Christian Perfectionism- Introduction
Some people actually claim that they have reached a state in the Christian life where they just don’t sin anymore. Wait a minute, doesn’t the Bible say that if we actually think something like this we are deceiving ourselves and are, in fact, calling God a liar?
Christian Perfectionism- Not Biblical
Christian perfectionism is not biblical doctrine. 1 John 1:8 clearly states: “If we claim to be without sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” While willful sin ought not to characterize our life, sin will remain a part of human experience until we lay aside our physical body at death (Rom. 7). In fact, the wisest man who ever lived (Solomon) said: “Who can say, I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?”
Christian Perfectionism- A Narrow Definition of Sin
Many who believe that they have reached sinless perfection actually have a very narrow and limited view of sin. Some actually argue that only deliberate disobedience to God’s will is actually sin. However, this is not the way the Bible describes sin at all. Sin can be committed in thought, word, and deed, and, of course, there are sins of commission as well as omission. To be truly sinless means that you love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and, of course, that you love your neighbor as well. To be perfect in a biblical sense means that you mirror the very image of Jesus Christ Himself. This will take place in heaven, but certainly not here on earth.
Christian Perfectionism- Justified, but not Yet Perfect
While the Christian is never intrinsically perfect in this life (or completely sanctified), we have been justified because of the work of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). So positionally we’re declared righteous (in Christ) though practically we still wrestle with sin. Our confidence, however, is that we are considered perfect in the sight of God because we are united with the Lord Jesus Christ through faith.
Christian Perfectionism- Closeness to God Brings Awareness of Sin
Look at the people in the Bible. When they were really close to God, they didn’t claim to be sinless. Instead, they became increasingly aware of their sin (Isa. 6:5; Dan. 9:4-19; Eph. 3:8). Paul, of course, cried out: “O wretched man that I am.” According to R. C. Sproul, the doctrine of sinless perfection is, in fact, perfect error!
We seek to live holy lives, not to put God in our debt, but merely to demonstrate gratitude for His unmerited love.