The goal of a teacher of righteousness is to help bring his pupils to perfection and spiritual maturity, Eph. 4:11-1 3. Surely this should be recognized by all.
Think of a farmer, he sows his seed and then carefully nurtures the young plants until they grow to maturity and bring forth fruit that are mature and perfect. Our Heavenly Gardener desires to do the same in bringing many sons to glory, Heb. 2:10.
To help accomplish this goal, you must first identify with your students and bond with them. When I went to Egypt the first time, I said to the Lord, “What am I going to say to these people? How can I identify with them?” Then the Lord gave me a scripture in Isaiah 19:25 that says, “Blessed is Egypt, My people.” After I started with that, I had everyone happy and identifying with me.
Then as you teach the Scriptures, you must find the level of the people that you are teaching. Seek to lift them all one step higher up the ladder of Christian development than they have been. Something will be accomplished! This can be illustrated by the technique of an American ophthalmologist I met while in Indonesia. He explained that his technique was to watch eye operations that the local doctors performed, and then he would ask for patients who required a slightly higher level of surgery. Afterwards, he would gather the doctors around him as he performed several of these operations and then watch while they in turn performed similar operations which were one grade above those that they had previously been capable of performing.
The doctor said that when he had left the hospital, all those surgeons had climbed one step higher in their surgical expertise. On the other hand, other international surgeons would come in with equipment that was still unavailable to the Indonesians and with it would perform outstanding operations, those at the very top of the ladder. But when they left, the resident Indonesian surgeons were still standing on the same step where they had stood before the teams had come.
When teaching God’s Word, we want to make sure we are always leading people to a higher level, a higher step in their Christian walk. The teacher is not there to show his abilities, but to impart his abilities.
As the goal of a teacher of righteousness is to teach the way to perfection, let us examine some aspects of perfection taught us in the Bible.
1. Perfection as the completing of our God-appointed task. The all-consuming desire of the Apostle Paul was to hit the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He expressed this when he wrote, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect: but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” Phil. 3:12-14. The meaning of “perfect” here is to fulfill God’s goal for your life. We must realize that God has a very specific plan for each of our lives. The Lord has a blueprint for our lives, and when we die we are held accountable as to whether or not we finished our course.
The Lord made this so clear to me many years ago when I asked Him to end my life and take me to heaven because of the opposition I was facing at that time as a young pastor. The Lord granted my request, and I physically died. When I got to heaven, the Lord showed me my whole life from my birth until the time I died. Yet I saw that there was much more God had purposed for my life, but I had not finished it. Yes, I was a Christian, I was a righteous pastor and I made it to heaven, but I had not completed God’s plans for my life!
I hope none of you ever experience the terrible agony I felt in my spirit. I knew I had died before my appointed time. After I pleaded with the Lord to send me back to earth and give me another chance to finish my course, He graciously revived me and my spirit came back into my body. Since that time, the burden upon my heart is that every believer finishes his course, as Christ did. As the Lord was preparing to go to the cross, He said to His Father in John 1 7:4, “I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You have given me to do.”
We also want to be able to say with Paul at the end of our lives: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my race, I have kept the faith,” 2 Tim. 4:6-7. We want to be runners that win the race and gain the prize.
God has ordained specific purposes for each of us from before the foundation of the world, and we are to seek to attain those goals. Thus, the teacher is to encourage each student to press toward the particular goal that God has ordained for his life. This includes seeking God for the particular giftings that he wishes us to receive and develop.
2. Perfection as showing goodness and love to all. Christ said in Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This almost seems like an impossible commandment. Yet when we study the Word of God, we find that love and Christian perfection are equivalent, for Paul tells us that “love is the bond of perfection,” Col. 3:14. Christian perfection is to show forth agape love to all, as we can further see in the context of when Christ taught that we are to be perfect, “That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” Mt.5:45. Thus we see the goodness and love of God manifested as He even feeds and cares for the wicked.
3. Perfection as seen in the control of our tongue. Let us consider the words in James 3:2, “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” James is making the point that a perfect man or woman is able to control their tongue and not sin with their words. Our words flow out of our mouth at times without consideration of the damage that they might do to others. Because the tongue is the most difficult member of our body to control and bring into subjection, if a person is able to control his tongue, he is able to control every other aspect of his life. What we speak is a gauge of our spiritual maturity and perfection. Our speech reveals how much of the nature of Christ we have.
4. Perfection of Heart. We read of King Asa in 1 Kings 15:14, “Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all of his days.” The word “perfect” and other similar phrases are repeatedly used to describe the lives of the kings of Judah, 1 Kings 11:4, 15:3 & 14, 2 Kings 20:3. It is almost a report card upon their reigns and could be an example of what will appear in the heavenly books in which our deeds on earth are recorded, Rev. 20:12. The word “perfect” does not imply that we are infallible, but that we walk in all the ways of God. We may define a perfect heart as the heart of one who has a willing mind and desire to please the Lord in all aspects of life.
We read concerning King Solomon in 1 Kings 11:4, “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.” May we continually warn our students that our report cards will not just depict a good beginning, as did Solomon’s, but that we will also have a good finish without blot or blemish. After all, how we finish the race of life is the most important comment that will be made about our life here upon the earth.
5. Perfection as Maturity. In Hebrews 6:1 we read, “Therefore leaving the elementary teachings of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection.” Perfection in its fullest meaning is maturity.
We are called to become mature like Christ. However, maturity is relative to one’s age. A man matures during his lifetime in several different stages—as a baby, as a boy, as a young man, and finally as an adult. In much the same way, in our Christian development we must grow and progress from a spiritual babe in Christ (a new believer) to a mature saint and spiritual father in the Lord, 1 Jn. 2:12-14.
In the Philippines I saw a woman whose boy was 9 years old, yet he was still a baby, unable to feed himself or do any of the basic things. When the boy was born, ¡t was the mother’s delight to feed and dress him. But that joy turned to sorrow. God looks at His Church in the same way, He wants us to grow.
Our attitude of heart must be a quest to move past the foundational principles and go on to perfection. Therefore, we constantly need to cry out to God for His grace and mercy so that we pass our tests and go on. The call is to perfection, or Christian maturity.