The Goal of the Ministry:
Presenting Every Man Perfect in Christ
PERFECTION DEFINED AND DESCRIBED
1. Perfect: mature; whole; complete; well rounded; adult, of full age, full grown; (like ripened fruit) brought to its end, finished; lacking nothing necessary to completeness.
a. I Cor. 14:20 – translated “men” (contrasted with children; immaturity).
b. I Cor. 13:10 – that which is “complete”… contrasted to that which is partial.
c. Heb. 5:14 – translated “of full age” as contrasted to a young age.
d. James 1:4 – “perfect and entire lacking nothing”—explains it well… having all the pieces, nothing lacking… like a completed puzzle… a car at the end of the assembly line… It is contrasted to that which is lacking.
e. Luke 8:14 – fruit being brought to perfection (full grown; nice and ripe). Contrasted to that which has not ripened… is not fully grown… hard green fruit… rather than soft, tender, sweet, ripened fruit.
f. This term does NOT refer to sinless perfection… Nor does it refer to a stage in the Christian life where we no longer sin… or there is no longer room for improvement.
g. The process called “perfection” is the process of spiritual growth and maturity. It might be referred to as progressive sanctification.
2. Perfection for the believer means Christlike transformation.
a. Christlikeness is maturity. It is being full grown… grown up… ripened to perfection… sweet… entire, lacking nothing… all the pieces are in place… Christlike fruit manifested.
b. Gal. 4:19 – Christ is being formed in you… when He is COMPLETELY formed in us… then we are conditionally perfected.
3. Phil. 3:12 – But, we are never fully perfected in this life.
a. In this life there will always be room for improvement.
b. Paul acknowledges that he has not arrived at FULL and absolute perfection or maturity. But in 3:15 he speaks of himself as mature (relatively… not absolutely).
c. As believers we can reflect His character in our lives. (Christlike maturity). But His character is SO glorious that we can only reflect it dimly… not perfectly… not entirely. There is always room for more…
d. Those (like Paul!) who acknowledge that they have not yet achieved perfection don’t use this as an excuse to not bother trying (“it’s too hard; too far beyond us; no one will ever make it, so why try?!).
e. Rather, Paul used this as an incentive to follow after (pursue; flee after; persecute; chase) perfection.
f. We are not perfected until we are completely like Him.
g. We are constantly being transformed into His image from glory to glory… yet not until we are actually IN glory will this process be complete.
h. God’s will is for that process to continue until He comes or until our dying day. (Phil. 1:6)
i. Hence, practically speaking, conditionally speaking, our earthly condition will always come short of our heavenly position: complete in Him; perfected forever.
j. That means there is always more to go… more to strive for… areas where we are lacking… blind spots… areas of weakness… hard heartedness… ignorance…
k. To say there is no room for improvement is the height of arrogance and the height of ignorance…
l. In fact, the closer we get to the Lord, the more like Christ we become, the more aware we become of how far short of His glory we fall! Hence, Paul himself as the chief of sinners… and less than the least of all the saints…
m. II Cor. 7:1 – we are to be active in perfecting holiness because none of us has! Holiness is one aspect of Christlikeness that we fall far short of… daily.
4. The purpose of the gospel ministry to believers in the local church is that they might become perfect, whole, and mature. (Matt. 28:19-20)
a. The job isn’t done when a man is converted. It has only just begun. He is to be taught and admonished!
b. When a baby is born, that is not the ultimate goal for that person. GROWTH is. He is not expected to remain a babe, but to grow up… mature… to become a man… and to be fruitful…
c. The Great Commission included not only preaching the saving gospel message, but making disciples… and teaching them all things…
d. Not just converts but disciples. Not just spiritual births… but ongoing spiritual growth.
e. A man can be saved in a moment. It takes the rest of his life to be discipled… which involves growth and maturity.
f. Don’t be content just to be saved… just to be alive spiritually. There is so much MORE! Grow up!
GOD HAS MANY MEANS OF PERFECTING IN HIS CHILDREN.
1. TRIALS: James 1:2-4 – the purpose of trials is to bring believers to perfection. This too is God’s means of instruction.
a. The trying of our faith works patience… and patience (endurance; perseverance) results in maturity.
b. The ultimate goal of every trial God allows in our lives is that we might become mature: Christlike, sanctified, transformed.
c. It is our nature to be spiritually childish and immature. God weans us away from childishness through trials…
d. The child doesn’t like being weaned away… but it is good for him. It is an important step toward maturity.
e. KNOWING: God wants us to know what He is doing in our trials… hence, we can rejoice!
f. LET: God wants us to LET Him work in us during trials… let patience do its work in us… allow yourself to be exercised by the trial…
g. When we KNOW that God is using it for our spiritual good, and we LET Him (yield) do His good work in us—trials are exceedingly valuable and the end result is maturity and fruit!
h. II Cor. 12:9 – His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Weakness helps mature us.
• God allows us to become weak… through trials… to reveal to us how weak we really are… how helpless our flesh really is… so that we will finally STOP trusting in our own strength, and fall upon the Lord and seek HIS strength to work in us! End of self…
• The Lord has given me a little taste of the weakness and frailty of my flesh…
• The Potter uses trials to crush the hard, inflexible spots in the clay… so that He can mould as He desires.
• He opened my eyes to see things I never saw before; He dealt with pride by humbling and humiliating me; He softened hardened areas of my heart; He showed me areas of weakness and in a clearer way… my need of HIS strength… moment by moment… and He is still working!
• While I hate the process of being ground down to powder by the Potter… I can say that it has been the best thing He could have done for me spiritually. Grind away, Lord!
• The more aware we become of our own weakness, the more aware we become of our need for HIS strength.
• Don’t complain about your weakness. See God’s goodness and grace in it… and be ye thankful!
• Be exercised by the trial… allow God to do His good work in you! LET patience do her work in us!
i. Trials bring us to maturity… and result in Christlike fruit manifested in our lives.
• It is worth every ounce of pain or grief involved!
• I Pet. 5:10 – after you have suffered a while, make you perfect… stablish, strengthen you…
• Every time the Potter smashes the clay to remove lumps… He is better able to turn that hunk of clay into His workmanship… into the image of His Son.
• Don’t fight against the trials God has allowed in your life. Submit to them… and let God do His perfect work in us…
• He is making us less like ourselves and more like Himself. That is worth it… regardless of the price.
• Yield… surrender… LET God be God in your life. SUBMIT to the trial… that ye might be perfect and entire, lacking nothing!
2. THE BODY: the purpose of the Body is our perfection…
a. Eph. 4:12 – church leaders/teachers are for the perfection of the saints…
• Pastor/teachers are for the perfecting of the saints.
• Perfecting: a different word = equipping; mending; making fit for service… made whole or complete (like mending nets).
• Different term, but similar concept: whole; complete.
• Members of the Body are lacking teaching; lacking experience; lacking maturity.
• The pastor/teacher’s job is to teach the Word that the saints might be perfected… equipped to function as God intended…
• God has given every believer a capacity to function in the Body… but that spiritual gift needs to be developed… matured… and put to good use. And the Body is lacking if that member is not functioning in the Body as God designed.
• The saints are also lacking… incomplete without the ministry of the local church…
• God’s design for the saint is his perfection… and God uses gifted men in the local church to bring about that perfection… to make the saints whole and complete.
• The pastor teaches the Word… the saints are to receive it… grow thereby… and thus ALL the saints are to DO THE WORK of the ministry… ministering one to another… and the process of spiritual growth and edification continues.
• II Cor. 13:11 – Exhortation: Finally brethren, be perfect (grow up!) Believers are to exhort one another to grow up… to provoke one another… using the Word of God.
• The end result of this kind of spiritual growth is Christlikeness.
b. Eph. 4:13 – Through the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
• The saints are to be busy serving and ministering to one another in the Body.
• This is to continue till we all come… (come = to arrive at a destination; attain…
• What is the church to arrive at? Attain unto?
» The unity of the faith…
» The knowledge of the Son of God (grow in…)
» Unto a perfect man… (perfect = the term in Col. 1 = complete; whole; mature; full grown).
• Follow Paul’s point here:
» The pastor/teacher teaches the Word to the saints.
» The saints become equipped to do the work of ministry to one another in the Body.
» The whole Body becomes MATURE… because of the ministry WITHIN the Body.
» 4:16 – the Body… makes increase of itself in love.
» God’s purpose for the local church is that the Body and each member in particular would participate in Body Life… learn… become equipped… minister… and be used to increase the Body…
» The result of that kind of Spirit led action is that the Body (and members in particular) become mature… unto a perfect man… like fruit that is full grown… ripened… tender, and sweet!
» The Body grows in Christlikeness… more of His sweet fruit manifested through its members…
» Thus, the Body grows “unto a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
» Wuest: The expression “the fulness of Christ,” refers to the sum of the qualities which make Christ what He is.”
» The Body makes progress in the direction of the fullness of Christ… more of His LIFE and character manifested through the Body.
» Eph. 1:23 – Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. The Body is to be FULL of Christ… His life and holiness manifested. That is maturity… when we are made like Him.
• God designed the local church and ministry within the local church for the perfection of the saints and that the Body would grow unto a perfect man.
3. THE WORD OF GOD: II Tim. 3:16-17 – the purpose of the Word is our perfection… it is admonition and teaching by the WORD that results in maturity… That’s why God gave us His Word!
a. It is the instruction from God’s Word that results in “perfection”… spiritual maturity.
b. Spiritual maturity is not the result of slick, efficient, organizational skills. It does not arise because the pastor read a book on church growth. It certainly is not the result of entertaining the sheep. It does not arise by little sound bite blurbs of Bible smattered about. It is the result of an ongoing, in depth, line by line exposition of the whole counsel of God.
c. For this reason it is necessary to assure that the pastor TAKES TIME to study God’s Word… and is not caught up in all kinds of programs and extraneous activities which take him away from the Word of God and prayer.
d. Acts 6 – the apostles got someone else to serve tables so they could attend the things God called them to…
e. We have ONE main program here: the teaching of God’s Word. Everything is ancillary and subordinate… and is subject too change or cancellation… everything except the Word.
f. It is the teaching of God’s Word that results in perfection and spiritual maturity… that the man of God may be perfect… thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
g. I Pet. 2:2 – desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may GROW thereby. Growth comes through the ministry of the Word. Be IN it daily… fill your mind and heart with it…
h. Heb. 5:11-14 – The apostle’s goal was that the Hebrew believers would not remain stagnant in their Christian lives, but would GROW… mature… become discerning… spiritually wise… full grown… not remain as babes.
• These believers HAD been mature and were able to digest strong meat.
• But they BECAME such as have need of milk. They had regressed spiritually… and lost ground…
• The point: if we are not progressing (going on to perfection) we are regressing!
• Hence, the need for exhorting one another daily… the need for admonishing one another…
• Heb. 6:1 – let us go on to perfection (maturity) the purpose of a teaching ministry is our perfection.
• God’s NORM for the believer is to go forward. If you are standing still… you are actually losing ground.
• If you’re trying to go upstream, you have to put effort into swimming against the current. Just treading water won’t do. You will be swept downstream by the current.
• There is no standing still in the Christian life. Life is constantly moving… and we are to go on towards perfection… Christlikeness.
• God’s Word is that which brings us to perfection (II Cor. 3:18).
4. GRACE AS A RULE OF LIFE: The law made nothing perfect… but the bringing in of a better hope did! (Heb.7:18-19)
a. In what sense is the Law of God weak and unprofitable?
• The Law of Moses was weak—but certainly it was not morally weak.
• Rom.7:12 – the law is holy, just, and good.
• Rom.7:14 – the Law is spiritual. It is a reflection of God’s holy character.
b. But, there was a weakness to the Law of Moses. It was completely weak and powerless… to save.
• The law could not justify. (Rom. 3:20)
• The law could not give life… or else righteousness would have been the law. (Gal. 3:21)
c. But not only is the law weak to save or justify. The point the author of Hebrews wants to drive home is that the law is weak and powerless to sanctify too!
• It makes nothing perfect… does not bring us to maturity.
• It cannot deliver us from the bondage of sin in our daily lives.
• It cannot transform us into the image of Christ.
d. The law is disannulled. But that does not mean that we are now lawless. The opposite of law is not lawlessness. The opposite of law is GRACE… a new rule of life… and one that does what the law could never do: it brings us into the holy place… the place of fellowship, and power!
e. The disannulling of the law was of God—and so is the bringing in of a better hope.
• God removed the shadow and introduced the substance. Our hope is not based upon a shadow, but substance… Christ!
• We dare not mix these two principles (law and grace; or law and life). They are opposite systems… and must not be mixed… One was annulled and then the other was brought in. They cannot co-exist.
• The Mosaic Law is over… and what we have in its place as our new rule of life is CHRIST… and His marvelous grace. This is the age of grace.
f. In the age of grace, we have a Great HP… who can bring us right into the heavenly holy of holies… into a close relationship to Himself… in that heavenly sanctuary.
• This close relationship and communion results in spiritual growth… from glory to glory… perfection… maturity… transformation into the image of Christ.
• The Old Testament priestly system under the Law could not make anyone perfect.
• But under grace, our High Priest CAN bring us to perfection a far better hope!
g. Reverting back to the law will NEVER produce fruit… will never result in going on to perfection… will never bring us to maturity.
• Life under grace… incorporating the principles of grace into our lives… coming to the throne of grace… developing a relationship to Christ who is full of grace and truth… that WILL result in our perfection: Christlike maturity.
• Rom. 7:4 – we are dead to the Law… and now married to Christ. This new relationship under grace produces FRUIT… Christlike character… perfection. (the law produces fruit unto death – vs. 5)
2. PRAYER: I Thess. 5:23 – one purpose for prayer is complete sanctification… maturity… (Cf. I Pet. 5:10-11; Col. 4:12)
a. If a brother or sister is demonstrating immaturity, don’t pick on them; don’t gossip about them; pray for them!
b. Pray that God would open the eyes of their understanding that they might KNOW what is the hope of their calling… and that they would choose to walk worthy of that calling for the glory of God!
3. THE MYSTERY TRUTH: Col. 1:26-28 – A believer cannot be said to be “perfect/mature” unless he has been instructed and admonished in this mystery truth:
a. The riches part of the mystery: that Christianity is Christ in you… living His life through us… working IN us both to will and to do of His good pleasure…
b. In vs. 28 Paul states that he preached this truth THAT he might present believers perfect in Christ Jesus.
• Without this kind of preaching and teaching believers would NOT be able to be presented perfect before the Lord.
• They would be LACKING something VITAL in their Christian lives.
• Spiritual growth and maturity do not occur without some understanding and experience of this important New Testament revelation (the richest part!)
c. I John 4:12 – the indwelling God… has a transforming effect. His indwelling love is perfected in us… because HE is in us.
• Because He dwells in us, (when we yield) not only will His love be perfected in us…
• But also His grace, His holiness, His truth, His righteousness, His compassion, His character will also be perfected in us… Christ is being formed in you…
• This is God working IN us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Christ in you… Christianity!
• It is the work of the Holy Spirit to manifest the LIFE of Christ in each one of us. The more of HIM that is seen… and the less of self… the more progress we are making spiritually!
• Oh how we need to KNOW that our old man was crucified… and that we are raised up as new creatures in Christ… indwelt by Him… and as we yield, the Holy Spirit produces Christlike fruit in us… for His glory.
4. GOOD WORKS: Heb. 13:20-21 – putting it all into PRACTICE… (make you perfect IN every good work…)
a. This isn’t just “theory.” It is reality.
b. James 2:22 – by works faith is brought to maturity. Without works, faith is dead.
c. Faith and love are mere theories until they are put into practice.
• Good works… when empowered by the Holy Spirit… and are expressions of Christlike fruit…
• Good works PERFECT or complete faith and love… they make it “whole”… so it is not just theory, but reality… concrete.
• They are expressions of indwelling LIFE… that the life of Jesus might be manifest in our mortal bodies.
d. There are THREE WORKS to consider:
• God’s work FOR us (salvation) (Eph. 2:8-9)
• God’s work IN us (sanctification) (Eph. 2:10 – we are His workmanship; His creation).
• God’s work THROUGH us (service) (Eph. 2:10 – created unto good works).
• God has to work IN us before He can work through us.
• But when He DOES work in us… equip us… brings us to maturity… perfection… when He changes us to so that we are a “useful vessel”… THEN He works THROUGH us…
• UNTO good works… the goal of perfection is real fruit… changing us on the inside… which inevitably will manifest itself on the outside.
• This is great progress spiritually: when the Potter has sufficiently smashed the lumpy clay, beat us, molded us… shaped us… so that now He is finally able to USE us!
• Saved, sanctified, equipped, perfected, matured, and then ready for service!
e. It’s great to have fine teaching from the Word. It is necessary to understand certain truths. It is also great to faithfully attend the local church and to be equipped for service.
f. But the time comes when it is time to put into practice all that we have learned. God doesn’t want us to be mere “hearers of the Word” but DOERS!
g. The time comes for us to WALK in the good works God has ordained for us.
h. As God works IN us… He will also work THROUGH us.
i. Being Spirit filled… and resting in Christ does NOT translate into inactivity. Rather, it always results in walking in good works… into useful service for the Master… helpful ministry to the brethren… and a faithful witness to the world.
j. If CHRIST is really in us… then His LIFE and character will be seen THROUGH us. He went about doing good. He continually ministered to the disciples. And He continually preached the gospel to the lost.
k. If Christ is in you… and you are brought to maturity… unto a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… then this Christlike character and ministry will seen in our lives as well.
l. Christ is not inactive. Those resting in Christ will not be inactive either.
m. Walking in good works is one of God’s means of bringing us to perfection… Christlike maturity. Faith without works is dead.
Summary of God’s MEANS of perfection:
2. The Body
3. The Word
6. Understanding the Mystery Truth
7. Good Works
IF YOU ARE NOT SAVED…
1. II Cor. 11:2 – to present them as a chaste virgin to Christ.
2. II Cor. 4:14 – Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
3. Eph. 5:25 – ?That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
4. Col. 1:22 – to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.
5. Jude 24 – 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…
6. This was the goal of Paul’s ministry: to prepare men, women, and children to be presented before the Bema Seat of Christ!
7. The goal of the ministry is not just to fill a building with people; to keep folks happy and entertained; to provide lots of social activities; or to provide food, clothing, and shelter; to provide a platform for social or political activism; etc… it is to get you ready to be presented before the Bema Seat of Christ.
8. Col. 1:22 – we will be presented positionally perfected.
9. Col. 1:28 – we should strive to be conditionally perfect… because we will be presented as we are.
a. Positionally perfected: we are eternally secure.
b. Conditionally perfected: we will receive either rewards or loss of rewards… wasted time is burnt up…
A. Personal responsibility.
1. Doers of the Word and not hearers only… lest we forget.
2. Progress rather than regress… by implementing that which is learned.
3. When rebuked or exhorted, don’t kick against the pricks.
4. Be exercised by the trial… and don’t rebel against it.
5. Acknowledge personal weakness. That is real strength.
6. Spend time in God’s Word.
7. Be faithful to the local church… not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.
9. Be caught up with the glory of the Lord… (II Cor. 3:18)
10. Striving for perfection… (Phil. 3)
11. Ultimately, perfection is the work of God.
a. Ps 18:32; 138:8
c. He that hath begun a good work in you WILL perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6)
d. “Perform” = epitelew – to bring to an end, accomplish, perfect, execute, complete.
e. We WILL be presented holy and unblameable.
f. However, we will also be judged according to our works with respect to rewards. For this we are to strive… God working in and through us… not apart from us… or we apart from Him.
The Sphere of Perfection: In Christ
1. Perfection (maturity; spiritual growth) comes ONLY through our position in Christ…
a. One must KNOW his position… be taught in his position.
b. He must BELIEVE these truths about his position in Christ.
c. He must then REST (abide) in his glorious position…
d. By abiding in our position… Christ’s life flows through us… His fullness becomes ours… His strength, wisdom, grace, holiness, purity… REAL fruit…
2. Eph. 4:15 – grow up into Him… growth is connected to our relationship to Christ… resting In Him… abiding In Him… communing with Him… worshipping Him…
a. Spiritual growth comes as a result of our relationship to a Person… not through our efforts or merit.
b. Justification is by faith… so is sanctification by faith: FAITH in Christ… trusting in Him… resting in Him…
c. As we trust in Him… rest in Him… abide in Him… that relationship has an enormous effect on us! His LIFE is manifested through us… the fruit of Christlike character is manifested through us…
d. As we spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus, beholding His glory… we are gradually changed INTO that image, from glory to glory.
e. We grow INTO HIM… perfection (maturity) comes from being IN Christ… and abiding there!
f. The branch that is NOT abiding in Christ will never bear fruit… for without Christ, we can do nothing.
g. And when genuine Holy Spirit produced fruit IS borne by us, even that is HIS work in us… not merely our work for Him.
h. Any work that we do for Him that is of any value is a result of His work in us. The branch produces NOTHING on its own. In our flesh dwells NO good thing.
i. But IN CHRIST… that branch is exceedingly fruitful!
j. IN CHRIST that branch bears complete, mature, full-grown fruit… perfection is the result of our relationship to Christ. Period.
k. The believer does not grow spiritually nor does he become mature (perfected) in the faith by drawing up or following a checklist of rules and checking them off one by one.
• Music: I have all the right CDs
• Clothes: all my clothes have been approved by the board
• Words: my vocabulary has met all the requirements
• Entertainment: I only participate in the approved forms of entertainment.
• Therefore: I am mature!
• Not so! That kind of living results in self-righteousness rather than spiritual maturity.
• That kind of living results in flesh glorying in its own accomplishments…
l. True Christian living is Christ in us. The Holy Spirit produces His character in us as we YIELD to Him… surrender our will to His… walk in FAITH (resting; trusting)… and are willing to follow His leading wherever it takes us…
• The end results are changes that are heartfelt…
• This results in internal changes in behavior because we want to honor Christ… we truly desire to manifest Him… we want to display HIS grace, holiness, purity, love, righteousness…
• It is not FORCING behavioral changes against our will in order to “fit in” with the expectations of men… but rather, it is a WILLING submission to the yoke of Christ… listening to music that honors Him… willing to sacrifice self in order to attend church services because we WANT to… choosing clothing to please the Lord, not self (dressing up to come to church; modest clothing; avoiding outlandish styles; etc.) refusing to support questionable Hollywood movies, NOT because they are on a taboo list, but because they dishonor Christ!
• Convictions that are our own… not someone else’s… and those are the only kind of convictions that stick.
• Changes in lifestyle that is sourced in the Holy Spirit rather than the flesh…
• And a life that glorifies God, rather than our own accomplishments…
3. Present every man perfect in Christ: Perfection comes from position… knowing, believing, resting, and abiding in Christ…
4. At the presentation, our condition will finally match our position… forevermore!