Lou: You referred to Job. If I remember correctly, God called Job a perfect person. And yet when you come to the end of the book of Job, it says he repented in dust and ashes. What did he have to repent of? What does repentance mean when God has said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? A good and perfect man”? Job 1:8.
Graham: That’s right. In the hearing of the on-looking universe God said, “Here is a perfect man.” And then the perfect man says, “I repent.” I think we are more inclined to point out Job’s repentance than God’s word that he is perfect. Under the pressure of bad advice from his friends, Job finally said, “God, I’m sorry I have talked about things beyond my understanding” (Job 42:1-3). And God immediately intervened and said, “Don’t give up, Job. You have done splendidly! You have said of Me what is right. Don’t let these three theologians discourage you. In fact, pray for them. They need a lot of help to know Me the way you do“ (Job 42:7-8).
We really need to take the book of Job as a whole. God said Job was perfect.
Job in his humility said, “God, I have said a lot, and I’ve said it with a great deal of feeling. If I seem the least bit irreverent, I repent.”
Then God could have said, “A man who is covered with boils and has lost his whole family; I can understand why you cry the way you have. You did not insult Me by this. You honored Me with your confidence.”
We will explore this in more depth in the next chapter, “Talking To God As A Friend.“ Job is a marvelous example of how freely we can talk to God, and still be reverent.
Lou: Let’s come back to this matter of perfection as “healing the damage done.” Does that include restoration both physically and mentally? It reminds me of a question someone sent in: “Will you please tell me why the people of the Old Testament lived longer than the people of our day? What gave them a longer life span? Does food have anything to do with our life span today?” I think that ties in with the topic of healing all the damage that has been done by sin.
Graham: It does. I love to read about Methuselah and how long he and his fellow patriarchs lived. Up until the Flood, they all lived a long time unless they were murdered, or translated, as Enoch was (based on Genesis 4 and 5—see especially Gen 4:23 and 5:23-24). I remember the first time I went through the sixty-six. And I wrote in my margin the declining ages of the patriarchs after the flood. It’s precipitous! Their ages drop from almost a thousand down to a little over a hundred. We have lost a great deal physically. We’re pygmies compared with Adam and Eve. Fortunately, we’ve all sort of withered up together so we look relatively respectable to each other, but if Adam and Eve were to walk into the room, we’d be embarrassed, wouldn’t we?
We need both physical healing and mental healing. But in this life, although we should do the best we can with the little that we have, we’re all getting older. Not until the earth made new will all that be restored. So some people say, “Well, if I can’t be physically and mentally perfect in this life, I guess I can’t be perfect in any way.“ No, spiritual perfection, perfection of character, is held out to us. God could say of us, as He did of Job, “I could trust you even through the Time of Trouble. I know you wouldn’t let Me down.“ Perfection is not a brittle thing. It is about being mature. It actually means just plain growing up. It is unnatural not to grow up.
Lou: Does a person have to be perfect in any sense of the term in order to be saved?
Graham: One can certainly be perfect in one’s willingness to listen. That willingness begins when one is converted, and to be converted is simply to reverse one’s course. The unconverted person is stubbornly unwilling to listen. The converted person is reverently and humbly willing to listen. One couldn’t do that if one didn’t have a new heart and a right spirit (Ezek 36:26). It is the marvelous work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to the conviction of truth (John 16:8-11), that leads me to want to reverse my direction. And since it is the work of God, it is perfectly done; but I would only be a perfect baby at that stage. God doesn’t need us to focus on our performance, but if I’m cheating in my willingness to listen, there’s something seriously wrong.