Is it possible to be perfect? And what does it mean to be perfect? We read in Hebrews 9 that the sacrifices in the old covenant could not make the conscience of the worshipper perfect. It only dealt with foods, drinks, and different kinds of washings and outward rules until God would bring a new way of doing things. (Hebrews 9:9-10.)
Is it possible to be perfect?
Here we see what the old sacrifices couldn’t do: they couldn’t make people perfect according to their conscience; they could only remind people of their sins. (Hebrews 10:3.) But Christ came with a new way of doing things, He came to put everything in order. He made it possible that we can become perfect according to our conscience. Our conscience is our understanding of what is right and wrong.
So to be perfect means that we have put everything in our life in order as far as we know. Then we are not reminded of our sins all the time, because everything we know is not right we have put into order.
The difference between being perfect according to our conscience, and perfect like our Master
Jesus calls us disciples, or students. He says that if anyone would be His disciple, he must say No to himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Him. (Luke 9:23.) A perfect student is someone who gives up all his own opinions and plans and is obedient to his teacher. A perfect disciple must say, as Jesus did when He came into the world, “Look, I have come to do your will, O God.” Hebrews 10:7 (NLT). He is only here to do God’s will! Then he is a perfect disciple, although he is not yet perfect like the Master.
When Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on…" (Philippians 3:12, NASB), he means that he is not yet perfect like his Master, but that he is doing everything he can to reach it.
Then in Philippians 3:15 (NASB) he goes on to say, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude…” Here he means that they are perfect as students. They had left behind everything. There was nothing left to stop them from learning all that the Master had to teach them. Their only goal was to do the will of Jesus, their Master. They had put everything in order that they knew was wrong and could say, “But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.” Philippians 3:16 (CEV).
Paul could not have said this to someone who was not perfect as a student, to someone who had not left behind everything, to someone who was still under the power of lying or backbiting, for example. It would be terrible if such a person were to “keep going in that direction”. But to someone who had put everything in order according to his conscience, he could say, “Continue in the same direction when the Master shows you more things you have to learn your life.”
Be perfect—and press on to perfection!
When we speak about us being perfect, we mean perfect according to our conscience as disciples, as students—and this is possible! From that point we are to press on to become perfect like our Master. Jesus says, “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher…” Matthew 10:25. But, until we are perfect like our Master, we must be poor in spirit, and hunger and thirst after righteousness as is written in Matthew 5:3,6.
Jesus’ last words were that we should make disciples of all nations. To get people to pray to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins is easy compared to making disciples of them – that is hard work. To get them to give up everything and teach them to do all that God has commanded them, is an enormous job.
When it comes to us becoming perfect like Jesus is perfect, then most people do not really believe that Christ can give grace for us to do that, despite Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18 (NCV): “All power in heaven and on earth is given to me.”
But praise God! As it says in John 1:14,16 (CEB), “We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father's only son, full of grace and truth … From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”