In every major dispensation of time, there have been people God described as “perfect” or “blameless.” That does not mean they never sinned, but when they sinned, they repented, they did what God commanded for forgiveness, and they renewed their commitment to love God and live for Him. Whenever God gave a law to man, He knew there would be times when man would fail to obey, which is why God always had a system of forgiveness in every dispensation. This allowed man to walk blamelessly before God. However, forgiveness always took place in view of the cross of Christ, whose blood was required to remove sins (Heb. 10:1-22). Knowing that people of all times have been quite able to be faithful, this should encourage us, because we can be faithful also!
BLAMELESS UNDER THE PATRIARCHAL LAW
Before the Law of Moses, in what we often call the Patriarchal Age, men like Noah, Job, and Abraham were called “perfect.” “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). Job was “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1; cf. 1:8; 2:3). God commanded Abraham to be perfect: “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1). Again, the word “perfect” does not mean that they never made mistakes or never sinned, but that they were “blameless” (as it is rendered in some translations). The original Hebrew word means “complete” (Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon). They were not completely perfect, as in perpetually infallible, but they were faithful, because they did what God told them to do to be forgiven and faithful (Gen. 6:22; 18:19; Heb. 11:7-10).
BLAMELESS UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES
Under the Law of Moses (ca. 1450 B.C. to A.D. 33), God commanded the entire nation of Israel to be perfect: “Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God” (Deut. 18:13; cf. 1 Kin. 8:61). God has never given man commands that could not be obeyed (1 John 5:3), so if God commanded them to be perfect, they could. Even though Israelites failed to keep the law sinlessly, that does not mean that they could not once again become “perfect” through repentance and obedience. Though David committed adultery and murder, when he repented, God forgave him, and David’s heart was once again perfect before His God (2 Sam. 12). However, his son Solomon was described in contrast to David after Solomon’s heart departed from the Lord: “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kin. 11:4; cf. 9:4; 11:38; 15:3; 2 Kin. 20:3; 2 Chr. 34:2; Ezek. 28:15). It is as true today as it was during the time of David and Solomon: one’s faithfulness is inevitably determined by the amount of love he has in his heart for God (cf. Deut. 6:5; Matt. 6:24; 22:36-38; John 14:15; 1 John 5:3), and anybody under any dispensation could be faithful to God if they so desired.
John’s parents Zacharias and Elisabeth were described as people who were living blamelessly under the Law of Moses: “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). When they committed sin, they regretted it and did what God commanded under the Law of Moses for them to be forgiven and faithful. Paul was another example of one who was blameless under the Law of Moses: “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Php. 3:5-6).
BLAMELESS UNDER THE LAW OF CHRIST
Paul’s words above imply that he did not place all righteousness in the same category. There was a form of righteousness obtained “in the law” [of Moses], before the cross of Christ, and there is true righteousness only obtained after the cross, as he explained so often in his epistles (Romans, Galatians, etc.). Although people of previous dispensations could be called righteous, blameless, and perfect (in a sense), they could not truly be justified through those animal sacrifices that foreshadowed the perfect sacrifice of God’s Lamb (John 1:29; 5:39; Acts 13:39; Heb. 10:1-22). Those who lived before the death of Christ (in the Patriarchal and Mosaic Ages) had sins that were forgiven in view of the coming Messiah, whose blood now goes backwards and forwards through time for the faithful of every age (Heb. 9:15; 11:40). It was as if they were putting their sins on a credit card, accumulating debt they could never repay. Thankfully, God sent His Son to pay the price no one else could, to fully remove the debt of sins and reconcile man to God (Rom. 5:8-10; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1, 2). Although that is great news, it should grieve every man that the Son of God had to die for him, and it should motivate him to repent (2 Cor. 7:10).
Regarding being considered “perfect,” if anybody of any dispensation could be called perfect, surely it should be faithful Christians, whose sins have been completely washed away by Christ’s blood (Matt. 26:28; Acts 22:16; Heb. 8:12; 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19; Rev. 1:5; 5:9; 7:14). During the time of Jeremiah (ca. 600 B.C.), God had spoken of a new covenant, in which sins would be completely forgiven and remembered no more (Jer. 31:34; cf. Mic. 7:19; Heb. 8:12; 10:3, 14-17). Now that time has come! All men are now under the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; Jam. 1:25), which is the best law man has ever had. The heavy burden of the Law of Moses has been removed, and, more importantly, the unbearable burden of sin has been removed (Isa. 59:1, 2; Matt. 11:28-30; John 8:32; Acts 15:10; Rom. 6:23; 8:1). Because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, now men can truly be perfect—completely forgiven and clean in God’s sight. However, that cleansing is always conditioned upon a willingness to repent and walk in the light of God’s Word (Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:6—2:6).
If one is unwilling to repent of even one sin, he cannot be considered perfect in God’s sight. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jam. 2:10). The rich young ruler was a great example of one who kept almost all of God’s commandments, but he lacked one thing to be perfect—he loved his possessions more than God: “Yet lackest thou one thing…” (Luke 18:22); “…If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21). Jesus does not require all men to sell their possessions today, but He does require repentance of any sin separating us from God, knowing that the greatest commandment of all is to love God wholeheartedly (Matt. 4:17; 22:36-38; Acts 17:30, 31). Until we do that, we will not be perfect in His sight (cf. Matt. 5:48; Luke 6:40; John 17:23; Rev. 3:2). Jesus said, for example, if we do not love our enemies, we are imperfect in God’s sight. God loves and blesses even those who are wicked in some ways (Matt. 5:45), and we are to be godly, to be like God: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (5:48; Titus 2:11, 12).
Another example of one sin keeping someone from faithfulness is Simon the sorcerer. After Simon was baptized, he committed a sin (Acts 8:18, 19). Until Simon repented and prayed for forgiveness, he would not be perfect, but would remain “in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:22). Allowing even one sin to remain in our lives is enough to make us imperfect and in need of restoration: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one…” (Gal. 6:1; cf. Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 5:1; Jam. 5:19, 20). Even so, there is no sin one must commit, because there is always a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:12, 13). There is also no command impossible to obey (1 John 5:3), and no sin committed today that is unforgiveable. Therefore, there is no excuse not to be faithful.
Satan has convinced many to believe that man has no choice but to sin, and that since “nobody’s perfect,” it is acceptable to allow sin to remain in one’s life. However, God says just the opposite! God commands men to be like Jesus and fight temptations, not to lie down and die! “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jam. 1:12). “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jam. 4:7). “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). God commands Christians to be holy, even as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15, 16; 2:21-24; cf. Rom. 6; 12:1, 2; 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:58). It is true that nobody is perfect in the sense of being infallible, but the faithful repent of sin and walk in the light (1 John 1:6–2:6).
For those who do not believe anyone can be “perfect” or “truly faithful,” they must contend with the Apostle Paul, who said that God’s Word can make men perfect (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). Also, if it were impossible there would be no such thing as elders and deacons, who are required to be blameless, completely faithful (1 Tim. 3:2, 10). This simply means they have no outstanding sins of which they need to repent. If it is impossible to be perfect in God’s sight, then it was only wishful thinking when Paul repeatedly expressed his desire for his fellow Christians to be found “perfect,” “blameless,” and “unrebukable” when presented to Christ (1 Cor. 1:8; 2 Cor. 11:2, 3; Eph. 5:25-27; Php. 2:15; Col. 1:22; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Tim. 5:7). In fact, the reason Paul preached Christ was because he wanted to “…present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28), and he said Epaphras prayed that his brother and sisters would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12; cf. 2 Cor. 13:11; Eph. 4:12, 13; Col. 2:10; 1 Thess. 3:10; Heb. 10:1, 14; 12:23; 13:21; Jam. 1:4; 3:2; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 3:14).
Friends, the Bible would not tell us all these things about being perfectly blameless if we could not be blameless in God’s sight! All it takes is enough love to obey God and change if we disobey Him. We will all fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23), but God rewards those who get back up: “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again…” (Prov. 24:16). The blood of Christ will make us perfectly clean, if we walk in the light after baptism, confessing our sins in true repentance (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 26:20; 1 John 1:6—2:6; Jam. 5:16).
If others in previous dispensations could be faithful, knowing their sins were remembered from year to year, how much more should we be able to be faithful, knowing our sins are truly gone forever? If those under the heavy burden of the Law of Moses could be faithful, how much more should we, under the lighter yoke of Christ? (Matt. 11:28-30). We can and must be perfect in God’s sight—not perpetually flawless, but faithful to Him, willing to repent and renew our love and dedication whenever necessary.