Let Us Go on unto Perfection
This is the final lesson of our 12 lesson series on discipleship, and, as the writer of Hebrews declares in Heb 6:1-3:
“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit.”
Every lesson that we have studied thus far has been has been vital in gaining a basic understanding of such concepts as: sin, death, justice, mercy, grace, justification, regeneration, our new identity, establishing and maintaining a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, spiritual warfare, and the purpose of our calling as disciples; but in today’s lesson, we need to learn what God expects of us in the spiritual growth process that lies ahead. – Let us go on into perfection;
that is to go on to the higher lessons which belong to full grown men. The exhortation of this passage of scripture is to go on from the lessons of Christian childhood to those of adulthood in Christ.
Our Vertical and Horizontal Relationships
Up to this point in our studies, the primary focus has been on the vertical aspect, or the relationship between each of us and God. That is, each one of us had to go through the process described in the previous lessons in order to become a true disciple of Christ. Today’s lesson, on the other hand, deals with our position within the Kingdom of God – or Body of Christ, as it relates to the horizontal aspect of our relationship with one another in the Body, as well as with our corporate relationship to Christ who is the Head of the Body.
1Co 12:12-14 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. (Paul goes on to explain the functioning of the Body of Christ by drawing the analogy to our own human bodies in verses 15-31)
In the process of going on into perfection, Paul takes us beyond the foundational doctrinal principles and explains to us in the following passage how the elect of God is supposed to act in our dealings with one another in carrying out our mission as the Church of Christ on this earth:
(Col 3:12‑17 NKJV) 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God (and) the Father through Him.
Let’s go through this passage and see if we can find a clue about what it means “to go on into perfection”. Notice after admonishing the Colossians to manifest a number of Christian graces, Paul says in verse 14: But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Here it is! Paul calls love the bond of perfection. In other words, all the Christian graces are bound together in love. It is the source of them all! Furthermore, if we put on love as we are admonished to, our local assemblies will not be a dysfunctional group full of carnality and dissension, but will be the vibrant, healthy, soul winning machine God designed it to be.
Love Fulfills the Law
Rom 13:8-10 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
So if we are supposed to go on unto perfection, and the bond of perfection is love, we need to be sure we understand what love is, and what it is not.
Three Greek Words for Love
The Greek uses three words to describe the range of meaning that our word “love” conveys. The first word is eros, from which we get the English word ‘erotic.’ Eros is the word used to express sexual love or the feelings that are shared between people who are physically attracted to one another. By New Testament times, this word had become so debased by the culture that it is not used even once in the entire New Testament. The second Greek word for love is phileo. This word speaks more of the warm affection shared between family or friends. Whereas eros is more closely associated with the libido, phileo can be more associated with the emotions. We feel phileo love for our friends and family. Different from both of these is the third Greek word for love, agape, typically defined as the “self-sacrificing love.” It is the love that moves people into action and looks out for the well-being of others, no matter the personal cost. Biblically speaking, agape is the love God showed to His people in sending Jesus, to die for their sins. It is the love that focuses on the will, not the emotions or libido. This is the love that Jesus commands His disciples to show toward their enemies (Luke 6:35).
The Greek word used in Col 3:14 14: But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. is Agape “which is a deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety.” The “Phileo” kind of love is affection or personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling. In other words, perfect or Agape love is not merely some sort of emotional feeling, it is a conscious decision to treat others in a Christ-like manner regardless of whether they are our friends or enemies. Therefore we need to focus on this Agape kind of love if we are to go on unto perfection. Let’s read what Jesus had to say in his “Sermon on the Mount”:
(Mat 5:44‑46 KJV) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Here we see that we are not only to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord, but we are to show respect and loving kindness to all men – even our enemies!
In the “Love Chapter”, of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul clearly tells us how Agape love works in our actions toward others:
(1 Cor 13:4‑8 NKJV) Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.
If we learn to love like we should. we will also be able to quickly forgive those who offend us, and failure to do so has dire consequences:
(Mat 6:14‑15 KJV) For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The Power of Love in Changing Others
One of the most important things we need to learn if we are going to be effective in “Loving our neighbour as ourself,” is to realize that the vast majority of people that we come in contact with every day have been overcome by all sorts of wrong thinking, bad habits, evil influences, and haven’t yet been blessed with the new birth experience as we have, therefore they can react in an angry manner at the slightest provocation. Therefore, we have to be very careful not to allow them to get us into an angry confrontation with them, because if they can cause us to lose our cool and react in the same angry, emotional way that they do, they will never see the goodness of God in us that can influence them toward wanting a change in their own lives. In other words, when they fly into a rage they are trying to provoke us into displaying the same evil nature ththey have allowed themselves to possess. Our response should be:
(Rom 12: 21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
If we confront people in a kind, loving, unemotional way regardless of their angry provocations, and hold our ground with God’s love twinkling in our eyes, we are saying to them, I understand your game and I will not play.
(Pro 15:1) A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
If we can train ourselves by the grace of God to respon d in a patient, loving, Christ-like manner, it can often defuse their anger, and cause them to desire to be able to act as we do.
(Luke 21:19) In your patience possess ye your souls.
In these 12 lessons we have learned much about faith, hope, and love, and now let’s see what the great apostle Paul has to say about it:
(1Cor 13:12 NKJV) For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
From what we learned in today’s lesson, I believe we can conclude that in our journey into Christian Perfection or full maturity, we must exhibit the love of God to everyone we come in contact with – both within the church and without, as well.
The greatest Evidence of Our Being a Disciple of Christ
Joh 13:34-35 A new commandment i give unto you, That ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.