Perfection in Christ
No sooner do we speak of Perfection in Christ than we are compelled to extol the life of Christ, "Who," as Peter declared, "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). But what about us, the followers of Christ, are we not to be perfect too? And without sin and guile?
We read in 1 John 3:8, that "He that committeth sin is of the devil," and in I John 2:1 we find this profound declaration, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not." I know the Bible says that "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1Jo.1:8). The question here is, "Where are our sins?"
The Apostle Paul tells us in Rom.3:23 that "All have sinned, and come short Of the glory of God." Now in 1 John 1:10 we find these words, "if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us." No one can deny that he has sinned, and no one should deny that he does not have sin. Since we, all have sin, and our account with God shows sin on our record - even though we have been forgiven, what then is the difference between the sinner and the saint? Paul made this crystal clear when he said, "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after" (l Tim. 5:24). Now, may I ask you again, my reader, "Where are your sins?" I trust that they have been forgiven and are gone on before to be blotted out. If not, however, they will follow after you and condemn you in the judgment - Acts 3:19-20.
Jesus knew only too well the truth of what He was saying when He prayed in John 17:17, 23 that His followers might be sanctified and made perfect; thus sending their sins on before them to judgment. When one is in Christ, as Christ was in God, one is, indeed, without sin and is perfect with his sins gone on to the judgment. However, one must understand that it took time, even for our Lord to reach perfection. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Heb. 5:8, 9). How was Jesus, the Author and Captain of our salvation, made perfect? "Through sufferings" He was made perfect Hebrews 2:10 tells us.
How anyone can read the Bible and then believe that sinless perfection only applied to Christ is beyond my apprehension. If this concept of divine living was restricted solely to our Lord, then He surely could never have said, "The disciple is not above his Master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master" (Luke 6:40). If perfection was not obtainable by His followers or disciples, Jesus surely gave an inaccurate statement here.
Certainly, Paul's words were not meaningless in his farewell address to the Corinthian Church when he said, "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (2 Cor. 13:11).
The paradox of one's living free of sin and being perfect in this life is not only difficult for a modern so-called follower of Christ to believe or accept, but it is also incomprehensible. In fact, it is ridiculous to every one who has not received the light on the truth that the Pentecostal experience is really the New Birth. Nevertheless, the Word of God stands true and unchangeable. We read in the Book of Hebrews (10:14, 15) that "by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof, the Holy Ghost is a witness to us." Do you have this witness, my reader?
If anything stands out clearly in the New Testament, it is that Perfection in Christ is achieved by much suffering. How well Peter verified this when he wrote these words of consolation in his First Letter (5:10) : "But the God of all grace, Who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."
With all his sophistication and presumptuousness the present-day, institutionalized religionist is not able to receive Christ and His revelation because he is preoccupied with himself and is unwilling to yield allegiance to One who demands the whole of life. May God help the few, here and there, who are willing to surrender all to Christ and to be made perfect.
"Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ," says the writer of the Book of Hebrews, "let us go on unto perfection" (Heb. 6:1). It was Paul who said, "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith" (Eph. 4:4-6), "and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. 4:10-14).
Dear reader, my heart is thrilled tonight as I sit here writing this great revelation from God, or should I say this hidden mystery, "Which," as Paul emphatically declared, "hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:26-28). Some, doubtless, will say that this message is a poor show of wisdom, but don't worry, my friend, for, as Paul impressively emphasized, "We speak wisdom among them that are Perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes (professors) of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written (Isa. 64:4), 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (l Cor. 2:6-10).
In conclusion, may we go along with James (3:2) who inspiringly said, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." May God give you grace, my reader, to see this marvelous truth and to accept it. Amen!
"PERFECT THROUGH SUFFERING"
Except through sorrow, pain and loss,
To stamp Christ's likeness on my soul-
No other way except the cross?
Through eyes grown dim with falling tears,
"I cannot drink this bitter cup,"
And then a voice stills all my soul,
"I bore the cross, I know its weight,
And then with sudden shame, I fall
"I am not worthy e'en to lift