“The greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You’ve never done that, and neither have I. But Christ always did that, think about that.” – Paul Washer
“…walk before Thee with all their heart…” - 1 Kings 8:23-24; “…And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul,” - 1 Kings 8:46-53
“…walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul…” - 1 Kings 2:4
“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning…” - Joel 2:12-14
“…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; …this do, and thou shalt live.” - Lk. 10:25-28
“And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” - Colossians 2:10-12
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” - Philippians 3:3 [Eph. 2:19]
The unique phraseology of the greatest commandment in the Old Testament isn’t misleading. The choice divine words used to forge the command were never meant to confuse anyone (1 Cor. 14:33). The greatest commandment is divinely communicated in this unique way to impress upon the mind the need to be consciously perfect in one’s commitment to God (Exhibit #1, #2) – namely, that you aren’t knowingly or willingly sinning against God (Heb. 10:26), or, you aren’t knowingly or willingly preferring anything before God (Ex. 20:3, Matt. 6:19-24). The language forces men to think about if they are totally and completely committed to God (1 Jn. 3:18-22). This is important for sinners and saints. For, this divine requirement is necessary for the conversion of sinners and the perseverance of saints.
People try to repent, and in form appear to be repenting (Jn. 7:24, 2 Tim. 3:5), but they draw near to God with their lips while their heart is far from Him (Isa. 29:13, Matt. 15:8, Mk. 7:6, 2 Pet. 2:18-19). They insincerely cry out to God in repentance and follow the LORD with impure motives (Hos. 7:14, 8:2, Jn. 6:26-27), while personally feeling innocent and free from guile (Jer. 2:35, 16:10, Prov. 16:2, 30:12). They claim the promises of God with all boldness (Mic. 3:9, 11, Jer. 5:12, 14:13, 21:2, Ezk. 13:22) and even believe for God’s forgiveness through the blood of an atonement (Jer. 6:20, Hos. 8:13, Isa. 1:11-20, Prov. 15:8, 21:27), while they religiously attend Church (Jer. 7:3-10) and regularly read the Bible (Jer. 8:5-9, Jn. 5:39-42). These people are so confident about their pretentious relationship with God that they would argue with the LORD on Judgment Day if they could (Matt. 7:21-23). Nevertheless, the Lord will say to them: “I never knew you: depart from Me…” (Matt. 7:23).
According to Jesus in the Parable of the Sower, the various degrees of dishonesty in the hearts of sinners are comparable to three different kinds of infertile soil – wayside, rocky, & thorny (Lk. 8:4-15). In conclusion, the sinners who are the best of the dishonest bunch – who also are the most impacted by the preaching of the Gospel – are manifest in that they “bring no fruit to perfection” (Lk. 8:14, KJV; “maturity” - NASB). Nevertheless, Paul Washer would have men think that they don’t need a “perfect biblical repentance” to be saved. He claims that “no one is going to be saved” if we put before them “a perfect biblical definition” by clarifying to sinners the “perfect expounded biblical characteristics for repentance”.
“If I go through all the characteristics of repentance in the scriptures, and I give someone: ‘This is a perfect biblical definition, and these are the perfect expounded biblical characteristics for repentance, and this is what you must have to truly repent unto salvation.’ – no one is going to be saved.” – Paul Washer
“So we shouldn’t be telling converts that they must have this exquisite perfect biblical repentance in their life in order to have repented unto salvation, because you don’t even have that. You are growing in repentance.” – Paul Washer
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” - Revelation 2:4-5 [Rev. 2:26]
Jesus gave no further explanation about what He meant because of the clarion message of all the Prophets throughout redemptive history as they called men to love God first and foremost, and completely, with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength. Our lives depend upon it (Deut. 30:16, 19-20)! Eternal life depends upon it (Lk. 10:25-28)! Moses made this very clear when he repeatedly charged Israel, saying, “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 11:13, 13:3, 26:16-19, 30:2, 6, 10, 16, 20). Of course, what Moses meant by this charge wasn’t ambiguous.
Moses was speaking about a characteristically unique manifestation of love. That is why Deuteronomy explores the fullness or wholeness of heart exemplified in Joshua and Caleb as survivors of the Wilderness while the rest of their companions perished. In other words, Moses charged the Children of the Exodus Generation to follow the example of Joshua and Caleb in that they “fully” or “wholly” followed the LORD through faith in the Gospel (Num. 14:24, Deut. 1:36, Josh. 14:8-9, 14; Heb. 3:7-4:11, 1 Cor. 10:1-13); while, contrastingly, their fathers perished in that they didn’t “wholly” follow the LORD through unbelief in the Gospel (Num. 32:11-12). Evidently, a fullness or wholeness of heart to follow the LORD while facing gigantic obstacles is the proof of one’s fullness or wholeness of love, which makes sense of the divine mandate to love God with “all” the heart, soul, mind, and strength.
This unique way of speaking became a language of watchwords for perseverance and apostasy from this point onward in redemptive history. So, when Joshua & Samuel charged Israel to love and serve God with all their heart and soul, they knew that the fate of Israel depended upon it (Josh. 22:5, 1 Sam. 12:20, 24). For, according to David & Solomon, the Covenants of salvation were null and void without this vital feature of religion within the souls of men (1 Kings 2:4, 1 Kings 8:23-24). These holy men weren’t hopeless for Israel that she would never love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength – or that it’s impossible! – they were hopeless for Israel if she ever ceased to love God in this unique way. Therefore, in the case of Israel’s apostasy resulting in a dispersion of the people among the heathen, the divine appeal for restoration from this fallen condition was termed accordingly by Moses, Solomon, Joel, and Jeremiah.
“But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” - Deuteronomy 4:29-31
“If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.” - Leviticus 26:40-45
“If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them: For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron: That thine eyes may be open unto the supplication of thy servant, and unto the supplication of thy people Israel, to hearken unto them in all that they call for unto thee. For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD.” - 1 Kings 8:46-53
“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?” - Joel 2:12-14
“For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” - Jeremiah 29:10-14
Therefore, when Solomon forsook biblical Judaism and began to commit idolatry, it was said of him: “…his heart was not wholly true with the LORD his God” (1 Kings 11:4, ESV; “perfect” - KJV), which means that Solomon “did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done” (1 Kings 11:6, ESV). Like Joshua and Caleb in the Exodus Generation, only among the Kings of Israel and Judah, David was the prototype of what God required of the Jews. Therefore, when the immediately subsequent Kings of Israel and Judah fell into sin like Solomon did, the Jews understood this to mean that Jeroboam, Rehoboam and Abijah’s (Abijam’s) heart was not “as the heart of David” in this characteristic way: their hearts were not “wholly true” to the LORD (1 Kings 15:3, ESV; 1 Kings 14:22). In other words, this means that they were not “like [God’s] servant David, who…followed [the LORD] with all his heart” (1 Kings 14:8).
Contrastingly, when Asa and Jehoshaphat broke the cycle of apostasy and returned to the LORD, it was said of Asa: “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done…the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days” (1 Kings 15:11 & 14, ESV; 1 Kings 22:43). Why? Remarkably, because under his leadership the Jews “entered into a Covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul…and all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought Him with their whole desire, and He was found by them…” (2 Chron. 15:12-15, ESV). This was a well-known fact about these Kings and the Jews who stood to the Covenant with them (2 Chron. 22:9).
However, some Kings did a lot of things right but never experienced this characteristic heart of repentance and faith in God, and they got what they deserved in the judgment of God unto damnation. George Whitefield would have called these men “almost Christians”. For example, Jehu was zealous to rid the land of Baal worship, but because he was “not careful to walk in the Law of the LORD…with all his heart” (2 Kings 10:31, ESV) he succumbed to the false Judaism of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and perished in his sins. Likewise, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah (Uzziah), and Jotham all did what was “right” in the sight of the LORD, “yet not like David [their] father” (2 Kings 14:3), which of course meant that they did what was right “yet not with a whole heart” (2 Chron. 25:2).
Contrastingly, those who triumphed in this characteristic heart of repentance and faith in God, like Hezekiah and Josiah, got what they didn’t deserve in the salvific grace of God. Hezekiah did what was “right” in the sight of the LORD “according to all that David his father did” (2 Kings 18:3-7, KJV), which of course meant that he did what was right “with all his heart” or “with a whole heart” (2 Chron. 31:20-21 & 2 Kings 20:3, ESV). Josiah did what was “right” in the sight of the LORD “and walked in all the way of David his father” (2 Kings 22:2, KJV), which of course meant that he kept the commandments of God “with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might” (2 Kings 23:2, 25-27, 2 Chron. 34:31, ESV).
Furthermore, you should know that this characteristic heart condition predates Moses and outlasts the Old Testament. For example, in the pre-flood world, this was the blamelessness of Noah (Gen. 6:9, ESV). Or, in the post-flood world, this was the blamelessness of Job and Abraham (Job 1:1, 8, 2:3, ESV; Gen. 17:1-2, ESV). Literally, the Hebrew word translated “blameless” (ESV) in these earlier instances gives the same import as the Hebrew word(s) that are translated interchangeably into “blameless”, “wholly true”, “whole heart”, and “perfect” (ESV / NASB / KJV); and I would argue that the best translation of these Hebrew words appear in the KJV as the word “perfect”. Nevertheless, conclusively, we can be sure that perfection is whole-heartedness, and whole-heartedness is complete truthfulness and honesty, and wholly true honesty with God is blamelessness – a heart condition that is manifest in all true believers in all ages. Therefore, this was required of every kind of Jew in Israel: the Kings (Ps. 101:1-8), Judges (2 Chron. 19:9), Soldiers (Ps. 18:32), and all ordinary Israelite Citizens (1 Kings 8:61, Prov. 2:21, Deut. 10:12-13, 18:13, Mic. 6:8).
“Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.” - 1 Kings 8:61, ESV
“Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.” - 1 Kings 8:61, KJV
The most well-known translation of this same Greek word, fullness, is being communicated in respect to human growth and physical age. Translators saw fit to use the adjective or noun “mature” or “maturity” in this case – while in every instance it was speaking of a full maturity that had been or needed to be accomplished according to what is divinely required (1 Cor. 2:6, Heb. 6:1, Eph. 4:13, Php. 3:15, Col. 1:28, 4:12 – ESV; Lk. 8:14, 1 Cor. 2:6, Heb. 6:1, Eph. 4:13, Php. 3:15, Col. 4:12 – NASB). While in other cases the translators chose a more generic term to convey “fullness” by simply translating the Greek word to “complete” or “perfect” – a completion of everything that was wanting (2 Tim. 3:17, Jas. 2:22, Rev. 3:2 – ESV; 1 Thess. 3:10, Col. 1:28, Matt. 19:21 – NASB) or a perfection of everything that was lacking (Matt. 5:48, 19:21, 1 Jn. 2:5, 4:12, 17 – ESV; Matt. 5:48, Jas. 1:4, 2:22, 1 Pet. 5:10, Rev. 3:2 - NASB).
All that being said, the KJV translated this Greek word with fewer variations. They stuck with more generic terms as much as possible to show the reader a uniformity of speech in what God was uniquely requiring of true Christians. The same kind of uniformity is observable in how they translated the Hebrew counterpart for this Greek word according to the divine requirements of biblical Judaism in the Old Testament. Where the ESV & NASB used “blameless” or “wholly true” / “whole heart” the KJV uses “perfect”. This greatly simplifies things, and it directs the reader to observe an even broader uniformity than what is immediately apparent while reading the ESV & NASB.
An unnecessary abundance of variety could lead to catastrophic misinterpretations, like how many modern interpreters welcome “Carnal Christians” into their Churches without any condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 13). Paul Washer is doing the same thing with the Doctrine of Spiritual Maturity in the New Testament. Of course, I remember what Paul Washer stood for in the Shocking Youth Message! I remember how he denounced the existence of Carnal Christians!
“If you have not mastered this…you have not even arrived to the first rung of what it means to be a mature Christian.” – Paul Washer
“If you are doing this you’ve not even made it to the first rung of Christianity.” – Paul Washer
“But are you expecting a full-blown repentance the very second God begins to work in your heart?” – Paul Washer
“When a person comes to Christ we can’t expect them to have a full blown, mature repentance.” – Paul Washer
However, when the Greek word for “perfection” is translated to “mature” / “maturity” or “full age”, hasty interpreters suppose that God is talking about truly born again Christians who are just newborn infants in the faith that need some time to grow up and mature to become more spiritual. Of course, this is the same way that Preachers excuse the sin of “the Carnal Christian” while advocating for the tolerance of such in true Christianity – seeing that the Carnal Christians at Corinth were called “Infants in Christ” in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 (ESV).
“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” - 1 Corinthians 3:1-4
The same problem existed among the Hebrews according to Paul’s discourse in Hebrews 5:11-6:6. Again, Paul laments his inability to speak to them as he would for the same reasons: figuratively, because of their confinement to “milk” as a “babe” (Heb. 5:11-13, KJV); and, spiritually, because of the deafening presence of carnality in their lives making them “dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11, Rom. 11:8-10). Remember, Jesus didn’t have good things to say about those who are “dull of hearing” (Matt. 13:15)! Notwithstanding, if only these Hebrew Christians were of “full age” or “mature” (Heb. 5:14, KJV & ESV), Paul acknowledges that they would be able to “discern” the wisdom of God. However, in order to come unto “perfection” or “maturity” (Heb. 6:1, KJV & ESV), the backslidden Christians would need be restored to Christ through “repentance from dead works, and faith toward God” (Heb. 6:1), and Paul doesn’t even know if God will certainly “permit” this (Heb. 6:3, KJV) even though this would certainly mean a loss of “salvation” (Heb. 6:9)! Why? Because it is possible for true Christians to “fall away”, which would mean that it’s “impossible…to renew them again unto repentance” (Heb. 6:4, 6; 2 Tim. 2:25; Heb. 12:17).
Can we be sure that there’s no such thing as a “Carnal Christian” in true Christianity? Yes, at least in the sense that these individuals have forsaken repentance and faith in the Gospel and thus are overcome with damnable degrees of carnality like 5 out of the 7 Churches in the province of Asia in Revelation 2-3. In order to be truly Christian and escape the damnation of hell, they would need to experience a characteristically biblical repentance and keep it unto the end (Heb. 10:26-29). Therefore, Jesus Christ and the Apostles called them back to “perfection” or “maturity”, just like all the Prophets of old called the Jews back to wholeness of heart in loving God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength.
As a matter of fact, the only reason God has gifted the Church with Preachers is for the “perfecting” of the saints (Eph. 4:12, KJV) – so that all who are “perfect” or “mature” would stay that way until the end (Col. 1:28, 4:12, KJV & ESV), or so those who were “perfect” and fell into infancy (“νήπιος - nēpios [G2516] – Eph. 4:14) would be restored and become “perfect” again until the end (Eph. 4:11-14). Paul demonstrates the intensity of this heavy burden in the close of the 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians because of how frequently they were backslidden (2 Cor. 13:5, 9, 11). Likewise, he makes similar appeals to the backslidden Philippians (Php. 3:1-21) in respect to the “rule” of the “perfect” / “mature” that all must follow to overcome the enemies of the Cross (Php. 3:15, KJV & ESV).
Lastly, considering the fact that the ESV or NASB uses the word “blameless” in the Old Testament where the KJV uses “perfect” for Job, Noah, Abraham, David, and Asa, it would interest you to know how the KJV uses the word “blameless” in the New Testament. Even though the KJV doesn’t use the word “blameless” in the same way as the ESV and NASB in the Old Testament, the word blameless is used in correlation with the Greek counterparts of “perfection” in the Old & New Testament.
When the English word blame is used in the New Testament (KJV), or a derivative thereof, it is employed by God teach us how to identify or discern if the faith of true Christians in the Gospel is acceptable to God (Acts 10:35, 2 Cor. 5:9, Rom. 12:1-2, 15:16). This subject of discernment is a focal point of divine judgment in the Epistles; therefore, specific terms have been authored by God to communicate to the Church if anyone has suffered a fatal compromise of faith in Jesus Christ (Lk. 15:24, 32; Jas. 2:14-26, Eph. 5:14, Rev. 3:1, 1 Tim. 5:6). Instantly, at conversion, true Christians are blameless before God through the operation of the Gospel (Eph. 1:4, 6; Col. 1:21-23); and through a process of sanctification God promises to confirm all saints unto the end that they “may be blameless in the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8-9).
Nevertheless, upon falling into sin true Christians must be confronted (1 Cor. 10:12, Gal. 5:4, Heb. 4:11, 6:6, 2 Pet. 1:10, 3:17, Rev. 2:5), even as Paul confronted Peter when he fell into sin at Antioch. Paul said, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11). Why? Because Peter was not walking “uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14). Accordingly, Paul warned both the Philippian and Thessalonian believers about the need to be found “unblameable” or “blameless” before God (1 Thess. 3:13, Php. 2:15), as did Peter to the scattered saints of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithunia (2 Pet. 3:14). Clearly, the apostolic understanding of what it means to be blameable before God is harmonious in every case (Php. 2:12-16, 1 Thess. 3:10-13, 5:23-24, 2 Pet. 3:14).
The Apostles were anticipating the coming of divine judgment upon true Christians “in the Day of Christ” (Php. 2:16), or at “the Day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12), which Paul says is “at the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 3:13) – a time when the faith of each individual saint is discerned and judged with finality based upon fruits / works (Matt. 16:27, Rom. 2:5-6, 1 Pet. 1:17, 2 Cor. 5:10, Gal. 6:7-8, Rev. 2:23, 26, 20:12). Therefore, God would have true Christians to know if they are obtaining “a good report” (Heb. 11:2, 39) or if Jesus Christ has “somewhat against [them]” (Rev. 2:4, 14, 20, 3:2). The former individuals are blameless, faultless, unrebukeable, and without offence, while the latter are blameable, at fault, and rebukeable as offenders of the Gospel (Fault: Gal. 6:1, Jude 24, Rev. 14:5; Unrebukeable: Php. 2:15, Col. 1:22, 1 Tim. 6:14, Rev. 3:19; Offence: Php. 1:10).