Thursday, January 9, 2020 -
“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (II Corinthians 13:11).
I read this and asked myself what it means here to “be made complete.” The King James Version instead of “be made complete” merely says “be perfect.” Yet it is a different Greek word altogether used here than Jesus uses in Matthew 5:48 when He says, “Therefore you are to be perfect (telios) as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In Matthew Jesus was emphasizing our moral ineptitude, as the whole message of Matthew chapter 5 led up to this point where each individual must recognize their helplessness in and of themselves to keep God’s law. Man can never be perfect or reach the point of having no moral lacking in the sense that God is without any moral flaw unless we accept Christ. Jesus in Matthew 5 demonstrates our need for a redeemer.
And so Paul chooses a different word in II Corinthians 13:11, where he is addressing the church in Corinth as a whole. Here in II Corinthians the word used is katartizo, meaning “to adjust, fit, finish, complete.” That is, to put something in its proper condition, to establish, set up, equip, arrange, prepare, or mend. The word is used thirteen times in the New Testament, and is translated depending on the context fully trained (Luke 6:40), made complete (I Cor. 1:10; I Thess. 3:10), prepared (Matt. 21:16; Heb. 11:13; 10:5), restored (Gal. 6:1), equipped (Heb. 13:21), perfected (I Peter 5:10), and mended (Matt. 4:21; Mark 1:19). In context of what Paul told this same group of people in I Corinthians 12, where every individual member of the church plays an important role as part of the whole church, this makes perfect sense. Every individual part, just as in a well-oiled machine, must fit together perfectly to enable it to run as God deems – where all are comforted in their tribulations, are of like-mind, live in peace, and the presence of the God of love and peace is evident. Each has its own role! Paul also began his first letter to the Corinthians in the same manner, using the same term, addressing the church as a whole, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10). The church is incomplete in terms of function unless each of us is performing our proper role as part of the whole.
However, in other passages, the meaning changes slightly due to the context in the way the word is used. In Hebrews 11:3, the same word is used in regards to creation, “By faith, we understood that the worlds were prepared by the word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” In Hebrews 10:5 we find Jesus using the same word in describing the human body God prepared for His incarnation, “Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body thou hast prepared for Me.”And Jesus uses it in Matthew 21:16: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes, have you never read, ‘out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself.’”
Indeed, our whole life is spent in being made complete. The tense when referring to creation or Christ’s body refers to a one-time event. Yet when used in regard to the church or as individuals, the word is used in the present imperative active tense, signifying a lifetime of preparation and equipping, or becoming complete and perfected, or for that matter, restoration. Paul uses it in this tense when referring to us as individuals, “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith” (I Thessalonians 3:10) and Hebrews 13:21, “Equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Peter uses this same word in regards to the refining process of suffering for Christ’s sake, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (I Peter 5:10).
Christ uses this term in regards to learning from a teacher, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
And lastly, this word is translated as “to restore” in Galatians 6:1: “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself, lest you, too, be tempted.”