Examples of Perfection

Are there any examples of perfection--of people who were perfect? Yes, there are! This page will reveal many of them.

One of God’s attributes is that He does not change; this is known as the “immutability” of God. There are several Biblical passages that inform us of this truth concerning God.

1 Samuel 15:29

“29 And also, the Faithful One of Israel [Yehovah / God] lies not, and He is unrelenting; because not human, [is] He, to relent.”

Malachi 3:6

“6 For I, Yehovah (God), do not change; thus, you children of Jacob are not destroyed.”

James 1:17

“17 All good giving, and every perfect gift, is descending from above, from the Father of Lights; with whom there is no change, nor shadow of turning.”

Hebrews 13:8

“8 Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today, and for all time.”

This unchanging, “immutable”, character of God can also be seen in how God judges people.

Ecclesiastes 3:14-15

“14 I know that, whatever God does, it will exist forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken away from it. And God does this so that people will revere Him.

15 That which has been, is now; that which is to be, has been already; and God requires that which is past.”

In judging us, “God requires that which is past”, that is, requires “that which ... has been already”. If people in the past were perfect--if perfection is “that which ... has been already”--then God requires perfection from us, too.

If other people could be perfect in this life, then WE can be perfect in this life, too; and God has every right to expect that perfection from us.

This then begs the question, “Are there any examples of perfection in the lives of other people?” There are actually MANY examples of perfection.

I will begin by noting a couple of extra-Biblical, perfection-related things. These may not be considered “examples of perfection” by many people; nevertheless, I think they should be mentioned, because they are relatively recent (compared to when the Bible was written), and because they show that a reasonable belief in the possibility of perfection has persisted until the present day. I will follow up these extra-Biblical references with MANY examples of perfection, and near perfection, taken directly from the Bible.

Friday Night Lights

In 2004, the movie Friday Night Lights was released. In the film, there is one especially memorable scene in which the topic of perfection is addressed. Here is a clip of that scene (the portion of particular interest is between the times 0:19 and 1:26):

Here is a transcript of the time 0:19 to 1:26 portion of the clip:

“Now, y’all have known me for awhile, and for a long time now you’ve been hearing me talk about being perfect. Well, I want you to understand something.

To me, being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you, and your relationship to yourself, and your family and your friends.

Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye, and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is, is that you did everything that you could, there wasn’t one more thing that you coulda done.

Can you live in that moment? as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart? with joy in your heart? If you can do that, gentlemen, then you’re perfect.”

(Note: "y'all" means "all of you"; and "coulda" means "could've", the contraction for "could have".)

This is NOT quite what perfection should mean for a Christian since, for example, there is no explicit mention of God (although the Coach's full speech is followed by a recitation of the “Lord‘s Prayer”, from Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). However, this is VERY close to how a Christian should think of perfection.

Perfection really is “not about winning”: it’s not about worldly accomplishments.

Perfection really is about telling the truth. It really is about doing everything that you can--doing what is truly the best that you can do. It really is about living with love, and joy, in your heart.

Of course, in some ways there is more that can be said about what it means to be perfect. Nevertheless, there is the basic idea that “’perfection’ is that state in which a person is sinless; and ‘being perfect’ is ‘being without sin’”.

So, if loving others the same way that you love yourself is the keeping of God’s Law; and if the keeping of God’s Law is being perfect; then it follows that loving others the way that you love yourself is being perfect.

Viewed in this way, the above speech by the Coach Gaines character in Friday Night Lights is actually quite close to a “perfect” explanation of perfection.

Additionally, notice that the Coach asks the question: “Can you live in that moment?” The mathematical proof of perfection included on this website is basically a proof that it is indeed possible to “live in that moment”.

Finally, the fact that this movie was released in 2004 shows that this conception of perfection continues to be understood--and quite possibly lived--even nearly two millennia after Biblical times.

John Wesley

John Wesley (1703-1791) was the minister primarily responsible for the Methodist and Wesleyan movements in Christianity; and he has had great influence in the Holiness, Pentecostal, and Charismatic movements as well. Although we may not always agree with Wesley, he is such an influential person that his Christian writings deserve serious contemplation.

Among the many things which Wesley wrote about was what he referred to as “Christian Perfection”. In 1777, Wesley published A Plain Account of Christian Perfection in order to provide a clear explanation (“Plain Account”) of this doctrine.

John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection can be read for free on many websites, such as one belonging to the United Methodist Church; the Wesley Center Online; Wikisource; and NTSlibrary, provided by Northwestern Theological Seminary and Northwestern Christian University (all of these links will open in new windows).

There are some beliefs which Wesley and I do not share. For example, Wesley believed that people could become Christians, followed at a later time by “Christian perfection”; whereas I believe that “being Christian” and “being perfect” (as explained in this Bible study) are identical--precisely the same thing.

People who are drawn to Christ, but have not completely surrendered to Him, may still intentionally sin; but there is no such thing as a Christian that intentionally sins. Wesley apparently believed Christians could intentionally sin, but later cease from committing intentional sins and attain “Christian perfection”.

Another difference in beliefs is that Wesley accepted “Arminianism” (associated with the idea of human “free will”); but I accept “Calvinism” (associated with the idea of “predestination”).

Yet another “difference” between Wesley and myself is not so much an actual difference in beliefs as it is a difference in word choice (semantics).

Wesley wrote several times that what he called “Christian perfection” did not mean a complete ceasing from ALL sin (which he called “sinless perfection”). However, Wesley did believe that “Christian perfection” meant a complete ceasing from “sin rightly so-called” (English translations of the Bible use phrases such as “willful sin” and “intentional sin”).

I am led to believe that it is better to say that the perfection which people may attain IS a TYPE of “sinless perfection”. It IS being without WILLFUL / INTENTIONAL sin--attaining “willful sin-less perfection”. I believe it is important to emphasize this aspect of perfection; and I believe Wesley’s choice of terms tends instead to obscure this point, leading to confusion.

So, Wesley wrote about “Christian perfection” rather than “sinless perfection”; whereas I believe it is preferable to simply say perfection IS “sinless perfection”, always recognizing that the only TYPE of “sinless perfection” that anyone (other than Jesus Christ) can ever attain in this present life is “willful sin-less perfection”.

It is important to emphasize the difference between willful / intentional sin and accidental / unintentional sin. It is also important to affirm that “willful-sinless perfection” is a necessity in a person’s life for that person to actually be a Christian: no person who continues to intentionally disobey God will be accepted by God.

There are additional differences in beliefs between Wesley and myself. Nevertheless, having carefully read A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, I have hope that whatever “mistakes” Wesley might have made in his writing, they were truly “mistakes”--entirely unintentional errors. Moreover, although Wesley’s desire to maintain modesty would prevent him from acknowledging his own perfection, it seems likely that Wesley did actually stop committing willful sins in his life (of course, only God and Wesley would know the truth in this matter).

In other words, it would appear that during his life in this world, John Wesley was perfect.

The Bible

Ultimately, of course, it is only God’s Judgment of a person that actually matters; and if God declares a person “perfect”, then there is nothing left for us to do but to agree with Him wholeheartedly. By the Grace of God, we have been given a record of many of God’s Judgments: the Bible.

As it turns out, there are many Biblical examples of people judged “perfect” by God.

Obviously, the original Hebrew and Greek words are not the English word “perfect”; the word “perfect” is an English word, used in creating English translations of the Bible. Because of this, the word “perfect” is often used; but there are also times when synonyms, such as “no blemish”, “blameless” , or “no guile”, have been chosen by translators. Nevertheless, the meaning is the same: “perfect”.

Please note: In the following list of “perfect” people, the expressions for “perfect” are the ones used in the King James Version of the Bible.

  1. Noah is called “perfect” in Genesis 6:9.
  2. Job, for whom the Book of Job is named, “…was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil”, according to Job 1:1; 1:8; and 2:3. Note that Job himself avoided calling himself “perfect”, according to Job 9:20-21.
  3. King Asa’s “heart was perfect”, according to 1 Kings 15:14 and 2 Chronicles 15:17.
  4. King Hezekiah’s “heart” was “perfect”, according to 2 Kings 20:3 and Isaiah 38:3.
  5. King David’s “heart” was “perfect”, according to 1 Kings 11:4 and 1 Kings 15:3. According to David, in Psalm 18:32, it is God that makes David’s “…way perfect”. In Psalm 101:2, David said he would “behave” himself “wisely in a perfect way”, and would “walk within” his “house with a perfect heart”. According to 1 Kings 15:5, “David did [that which was] right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any [thing] that He commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite”; this implies that David lived as a “perfect” man for the remainder of his life after his sin in “the matter of Uriah the Hittite”. In Acts 13:22, we find that David was “a man after” God’s “own heart” (see also 1 Samuel 13:14).
  6. There were over 334,500 soldiers who “…came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel”, according to 1 Chronicles 12:23-38 (the expression “perfect heart” is in verse 38).
  7. At one time, all of the people of Israel had a “perfect heart”, according to 1 Chronicles 29:9.
  8. Zacharias and
  9. Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”, according to Luke 1:5-6.
  10. Nathanael, one of Christ’s disciples, was declared by Jesus to be “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
  11. Paul says “let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded”, in Philippians 3:15. Nevertheless Paul, just like Job, avoided calling himself “perfect”, according to Philippians 3:12-15. As Paul wrote, in Philippians 3:6, he was accustomed to always obey God, even before he became a Christian: though he was “concerning zeal, persecuting the church”, he was also “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless”.

This makes a total of nine (9) named people, besides Jesus, who are clearly described as being “perfect” or “blameless”; having “no guile”; or having a “perfect heart”--basically, “perfect” people. (For clarity, I hasten to say again that this is only the “willful sin-less” type of perfection, and not a “totally sinless” (in particular, not an “unintentional sin-less”) perfection.)

There are a few additional people in the Bible that are commonly regarded as “perfect” (or nearly so). This is because of the fact that, although the Bible itself does not explicitly say this (as it does with the nine people above), there does seem to be a strong implication.

  1. Enoch “pleased God”, and “was translated that he should not see death”, according to Hebrews 11:5. This is accepted by many as evidence that Enoch was “perfect”.
  2. Elijah also did not die, but “went up by a whirlwind into Heaven”, according to 2 Kings 2:11; because of this, it is also assumed by many people that Elijah “pleased God”, and was “perfect”.
  3. Abraham is directly commanded by God to be “perfect” in Genesis 17:1. Given the success of Abraham’s life following this command, it would appear that Abraham also “pleased God”.
  4. Ezra is associated with (perhaps referred to as) “perfect” in Ezra 7:10-12.
  5. Daniel (Belteshazzar),
  6. Hananiah (Shadrach),
  7. Mishael (Meshach), and
  8. Azariah (Abednego) are referred to as having “no blemish” in Daniel 1:3-7 (note: the parenthetical names are the names given to these children by the “prince of the eunuchs”, who served Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon).
  9. There is also a young, rich man who met with Jesus, although we do not know his name. His story is given in Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; and Luke 18:18-27. Jesus apparently judged the man to be almost “perfect” (Matthew 19:21), lacking only “one thing” (Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22). In fact, the young man states in Mark 10:20 that, regarding God’s Commandments, “Master, all these I have observed from my youth” (see also Matthew 19:20; Luke 10:20). Rather than Jesus treating the young man as a liar, Mark 10:21 says that “Jesus beholding him loved him”. However, the “one thing” lacked by the young man was apparently more than he was willing to give (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23). Nevertheless, the fact remains that Jesus apparently judged this man to have been almost “perfect”; and “perfection” was “possible” for this man, with God’s help (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27). Jesus Himself linked the lack of this final “one thing”--and thus, the young man’s failure to be perfect--with the man not having salvation (Matthew 19:23-26; Mark 10:23-27; Luke 18:24-27).
  10. John the Baptist was described by Jesus thusly: “among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11; Luke 7:28). So if any person besides Jesus had ever been “perfect”, then we can deduce that John the Baptist was as great or greater than that person; hence, John the Baptist was also “perfect”.

Together with the first list, this gives us a total of eighteen (18) named individuals.

In Summary

Perfection is possible. There are many examples, throughout the Bible. In addition, there are examples since Biblical times of people who have at least believed perfection is possible.

People have often said that surrendering the last of their disobedience to God is simply too difficult for them; and the Bible actually agrees. Jesus Himself said “For people, this is impossible”; but Jesus continues on to say “but for God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27). It is not our strength that makes the surrender possible: it is God’s Strength.

And in that saving Strength of God, which Christ died to win for us, we must completely surrender, and become completely perfect; and we know we can, because we have examples of perfection.


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