"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 2





Chapter 2: The Perfection of God


Chapter 2 Contents 

2.1 Introduction

2.2 Preliminary Considerations

2.3 The Testimony of the Bible: Part 1: God's Being

2.4 The Testimony of the Bible: Part 2: God's Actions

2.5 The Picture that gets bigger and bigger

2.6 And So…



2.1 Introduction


I closed the previous chapter saying that we would consider here the question, what sort of God are we talking about? That is the focus of this chapter and the next. It is a vital question because all over the world there are different attempts at describing divinity.


You remember in chapter 1 that I spent a little time talking about a Biblical viewpoint. Now we have lots of weird and wonderful ideas of who or what we think God is, and all I ask is that we suspend those views for the moment and come approaching the Bible as scientific observers, literary, social and moral researchers perhaps, who will carefully see what IT says about God. We can then work with that.


Now our only problem, and it is only a problem if we are lazy and want it all laid out on a plate, is that God did not have the Bible laid out as a book of systematic theology but rather as an account of His interactions with humanity over a two thousand year period ending about two thousand years ago. That may sound very ‘distant' but if we understand that He is the same today and continues working in the same ways today as then, even though modern events are not written down in the same way, we should see that those records simply establish a cause for living and a way of living that is as equally valid today, as it was then. It is all to do with God. So what does the Bible say about Him?


We could start off with things such as He is omnipresent (everywhere), He is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing), but because of the moral nature of our ‘big question' I intend to start considering in this chapter His perfection, His love, His goodness and His wisdom. But it is only a start and we will only get as far as considering His perfection although, by necessity, the other things will be mentioned along the way.



2.2 Preliminary Considerations


Definition and Application

Definition - Understanding what we mean: because ‘perfection' is a somewhat difficult concept to grab hold of, I am simply going to use the incredibly basic definition of “complete and faultless, cannot be improved upon”.


Application: Can we just pause on that definition. If God is perfect, and the Bible asserts that He is, then if that is right there is nothing about Him that can be improved upon.

In whatever ways or by whatever measuring sticks we might use to go about assessing Him, we must say that to match this definition, there is no way that we could improve on the things we assess, whether it be His Being, His Character, His words or His deeds. Let's emphasise this by reference to His expressions. If God is perfect then NOTHING He thinks, says or does can be improved upon!


Need for some in-depth thinking

Now to make such a statement is, for many, quite startling, because so far in life they have assessed what they have read of Him in the Bible in quite different ways. Richard Dawkins is probably the classic example of an antagonist when it comes to God. His assessments of God, obviously thought by him to be academic assessments of things he finds in the Bible, appear in reality expressions born out of a shallow and apparently very limited reading of bits of the Bible and, quite possibly, his prior prejudices (which he does share in his books).


For example, if we read a few, limited factual historical incidents in the Bible we may, as Dawkins obviously does, stop at the few facts and put our own interpretation on them, based more on our own prejudices than on anything else.


Can we distinguish straight away here between

  • The statements of witnesses in the Bible about God's perfection (this is what they said and we have recorded in the text),
  • The apparent historical incidents that appear to involve God (judgments, what actually happened, as recored in those texts),
  • Our understanding of those incidents (the reasons we assume that are behind them).


The first one – God's perfection declared - will not be in dispute in as far as it can be seen in the Bible as statements of the witnesses and those who wrote.


The second one – God's judgments – similarly should not be in dispute because of the biblical records, but they need looking at because people often have incomplete knowledge of what took place. We will look in great detail at most if not all of the judgments found in the Bible because these are the things we are talking about.


It is the last one – the conclusions that we draw – which is crucial to our considerations here.


If we will read the Bible narrative more fully, we will note

  • the context of the incident and
  • come to understand its moral and spiritual aspects, and
  • with some more thought, I would suggest, come to realise that instead of this incident being a hasty act of an unkind God, it was in fact the only course of action, the very best course of action, that could have ensued in the light of the wider context, i.e. all the surrounding people and their actions.


Now I simply make these preliminary comments, not only as an indication of where we will go in later chapters, but also as a way of starting to reduce the unwarranted angst that some of our critical readers may have already at the very suggestion that ‘God is perfect'. Wider accurate knowledge and ‘thought-out-understanding' are the tools to dismantle the biases and prejudices that so often prevail out of ignorance.



2.3 The Testimony of the Bible: Part 1: God's Being is Perfect


Remember what we said: perfect means complete and faultless, and cannot be improved upon. If this definition is true of God then whatever God thinks, says or does is perfect, is faultless and cannot be improved upon. That is the amazing claim this book must face.


We need to let this truth sink in. Let's see it as it crops up in the Bible, first of all in respect of who He is in Himself:


Jesus assessment of God


Mt 5:48   “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect

•  This was the teaching of the Son of God himself.

•  The Greek (original) word for ‘perfect' means whole or complete, lacking nothing.

•  That is God! Complete! This is vital to the teaching for it makes Him unique, as no other can make that claim (we will examine this more fully in a moment, for it is vital to the ‘big question').

•  (That is, according to the verse above, also His objective in working within us, to enable us to come to full-grown stature, living for the purpose for which we were designed, completely fulfilled – an expression of His loving design for us).


Reflect on ‘Complete'


We have just seen Jesus refer to God as ‘perfect' or ‘complete'. It is easy to use the language without understanding the incredible significance of it. Perhaps to understand ‘complete' in respect of God as being complete, it would help to consider first ourselves as ‘incomplete' beings.


i) Reflection on ‘Incomplete'


If I apply the word ‘incomplete' to myself (and it is valid to do so), I may think of, for example:

a) my lack of knowledge

  •  I cannot hope to grasp the enormity of what I don't know.
  •  I don't know what is going on in the house next door, let alone the street, the town, the country and the world!
  •  I don't have a true record of things that happened to me in the past, let alone what happened to you, and I certainly don't know about the future.


b) my lack of strength and energy – mental, physical and spiritual.

  •  I need constant replenishing and refreshing and rest.
  •  Even when I am fully charged and refreshed, I need more grace, more wisdom, more insight, more everything else to cope with you, others, circumstances, difficulties, etc. etc. than I have got.
  •  Therefore there are times, when running on my own resources which may be good at times, that I still get it wrong and may react defensively, or with hostility.
  •  I may be unsure of myself and may therefore feel bad (guilty) about how I handle life, or allow myself to be hurt by your dealings with me.


In all these ways I indicate my incompleteness. When we briefly considered the Greek and Roman gods at the end of Chapter 1, we commented that they seemed incomplete, lacking a lot of what we might hope for.

But God is complete. He doesn't lack and is not limited in any of the ways I have just considered. (Remember we said above, He is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). This is what Jesus means when he says God is ‘perfect' or ‘complete'.


ii) Reflection of what it actually means for God to be ‘complete'

Here are further points to ponder:

•  if God knows everything (to lack knowledge means He is not complete), then He will never be caught on the hop, never surprised by anything that happens and
•  if His wisdom is perfect (because He lacks nothing – our definition above) then He will always know how to act or respond to whatever is happening, and
•  if His power is unlimited (because He lacks nothing – our definition above, again) then He will be able to respond however He wants in accordance with that wisdom.


Do you start to see how significant this definition of ‘perfect' is? He has no need to act with hostility towards us because

  •  He knows everything there is to know about us,and
  •  we are not a threat to Him and He can never feel defensive.

     He is utterly capable of handling everything that ever happens.


But as we move into the next chapter, we'll ponder on the characteristics of love and goodness which the Bible says also describe Him. More than this, they determine how He will exercise that wisdom we referred to immediately above.


The parallel concept of Holiness


Now the Bible uses another word when describing God, more commonly than ‘perfect', in respect of His being, although it essentially has the same meaning – ‘holy'

(Please don't see this as a ‘religious' word; it is a descriptive word of immense significance.)


A definition of holy is “whole, spiritually perfect or pure; morally untainted by evil or sin; sinless, lacking nothing, utterly complete”

When we see it in respect of God in relation to mankind we might add, “separate from us, utterly distinct, utterly different, frightenly different in His completeness.”


Examples of the Use of 'holy'

Let's see some examples of its use:

Luke 1:49  the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name.

  •   Mary, in the New Testament, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared what she knew (and had been taught?) - that God is holy, a teaching from the Old Testament period, passed down.
  •   When ‘holy' was used of things (e.g. altar, see Ex 29:37) or places (e.g. Mount Sinai, see Ex 19:23) or people (e.g. priests, see Lev 21:6), it was more a quality, uniquely given of God, with a God-presence about it,
  •  i.e. His perfect presence was with it or them.
  •  It was His very perfect presence that made a thing or place or person ‘holy'.


Lev 11:44 (& v.45) I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. (also Lev 19:2, 20:26, 21:8)

•  Speaking of Himself, God calls Himself holy – whole, different, utterly pure, perfect.

•  If his people were to draw near to Him in some measure at least, they would need to be careful, because as we will see later, perfection or holiness has a moral and judicial aspect to it, which may have consequences.

•  His call to them to ‘be holy' was to do all that was humanly possible to ensure they were the nearest they could get to human rightness (perfection would be too much to ask).


Lev 23:32   Do not profane my holy name. I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites.

•  Even in reference to Him, they were required to note the distinction – He alone is holy, complete, perfect, utterly pure.

•  There is no other like Him – this uniqueness is at the beginning of the Ten Commandments and comes up countless times in the Law of Moses.

•  It was the issue that was critical in the life of Israel – that they conveyed this ‘different-ness' to the world, that God was utterly unlike any other so-called deity.

•  He was complete in Himself, wanting or needing nothing outside Himself.

•  In this respect He was utterly different from the Greek or Roman gods we referred to at the end of Chapter 1, clearly expressions of human invention, reflections of inadequate and incomplete human personalities.

•  Contrary to Dawkins' suppositions, the God of the Bible is not a figment of the imagination because the Greeks and Romans already did that for us and the outcome was nothing like we find in this Being, observed in the Bible. We could not have invented what we find here.


Psa 99:5 (& v.9)  Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.

•  This primary characteristic of the Lord was foundational to their worship and respect of Him, His total difference from anything else in Creation.

•  This characteristic often made Him referred to simply as “the Holy One” – see Job 6:10, Psa 22:3, 71:22, 78:41, 89:18, Prov 9:10, 30:3, Isa 1:4, 5:19,24 etc.


Isa 6:3  And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

•  Note this was the acclamation of the heavenly companions of God.

•  Also in Rev 4:8 we find another heavenly vision where God was being acclaimed in the same way.


We should note that the word ‘holy' occurs over 580 times in the Bible but most of them are attributing this God-presence to people, things or places.


Impossibility of Definition


Although we have been speaking of God's being as ‘perfect' or ‘holy', beyond this there is little we can say because He is otherwise unknown. Again theologians speak of Him as eternal or infinite and the Bible refers to Him as a Spirit but beyond that we are unable to say much about His being. Even our understanding of ‘spirit' is limited and analogies in the Bible are wind, water or fire, all of which convey energy. My own definition that I have used previously is that Spirit is energy with personality, but I realise that even that is beyond our comprehension.


In Psa 50:2 one of the psalmists declares, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.”  


Beyond that when we consider His perfection, we are left with references to His actions which we will now consider.



2.4 The Testimony of the Bible: Part 2: God's Actions are Perfect


His Works are Perfect


Deut 32:4   “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”  

  •  i.e. the things He does as He interacts with men and women are prefect (and yes, we wil think on that more as we go through this book).
  •  This is Moses' assessment of God and he appears to have spent more time in God's presence (prior to Christ) than any other person and therefore he is more qualified than most to speak about Him.
  •  Moses first portrays Him as a Rock, a being of utter stability and reliability, and the reason He is, is because everything He does is perfect and all the ways He works are utterly fair and right (just).
  •  I have often said that it is my belief that when we die and face God, if He should allow us total vision of all that happened to us in our lives we would never have any grounds to criticise Him for anything He has said or done or not done.
  •  Although we cannot see it this side of heaven, because our knowledge is very limited and therefore our understanding is also very limited, I believe this is the truth in respect of the One whose works are described by Moses as ‘perfect'.


2 Sam 22:31  “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.”  


  •   This was the song of David another man who had intimate dealings with God and who was therefore well qualified to speak on the subject.
  •   When David speaks of ‘his way' he means the path God takes, the things He does. Again, as far as David is concerned “his way is perfect”, it cannot be improved upon, it is faultless.


His Works are perfect because they are pre-planned


Isa 25:1   “O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvellous things, things planned long ago.”  

•  Isaiah has an intriguing insight. The way God works is in complete accord with all that He has planned beforehand, that is what ‘perfect faithfulness' means. When we come in to the New Testament we find the revelation that everything to do with Jesus had been planned by God before He even created the world.

•  His works are thus in complete and perfect accord with what He planned before all things came into being. His actions are not random, casual or even provoked by circumstances; everything is carefully planned (this does not do away with mankind having free will. It simply means He plans with foreknowledge of how we will act.)


Rom 12:2   “You will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  

•  The apostle Paul, who exhibits such amazing insight and understanding about the purposes of God, gives us a hint of this same thing.


Thinking more about this perfect planning


Following on what we have seen and said so far, we might go on to wonder about why God's will is so good and how it comes to be worked out.


i) Why God's plans are so good. 


The answer has to be because of what we will go on to see in the next chapter, that God IS love and God IS good. Thus everything that comes from Him is for our blessing (we will go on to see).

This is at the heart of the great question – can we believe that, in the midst of all we read in the Bible, the purpose and intent of God is for our good? Well that is what the Bible explicitly teaches and also implies in so many ways – for example –


Rom 8:28    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

•  This isn't to imply He doesn't work of the good of others, simply that receiving His good implies working in harmony with Him (the person with His back to you cannot receive from you).

•  Love and goodness combined within the character of God mean that everything He does is for our good. Although you may not understand it, one of the most famous verses in the New Testament screams it: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)

•  That verse not only declares his love but also reveals its expression (gave His one and only Son) and the intended outcome, our salvation.


ii) How God's plans can be so good  

Answers to such deep questions are usually wrapped up in a number of other truths, and that is true here.   As we have commented above, the Bible teaches that God is all-knowing (He knows everything that can be known – meditate on Psa 139 to see something of this) and all-wise.

Total knowledge and complete wisdom combine (with the love and goodness) to mean that every outcome brought by God is the best – it is perfect, it cannot be improved upon, it is faultless.

An example of this is revealed when the apostle Peter preached under the fresh power of the outpoured Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, speaking of Jesus –


Acts 2:23 “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

•  i.e. the Cross was not an accident but part of the pre-planned strategy of God who knew beforehand what was needed, and what was needed to provoke the religious and civil authorities, expressing their Sin, to combine to bring about the greatest injustice in history. God's plan was that in this way, the eternal Son of God would die as a form of punishment that could be applied to every single human being to bring about justice – their sin punished but taken by another – opening the way up for the case against them to be dropped as they are forgiven, when they receive it.

•  The main point is that God, knows everything and that includes how we will act (even as we express our free will) and of course, everything that will happen in the future.

•  This is the framework within which God operates in His work to bring us back to Himself (if we will respond) to receive His blessing, all of His goodness.


2.5 The Picture that gets bigger and bigger


Perhaps you may have caught, as we have gone along, some of the factors that are part of the equation that go towards answering ‘the big question', some of the factors even that go towards being able to speak of God as ‘perfect'.

•  In considering perfection we've had to consider holiness

•  In considering God's action we've had to consider His characteristics of love, goodness, being all knowing and all wise.


What these things say to us is that the Bible doesn't come to us like a text book more like a mystery adventure in which there are clues to be spotted that go to reveal the truth behind the things we see happen. Within this it also says that although it doesn't try to explain God's perfection it does reveal it through a variety of these ‘clues' which taken together build a very strong picture.


As we said, when you are talking about a Being who is described as Spirit, it is difficult for our finite minds to put descriptions to ‘Him', at least as far as His being is concerned. When there are a few heavenly visions (Isa 6, Ezek 1, Rev 4 & 5) perhaps we should not be surprised that there is a failure to even attempt a description (Isaiah) or where there is an attempt, such as in Ezekiel, is uses such language as fire and light but cannot go beyond that.


When it comes to John's visions in Revelation it almost becomes more vague – “the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian” (Rev 4:3) and in such heavenly visions the most common work is ‘like'. It was like this or like that. It wasn't this or that but like it. This mystery is accentuated when God, speaking with Moses declares, “no one may see me and live.” (Ex 33:20). This is not so much, “I won't let you see me because I have something to hide,” but more likely “I won't let you see me because even as if you looked at the sun you would be blinded, if you saw my splendour, you would be obliterated.”


As we said, we are moving here in an area of mystery. The best we have been able to do (and it is valid) is point out the Son's description of the Father – ‘perfect' – consider the concept of ‘holiness' and then consider in outline (and we'll do it in detail later) the limited declarations of God's actions and His workings that are then bolstered many times over by what we see of His actions in the whole Bible.



2.6 And So…


To be antagonistic about the concept of God's perfection may have two origins:

•  It can be both childish and an expression of our ignorance, which comes from our failure to read the Bible and catch the wonder of the One who is at the heart of it, or

•  It can be because we have in the back of our minds some of the things that happened in the Old Testament and we still can't see how they fit with all that has been said in this chapter.


As we conclude this chapter, therefore, may I challenge you to remedy ignorance if it is there at the heart of your belief system, or be patient to wait to see how these things work out in practice as we consider individual judgments in later chapters.


I will look square on at the judgments of God in later chapters but first we must look at fundamental issues, such as more about God's character, and then what we mean about God's judgments and how they work in practice. We can only do this by studying the Bible so I invite you to continue with me as we do that. 



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