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Chapter 13. Jesus the Only Perfect Man

Chapter 13

Jesus the Only Perfect Man

This final chapter, “Jesus the Only Perfect Man,” takes as its title the main title of the book, plus one word (“Jesus”). Its subject-matter has been touched on in the previous chapters, and is in­ter­woven here and there with our earlier discuss­ions on the humanity of Jesus, the exaltat­ion of Jesus, and God’s work in him. This final chapter serves as a contin­uat­ion of what we have already said about Jesus the only Perfect Man. It is part contin­uation of, part sum­mary of, and part conclusion of the theme “Jesus the only Perfect Man,” the com­ple­ment of “Yahweh the only true God.”

Ever since the Genesis creation and the fall of Adam and Eve, there has been “none righteous, not even one” among all the human beings who have ever lived on the face of the earth (Rom.3:10). Eliphaz in­voked this truth to reject Job’s claim to innocence: “What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?” (Job 15:14) Jesus was of course the sole exception to this gen­eral statement.

In the Old Testament of some Bibles, a few people are said to be per­fect, but in these cases, the Hebrew word ren­dered “perfect” is more appropriate­ly understood as “blameless,” a rendering that is seen in some other Bibles. In the Old Test­ament, the term “perfect” or “blameless” or “wholly com­mitted” is used of a few rare individuals (e.g., Noah in Genesis 6:9 or Asa in 1Kings 15:14). But the per­fection they achieved falls well short of God’s absolute stand­ards. No human being apart from Jesus has ever attained to absolute perfection, yet we could still say that these blame­less men and women have attained to a relative perfect­ion or a relative blame­lessness in comparison to mankind in general.

But when we speak of Jesus as the only perfect man, we are talking about ab­solute sinless­ness, absolute love, absolute righteous­ness—an absolute per­fection with no ifs or buts. This amazing achieve­ment is the greatest mir­acle Yahweh God has ever done, for no one can attain to absolute per­fection unless Yahweh empowers him every moment of his life. The other side of the coin is that Jesus lived every moment of his earthly life in total obedience to his Father.

The Scriptures mention a few outstanding men of God. Moses came clos­er to perfection than have most of the godly peo­ple in the OT, yet he still failed grievously on one occa­sion (Num.20:7-12). The great prophet Isaiah, when granted a vision of Yahweh, confessed that he was a man of “un­clean lips” (Isa.6:5).

There is “none right­eous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). But not being righteous is not the same as being wicked, so Paul is not say­ing that all humanity is wicked as we under­stand that term, but that no one has ever attained to absolute right­eousness and an un­broken record of obedi­ence to God.

Can man arrive at perfect right­eousness in his own strength and will power? The Bible’s dire record of human history shows that this is impossi­ble. Hence Jesus’ being the perfect man is a most astonishing and unpreced­ented mira­cle. But as trinitarians, we weren’t really interested in his hu­man­ity or perfection, for our dogmatic inter­ests were focused on proving that he is God. In theory we accepted the idea of Jesus’ perfection, but in practice we didn’t give it much thought, for we simply assumed that Jesus is perfect by reason of his deity, not realizing that the divine God-man of trinitarian­ism is not hu­man in the way that every human being is human.

Obeying God: The Garden of Eden

Let’s begin with Genesis. What did God require of Adam in terms of obed­ience? Why was it even necessary to impose require­ments in the first place? And wasn’t there only one re­quire­ment for Adam and Eve, namely, that they shall not eat the fruit of a tree called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, located in the middle of the Garden of Eden (Gen.2:8,9,17)?

We are not told how big the garden was, but we can sur­mise that it was not like the average home garden that we see in places like North America. It was evidently an immense garden because the Bible says that it was situated be­tween the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.

Why are we talking about the size of the garden? Because if it was a small garden containing a few dozen or even a few hundred trees, that forbid­den tree would be in regular view of those who walked around in the garden. But that would not be so if the garden was a vast stretch of land planted with millions and millions of trees, and populated with every species of animal that God had created and brought to Adam to name.

In a vast forest containing millions of trees and animals, we might think that the power of tempt­ation posed by this lone for­bidden tree would be proportionally reduced by the vastness of the garden. The point is that in this test of obedience, God had made it as easy as possi­ble for Adam and Eve to stay away from temptation. Yet it was also necess­ary that man’s obedience be tested in order that he may learn to obey God. In placing Adam in the garden, Yahweh in His mercy did what He had to do in order to teach him obedience and moral res­pon­si­bility, yet at the same time He made it as easy as possible for him. In this thoughtful arrange­ment for Adam, Yahweh’s wisdom and com­passion are clearly displayed.

But the problem of sin and evil existed long before Adam, as seen in the fact that the serpent (the devil, Rev.12:9; 20:2) was already present in the gar­den (Gen.3:1,2,3). Paul speaks of creation’s bondage to corrupt­ion (decay), yet also of the future glorious hope of emanci­pation: “Creation itself will be set free from its bond­age to corruption and obtain the free­dom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom.8:21, ESV).

Obeying God: The Law given to Israel

The next time in the Bible that we see Yahweh imposing com­mands is in rel­ation to a nation of slaves that had been captive in Egypt for four cen­turies. They had been living un­der constant oppress­ion, and were groaning for free­dom. In an act of grace, Yahweh chose the people of this slave nation, who had by then exper­ienced much suffering, to make them His own people and “special possession” (Ex.19:5; Dt.7:6).

In Egypt and other ancient civilizations, slaves were at the bottom rung of society. They had no social stand­ing and enjoyed no rights or special pro­tection; they could be bought and sold like live­stock. Yet it was this very nation of slaves, the “non-entities” of society, which Yahweh had cho­sen from among all the peoples of the earth to be His own people. He established a covenant with them and gave them the Ten Command­ments as the moral basis of the covenant.

Whereas Adam had only one command to obey, the standard was raised to ten for Israel. But it is important to see what these com­mand­ments have in common: With one or two exceptions, they are all of a negative character and begin with the words, “You shall not”. An except­ion to this is the fifth com­mand­ment, “Honor your father and your mother,” which does not contain a negative. Although the fourth com­mand­ment, “Keep the Sabbath day holy,” does not conform to the negative formula­tion of the other com­mandments, it is still essentially a negative com­mand­­ because it prohibits all regular work on the day of rest; the Sab­bath was a pres­cribed holiday for the people to rest from the work of their regular occupations.

It is in the Sabbath command­ment that the word “holy” appears for the first time in the Ten Command­ments. But how does one become holy by not doing any work? The point, of course, is that on the day of rest, every­one is to turn his or her attent­ion wholly to Yahweh. With this comes the call to “be holy as I am holy” (Lev.11:44).

This people—an erstwhile nation of slaves whom God had called out of slavery, a people with no earthly piece of land to call their own—God had called to become a holy people wholly dedicated to Himself. Yahweh called to Himself the nobodies of the world to become His special people.

In view of the laws that Yahweh had given the people of Israel, but also in view of the largely negative formulation of these laws, it would seem that as in the case of Adam, Yahweh had made it as easy as possible for the Israelites to be holy, because what was required of them was not the attain­ment of high and lofty moral goals but merely abstaining from doing certain things. Even so, like Adam they failed. They could not even keep the neg­ative laws, that is, they could not refrain from doing the things they were forbidden to do. It would appear that the things prohibited or for­bidden by God are pre­cisely the things that man wants to do.

We cannot simplistically assume that the com­mandments given in nega­tive form, such as the one given to Adam or most of the Ten Command­ments given to Israel, are any easier to obey than those stated in positive form. A com­mand that for­bids one from doing what one desires is not any easier to keep than a command to do what one doesn’t want to do. Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and found it irresistibly attractive, and this led to an act of disobe­dience that proved fatal for her, for Adam, and for mankind.

Is the commandment, “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Dt.6:5; Mk.12:30), any easier to keep? When we reflect on it, we will see that in practice, this com­mandment is no easier to keep than the others, as seen in the tragic fact that Israel and all mankind in general have found themselves unable to keep both the positive and the negative command­s. Given the mostly nega­tive formulation of the Ten Command­ments, it would seem that it should not be difficult to be blameless. Yet it is also evident that it is impos­sible for man to be perfect, and this is because of his human nature.

The immense challenges that Jesus faced

It is against this backdrop of Israel’s and mankind’s long history of spir­itual failure that we strive to understand the challenges Jesus faced when Yahweh sent him into the world to become the perfect man and per­fect sacrifice for man­kind’s salvation. The more we think about his miss­ion in the con­text of man­kind’s moral failure as reflected in the words “there is none righteous, not even one” (Psa.14:3; Rom.3:10), the more we will wonder how it was ever possible that Jesus could have tri­umphed when no one else could.

Not even the great prophets of old could claim perfection. Probably no Old Testament prophet is more esteemed than Isaiah. Yet when he received a vision of Yahweh, he con­tritely confessed, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isa.6:5) What Isaiah meant by “unclean lips” is not ex­plained, but anyone who has ever tried to live a holy life would have an idea of what he meant. One wrong or inappropriate word makes us un­clean and negates perfection. If we imagine perfect­ion as a spot­less white sheet, that sheet would become imperfect as soon as a tiny speck lands on it.

The one who bridles his tongue is a perfect man (James 3:2). Few can bridle their tongues for a day, refraining from saying a wrong word for 24 hours, much less a stretch of 30 years as in the case of Jesus. The amazing fact that Jesus attained perfection—even allowing for Yahweh’s sustain­ing power in him (which is also available to all belie­vers through God’s indwell­ing pres­ence)—is beyond the powers of our imag­ination to envis­age.

The perfecting of Jesus is Yahweh’s greatest miracle, ex­ceeding the splen­dor of the creation of the universe. Dealing with inani­mate things such as quarks and neutrinos cannot compare with relating to a living be­ing who has his own will and freedom of choice.

Jesus’ perfection was attained after the Fall which had brought sin and death into the world, creating a hostile spir­itual environ­ment inimical to righteousness and perfection. What Adam and Eve failed to attain in a favor­able environ­ment, Jesus attained in a hostile one. Not surpris­ingly, from the time of Adam to the time of Jesus, no one had ever at­tained perfect­ion. The stupen­dous fact that Jesus became the perfect man for the salva­tion of the world makes the trinitar­ian Jesus, the God-man, pale by compar­ison.

Apart from Jesus there has been no perfect man among the bill­ions who have passed through the world, not even among the great servants of God. Abraham, despite his outstanding qualities and his standing as “God’s friend” (2Chr.20:7; Isa.41:8; James 2:23), was not an exception (cf. the con­flict surround­ing Sarah and Hagar). Moses, regarded by many as the greatest of God’s servants, was not allowed to enter the land of promise because of an outburst of anger (Num.20:7-12).

How difficult is perfection? That is not even the right question to ask, for it is simply impossible to attain to per­fect­ion in this life. Yet that was what Jesus achieved through a mutual indwell­ing with Yahweh: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn.14:10). This relationship with the Father is meant to be inclusive, not exclu­sive, for we are to live in the world as Jesus lived (“as he is, so also are we in this world,” 1Jn.4:17).

Jesus’ perfection: a model for God’s people

The picture of a lifelong and arduous process of attaining perfect­ion—to which every believer born of the Spirit is called—is drawn out in great detail in the New Testament. By contrast, the Jesus of trinita­rianism, who is in­trinsically perfect because he is God, is not a model that we can follow in our striving for the perfection to which we have been called: “Be perfect as your hea­venly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48).

What does Jesus mean by “be perfect”? It is explained in the Sermon on the Mount and illustrated in his teachings. Jesus is the very example and model of the perfection of which he speaks. And has he ever told us how he had at­tained perfect­ion? Yes he has, and in detail! But blinded by trinitarian dog­ma, we failed to see the spiritual dynamics of how Jesus functioned in relation to the Father all through his life in the attain­ment of perfection. The fact is that Jesus has already told us how he lived in relation to the Father, and in such a way that we can follow in his steps and live as he lived.

Jesus has made many statements to the effect that the things that are true of him are also true of his followers. Just as he was born of the Spirit of God (Lk.1:35; Acts 10:38), so everyone must be born of the Spirit (Jn.3:5,6,8) and of God (1Jn.3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18); hence Paul’s constant emphasis on life in the Spirit (Rom.8:9; Eph.6:18; Phil.2:1; Col.1:8).

Just as Jesus did nothing of his own will (Jn.4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:28), so every believer is to do God’s will (Mt.7:21; Jn.8:51; 14:21; 1Jn.5:3). Believ­ers are to abide in Jesus and in the Father in the way that Jesus abides in the Father and in belie­vers (Jn.15:1-10; 1Jn.2:24,27; 4:13). Just as the world hated and re­jected Jesus, so the world will hate and reject us his followers (Jn.15:18-19). Just as Jesus will be glorif­ied, so those in Christ will be glorified with him (Jn.17:1,5,10; Rom.8:17).

These spiritual dynamics stem from the spiritual union that Jesus repeatedly speaks of: the Father is “in me” (Jn.10:38; 14:10,11; 17:21), that is, the Father lives in him and does His works through him (Jn.14:10). Jesus is Yahweh’s temple (Jn.2:19) as are his believers (1Cor.3:16-17; 6:19). The way Jesus lives in relation to the Father is exactly how the believer is to live.

A thought exercise: a sinless and perfect society

Because there has never been a sinless person in humanity apart from Jesus, it would be hard for us to under­stand what sinless­ness is. We know that it is, by defi­nition, the absence of sin, but that is a negative definition. What then are the posit­ive qualities of a sin­less character? It would certainly include purity and perfection, but these are ab­stract concepts to us.

It may help to think of a country in which there is no crime, no discord, and no corruption. It would be an ideal country, a utopian state. How will such a country be established and gov­erned? A crime-free coun­try would prob­ably have an economic system in which there is near equality of wealth and in which no one is compelled to steal out of the distress of pover­ty. But stealing and robbery are not always motivated by poverty, but often by the desire to possess some­thing that is obtainable only by crime, perhaps a work of art that is not for sale. The root problem is not poverty but greed and selfish­ness.

A perfect country cannot be established merely with a good econ­omic system in which there is near-equal distribu­tion of wealth because such a soc­iety would still require of each citizen an ex­cellence of char­acter that would elim­inate the common malaise of selfish­ness, greed, and lust. In short, nothing less than the inner moral purity of each citizen is re­quired. A perfect crime-free country would require that each citi­zen be sinless. Thus it comes back full circle from the external condi­tions of a nation to the moral state of the individual.

This thought exercise shows that establishing a sinless so­ciety takes more than the containment or elimination of what is neg­ative; it requires a range of positive qualities needed for esta­blishing sinlessness: the wisdom to dis­cern right from wrong, the cour­age to do what is right in the face of what is wrong, and adhering to righteous­ness when the pull or attraction of unright­eousness is strong.

All these qualities are found in Yahweh and ultimately in Him alone. Yet He generously makes them available to all who would obey and follow Him. This has been fully realized in Jesus Christ, and so far in him alone. When it is said that Jesus is without sin, the absence of sin is not some­thing stated in negative form, but signifies that every positive spir­it­ual quality exists in him in perfect completeness.

In the New Testament, the hope of a per­fect, crime-free country is not a pipe dream but a reality that Jesus pro­claimed as the kingdom of God. The kingdom is a central theme of Jesus’ teaching in the synoptic gos­pels. The pro­clam­ation by both Jesus and John the Baptist is, “The king­dom of God is at hand” (Mt.3:2; 4:17), that is, God’s kingdom is about to be esta­b­lished. It is this high goal that Jesus had in view, notably in the call, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48). A perfect king­dom, preeminently God’s kingdom, can be estab­lished only if every one of its citizens is perfect.

In God’s plan, Jesus’ becoming the perfect man is not the end of the mat­ter but only the start, in order “that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom.8:29). The brothers coming after him are to be per­fected just as he had been perfected. The same verse says that all belie­vers are to be “con­formed to the image of His Son.” This is another way of saying that they are to attain to the “stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph.4:13). To make this a reality, Yahweh appointed Jesus the Messiah to be the king of His king­dom. That Jesus is king in God’s Kingdom is seen for ex­ample in Mt.25:34: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the king­dom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”

The deceitfulness of sin

To appreciate the magnitude of Jesus’ attainment of sinless­ness, we no­tice that not even the mighty angels are immune to sin. Jude 1:6 speaks of an­gels who had left their proper sta­tion, and are now kept in eternal chains await­ing judgment. The meaning of “left their proper stat­ion” is not explained, but it is clear that the angels had encroached on, or attempted to take poss­ession of, some­thing they were not enti­tled to.

The most shocking display of this is seen in Revelation 12 which says that as many as one third of the angels in heaven will be enticed by that old en­emy of God—the dragon or Satan, the “deceiver of the whole world” (v.9)—into fighting Yahweh the Most High (Rev.12:4,7-9). The conse­quences of their madness could only be imagined or per­haps not ima­gined.

It is baffling that one would choose to sin even when he is aware of the terrifying consequences. Why does he do it? Is it because there is some­thing reckless in the psyche of every person? Or the misguided be­lief that one might just get away with it? Did the angels who rebelled against God believe that they could defeat Him because of their strength in num­bers? Or were they bewitched by Satan’s enchant­ing powers as in the case of the Galatians (Gal.3:1)? These are the quest­ions that come to mind when we read news reports of mind­less deeds of violence for which there is no rational explan­ation.

We are baffled that a cultured and generally well-intent­ioned people like the Ger­mans could have been enticed by Adolf Hitler, a char­ismatic mad­man, into committing them­selves inex­tricably to a course of action that proved fatal to themselves and the countless victims of their dreadful deeds. As human beings, we know full well that this kind of irration­ality could happen to any people and not just the German people.

The Scriptures speak of “the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb.3:13) which can entrap anyone who is not alert. Not even the mighty angels, great in know­ledge and power, are im­mune to the deceit­fulness of sin. Paul probably had in mind this frightening aspect of sin when he wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12). But the popu­lar teaching of “eternal security” in the church will only en­courage believers to throw all caution to the wind, believing that once they have become Christians, they are eternally secure no mat­ter how they live.

To attain sinless perfection, Jesus had to battle the many fearsome aspects of sin and above all its deceitful aspects which have caused the down­fall of many Christians. And because of its deceitful­ness, sin has been given a free run in ensnaring its victims long before they realize what has hap­pened to them. We now see ever more clearly the need for wisdom and discern­ment in the battle against sin. The mag­ni­ficence of Jesus’ triumph over this multi­faceted enemy now stands out, bringing salvation to mankind.

Sin is not confined to humanity but is something that oper­ates in the en­tire cosmos of living beings, human and angelic. Jesus’ triumph over sin has immense conse­quences not only for mankind but the entire cosmos. With anticipa­tion and groaning, the whole creation awaits the salvation to come (Rom.8:22).

The root cause of sin, as Paul points out, is not God’s com­mand­ments but man himself. Man acknowledges that God’s command­ments are good but our fundamental prob­lem is the one portrayed in Paul’s poignant words: “the good I want to do, I don’t do; the evil I don’t want to do, I do” (Rom. 7:19). Paul teaches that the root of sin lies in man’s “flesh”. This does not imply any intrinsic sinful­ness of the phy­sical body but that our thinking is influenced by desires, which in turn are con­trolled by “bodily lusts”. These cover many elem­ents of the human psyche, starting with needs and appet­ites, whether for food or sexual gratification, and then moving on to a greed for power as a means of gratifying these desires, which often begin as some­thing legitimate but is pushed to de­praved extremes. When a desire reaches this state, it can grow into a greed or covetousness that compels man to get what he wants by rob­bery or murder, and on a wider social scale by wars and acts of aggress­ion, many of which fill the pages of history.

If man is enslaved to his flesh, how will he ever attain to the good, let alone the perfect? But there is hope.

Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel

The concept of holiness runs through the Old and New Testaments, and is seen in the repeated affirmation that Yahweh is holy. He is called “the Holy One of Israel” 25 times in Isaiah alone. The shorter form, “the Holy One,” is used of Yahweh in verses such as Isa.40:25; Hab.1:12; 3:3; Prov.9:10 (cf. 1Jn.2:20). In fact, only Yahweh is holy in the absolute sense: “For you alone are holy” (Rev.15:4).

Yahweh’s holiness is also derived from His uniqueness as God: “There is none holy like Yahweh; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God” (1Sam.2:2; cf. Isa.40:25). Verses such as Dt.4:35 and Isa.45:21-22; 46:9 similarly bring out Yahweh’s uniqueness that sets Him apart from false gods.

Jesus is called “the holy one of God” (Mk.1:24; Lk.4:34; Jn.6:69) and the “holy and righteous one” (Acts 3:14).

Jesus’ perfection and sinlessness

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sym­pathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every res­pect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

The reality of sin and temptation that confronts us every day is brought out in the book of Hebrews in the striking state­ment that Jesus is a high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses, for he too had been tempted in every res­pect as we, yet without having ever sinned. His sympath­etic under­stand­­ing stands in sharp con­trast to the condemn­ing attitude of the religious lead­ers towards an adulter­ous woman, and is summed up in a state­ment about the pervas­ive­ness of sin: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

Jesus’ sympathetic understanding is all the more admir­able in view of the contrast between his sinlessness and our sinful­ness, the latter of which is brought out in Romans 3:10, a verse derived from Psalm 14:1-3:

Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, not even one.”

Psalm 14:1-3 They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become cor­rupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (ESV)

In contrast to our sinfulness is Jesus’ sinlessness, righteous­ness, and in­no­cence, as seen in the following verses (all ESV):

John 8:46 Which one of you convicts me of sin?

John 14:30 the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me.

2 Corinthians 5:21 … he made him to be sin who knew no sin

Hebrews 4:15 (quoted)

Hebrews 7:26 … a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

Hebrews 9:14 … the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God

1 Peter 1:19 … with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

1 Peter 2:22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

Jesus is called “holy” or “the holy one” in Acts 2:27 and 13:35, which are quotations of Psalm 16:10:

Acts 2:27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.

Acts 13:35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.”

Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

Jesus, who is perfect and sinless, will bear the sins of many and make them righteous:

Isaiah 53:9-12 ... he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of Yahweh to crush him; he has put him to grief … Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be sat­isfied; by his know­ledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted right­eous, and he shall bear their iniquit­ies … he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the trans­gress­ors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercess­ion for the trans­gressors. (ESV, “Yahweh” in the original Hebrew restored)

Jesus’ attainment of perfection through suffering is crucial for our salvation because atonement requires the per­fect sacrifice and the perfect high priest. In the Law, no sacrifice is accept­able to God unless it is perfect and without defect or blemish:

Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be acceptable for you. And when a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to Yahweh … it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. (Lev.22:20-21; cf. Dt.15:19,21; 17:1)

Christ is the perfect and sinless sacrifice: “you were re­deemed … with the pre­cious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1Pet.1:18-19). He is not only a perfect sacrifice but also “a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.5:10). In the Law, the high priest, too, has to be perfect: “No man of the descend­ants of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offering” (Lev.21:21, ESV).

Perfection in reality

We sinners can hardly fathom what it is like to be sinless. It might help if we could try for one day! Then imagine what it would be like to be sinless for some 20 years of adulthood (from the ages of 13 to 33, in Jesus’ case). Little wonder that at the age of thirty, Jesus looked like a man approaching fifty (Jn.8:57). Although he main­tained com­munion with God every moment of every day, the mere thought that the salva­tion of the world could be lost in one care­less second must have been heavy to bear. It is this suffering above all else, ev­en the rela­tively brief suffering on the cross, that constitutes the true suffering he took up for the sake of our salvation.

The perfection of Jesus is the greatest miracle Yahweh has ever done. Jesus Christ is Yahweh’s new creation, the pinnacle of God’s glor­ious work from all eternity, the likes of which has never been seen and will never be sur­passed in all eternity. For this reason God has exalted Jesus “above the heavens” (Heb.7:26) to a position at His right hand.

By compar­ison, the trinitarian fiction of Jesus the God-man is unmar­vellous. The Jesus of trinitarianism is God Almighty who created all things whereas the Jesus of the Bible possesses nothing that came from himself. Even his name “Jesus” was given to him by Yahweh. If the key word for the trinitarian Jesus is homo­ousios, the key word for the biblical Jesus is obedience.

The Jesus of trinitarianism, with his supposed coequality with God, cannot secure mankind’s salva­tion; only the obedience of the biblical Jesus, the Lamb of God, can secure it. It is “the obedience of the one man” that makes the many right­eous (Rom.5:19).

That obed­ience must be perfect, not partial. James ex­presses it from an­other angle: “For whoever keeps the whole law, yet fails in one point, is guilt­y of breaking it all” (James 2:10). The one who has bro­ken one com­mand­ment has broken all ten.

Jesus the perfect man fulfilled the law perfectly, notably the law of love, for “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom.13:10). He did not abolish the law or teach anyone to do so, but in fact said that “not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away until all is fulfilled” (Mt.5:18). He came to fulfill the law, and as perfect man “gave his life a ransom for many” (Mk.10:45).

In our trinitarian days, we thought of Jesus’ perfection as a byproduct of his deity. But the notion that one can be perfect or sinless by a hypo­static union—a concept found in some forms of my­sticism—is a myth that even few prac­ticing mystics believe. In real life there is no shortcut to per­fection. Just as Jesus was made perfect through suffer­ing all through his life and not just in the final week, so perfection for the believer is a life-long process. Not even Paul saw himself as having attained perfection (Phil.3:12). He wres­tled with pride to the extent that the Lord had to place a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from being proud (2Cor.12:7).

We now appreciate the immense achievement of Jesus the perfect man. His final three years were the most difficult. The 40 days of tempt­ation in the wilderness without food, inten­sified by Satan’s relentless attacks, would exceed what most people can endure for one day. This was fol­lowed by two or three years of sland­er­ing by the reli­gious lead­ers who accused him of just about everything. He was labelled a rabble-rouser, a false messiah, a blas­phemer, and a man who functioned by the power of the chief of demons. It seems that no one is more adept at slander and character assassination than the religious people, especially reli­gious lead­ers whom the people learn from by emula­tion. Little wonder that many turn away from reli­gion. We need only go to the Internet to see the slandering that some religious people excel in. Jesus warned his disciples about such zealots, who will kill you for what they think will glorify God.

Jesus’ attainment of perfection is beyond imagination even given God’s indwelling presence in him. And God has made that indwelling available to all believers! It is those who have tried with all their hearts to live right­eously who under­stand how amazing is Jesus’ attainment of per­fection. Such people will grow in their love and devotion to him, acknow­ledging him as their Lord and Savior.

 

The crime of trinitarianism is the obscuring of the marvel of Jesus the sinless and perfect man, reducing this won­derful truth to the super­ficial and trite notion that since Jesus is God, he is au­toma­tically sinless, his per­fect­ion being a product of his deity.

Instead of marvelling at the stupendous wonder of the perfect man, trin­itarians sidetrack the issue with lengthy dis­cussions on whether the divine Jesus is capable of sinning. It is hard to understand why this quest­ion is even raised, for if Jesus is God, then obviously he cannot sin. In fact he cannot even be tempted (“God cannot be tempted by evil,” James 1:13). The real reason for their question is that they cannot deny that Jesus wrestled with sin to the point of ap­pearing to sweat drops of blood (Lk.22:44). This has caused some trinit­ar­ians to pull back from con­cluding that Jesus could not have sinned. But this is a contradictory position to take, for a God who can be tempted to sin is not the God of the Bible.

In trinitarian­ism, Jesus’ perfection comes packaged with his deity. Since Jesus is God, and God is perfect, therefore Jesus’ human nature is perfect through the hypostatic union with his divine nature. But can div­ine qualities such as holi­ness and wisdom be transferred? Can anyone be perfected in the blink of an eye, bypassing a long and arduous pro­cess of spiritual growth and learning?

No one, not even Jesus, is born or created perfect, for we are talk­ing about moral perfection. Hebrews says that Jesus became perfect through suffering (2:10), learned obedience through suffering (5:8), and was made perfect (5:9). When Adam was created by God, he was perfect in every sense phy­sical and mental. He was sinless in the sense that he, like an infant, had not yet had occasion to sin. But the fact that Adam soon failed is clear evid­ence that he was not created morally perfect.

When did Jesus begin walking on the road to perfection?

When did Jesus begin to live a life of obedience to the Father? We don’t have a precise answer to the quest­ion because the Bible provides no record—apart from one incident—of his “hidden years,” that is, the period from his infan­cy to the time he burst onto the scene in Israel at around the age of thirty.

There is one notable exception to the silence of those years: the ac­count in Luke 2:41-50 of 12-year-old Jesus who visited Jeru­salem with his family for the Passover. At the con­clusion of the feast, his family started returning home only to discover, after having travelled some dis­tance, that Jesus was not with them. So they returned to Jerusalem to look for him, and event­ually found him in the temple engaging in deep discuss­ions with the learned men there.

Asked to account for what he had done, Jesus simply said, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk.2:49). Most modern Bibles (ESV, NASB, NIV) have “my Father’s house” rather than “my Father’s business” (KJV, NKJV), but this would make his statement super­fluous, for was it not precisely the temple (“my Father’s house”) to which his parents returned in searching for him? With nei­ther “house” nor “business” appear­ing in the Greek text, the statement is translated more literally as: “Did you not know that I must be in those (things) of my Father?

After this incident, the Bible is silent on the next 18 years of Jesus’ life. So why was this solitary event recorded in Luke’s Gospel? Because it reveals not only Jesus’ precocious­ness in his under­standing of the Script­ures at a young age, but also that he had already seen himself as being involved in, and com­mitted to, his Father’s work. This was undoubt­edly part of the whole process of his being perfected.

In Judaism, a boy is not considered accountable before the Law until he becomes Bar Mitzvah (“son of command­ment”) on his 13th birth­day plus one day. From then on, he is morally responsible to keep the com­mand­ments. [1]

When we grasp the significance of Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem at the age of 12, we can give a more precise answer to the question, When did Jesus begin his life of obedience to his Father? Even before he had reached the age of 13, he had already been engaged in his “Father’s busi­ness.” How much earlier he had been doing this is not recorded for us; he may have started earlier. But one thing is clear: From the moment Jesus was capable of responsible obed­ience to the Father, he had always lived to please Him. This carried on to the end when he hung on the cross and said with his last breath, “It is fin­ished” (accom­plished).



[1] Article “Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol.3, p.164: “term denoting both the attainment of religious and legal maturity as well as the occa­sion at which this status is formally assumed for boys at the age of 13 plus one day… Upon reaching this age a Jew is obliged to fulfill all the command­ments… According to Eleazar b. Simeon (second century C.E.), a father was res­ponsible for the deeds of his son until the age of 13. For example the vows of a boy 13 and a day old are considered valid vows (Nid.5:6). From then on a person can perform acts having legal implica­tions, such as… buying and selling pro­perty.”

 

 

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