Short answer: yes.
Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest idea. I introduced the question posed in the title of this post to the young adult Bible study at Evangel Baptist Church for one of the first studies I led for them. The look on Brian Barth’s face – a young man who studies the word and is faithful to it – was priceless! He didn’t know me yet and was deeply concerned that I was bringing some kook teaching into the lives of our young adults. We can laugh about it now, right Brian (tee-hee)?
But, it’s a question that is valid. Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Son though [Jesus] was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (NIV)”
Lest you think it’s a mistake, the Biblical author says it again in Hebrews 7:28, “For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (NIV, too)”
So, the Bible says that Jesus was made perfect. You can’t be made something that you already are. So Jesus wasn’t perfect at one point.
But, of course, it’s not saying what you think it’s saying. I may be a kook in some ways, but not with the Bible. Like I told Brian and the rest of the group, just because we may not like the question, if it’s a logical conclusion of what we are reading in the Bible then we must pursue the true meaning. Otherwise we leave gaping holes in our faith and potentially miss out on amazing godly insight.
The Biblical Greek concept of perfection is different from ours. Jesus, of course, never sinned. So that’s not what these verses are saying. The word telios that is translated as “perfect” doesn’t refer to being without sin. It refers to any object or person that fulfills its purpose, something that is, or someone who is, whole or complete. One of my college professors used his pen as an illustration. As long as the pen could be used to write it would be considered telios, or perfect. If it had no ink or couldn’t be used to write for some other reason it would not be perfect in the Greek sense.
Isn’t that awesome! Jesus has a purpose that was given to him by the Father. His perfection was achieved when he fulfilled his role of making salvation from sin a reality for the world.
And because of his sacrifice, we can be made perfect as well. We still sin and cannot be considered perfect in that respect until Jesus returns, but we can become the people God has called us to be. Awesome indeed!
It also provides a great thought about Good Friday. Jesus pursued the cross, despite its shame and torture, because he knew it would please the Father. He knew he was being made perfect, so he pressed on for that goal.
Whatever you are going through today, remember that it has the potential to make you perfect in God’s sight. And you can be sure that your Savior can relate.