It is my honor to introduce to you our guest blogger, Dr. Ken Chant. I have known Dr. Chant for over 25 years. He is the founder of Vision Australia, and in the mid 1980’s Dr. Ken and I met, the Lord melted our hearts and Vision’s together to start bible colleges around the world, with his outstanding curriculum/books and eventually my screed. I know you will thoroughly enjoy Dr .Ken’s writing style, depth of thought, and I hope you will buy “Christian Life, Patterns of Gracious Living” as it is the best of Dr. Chant…it will challenge you, strength you, and help you to think in a truly biblical way. Enjoy the next few articles from my friend and colleague Dr. Ken.
Stan E. DeKoven, Ph.D., MFT
TEXT: “You must be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
(The purpose of this study is to help people to obey Jesus’ command, by showing them the special ways in which the Greek word teleios was used. Further illustrative material on the use of teleios can be found in any major Greek lexicon.)
Here is one of those verses that Bible readers are prone to hurry past, hoping that it will not catch up with them! If it does, they react to it with dismay, and lift up their complaint, “Only a relentless tyrant would lake such an impossible demand!” Like Joram, who protested angrily when Benhadad summoned him to cure Naaman’s leprosy, they bitterly lament, “See how he is seeking a quarrel with me!” (2 Kg 5:7).
But God does not command what we cannot perform. The solution lies in the actual meaning of the word Christ used. It is teleios, a Greek word that means “to be all that you can be expected to be at the present moment”. The Greeks did not use teleios to describe absolute moral perfection, but only a kind of down-to-earth pragmatic perfection. So it carries the idea of attaining a proper rate of growth, of reaching an expected goal, meting a required standard, achieving a desired purpose. It defines practical behaviour rather than an abstract ideal.
Now in the case of God, teleios does indicate an absolute, intrinsic, complete perfection – simply because that is what we can and should expect from God. He has always been, and is, and always will be “perfect” in every conceivable way. But in the case of humans, teleios can never require anything more than a qualified perfection. Our perfection is not yet complete, and it will never be absolute.
So teleios suggests that God can expect from us no higher perfection than is commensurate with our human nature, the opportunities that have been given us, the influences that have been at work on us, and so on.
The New Testament uses teleios in several different ways, and all of them convey the idea of growth or development. I am going to sum them all up in one word, ADVANCE. You can call yourself “perfect” if you know that you are −
ADVANCING TOWARD MATURITY IN GOD
See He 5:11-14, “But solid food is for the mature (teleios).”
Those people could no longer be called teleios because they still needed “milk” when they should have advanced to “meat”. Notice the contrast between infants and adults. To its parents, a baby is “perfect’ at each stage of its growth. But if its development does not keep pace with its increasing age, parental joy will soon be replaced by anxious tears. Behaviour that is delightful in a baby is repulsive in a grown man.
Thus the Father will think you “perfect” so long as you maintain the spiritual growth he rightly expects from you. But if you allow yourself to be spiritually retarded, he may be as exasperated with you as the apostle was when he called those Hebrew Christians “dull” − an insulting term that actually means “lazy sluggards, thick-headed numskulls”! (vs. 11).
ADVANCING TOWARD THE MYSTERY OF GOD
See 1 Co 2:6-7, “Yet among the initiated (teleios) we shall impart wisdom.”
In the Greek world, teleios was a technical term used to describe a person who had been initiated into the mystical rites of a religion. We who believe are “perfect”, says Paul, because we have been initiated into Christ and the Church.
In particular, Paul links this initiation with the charismatic ministry of the Holy Spirit (vs. 10-12). Even more particularly, he joins teleios (vs. 6) with glossolalia (vs. 13-14). The passage should probably read, “interpreting spiritual truths in the language of the Spirit” − that is, in other tongues, which are folly to the unspiritual man, but are “discerned” by those who possess the Holy Spirit. This is our “secret” rite; this is our “mystery” (compare 1 Co 14:2).
This means more than simply talking to one another in other tongues. It implies such principles as the following: (a) the spiritual man discerns the presence and power of God in glossolalia, and is enriched by that; (b) revelation comes to the church through tongues/interpretation, and prophecy (1 Co 14:5, 26-31); the person who speaks in tongues is “edified” (vs. 4); those who speak to God in other tongues (vs. 2,28), are “blessing God” and “giving thanks well” (vs. 14-17), which is a source of life both to the glossolalists and to the whole church; and so on.
So God will consider you “perfect” if you remain filled with the Holy Spirit, constantly building up yourself and blessing God as you sing and pray “with your understanding and with your spirit” (1 Co 14:14,15; Ju 20).
ADVANCING TOWARD THE PURPOSE OF GOD
See Ph 3:14-15, “Let those who are enlightened (teleios) be thus minded.”
Teleios was used to describe a person who was aware of his true self; that is, he was not deluded about himself, but was mature and honest in appraising himself.
Paul applies this to Christians, and says that such a person can make only one sensible decision, and that is to “press toward the goals God has established.”
This is the mark of a “perfect” man.
Notice, too, how Christ linked this demand for perfection to an attitude of love toward other people. Our love for our neighbour must reflect the Father’s loving purpose. That means you will see people as God sees them; not as “things” to be exploited, but as immortal beings made in his image. It means that we will adopt God’s attitude of universal benevolence (vs. 46-47). This does not require us to have affection for all men, nor to be fond of them, for scripture does not say, “You must like your enemy,” but “you must love him!” We do this by praying for our enemies and by seeking to do them good
Thus divine benevolence is a matter of good will, and is not necessarily linked with fond feelings. Notice how God shows his benevolence, and how Jesus says that we must do the same (Mt 5:43-47; and compare also Ro 12:14-21)
ADVANCING TOWARD SURRENDER TO GOD
See Mt 19:21, “If you would be perfect (teleios), go, sell what you have.”
The Greeks described a man as teleios when he reached a certain standard, or fulfilled certain requirements − as a student who had passed his exams; an athlete who had qualified for the games; an apprentice who had become a tradesman; and so on.
For a Christian, the standard required is simply this: surrender to the will of God. It is not so much a work as a condition; not what you do, but what you are; not what you have accomplished, but what you are becoming; not the labour of your hands, but the attitude of your will; not sacrifice, but obedience.
So for the rich young man in the verse above, “perfection” involved giving away his wealth. But had he obeyed, that would have rendered him perfect only until Christ demanded another task from him. If he were then to disobey, his “perfection” would at once be lost, or at least marred. He could be “perfect” only so long as he obeyed each heavenly command (as it came to him) and continued to grow in the willingness and depth of his obedience.
Obedience is a habit that grows. The pleasures that result from each new surrender to the will of God create an increasing eagerness to receive new and more challenging opportunities to serve God. That service also becomes more mature, deeper in wisdom, stronger in faith, wiser in performance, more joyful in fulfilment, more truly dependent upon the enabling grace of God.
ADVANCING TOWARD THE LOVE OF GOD
See Mt 5:43-48, “You must be perfect (teleios) just as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleios).”
That is, just as each new day God is everything you expect him to be, so you should be everything he expects you to be − remembering always that God’s expectations are limited to the level of growth you should have attained at this point in your Christian life. He does not expect you to be today what you cannot reasonably be expected to be until tomorrow.
Can you then ever proclaim yourself “perfect”? Yes, whenever you have a sense that at the present moment you have as nearly as possible equalled the Father’s expectations of you. That should be, not an uncommon, but the ordinary state of Christian life. Every Christian should feel that he or she has reached the point they should be at in the process of “following after holiness” (He 12:14) and of “pressing on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Ph 3:12-16).
God Bless all until next time….
Dr. Ken Chant… Vision Australia
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