Not Good Enough For God?
How good does a person have to be in order to be saved? Perhaps we can best answer that question by asking a different query. “How perfect is God, and who can meet His perfection?”
Jesus said, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
And everyone in the crowd thought, “How can anyone do that?”
The LORD God told the children of Israel, “You shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2; cf. Deut. 18:13).
The Hebrew word tam or tamim means to be “without defect” or “without blemish.” The Hebrew sacrifices had to be “without blemish,” spotless and entirely without defect (Exodus 12:5; 29:1; 1 Pet. 1:19; Eph. 5:27). Another word shalem means “whole” or “complete.” That which is without defect or blemish is complete.
God’s righteous standard never changes because He does not change. God is the perfect standard or He would not be God.
Jesus used the word “perfect” (teleioi from telos) meaning end, goal, limit. It is the absolute standard of our heavenly Father. Such a person is perfect or fully developed “in a moral sense.” Therefore, in the moral realm it means “blameless.”
Jesus is the perfect example of that divine standard (1 Peter 2:21-25).
The word “holy” in Leviticus 19:2 gives us the reason for the sacrifices under the Mosaic law. God is holy and man is a sinner. Sin separates man from God. The source of our sanctification is “the LORD who sanctifies you” (20:8). The meaning is to set apart or separate.
God’s standard for man is complete, perfect, moral righteousness. To be acceptable to God every human being must be as blameless and sinless as Jesus the Christ — and who can be? Not me!
That standard of righteousness creates a moral and spiritual crisis for all mankind. The Bible tells us we have all sinned and fallen short of such moral perfection. “There is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
God’s perfect standard is a clean heart and it is evident from studying the Sermon on the Mount that no one can live up to its demands (cf. Matt. 5:20-25, 27). The center of our personality condemns us. Jesus said, “Out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornicators, thefts, false witnesses, slanders,” etc. (15:18-20). It is the heart that has to be changed (2 Cor. 5:17).
Worse, you can “buffet” your body and avoid sin but even if you desire it, you’re still a hopeless sinner. You pass an attractive person and get a licentious thought? That’s it. You’re “done for.” You have sinned and without Jesus there is no hope of your salvation!
We all have the same problem. We all of us, are sinners. None of us have kept God’s Law perfectly, therefore, we all are sinners.
But my problem is even greater than I ever imagined. The reward for our sins is the second death. (Rom. 6:23). No one will ever get to heaven by his or her own efforts because we miss God’s perfect standard.
God never lowers His standards to accommodate sinful man. He is not politically correct. He doesn’t have a problem. WE have the problem. Our minds altered by Satan soon after our birth have made US the problem!
God’s absolute holiness is the standard. He will not accept half-way or half-hearted obedience. God is infinite in His perfections. Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are to be “brought to completion, full-grown, lacking in nothing.” How can we do that? My Jewish friends don’t want to accept this doctrine. They also know they are not perfect. They hope an animal sacrifice and atonement for sins will be enough. But what assurance do we have they are right? I’m afraid I can’t find any absolute assurance.
This explains why Jesus Christ went to the cross and died as a sacrifice for sin. The wage of sin is your death, and Jesus died your death on the cross so that you could be raised as one of God’s children and have eternal life!
Based on the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as our substitute, God can now save us by his grace through our faith in Jesus Christ, because Jesus told us to believe this good news and then “repent” (that is change our ways) and follow God’s Ways which include keeping His sabbath and doing our best to keep the other 10-commandments.
God sees us through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and accepts us as perfectly righteous. God dealt in full with our penalty by sending Christ to the cross to die for us. When we believe upon/rely in/trust, and cling to Christ, God the Father and Judge declared us no longer guilty based on the saving work of Christ.
He has promised to save us and if we are sincere about our effort to keep His Ways he will rescue us from this mess!
Every Christian struggles with holiness in his life, and all of us will until we see Jesus Christ face to face (Phil. 3:12-16).
God makes us holy by changing our impure thoughts to pure thoughts. (2 Cor. 3:18). We get a progressive sanctification, not a once-for all sinless perfection before we die. To sanctify is to literally “set apart for particular use in a special purpose or work and to make holy or sacred.”
The ultimate goal of the believer is to live in harmony with Matthew 5:48, and “to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” But that might take all of this lifetime and even more after we meet Jesus. I think it is not an instantly given gift.
We will be established blameless in holiness before God, who is our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints (I Thess. 3:13).
It is to those who strive to attain the goal that the victory is assured. We will reach the ideal goal of perfection when we see Jesus in glory. It will be the perfect developing gift to the believer (Psa. 17:15); Phil. 1:6; 3:12; II Tim. 4:7, 8; Rev. 21:27; 7:14). I may be wrong. It may come all in a moment, as some believe, but I’m not expecting that.
It is true that we will never be perfect in this life, but the perfections outlined by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are still those for which we should aim and that we should increasingly attain by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
We are required to aim at Christ-like character. Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
How good must any man or woman be to STAY saved?
What can I do to be saved and to keep saved? Since self-efforts will not save us, we must receive the perfect righteousness that God has provided in the atoning substitutionary death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
Only the LORD God is perfect, and He works to make sinful humans “perfect.”
How does God work to perfect sinners? There are three Biblical facts we must keep clearly in mind.
- We are sinners, and there is no denying that fact. Sin is an offense against God, and He cannot ignore it. Sin has to be dealt with completely according to His just standards. This is why God the Father sent God the Son to die for our sins. Jesus bore the penalty for our sins in full, and canceled all claims of God’s justice against the believing sinner forever.
God punished our sins when Jesus suffered and died on that cross. “By one sacrifice Christ has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14). Have you believed on Jesus Christ as your Savior? (“Believe on” rely on, cling to, trust in.)
How perfect must a Christian be? The Christian believer must guide his life by the perfect, ethical standard of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
- The second principle we must keep in mind is that from the moment we believe on Jesus Christ as our Savior, God begins a work in us to perfect us in this life. At the new birth, we are given a perfect standing before God in one sense, but it is also true that we are far from perfect in our daily life.
The apostle Paul distinguishes between two ways the word “perfect” is used in the New Testament. In Philippians 3:12 he writes, “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). Paul has in mind here absolute perfection – God’s perfect standard, absolute spiritual maturity, fully-grown just like Jesus Christ. It is the same idea that Jesus Christ spoke of in Matt. 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
In the next sentence Paul tells us that even though he has already been declared acquitted before God on the basis of his faith in the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, he is still in the need of practical daily work of being perfected in Jesus Christ.
He wrote: 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-16 NIV translation).
“Perfect” in verse fifteen is a relative, spiritual maturity, indicating the stages of growth, hence, perfect in growth at certain stages. Even as an elderly Christian, Paul had not arrived to sinless perfection, but he did not give up, and make excuses for sins. All of his guilt is covered by the payment of Christ on the cross. The penalty has been removed, but God is still at work in his daily practice of holiness. Paul is not getting better and better so that one day he can say he is without sin in his daily life. God has provided for us in His saving grace a provision for cleansing of sin and restoration of fellowship in the Christian’s life (I John 1:8).
- One Doctrinal View is: Our ultimate sanctification or what the Bible calls glorification will take place when we are presented perfect just like Jesus Christ, and it will take place in the moment of our death. God’s work of perfecting the saints will take place when we see Jesus in glory and not before then. At that moment we will be presented to God the Father sinless and complete (1 John 3:1-3). We never know that perfection in this life. We will in the likeness of Christ be pure and holy in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, wisdom, humility, obedience, and so forth.
As you can see, I have my personal divergence from this doctrinal view. But, let that be as you believe and accept from scripture. If that doctrine is right, there is no need to raise us. We arrive fully matured.
Again I tell you, I am not running a church. I am not telling you every detail of what to believe. I present different doctrinal arguments and do my best to be even handed about this effort.
What God began in your new birth, He will continue to work on throughout this life until He has perfected us and presents us perfect to the Father. What God begins, He always finishes (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:24-29). God will not give up on any believer. He will keep on perfecting us until the day when Christ comes for us.
Inspirational Notes for this article came from: http://www.abideinchrist.com/selah/index.html