Be Thou Perfect
Prior to the fall of our first parents in the Garden, their humanity was under the control of the divine nature. As a result of their fall from purity and holiness, the human family, springing from that one pur, has been born into this life with their humanity under the control of a foreign nature, spoken of in the Bible as the “carnal mind.” As it is a principle and not an act, it cannot be pardoned, as God can only pardon the sins which man commits; hence, to free man from this principle, or carnal mind, there must be a further and deeper work of grace performed for him.
As the “carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7), it is impossible for man to walk perfectly before God so long as he retains the carnal mind. “So then they that are in the flesh (Greek, sarx; translated, “carnally minded”; compare; Strong’s Greek Dictionary) cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8)
Mankind has wandered so far from God and has been so long under the power and control of the carnal mind, that the very mention of such a command as the above, or simply a hint at the idea or possibility of a man being perfect before God, serves to arouse their carnality, and immediately jeers, sneers and sarcasm seem to be in order, and at once certain passages of Scripture are brought forth and quoted with a total disregard of their setting, who spoke them, the circumstances in which they were spoken, or to whom they were spoken; and even then those same passages, when thus mentioned, are rarely ever quoted correctly.
Let the reader understand, once and for all, that the Bible does not say a man cannot be made free from sin; that there is none holy; that there is. none perfect. It does say thus of certain classes. It does speak thus of those who are living in sin and disobedience, but it does not say thus of those who are obedient and walk with God.
In our third book, “War of the Ages,” the reader will find those particular passages of Scripture taken up consecutively and an explanation given as to just what they do mean.
To command a man to do what he was not able to do would destroy the justice of God. He said to Abram, “Be thou perfect.” The word from which perfect is here translated is tamiym (pronounced “taw-meem”). It means integrity, truth, without blemish) complete, full, perfect, sincerely (-ity), sound, without spot, undefiled, upright (-ly), whole. Men may sneer or cavil at the word, but there it is. The King James translators have placed in the margin “upright, or sincere,” and many have endeavored to dodge the real issue by getting in behind the word sincere, and saying, “Yes, we are sincere, but we are not professing to be perfect.” We understand exactly what such persons mean, by arguing thus. They mean to have us infer that they are sincere in their religious life, but they do not profess to have pure hearts nor to be sanctified wholly. In short, they endeavor to use the word “sincere” as an excuse for their not having pure hearts, for not being sanctified — a sort of an excuse for their worldliness and carnality; an attempt at an excuse for not walking with God.
Should the reader think we are putting too much stress on this word as it is. here used in this verse, let him read Dr. Adam Clarke’s comments upon it, which we quote in full:
“Be thou perfect. And thou shalt be perfections, i. e., altogether perfect; be just such as the holy God would have thee to be, as the Almighty God can make thee, and live as the all-sufficient God shall support thee: for He alone who makes the soul holy, can preserve it in holiness. Our blessed Lord appears to have had these words pointedly in view. Matthew 5:48: Ye shall be perfect as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect. But what does this imply? Why, to be saved from all the power, the guilt, and the contamination of sin. This is only the negative part of salvation; but. it has also a positive part — to be made perfect — to be perfect as our Father who is in Heaven is perfect — to be filled with the fullness of God — to have Christ dwelling continually in the heart by faith, and to be rooted and grounded in love. This is the state in which man was created; for he was made in the image and likeness of God. This is the state from which man fell; for he broke the command of God. And this. is the state into which every human soul must be. raised,. who would dwell with God in glory; for Christ was incarnated, and died to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. What a glorious privilege! And who can doubt the possibility of its attainment, who believes in the omnipotent love of God, the infinite merit of the Blood of atonement and the all-pervading and all-purifying energy of the Holy Ghost? How many miserable souls employ that time to dispute and cavil against the possibility of being saved from their sins, which they should devote to praying and believing, that they might be saved out of the hands of their enemies! But some may say, You overstrain the meaning of the term; it signified only be sincere; for as perfect obedience is impossible, God accepts of sincere obedience. If by sincerity the objection means good desires, and generally good purposes, with an impure heart and spotted life, then I assert, that no such thing is implied in the text, nor in the original word: but if the word sincerity be taken in its proper and literal sense, I have no objection to it. Sincere is compounded of sine cera, without wax; and applied to moral subjects, is a metaphor taken from clarified honey, from which every atom of the comb or wax is separated. Then let it be proclaimed from Heaven: Walk before Me, and be sincerely purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump unto God, and thus ye shall be perfect, as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect. This is sincerity! Reader, remember that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. Ten thousand quibbles on isolated texts can never lessen, much less destroy, the merit and efficiency of the great Atonement.” (Commentaries, Vol. I., p. 109)
What a good thing for Abram that God did not say, “Walk before Sarah and be perfect.” That elect lady might have seen much in the life of her husband that she would have. thought was sadly lacking; but God did not so command Abram, neither does He command His children to walk and be perfect before the world. But. He said, “Walk before Me, and be thou perfect.”
No man can so walk before God with carnality in his heart. In his letter to the Romans, Paul said, “For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now. if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Rom. 7:19, 20) Exactly! and such is the experience of hundreds of God’s unsanctified children today. They to do right, they see much to do, but they do not do what they should and they do much they should not do, because the carnal mind is still in their hearts and ever and anon it puts them under captivity, so that they do not always feel free to do and walk as they feel thy should. But through the blood of Jesus they can have their hearts made free and clean from the power and presence of carnality and, thus free, they can walk before God and be perfect in His sight.
In writing to the Colossians, Paul, speaking of Jesus and His work, said: “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of. .His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things. in. earth, or things in Heaven. And you. that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.” (Col. 1:19-22) Blessed be God! Through the Blood of the cross they were made so clean and pure that they would be unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight.
If the reader should think that no human could remain long in such a delightful state, let him turn to Jude, and read the. twenty-fourth verse: “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Blessed Savior! Wonderful Keeper! He restores poor, lost, guilty and sinful men back where they can walk before God unblameable and unreproveable, and then keeps them from falling. That does not mean that man thus saved could not fall. No, God never destroys our free moral agency. Man could do wrong if he wanted to. Angels, while on probation, did wrong. Lucifer rebelled against God’s throne, and many of the angels followed him in rebellion and kept not their first estate. Adam and Eve, in the Garden, deliberately did what they knew they should not do. The woman said, “God hath said we must not eat it nor touch it lest we die,” but eat of the forbidden fruit they did, and suffered the penalty. Not so long as man remains in the body will God take away his free moral agency, but God can, and if man will let Him, will, remove the sinful carnality from his heart, so that he will be perfectly free to serve God and walk before God according to all His commands.
Neither does God remove our infirmities. Although man can be saved from all sin, yet he has infirmities that will remain with him while he remains in a body that is subject to decay and death. He may err in his judgment or make mistakes, neither of which is a sin, so long as he walks in all the light he has, so long as he loves God with all his heart, so long as he seeks to do all His will. His manner of going about his work may appear very crude in the estimation of mankind, but God, who look into his heart, sees the purpose to do His will and smiles His approval upon the efforts put forth.
Some years ago, on a very hot, sultry afternoon in August, I arrived home from an extended trip in the far West. The street car stopped some two blocks from our home, and after climbing the hill to the house I threw down our suitcases and baggage and sat down to rest. As the children gathered about us, I said to our little brown-eyed boy, “Son, can you go and bring papa a good cool drink of water? Turn on the faucet and let the water run so it will be cool.”
Up on the mountain-side, some eighty feet higher than the house, was a large mountain spring which had been piped so that the water was carried by the pipes all through the house.
“Let it run, son, until the water is cool,” we said. I do not remember of ever asking the child to do anything before, and running out of the room he went after the water. I do not know just how he held the tumbler in his hands to receive the water from the faucet. I know how you would have held it; but the first sight we had of him he was holding the glass at the top with both hands and his little fingers were sticking down on the inside. The glass was full but it was slopping out and washing back over his little chubby fists. One can imagine about how clean they would be after playing about in the yard all afternoon. As he passed around the end of the dining-table he tripped his foot on a rug and the most of the water was spilled. What did go back went washing down over his little hands. Of course, they were somewhat cleaner by the operation, but when he reached our side his little face was all aglow and his eyes sparkled as he said, “I got here with some of it, papa. A’int I getting to be a big man to get you a drink?”
Friends, I would not have disappointed that little heart if that tumbler had been half full of dirt, and drawing the little fellow to our side I kissed his face and said, “Yes, son, you are papa’s big, little man,” and I drank every drop of water there was in the glass, dirt and all. You would not have drank it, neither would I had it been your boy, but it was my boy, and he was delighted to be able to bring the water. And what matter if he did stumble, or his little chubby fists were dirty, with a father heart I could see beyond his knowledge of the proper way to hold that glass of water and I could see beyond the tripping of his little feet; I could see the earnestness of the service, and the willingness and gladness with which he performed it, and the service was acceptable to me.
So it is with our Heavenly Father. He does not frown upon us for what we do not know, neither for our blunders when, down in our hearts, He can see we are, with a sincere purpose, doing our very best for Him. The service is acceptable and with confidence we walk before Him.
Dear reader, let us ask, Is thy heart clean; art thou walking before God; is thy heart perfect in His sight? Thou mayest reply, “I know my sins are forgiven; I know that God has pardoned me of the wrong-doings of my life.” That may be true, and if so, we thank God that it is true; but how about that heart life? That secret inner life that even thy friends cannot see? Art thou perfect in thy heart toward God? Does the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, this hour cleanse thy heart from all sin, so that with all its desires and ambitions there is but one purpose in thy life, namely, to walk before God here with a perfect heart, so that thou shalt be able to stand before Him before the great white Throne? May God help you to settle this question and find a positive answer before thine eyes shall close in slumber this night.