              b. Theological problems
                   (1) failure to distinguish soul and spirit
                   (2) failure to understand "flesh"
                   (3) failure to understand "sin"



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