I'm in absolute agreement with your comment saying, "It is a clever deception that anyone can be completely sinless in this life".
I would like to add the below to your comments:
First we have to have define what we mean by perfection. Is it different from sanctification, and if so, to what extent? Perfection, I tend to think, is the result of the process called sanctification. The more sanctification progresses by Word and Spirit, the more we become perfect, (1Tim 3:16-17). Sanctification means obtaining holiness. Now the word holiness is related to 'whole' and 'healing'. Sanctification therefore would be the process of being separated for God from that which injures and damages in spirit, soul and body, from sin and evil, that is, and the restoration of the injuries already sustained, (1Peter 2:9).
Sanctification is the process of gradual conformation to the image of the Son, (Rom 8:29), or the gradual appropriation by faith of the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit.
When in Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, "You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect", this is a promise as well as a command.
At the very start of our life as a spiritual being, when we are born again by Word and Spirit into the household of God, we receive from God the gift of holiness and perfection, (1Cor 30:31). When we receive the Lord Jesus as our Saviour, we immediately begin to share in His perfection. For us, therefore, this perfection is a free gift of God, absolutely derived from our Saviour, yet regarded by God as absolutely belonging to us. Isn't this the case in all achievements of faith?
When a baby is born, its entire existence, humanly speaking, is derived from its parents. In the procreative act of its father and mother the baby found its beginning and origin. This fact, however, does not in the least detract from the baby's perfection in itself, as any mother will tell you. A baby is perfect, with a perfection solely derived from its parents. Yet from the very first moments of Its life, the baby begins to work out this initial perfection and to make it its own. A baby Is perfect in a derived sense, as a baby. For it to achieve the perfection of a boy or girl, or of a mature adult, a lot of things have to happen.
The spiritual perfection we receive from God when we are born again is like the perfection of a baby, and what a great and precious gift it is! Even though the new-born Christian hardly realizes it, God knows, however, that it will take a lot of education, teaching, instruction and discipline, a lot of bumps and falls and bruises even, before the baby can begin to attain to some of the perfection of a more mature age.
Now there is an important lesson here. Every natural parent knows that his or her baby will have to go through this process of education, etc. including the falls and bruises, and no wise parent would want to keep the baby from these rather painful experiences. They simply form part of human life! Children whose parents do 'protect' them from the bumps and bruises usually grow up unfit for adult life, or they have to go through the process at a much later and therefore more difficult stage.
God is such a wise parent in the spiritual world. He will protect the spiritual baby, but not to the extent of completely shielding it from the bruises. The standard here is the capacity of the child to cope with the hardship. There Is great comfort In this, for when falls occur in a young Christian's life, he knows that his Father is there, keeping a watchful eye on things, and that he can run to Him for consolation any time he wants.
The value of this initial perfection cannot be over-estimated, and I mean this literally. It is the perfection of Christ in us, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, and for that reason it is absolute and final. Believing this under all circumstances is one of the main things we have to learn when we are young in faith. Without listening to the evil one, even if he (seems to) speak the truth, we have to "consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus", (Rom 6:11).
All the things God has for us in Christ, whatever they may be, we have to appropriate by faith. This being the case, a young Christian does well to fully identify with Christ's perfection by faith. Once he has learned to maintain that position, many other things will become easy. Isn't perfection the highest we can hope to achieve? If by faith we claim the highest at the very beginning, the rest will be 'a piece of cake', as they say. Well, in a way it will! Remaining in this initial perfection of Christ can also be expressed by saying that we persevere in the Kingdom of God, for the Kingdom of God means righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (Rom 14:17).
The initial holiness or perfection at rebirth and the process of perfection that follows afterwards are very clearly shown in Paul's letters. He calls the believers 'saints', irrespective of their spiritual attainments, but he also tells them to press on for perfection, (Phil 3:12-16). In 1Corinthians 6.11 he says that the Christians 'were sanctified', yet in 2Corinthians 7:1 he urges them to perfect their holiness. Paul knew both types or stages of perfection quite well.
The process of perfection is called a renewal of the mind, (Rom 12:2). It is called a renewal of the mind, because the mind hears and adopts the words of God, and the spirit grows accordingly. This growth is expressed in the increasing ability to think, speak and act as Jesus did, not just in a limited, natural sense, but also in a directly spiritual sense in the manifestations and gifts of the Spirit. This renewal of course takes place by Word and Spirit. The Word alone never leads to the desired result; it has to be accompanied by the life-giving Spirit. This means that for a Christian who seeks for perfection the baptism in the Holy Spirit is indispensable. That is why Galatians 5:22-26 expresses perfection in terms of 'fruits of the Spirit'.
In 1Peter 4:1 the renewal of the mind, as expressed in the words 'arm yourselves with the same thought', is connected with suffering in the flesh. "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passion but by the will of God ". The same connection between victory over sin and physical suffering is made in Hebrews 2:4: "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood".
Perfection is an initial 'positional' free gift of God in Christ to us, but also a process that goes on for as long as we live. Although we sometimes have to judge ourselves and each other, the judgment of the degree of perfection we have reached is exclusively the Lord's. In other words, we do not fret about our own perfection or that of the brethren but just 'follow the Lamb I where He leads us by Word and Spirit.
It will not do for us to say that perfection is unattainable in this life, for the bible says otherwise. The Lord simply commands us to be perfect, and when He commands, He also gives the power to achieve. Moreover, if we have experienced perfect deliverance from one sin, there is no logical reason why we could or should not go all the way.
We must not leave this position or trade it in for the run of the mill Christian view that 'in this life we'll never be perfect'. This is just as unbiblical, or even more so, as telling myself and others that I am already perfect.
In Romans 8.19-23 we read this prophecy by Paul: "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it; in hope, because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies".
Let me put this in other words: Before our Master's second coming, at a moment to be decided by God, the children of God who were born again by Word and Spirit, who individually and collectively have grown in the spirit and are conformed to the image of the Son of God, will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. This does not mean that they suddenly become perfect, but rather that, having reached inner perfection, they receive spiritual bodies in the likeness of their Lord's.
These sons of God, women and men such as you and I, are the 'precious fruit of the earth' for which the heavenly husbandman is patiently waiting. When they have thus been caught up into the 'air' of the heavenly places (a spiritual rapture), they will meet their Lord there, and under his guidance go on doing the work of perfection they already did while in the natural body. They will set free the entire creation from the reign of terror of Satan and his demons. This is what Revelation calls the Millennium, the reign of peace.
Now we can understand why 'imperfectionism' as well as 'perfectionism' are to be avoided at all cost. Imperfectionism makes it impossible for the Lord to fulfil the promise of sonship. For all things promised will only come about through our faith in Christ working through love. So even when the congregation 'without spot or wrinkle' might attain to the revelation of the sons of God, the individual imperfectionist will still miss out, simply because he just is not up to that level.
Fortunately, as is often the case with these rigorous doctrines, many sincere Christians who officially hold a position of 'imperfectionism' do lead lives of deep faith and holiness, and might be in a much better position in the Lord's eyes than they themselves dare contemplate. When I use the term 'imperfectionism' I should therefore make it clear that I mean those people who consciously or unconsciously use this doctrine as an excuse for their own lack of achievement of faith.
If on the other hand we say we are perfect already, creation has a right to demand that we begin the work of millennial deliverance here and now. Or in other words: If I say I am perfect I should not find it difficult to enter a room through a closed door, as Jesus did. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us is the guarantee that we will reach sonship, for the moment the Spirit has reached his full extension in all of us we will be changed, just as the dead body of Jesus was changed into a glorified body by the Holy Spirit.
So before us there is the glorious hope of perfection to be reached in this life, on this earth, the result of a lifetime of pressing on for the prize in faith. No wonder that Paul said: "I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Phil. 3.12).
Here I have to qualify what I said a moment ago about the Spirit reaching his full extension in us: this is a possibility of faith in the life of every individual believer, yet the moment of change will be set by the Lord in keeping with the perfection reached by the church as a whole. That is why "we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep". "The dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air". The clouds mean the church of God and the air is the heavenly places.
In view of the above I think we can say that the mistakes of the imperfectionists and the perfectionists are essentially the same. Both make the error of thinking they are, or will be, more perfect than actually is the case. The perfectionist says he is perfect, but fails to produce the signs of perfection. In a way the perfectionist's mistake is less gross than that of his counterpart, the imperfectionist. All the former does is to arrogate to himself the judgment which is the Lord's. If he is a sensible man he will also soon be corrected by reality, which all too often simply proves him wrong.
Unfortunately this does not apply to the average Christian imperfectionist. Reality is all on his side, for whoever keeps looking at himself instead of at the Lord will soon see a lot of blemishes. Combined with the pious humility that usually goes with this kind of Christianity, the imperfectionist has built for himself a cage to escape from which is not at all easy. Unless they repent and look upon the Lord in faith, most imperfectionists will therefore have a rude awakening when their true inner selves are revealed on the Day and they do not suddenly grow into oaks of righteousness.
To substantiate all this further, we now have to turn to 2 Corinthians 4:16 & 5:10. In 2Corinthians 5:1-5:11 we read, "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what Is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee".
Now there is something peculiar here. In verse 1 Paul says that IF, (not when, for he expected to be 'changed'), the natural body is destroyed in death, we have a solid building, a house from God, a spiritual body in heaven. No wonder he longs to put on that heavenly dwelling that he may not be found naked. For, and this is the seeming contradiction, while we still live our earthly life we are anxious, for we would like to be further clothed rather than unclothed.
Is Paul referring to, a period after death, but before the first resurrection, in which we will not have a body, either natural or spiritual? In verse 1 he clearly says that we HAVE this house or garment or body in heaven; it is there, ready for us the moment we need it. The question is not whether the spiritual body will be there when we die, but whether that body, that house or garment, will clothe us fully or leave us naked.
That is why we sigh and are anxious. We are running a race, and only those who run according to the rules will receive the crown of glory. Many texts in the epistles confirm this. Here in 2 Corinthians 5 Paul also lays a connection between the spiritual body, the judgment seat of Christ, the fear of the Lord, and the atoning death of Jesus, (verses 6-15).
So the picture we have is this: there is a spiritual body ready for us in heaven. Before Christ's judgment seat it will be found out whether the body is a fully grown, mature body, a medium-sized, adolescent body or a weak, dwarflike baby's body. There will be 'the small and the great', and the stature of each will depend, not on a sudden equalizing spurt of perfection, but on what they did while they were in the natural body. To put it in the words of Revelation 19:8: "The fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints", and whether that fine linen will cover one's nakedness will depend on the degree of sanctification or perfection he reached in his life of faith on earth.
Now this is a solemn matter, especially for the 'imperfectionists' we were talking about. If they keep insisting they'll never be perfect in their life, if the words of Jesus: "Go; be it done for you as you believed" are applied to them, they may never have another chance to reach the perfection Jesus commanded us to have. They will be found unclothed, naked, a shame for themselves, for their brethren, for the holy angels, and .... for their Master who bought them with his own blood.
So, let me finish by saying by paraphrasing at length several well-known words from the writings of Paul: Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade all who believe in 'imperfectionism'. The love of Christ constrains us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, the small and the great, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. He who prepared us on this basis for this very thing of perfect spiritual maturity is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
Thus we are always of good courage, for we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Having said all this about perfection, and having quoted Paul, these last words: 'for we walk by faith, not by sight', finally indicate that there is a real, tangible difference between the perfection of faith here on earth and the glorious perfection of heaven, where we shall see Him 'who bought us'. This is a difference of quality rather than of size or quantity.
Then this perishable nature will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature will have put on immortality. When the perishable has put on the imperishable, and the mortal has put on immortality, then shall have come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is thy victory? 0 death, where is thy sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
As for me, I have not yet obtained that final resurrection from the dead, I am not yet perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing 1 do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
We All Stumble(Sin) in Many Things
by Oracio on 2012/6/25 0:30:03
Over the years I have had to deal with a doctrine which is very dangerous among Christians. It is the clever deception that anyone can be completely sinless in this life; the belief that a Christian can go on a whole day, even days, months or years on end without sinning.