Not Perfected, yet Perfect.
'Not that I have already obtained, or am already perfected; but I press on. . . . One thing I do, I press on towards the goal. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.'—Phil. iii. 12-15.
N perfection there are degrees. We have perfect, more perfect, most perfect. We have perfect, waiting to be perfected. So it was with our Lord Jesus. In Hebrews we read thrice of Him that He was perfected or made perfect. Of sinful imperfection there was not the faintest shadow in Him. At each moment of His life He was perfect—just what He should be. And yet He needed, and it became God to perfect Him through suffering and the obedience He learned in it. As He conquered temptation, and maintained His allegiance to God, and amid strong crying and tears gave up His will to God's will, His human nature was perfected, and He became an High Priest, 'the Son perfected for evermore.' Jesus during His life on earth was perfect, but not yet perfected.
'The perfected disciple shall be as his Master:' what is true of Him is true, in our measure, of us too. Paul wrote to the Corinthians of speaking wisdom among the perfect, a wisdom carnal Christians could not understand. Here in our text he classes himself with the perfect, and expects and enjoins them to be of the same mind with himself. He sees no difficulty either in speaking of himself and others as perfect, or in regarding the perfect as needing to be yet further and fully perfected.
And what is now this perfection which has yet to be perfected? And who are these perfect ones? The man who has made the highest perfection his choice, and who has given his whole heart and life to attain to it, is counted by God a perfect man. 'The kingdom of heaven is like a seed.' Where God sees in the heart the single purpose to be all that God wills, He sees the divine seed of all perfection. And as He counts faith for righteousness, so He counts this wholehearted purpose to be perfect as incipient perfection. The man with a perfect heart is accepted by God, amid all imperfection of attainment, as a perfect man. Paul could look upon the Church and unhesitatingly say, 'As many of us as be perfect, let us be thus minded.'
We know how among the Corinthians he describes two classes. The one, the large majority, carnal and content to life in strife; the other, the spiritual, the perfect. In the Church of our day it is to be feared that the great majority of believers have no conception of their calling to be perfect. They have not the slightest idea that it is their duty not only to be religious, but to be as eminently religious, as full of grace and holiness, as it is possible for God to make them. Even where there is some measure of earnest purpose in the pursuit of holiness, there is such a want of faith in the earnestness of God's purpose when He speaks: 'Be perfect,' and in the sufficiency of His grace to meet the demand, that the appeal meets with no response. In no real sense do they understand or accept Paul's invitation: 'Let us, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.'
But, thank God! it is not so with all. There is an ever-increasing number who cannot forget that God means what He says when He speaks: 'Be perfect,' and who regard themselves as under the most solemn obligation to obey the command. The words of Christ: 'Be perfect,' are to them a revelation of what Christ is come to give and to work, a promise of the blessing to which His teaching and leading will bring them. They have joined the band of like-minded ones whom Paul would associate with himself; they seek God with their whole heart; they serve Him with a perfect heart; their one aim in life is to be made perfect, even as the Master.
My reader! as in the presence of God, who has said to you: 'Be perfect!' and of Christ Jesus, who gave Himself that you might obey this command of your God, I charge you that you do not refuse the call of God's servant, but enrol yourself among those who accept it: 'Let us, as many as be perfect, be thus minded.' Fear not to take your place before God with Paul among the perfect in heart. So far will it be from causing self-complacency, that you will learn from him how the perfect has yet to be perfected, and how the one mark of the perfect is that he counts all things loss as he presses en unto the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ,