There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. (Job 1:1 ESV)
In the older translations, "blameless" was rendered "perfect". Caryl explains:
"Job himself professed, (Job 9:20) If I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse; he acknowledges, (Job 7:20) I have sinned. The perfection here spoken of is not an absolute, a legal perfection.Two things about this remark that I think are critical: that the perfection one might speak of - the blamelessness one might describe of a believer - is alien to them. It cannot be absolutely held by the individual, for as Paul writes to the Romans, ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is nobody of whom it may be said, in an absolute sense, "he is perfect". None, that is, except Christ. Those who are in Christ, however, are justified - perfectly complete - perfectly without sin and perfectly righteous, having the righteousness of Christ imputed to them. In this sense, Job, and Abraham before him, and all those who are Abraham's true children, are perfect. This is not a perfection that can be taken away, nor is it one that can be lost in any way. Justification is a declaration of the verdict of the last day, given to us in time and space prior to that day - it is a declaration of righteousness that is ours as we walk and live and breathe on this earth, though we sin, though we fall short daily in our walk with Christ. It is a complete and total absolution, granted through the blood of Christ, by grace, through the Word of God who declares all His children "just". None who are in Christ by faith (and that as the gift of God, Eph. 2:8-10) will ever fall - and none will receive a verdict on the last day different than that that they possess now. This is much convoluted today, and much disputed.... but justification is irrevocable.
For the clearing of the word, we may consider there is a twofold perfection ascribed to the saints in this life. A perfection of justification, and a perfection of sanctification.
The first of these, in a strict sense, is a complete perfection: the saints are complete in Christ, they are perfectly justified, there is not any sin left uncovered, not any guilt left unwashed in the blood of Christ, not the least spot but is taken away. His garment is large enough to cover all our nakedness and deformities. In this respect, they may be called perfect, they are perfectly justified, By one offering Christ has perfected forever them that are sanctified. (Heb. 10.14) (pp. 24-25, Exposition of Job, vol. 1)
Now, after discussing a little the perfection of sanctification, Caryl comes to the paragraph that hit me more directly tonight:
"Or thus, we may say that the perfection here spoken of is the perfection of sincereity. Job was sincere, he was sound at the heart. He did not act a part, or personate Religion, but was a religious person. He was not gilded, but gold. So the word is interpreted. Some render it "Job was a simple man" (not as simple is put for weak and foolish, but as simple is put for plain hearted; one that is not, as the Apostle James phrases it, a double-minded man). Job was a simple-minded man, or a single-minded man, one that had not a heart and a heart. He was not compound, speaking one thing and meaning another, he meant what he spoke, and he would speak his mind. ... So that to be a perfect man, is to be a plain man, one whose heart you may know by his tongue, and read the man's spirit in his actions. Some are such jugglers that you can see little of their spirits in their lives, you can learn little of their minds by their words; Jacob was a plain man, and so was Job; some translate it, "a sound man". It is the same expression that is given of Noah... he was sound, upright-hearted, or perfect with God, Gen. 6:9." (p. 25, Exposition of Job, vol. 1)One of the things that strikes me in this is the following. If one is secure in his Lord, knowing his salvation is secure - knowing that all that matters is accomplished for him and promised to him, one should be able and willing to fear God rather than man - and to simply be who he is. Dissembling and false pretenses are SO common in society - there is such pressure to conform here, and to play a role there, so that everyone is pleased with you. Why are we such suckers for this kind of pressure? Why is it so easy to fail at this (at least I hope I'm not the only one who does!)? What causes the resolve to simply be who we are... to admit failure, and ask for forgiveness - to walk plainly as those bought by Christ's blood, and knowing Him to be the Way, Truth and Life? We fail, I think, because we forget who we are in Christ.... and that all is in His hands, that though the whole world forsake us, we are still rich in Him and secure in God's family. We fail because we fail to trust in the fulfillment of all things in Christ. We fail because we like to operate on the level of sight rather than the level of faith.
I think one of the reasons this particular passage struck me was that I had read together with this Mark chapter 9, wherein the man whose child suffered demonic convulsions admitted to Christ - was a plain man - that he failed in his trust: "I believe! Help my unbelief!" This is exactly it. The man openly admitted before Christ and the others that his belief was wavering - that he needed Christ's aid, even there, and not just for his boy. Let us all learn to be more like that plain man in all things, for that is the character of an upright man.