The Perfect Church
“And he (God) gave some, apostles, and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
As you fellowship with other Christians you will hear many of them tell you that the body of Christ, that is, the church, is supposed to be perfect! When we look at ourselves and other Christians we find that in one respect, perfection is NOT something that we see taking place in this physical world. This understanding has led to numerous programs, efforts, and striving to move toward and to hopefully someday see perfection in our own lives and the Christian church. But if this is the true meaning of the above passage, how do we obtain this perfection? And furthermore, is that really what is being said in this passage?
A good place to begin our study might be to determine the modern day English definition of the word “perfect.”
“Lacking nothing essential to the whole; complete of its nature or kind. In a state of undiminished or highest excellence; without defect, flawless” (Webster’s Dictionary).
I think that when Christian’s read the Bible, it is the “without defect, flawless” part of the above definition that is most prevalent in their mind.
Now let us look at the Koine Greek word for perfect that we will be using in our study.
“katartismos” – to complete thoroughly, make perfectly, a making to fit, to render fit, complete furnishing, perfecting, a fulfillment.
1. 1 Corinthians 2:6
2. In the verse above taken from the KJV, who do you think is being referred to as the “them that are perfect” Paul is writing about? (Incidentally, the word “world” appears twice in the KJV Bible in that verse. That word should be translated as “age” in both places).
In the verse above Paul is saying that the believers in the Corinthian church are perfect! If this is so we need to find out how this happened.
3. Colossians 1:28
4. What does Paul seem to indicate the requirement is to be perfect?
5. John 17:23a
6. What do you see from the verse above as being the process by which Jesus describes the church as being “made perfect in one”?
7. 1 John 2:20
8. What is the significance of the two appearances of the word “ye” in the verse above?
9. What was it that the people to whom John was writing were to possess?
Certainly, to know “all things” would perfect the church. But let us look more closely at what these “all things” could be.
10. 1 John 2:21
11. What was it that the people to whom John wrote knew?
12. 1 John 2:28
13. What is John’s concern in the verse above?
14. John 16:12, 13
15. How was the early church to know “all truth” and the “things to come”?
The Holy Spirit was given to the early church to lead her into all truth, so the knowledge or truth that we have been studying must be some kind of perfection that we do not normally understand correctly.
16. John 20:9
17. From the verse above, was there anything that the disciples did not yet understand?
It is a theological tragedy that so many in the church today are under the impression that they, and others in the body of Christ, need to become holier than they are at the present. This results in an insistence on perfecting what in the spiritual realm is already perfect resulting in extreme forms of moralism and programs which do no more than bind believers to tasks of ascetic behavior in the name of man-made religion. They attempt to make themselves perfect before God when those efforts have no such effect as all has been perfected when Christ came to live within us when we became believers! It is the perfect one that lives within us that makes us perfect in the Fathers sight. God is the only one who is truly perfect!
In comparison to what we might see with our physical eyes, or hear with our ears, each part of the believer church is perfected at the instant that each person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ! This perfection does not ensure that all applications of knowledge by the church will be without error. Nor will it guaranty that our judgments and understandings in all matters will be without errors because each person does not have their mind completely renewed in its thinking.
18. Ephesians 3:4, 5
The passage above illustrates to us that the types and shadows of the Old Covenant offered only an imperfect understanding and portrayal of what God was actually teaching His people. The completion or fulfillment of that knowledge to the church is brought about by Christ and being in Him which all New Covenant believers are part of!
19. Ephesians 3:6
From the verse above we see where this knowledge of Christ included the knowledge of how Christ would be the mediator of the New Covenant for all of mankind, both Jew and Gentile, through His one body.
If you are a believing Christian you are already a member of the one and only perfect church! That perfection is only because we have the perfect one, God Himself, living within us!
While we are discussing the passages in this Learning Activity I am forced to further explain the Ephesians 4:11-13 passage as there is a critically important aspect of that passage that far too many Christians do not understand. To introduce this part of the Learning Activity I have pasted in below an email I received from a believer who refers to himself as a “pastor.” Please read the email.
Over the past twenty-two years of my activity with my web site the belief and attitude reflected in the above email is NOT an oddity but very “normal” for those who call themselves pastors.
In the spiritual New Covenant we live in today, the Old Covenant and Transition Period offices listed in Ephesians 4 are all eliminated insofar as God is concerned and it is His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of all five of these! “Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1, RSV).
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