a per­fect man

Let us come back again to our main verse Hebrews 5:8-9. Verse 9 begins by saying that Jesus became a source of eternal salvation through this process of being made perfect. If Jesus is not fully human (and even now in Heaven is still fully human), He could not have been made perfect. What does it mean then for a man to be made perfect? What does it mean for Jesus to be made perfect? In the next article we’ll discuss how through this process of perfection He becomes the impossible: a man who is (and even now in Heaven is) the source of Eternal salvation.

Perfect Nature And Perfect Action

There are many things that can be said are perfect about a man or a woman. Perhaps they have a perfect appearance (whatever that is). Perhaps they have a perfect intelligence. Yet the more we talk about this word perfect, we realize that we only use it as a superlative, an exaggeration. We use it all the time but only as a wish, as a defiant declaration. If you look close enough, flaws begin to manifest in that very thing just declared to be perfect. So for the Bible to say that Jesus was made perfect is even more ridiculous and impossible. Is the Bible claiming that by some process, Jesus became flawless?

Well, not quite. Our definition of perfect and God’s definition of perfect are not the same. We define perfection as the absence of visible flaws. Should flaws ever be revealed, we can now say that the object was imperfect. Because of the fall, we can only define perfection out of a knowledge of good and evil (see Creation and Fall, Temptation by Bonhoeffer). 2 Cor 5:21, Hebrews 4:15 does reveal that Jesus was perfect because the flaw of sin was not found in Him. Yet this is only one face on the coin of Biblical perfection. The other face is revealed in Genesis 17:1. Walk before me and be perfect. So Biblical perfection is defined negatively by the absence of sin but also defined positively by a walk in time and space before God. One cannot exist without the other.

Christ had a perfect Nature. He was not born with Adam as a father and so He did not inherit Adam’s prideful opposition to God Philippians 2:6. Yet as Kierkegaard would say (see The Concept of Dread), this was not enough. No matter how you start out, sin enters this world the same way faith enters this world: by a leap. Sin is a leap away from God. Faith is a leap towards God. Starting out with a perfect nature is not enough. Adam started out with a perfect nature and he leapt away from God and kept walking away from Him. This is sin. Therefore, a perfect nature is not enough to fulfill God’s command to Abraham. One must also perform the perfect movement of faith by leaping towards God and walking in His Presence. This is exactly what Jesus did.

Love And Basketball

Let us look at this a different way. Let us assume that Michael Jordan is the perfect basketball player. He had the perfect body, coordination, strength, speed and even a perfect desire to play the game. Yet we could not call him a perfect basketball player till we actually watch him play the game. Even though he has the perfect nature for basketball, he still has to go out and play. He still has to win the game by shooting the basketball at the right time and in the right way to get the ball into the basket.

Biblically speaking, the only game in life is to walk before God. Jesus was Perfect in Nature but as we have said before, we live in time and space. Because we are in space, there is a possibility of not being in the Presence of God. Because we live in time, there is a possibility of beginning in His Presence and yet ending by walking away from Him. As creatures of God, we are all born to walk before God. Yet as children of Adam, we are born with a desire to walk away from God. Jesus was perfect then not only because He had the Nature which is a perfect desire to walk before God Isaiah 11:3. He was perfect because in spite of all the possibilities of error in time and space (aka temptation), He walked before God and was perfect.

So to summarize, perfection is the relationship, the union of perfect nature and perfect action. A perfect nature desires to walk before God and a perfect action is the fulfillment of this desire. By being born of Adam, we desire to rebel against God. Yet we cannot blame Adam for our choice to actually walk away from His Presence. Jesus desired to obey God and He also actually obeyed the commandment God spoke to Him while He was still in Abraham. “Walk before me and be perfect.” Jesus always walked before God and therefore He also had the second aspect necessary for perfection: perfect action.

The Person Of Jesus

Now what God said to Abraham in Gen 17:1 may seem a little vague. Now maybe we understand the depth of Abraham’s faith because this command was enough for him. Nevertheless God has helped us in the form of the Ten Commandments. To walk before God and be perfect is to obey the Ten Commandments. Jesus performed these Commandments from God perfectly. Not only did He perform them, He completely fulfilled them Matthew 5:17. The Pharisees and Sadducees that came before Him were only successful in making the burden of sin heavier upon the people Psalms 38:4. But by fulfilling the Law, Jesus gave His disciples a burden Matthew 11:28-29 that gives rest. We know this preaching as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-Matthew 7).

What then are the components of the law? Roughly speaking, The Ten Commandments define the boundaries of Eden. That is, these commands define and make right an individual’s relationship with God and an individual’s relationship with other people. When these relationships are unified, we have something called a person. Yes yes, I know. Maybe you have a sudden urge to reread the paragraph from the beginning cause you’re wondering what I just said. You may have never head this before and I could be hijacking a word for my own purposes but it makes sense to me. So I’ll say it again. You cannot define a person directly (just try it for yourself). A person is the intersection (think Venn Diagram) of his relationship with God and his relationship with other people. Being a right(eous) person is about having the right relationship with God and having the right relationship with other people. To go even further, you cannot really be yourself when there is an absence or deficiency in either of these two relationships. Therefore, the Ten Commandments are not God’s way of restraining us. They are God’s way of shaping us into the perfect persons.

Now Jesus says something curious in John 9:4 which is consistent with what He said in John 4:34. He came do the work that God set before Him. I have just finished saying that to walk before God and be perfect is the same as fulfilling the Ten Commandments. I also went further to say the Ten Commandments are the blueprints for building a perfect relationship with God and a perfect relationship with other people. In other words, the one who fulfills God’s Commandments builds him or herself into a perfect person. Jesus came to do the work God set before Him. In time and space, His Work was to be perfectly related to God and perfectly related to other people. The Work of Jesus then was to build Himself into a perfect person Psalms 40:6-8, Hebrews 10:5-7. This has (I can’t think of a better superlative so I’ll say…) universe-altering implications which we’ll discuss in the next article.

“Is it not indeed from the LORD of Hosts that the labor of the peo­ple only feeds the fire, and the nations weary them­selves in vain? For the earth will be filled with the knowl­edge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
- Habakkuk 2:13-14

Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.