Getting to Know God Meditations: 34. God who is Perfect
Mt 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
A Challenging Concept: The thing about reading the Bible is that every now and then you come across statements that you can either skim over and pretend aren’t there, or you pause up and give them due consideration, and think deeply about that they might mean. That is true, I believe, of this instruction from Jesus. The instruction itself is bad enough – “Be perfect” but the claim it goes on to make is equally challenging: “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God is perfect? What does that mean?
Definition: I am simply going to use the incredibly basic definition of “complete and faultless, cannot be improved upon”. Stop and think about that definition, what it implies. If God is perfect, and the Bible asserts that He is, then if that is right there is nothing about Him that can be improved upon. If God is perfect then NOTHING He thinks, says or does can be improved upon!
Aside: Assessment: In whatever ways or by whatever measuring sticks we might use to go about assessing Him, we must say that to match this definition, there is no way that we could improve on the things we assess, whether it be His Being, His Character, His words or His deeds. Let’s emphasize this by reference to His expressions. But when we go to do that can we distinguish between
- The statements of witnesses in the Bible about God’s perfection, i.e. what they said and believed, and we have recorded in the text,
- The apparent historical incidents that appear to involve God, e.g. judgments, what actually happened, as recorded in those texts,
- Our understanding of those incidents, the reasons we assume that are behind them.
I make these comments because very often we are prone to misunderstandings because we do not assess correctly how we reached our end conclusion.
Definition (2): The Greek (original) word for ‘perfect’ means whole or complete, lacking nothing. That is God! Complete! This is vital to the teaching for it makes Him unique, as no other can make that claim (we will examine this more fully in a moment). According to the verse above, that is also His objective in working within us, to enable us to come to full-grown stature, living for the purpose for which we were designed, completely fulfilled – an expression of His loving design for us.
‘Incomplete’? Perhaps to understand ‘complete’ in respect of God as being complete, it would help to consider first ourselves as ‘incomplete’ beings. If I apply the word ‘incomplete’ to myself (and it is valid to do so), I may think of, for example:
a) my lack of knowledge: I cannot hope to grasp the enormity of what I don’t know.
b) my lack of strength and energy – mental, physical and spiritual – I need constant replenishing and refreshing and rest.
In these ways I indicate my incompleteness. But God is complete. He doesn’t lack and is not limited in the ways I have just considered.
God is ‘complete’? We have said in earlier studies that God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing) and all-wise. This is what Jesus means when he says God is ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’.
- if God knows everything (to lack knowledge means He is not complete), then He will never be caught on the hop, never surprised by anything that happens and
- if His wisdom is perfect (because He lacks nothing – our definition above) then He will always know how to act or respond to whatever is happening, and
- if His power is unlimited (because He lacks nothing – our definition above, again) then He will be able to respond however He wants in accordance with that wisdom.
Do you start to see how significant this definition of ‘perfect’ is? He has no need to act with hostility towards us because,
- He knows everything there is to know about us, and
- we are not a threat to Him and He can never feel defensive.
He is utterly capable of handling anything and everything that ever happens.
Further Testimonies: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut 32:4) This is the testimony of the Bible again and again. This verse was declared by Moses after 120 years of life and experience. Ethically, morally, however you want to put it, God is perfect, God is faultless. Then, “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.” (2 Sam 22:31) This is the testimony of king David after his years of experiences with the Lord. Then, “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvellous things, things planned long ago.” (Isa 25:1) This was Isaiah’s testimony, the testimony of a prophet who gets the inside knowledge form God.
Implication: I started out by suggesting that Jesus’ words really need thinking about. But why? Well, consider what we have said so far: God is perfect which means He is utterly complete in every way possible so He lacks nothing and everything about Him – whatever He thinks, says or does – cannot be improved upon!
Now here’s the crunch point: this means that when we read through the Bible and we see God speaking or acting, and these things seem questionable, we need to think again, why are these words, why are these actions perfect, why cannot they be improved upon? When we come to the Bible text with this approach, we will start seeing things, we will start learning things, we had never seen before. It will transform our understanding.
An Example: Let’s take a situation that sometimes confuses some people. Read Ex 32 which is the incident where Moses is up the mountain with God and, because he has been there some time, some of the people down below demand of Aaron, Moses’ brother and second-in-command, that he makes them a ‘god’ to worship. Idolatry raises its ugly head. Up on the mountain, “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Ex 32:9,10) Now if we had been God, and we felt utterly frustrated with this foolish people who we have gone to great lengths to deliver from Egypt and bring here, we would probably not waste the words but just do it. But then we might think about it and wonder how that will go down for our image in the world. Now as we think a bit further, we hear the cynic saying, “But I thought your God was a God of love? How come He’s talking of destroying these people?”
Hold on! Think on. So you do nothing and the word gets out that God is a soft touch and you really never need to bother to obey Him. Disaster, anarchy will reign, and Israeli will fall apart and cease to be a light to the rest of the world. So why is God saying this, how does this fit the ‘perfect’ God picture? The answer has to be He is testing Moses, to see how His man will respond to this offer. Moses responds brilliantly – you can read it yourself in the following verses of that chapter. Moses himself goes down and deals with the minority who had gone astray and intercedes for the rest. It’s a messy situation but when God deals with it, it is with control and restraint. At the end of it a purged nation, a nation still able to continue with its task. Whenever we come across one of these situations, ask yourself, if you were God, what would you do, what is the only thing you could do, to control the situation, preserve the nation and pursue the goals that we have considered in earlier studies. If we will do this, we will think more deeply and become wiser and be less likely to join the unthinking crowds who make shallow negative responses.
And So? So, if your circumstances are going pear-shaped, pause up and ponder: God is allowing this, why? Whatever He is doing here cannot be improved upon. What am I to learn here? What has caused this? Why is this happening? Where is God in all this? What does He want me to learn in all this? Have we not realized that God has allowed this fallen world to be as it is to act as a learning laboratory for us? It is as it is because of our Sin, our choices, and He has provided His salvation through Jesus that is now available to us, administered by His Holy Spirit, and within that, we will learn to grow up ‘in Christ’. So many facets of this to think about. Dare we do that? Go for it.