Paul Not Perfect
By W.E. Shepard
Wrested Scripture Made Plain
as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” Phil. 3:12
we find the plain statement from the apostle Paul declaring that he was not
words are a soothing balm to those who would not for anything lay claim to
perfection, and rather pride themselves in their humility and absence of
profession, feeling, of course, that they would not be justified in claiming
more than the apostle Paul. They say, “If Paul did not claim perfection,
surely we ought not. If he was not perfect, then we are not.”
is another place where the context must determine the meaning of the text. Let
us throw aside all prejudice and get at Paul’s true thought. When we read
about perfection in the Word, we should inquire what kind of perfection is
meant. We find different kinds mentioned, such as absolute, referring to God
only; angelic, pertaining to angels; edenic, that state of Adam and Eve in Eden
before the fall; resurrection, relating to our glorified state after the
resurrection; and Christian perfection, pertaining to perfect love. Now, the
question is, which kind did Paul have reference to when he said he had not yet
attained to it? Let the context explain. “If by any means I might attain unto
the resurrection of the dead.”— v. 11. Here we have it—resurrection
perfection. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already
course, he had not arrived at that state of perfection, because he was not yet
dead and resurrected. Perhaps the question arises, Why should he be anxious
about the resurrection, when all will be resurrected? King James’ translation
does not give the apostle’s full meaning. The Revised Version more clearly
sets it forth: “If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from
the dead.” The true thought is, he wanted to attain to the resurrection
out from among the dead. The apostle John writes in Rev. 20:4-6: “And they
lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived
not again until the .thousand years were finished. This is the first
resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first
who are so fortunate as to be in the first resurrection will be from,
or out from among the dead, as Paul meant in the verse in question.
is the holy ones who thus will be resurrected, and those who are not will remain
dead a thousand years more. Thus, Paul was very desirous of being among the
first to be brought forth from the grave. This is a strong argument for
holiness instead of against it.
was so intent on finishing his life thus that he was forgetting other things
behind, and reaching forth to things before; and, like the racer in the games,
he was pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in
Christ Jesus. Oh, that all would be as anxious to live holy lives as Paul, and
thus expect a place in the first resurrection!
further proof that Paul means the resurrection is found in Luke 13:32, where
Jesus says, “And the third day I shall be perfected,” meaning doubtless His
resurrection. The same word precisely that Paid uses.
of Paul inferring or teaching against Christian perfection, he suddenly bursts
out with the declaration in a verse or two following, that he was perfect,
meaning, of course, Christian perfection. Hear him: “Let us therefore as many
as be perfect, be thus minded.”—Phil. 3:15. There can be no mistake that in
this verse Paul believes we may be perfect in some sense, not in the absolute.
Not that we can be infallible. He immediately guards this point by adding in the
same verse, “And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even
this unto you.” And we find this to be true. In our earlier experience of
perfect love we made many blunders and mistakes, but the gentle Spirit kept
revealing them to us
there is a sense in which we may be perfect, or such admonition would not occur
so many times in the Word. Notice the following texts:
brethren, farewell. Be perfect.”— 2 Cor. 13:11.
this also we wish even your perfection.” —2 Cor. 13:9.
we speak wisdom among them that are perfect.”—I Cor. 2:6.
we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”—Col. 1 :28.
ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”—Col. 4:12.
we might see your face and might perfect that which is lacking in your
faith.”— I Thes.
the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
2 Tim. 3:17.
you perfect in every good work to do His will.”—Heb. 13:21.
“That ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”—James 1:4.
any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.”—James 3:2.
is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of
leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto
perfection.”— Heb. 6:1.
ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” -
does all this perfection mean? It means simply this: We are to be perfect in our
spheres as Christians, as God is perfect in His sphere. We are to fill our niche
down here as He directs us. And in filling it we must have, through the grace of
God, perfect love, perfect submission, perfect loyalty, perfect peace, and a
perfect heart cleansing. Thank God for the possibility of Christian perfection.
astonishing it is that people want everything perfect that pertains to this
world, but are so willing to take salvation at such discounts! A lady goes into
a millinery store, calls for a hat, and at once rejects anything that has a
blemish on it. We call for a pair of shoes, and if there is something lacking we
call for another pair. A farmer goes into a nursery and proposes to buy some
young apple trees. If he detects woolly aphis or any other insect about ‘the
roots he will not take them. And who blames him? People want things right. They
are not satisfied with anything short of it. God proposes to give us a perfect
heart. Shall we repudiate His gift? Shall we ask for it to be discounted? Is it
possible to obtain such a blessing as a perfect heart? “For the eyes of the
Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the
behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”— 2
Chron. 16 :9. Such a blessing is for us, and we are a disappointment to the Donor if we fail to accept it.
speak of other things that are perfect, and there is no fuss made about it
at all. We find household article branded “Perfection,” and we think it is
all right. Even tobacco will carry that name (perfect) stamped upon it. If perchance
Christians use it to designate God’s article of salvation, immediately there
is a hue and cry made, and they seem to think it almost blasphemy.
pluck that lovely rose and say, “That is a perfect rose.” We see that noble
steed passing swiftly by and exclaim, 'That is the acme of perfection !' We think nothing of it. If God is able to make a perfect horse or flower,
is He not also able and willing to make a perfect Christian? “0, consistency,
thou art a jewel!”