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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Perfect

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/PERFECTION Reaching an ideal state of spiritual wholeness or completeness. It is not a quality which is achieved by human effort alone, nor is it an end in itself. Christian perfection consists essentially in exercising the divine gift of love (Colossians 3:14 NIV), for God, and for other people ( Matthew 22:37-39 ). The basis of perfection lies in God Himself, whose law (James 1:25 ), works (Deuteronomy 32:4 ), and way (Psalm 18:30 ) are perfect. God is free from incompleteness; He can, therefore, demand from believers, and enable them to receive, completeness (Matthew 5:48 ).

Through a covenant relationship with His people, and by grace, God thus offers to His people the possibility of perfection. In the Old Testament being “perfect” is ascribed to individuals, such as Noah ( Genesis 6:9 ) and Job (Genesis 1:1 ), in response to their wholehearted obedience. In other contexts, corporate perfection and being “upright” belong together (Psalm 37:37; Proverbs 2:21 ). In the New Testament, God's relationship with His people is itself fulfilled, as the old covenant is replaced, and through Christ believers can be perfected for ever (Hebrews 10:14 ). Christians are, however, to grow from spiritual infancy to maturity so as to share the full stature of Christ, in whose image they may become renewed and perfected (Colossians 3:10 ).

A tension exists here. Because on earth sin remains a possibility for all, believers (1 John 1:8 ), need to become perfect even while attaining a relative perfection (Micah 6:6-8; Philippians 3:16 ,Philippians 3:16,3:12-14 ). For that reason, perfection is not equated in the Bible with sinlessness (but see 1John 3:6,1 John 3:9 NIV). The New Testament also stops short of deification (becoming God) as an option for believers, even if it allows for their perfect relationship with God ( 2 Peter 1:4 ). The divine gift of perfection will be fully realized only in eternity (Philippians 3:10-14; 1 John 3:2 ). It is a goal to be sought (2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 6:1 ) which, like the complete vision of God, cannot be found this side of heaven (Ephesians 4:13; James 3:2 ).

How, then, may even this limited perfection be achieved? The New Testament locates the means of perfection in Christ. Through His suffering and exaltation, God made Jesus perfect (Hebrews 2:10 ) and fitted Him to win for the church and the individual believer a completeness which echoes His own (Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 5:9 ). So we and all the saints of God can be saved, and through the Spirit be given access to God and the daily help we need (Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 4:14-16 ). See Holy .

Stephen S. Smalley

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Perfect'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/p/perfect.html. 1991.

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