Personal site - Be Perfect - E. W. Bullinger
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"BE PERFECT”

By Ethelbert W. Bullinger

[Selected Writings II. Holiness: God’s Way Better Than Man’s. 1999, Invictus for "Truth For Today Bible Fellowship. Lafayette, IN.” Pp. 56-60]

 The command of the Lord Jesus in John 5:36, that we should "Search the Scriptures” can be obeyed with great profit and blessing in connection with these words. There are strong grammatical reasons for taking this word "search” as imperative, for the indicative mood rarely, if ever, stands at the beginning of a sentence without the pronoun or some other word to indicate it. Further, the word "search” here means to trace or track out, as a dog or a lion traces out its prey by following the scent. So here it tells us that we are to trace out this word "be perfect,” and follow it up and track it out and thus learn its lessons from the use which the Holy Spirit has made of it.

 The word rendered be perfect here (2 Cor. 13:11), is katartizo; and its lessons may be learned by noting some of the passages where it occurs. We will put the various English renderings in capitals, the thicker type.

 1. Matt. 4:21

"And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, MENDING their nets.”

 Here the word is rendered mending; and hence, we are taught that, to be perfect, we are to get mended as to our walk, our works, and our ways. The verb in 2 Cor. 13:11 is in the passive voice, and means to get mended, not merely to mend, as though the action were our own – for we are like the nets, in Matt. 4:21, and we need another hand, yea, a Divine hand, to be put forth upon us. He alone can see the rents and the defects, He alone can see the danger arising to ourselves, from our habits of thought, our modes of speech, our methods of work; and He alone can repair what is broken and supply what is lacking, so that we may be fitted for the use to which He would put us, and for the service in which He would employ us. Thus mended we shall "be perfect” in the sense in which the precept is given in 2 Cor. 13:11.

 2. Rom. 9:22. Here we read of:

"the vessels of wrath FITTED to (or for) destruction.”

 Destruction is all that these vessels are fitted for, and all that they are fit for. Hence, in the opposite direction, to be fitted for the work for which God has, in infinite grace, chosen us, is to be perfect according to 2 Cor. 13:11. This is the prayer on our behalf, that by the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit we may bear faithful testimony and render faithful service for Christ the Lord. The end of all testimony is the glory of God in Christ, and if we are fitted for this by "the Spirit of truth” then we are perfect in the sense of 2 Cor. 13:11.

 Do we ask how may we be thus fitted? The answer is, only by fellowship with Christ the Living Word: only by diligent study of the Scriptures – the written Word: only by making them the one object of our lives, and having the word of Christ dwelling richly within us. Thus and thus alone shall we be fitted for His service.

 3. 1 Cor. 1:10

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that… there be no divisions among you; but that ye BE-PERFECTELY-JOINED-TOGETHER in the same judgment.”

 Here, the meaning receives further light. To be perfect means not to be divided, but united. This we shall be if our one object be Christ and our desire that of Paul when he said, "that I may know Him” (Phi. 3:10). It does not refer necessarily to outward unity. This seems to be man’s only idea of union. The children of God are "all one in Christ,” and there is no other union or bond of union. Man makes up his "divisions,” and all within these he considers to be "united” or "in fellowship.” But none of these barriers can separate, none of these folds can contain and include the whole "flock of God.” Scattered and dispersed among all man’s "divisions” will be found the members of the one Body, and these are perfectly-joined-together in Christ their head. They are all of "the same mind” as to His glorious person; they are all of "the same judgment” as to his perfect work. They have one standing, "found in HIM” (Phil. 3:9); one object, "that I may know HIM” (Phil. 3:10); and one blessed hope, to "look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” … and to be made like HIM, for He shall at His coming "change our vile body, that it may be made like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20,21).

 4. Gal. 6:1

"Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual, RESTORE such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

 This tells us that though we are perfect as to our standing in Christ, it is far otherwise with us as to our walk on earth. Hence this gracious provision for our deepest need: - "He restoreth my soul”This is the special work of the great Shepherd Himself, and those who are "spiritual” are graciously permitted, yea, are exhorted, to walk in His steps in this matter. He restores us – considering ourselves. The spiritual are to restore us, considering themselves! How vast the difference. (Psalm 23:3).

 Alas! Alas! Where are the "spiritual”? Where are we to look for them? Where do we see their spiritual efforts in obeying this precious word? Alas! We say again, they seem to read this verse as though it were written "If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are righteous judge such an one; spread abroad the sad news; each one tell the other ‘not to say anything,’ and above all ‘do not say that I told you’; follow up ‘such an one,’ injure him (not in the spirit of meekness) all you can; don’t restore him, but cast him out; not considering yourselves.”

 This is how Christians, to-day, try to "be perfect,” and it is about the only thing in which they do actually reach "perfection” in the flesh. Yes, it is indeed "in the flesh” and of the flesh. For it is not the work of "ye who are spiritual.”

 Restoration, then, is one of the shades of meaning which this word has, and a comparison of this with the other passages will help to complete the picture. God grant that some "spiritual” may be found among us; and if any of us shall be tried, and be betrayed into some error in doctrine, or some evil in practice, oh! that some gentle hand may be found to so minister the precious word of God in the spirit of meekness, that we may be restored.

 But when we reflect on and contrast the perfectness of the Great Shepherd we would fain exclaim with David "Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord: for very great are His mercies: and let me not fall into the hand of man (1 Chron. 21:13). For Jehovah my Shepherd is JEHOVAH-ROPHECA, who saith "I am the Lord that healeth thee,” and of Him we can ever say, "He restoreth my soul.”

 5. Heb. 10:5

"A body hast thou PREPARED me” (lit., didst thou prepare me).

 The human body of the Lord Jesus was, while perfectely human, specially prepared by the Holy Ghost: as is plainly stated in Luke 1:35, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: wherefore also that holy ting which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

 Acceptable sacrifice and service can be rendered to God only by the preparation power of the Holy Spirit. Only those works are "good works” which "God hath prepared for us to walk in” (Eph. 2:10). There are "wicked works” (Col. 1:21); and there are "dead works” (Heb. 6:1; 9:14). But only those are "good” which are wrought by the New nature, and therefore are "prepared” by God Himself. "The flesh profiteth nothing.” And therefore no eloquence, no genius, no learning, no wisdom, if it proceeds only from the old nature, is of any avail. It must be "power from on high” (Acts 1:8, compare Luke 1:35). What a comfort for us to know that this "power” does not depend on our attainments, but upon God’s grace and gift; and that the humblest and weakest believer may be useful to God and made to surpass the greatest human achievements, because it is work for eternity and not for time.

 "The preparations of the heart in man… is from the LORD” (Prov. 16:1), and he who is thus prepared by the Holy Spirit is perfect in the sense of 2 Cor. 13:11.

 6. Heb. 11:3. We read:

"By faith we understand that the worlds were FRAMED by the word of god”

 Framed, i.e., were prepared or constituted. We learn "by faith,” that the ages and dispensations were before-ordained and prepared and perfectly-joined-together by the word of God. We also learn that the things which are seen have their being, not out of things which do appear. As to the things which are seen, they came into being not through any theories of evolution, not through any conjectures of geology. And as to the things that are not seen, through faith in the Divine testimony we understand and apprehend that all the ages and dispensations and times and seasons were all prepared and ordained by God; and made by Him. Neither were prepared by the blind laws of Nature or the vagaries of chance, but by the will and mandate of Jehovah who "spake and it was done.”

 What we learn from this is that, if our faculties of soul and body are to be brought into order it must be by the same Divine Mandate. If our times and seasons and comings and goings are to be reduced to order it must be by the will and word of Jehovah.

 If our ways and works are to be controlled, not by any natural laws in the spiritual world, but by spiritual laws in the natural world; not by the opinion of men, but by the word of God, then we are "perfect” in the sense of 2 Cor. 13:11.

 May we, ourselves and our readers be thus perfected: i.e., may our walk be constantly REPAIRED.

 May we be FITTED for all our duties by the Holy Spirit.

 May we be PERFECTLY-JOINED-TOGETHER in Christ and in His truth.

 May we be ever RESTORED by the Great Shepherd who seeks and finds his wandering sheep.

 May we be PREPARED for all emergencies, and endued to meet them with "power from on high.”

 This is our desire and this is our prayer. This, too, is the teaching of the Holy Spirit as to our perfection. Never once does He use the word, either in the original or in the English, to imply any change of the flesh unto spirit, or of the old nature unto the new, or of any change of heart. Never does He contemplate us as being in any condition which does not need repairing, restoring, fitting, or preparing, and we may bless His holy name that these are the very needs for which He has so amply provided.


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