Christian Perfection

“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

I found a wealth of knowledge under the Biblical subject of being “perfect.” It was very interesting to find the differing opinions over whether or not Christian perfection is possible. Mostly I found that perfection was symbolic of sanctification, which is progressive. I was especially surprised by the commentators who believe that there is such a thing as entire or complete perfection and or sanctification.

I determined early on in my research on freedom in Christ that sanctification is definitely part of the process that leads to our freedom. And to me when I look at all the verses I studied, as well as all the commentaries I read on being perfect, it appears that it all comes back to one of my favorite quotes by Oswald Chambers: "The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but its difficulty does not make us faint and cave in—it stirs us up to overcome.”

My final choice on this particular topic puts the thought into perfect perspective. It took a long time to find it, but I knew in my heart what I was looking for all along.

C. A. Bartol titles the following illustration Perfection:

To most persons this is discouraging language. But the idea is, not that we should grasp perfection as an immediate result, but make it our aim; and this, so far from discouraging, only inspires.

How many are satisfied to be as good as others, to reach the current medium of reputable character! But what is this perfection? First, it includes all the virtues. It suffers us not to rely on some good qualities to the neglect of others, or to hope that we can, by a partial innocence, compound with God for the commission of any sin.

In the scales of His justice generosity will not atone for intemperance, irritability, or dishonesty. Again, perfection requires that each quality should be free from taint, like the Jew's unblemished offering, and without debasing alloy.

Lastly, perfection requires that all the graces be expanded to an unlimited degree. But, immeasurable as perfection is, shall it not be our aim? See how every thing great and good on this earth has grown out of the aim at perfection.

Its fruits, if not in religion, are everywhere else around us. Why do we live in such comfortable dwellings? Because men were not satisfied with a cave in the ground or a rude fabric above it; but aimed at perfection. Why that proudest monument of architectural skill careering swiftly between continents, through the waste of waters? Because men were not satisfied with the creaking raft.

There, again, is a man who has toiled in loneliness and secrecy upon the strings of a musical instrument till he has concentrated all the sweet sounds of nature into that little space, and can draw forth liquid melodies and mingling harmonies, the voice of birds, and the flow of streams; now the sounds of laughter, and anon [another time] the sobs of prayer, to the astonishment of assembled thousands.

And shall Christians debate whether it is a possible or reasonable thing to make a perfect piety to God and charity to man their standard? No: there is no other aim worthy of your immortal natures. There is no perfection so glorious as that of moral and religious goodness. Satisfy yourselves no longer with moderate attainments.

Selah.


The Perfect Law

“But he who looks closely into the perfect Law--the Law of freedom--and continues looking, he, being not a hearer who forgets, but an obedient doer, will as the result of his obedience be blessed.” James 1:25

My study of Christian liberty has led me to hundreds of hours of Biblical research and I have printed most everything I have found with the intention of organizing the ideas into a book. God has been so faithful to my efforts to understand freedom in Christ, and what I am finding is nothing short of amazing.

I know I will not be the only one that admires the commentary I found today on James 1:25. The following illustration is by Alexander Maclaren, titled The Perfect Law and its Doers (emphasis mine):

I. THE PERFECT LAW.

1. No word of the New Testament is given to us only in order that we may know truth, but all in order that we may do it. Every part of it palpitates with life, and is meant to regulate conduct.

2. In the very central fact of the gospel there lies the most stringent rule of life. Jesus Christ is the Pattern, and from those gentle lips which say, "If ye love Me keep My commandments," law sounds more imperatively than from all the thunder and trumpets of Sinai.

3. In the great act of redemption, which is the central fact of the New Testament revelation, there lies a law for conduct. God's love redeeming us is the revelation of what we ought to be, and the Cross, to which we look as the refuge from sin and condemnation, is also the pattern for the life of every believer.

4. This law is a perfect law. It not only tells us what to do, but it gives us power to do it: and that is what men want. The gospel brings power because it brings life.

II. THE DOERS OF THE PERFECT LAW.

1. Cultivate the habit of contemplating the central truths of the gospel, as the condition of receiving in vigor and fullness the life which obeys the commandment.

2. Cultivate this habit of reflective meditation upon the truths of the gospel, as giving you the pattern of duty in a concentrated and available form.

3. Cultivate the habit of meditating on the truths of the gospel, in order that the motives of conduct may be reinvigorated and strengthened.

4. The natural crown of all contemplation and knowledge is practical obedience.

III. THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE DOERS OF THE PERFECT LAW.

Notice the in, not "after," not "as a reward for," but "blessed in his deed." "In keeping Thy commandments there is great reward." The rewards of this law are not arbitrarily bestowed, separately from the. act of obedience, by the will of the Judge, but the deeds of obedience automatically bring the blessedness.

This world is not so constituted as that outward rewards certainly follow on inward goodness. Few of its prizes fall to the lot of the saints. But men are so constituted as that obedience is its own reward.

There is no delight so deep and true as the delight of doing the will of Him whom we love. There is no blessedness like that of increasing communion with God, and the clearer perception of His will and mind which follow obedience as surely as the shadow does the sunshine.

There is no blessedness like the glow of approving conscience, the reflection of the smile on Christ's face.

Selah.



Loving Our Enemies

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

I am delighted by the content I have found on the Biblical subject of “perfect.” I am equally amazed at what I am learning from this perspective with respect to freedom and love.

I have been careful in the past to avoid using commentaries by Adam Clarke because of controversy surrounding some of his teachings (which you can read briefly here). I am making an exception today because I find his insight impressive.

This controversy compelled me to do research into the background of this inspiring man. Not surprisingly, I found him to be respected by many in spite of his differences. Charles Spurgeon quoted the following, from Commenting and Commentaries:

Adam Clarke is the great annotator of our Wesleyan friends; and they have no reason to be ashamed of him, for he takes rank among the chief of expositors. His mind was evidently fascinated by the singularities of learning, and hence his commentary is rather too much of an old curiosity shop, but it is filled with valuable rarities, such as none but a great man could have collected… I do not wonder that Adam Clarke still stands, notwithstanding his peculiarities, a prince among commentators (emphasis mine).

I was considering removing his comments from my new blog site. However now that I have an awareness of his basic beliefs and his approach to the Scriptures, you may be seeing more of him from time to time.

The following quote is from Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible:

Be ye therefore perfect - as your Father - God Himself is the grand law, sole giver, and only pattern of the perfection which He recommends to his children.

The words are very emphatic, εσεσθε ουν υμεις τελειοι, Ye shall be therefore perfect - ye shall be filled with the spirit of that God whose name is Mercy, and whose nature is love.

God has many imitators of His power, independence, justice, etc., but few of His love, condescension, and kindness. He calls Himself Love, to teach us that in this consists that perfection, the attainment of which He has made both our duty and privilege: for these words of our Lord include both a command and a promise.

"Can we be fully saved from sin in this world?" is an important question, to which this text gives a satisfactory answer: "Ye shall be perfect, as your Father, who is in heaven, is perfect." - As in His infinite nature there is no sin, nothing but goodness and love, so in your finite nature there shall dwell no sin, “for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus shall make you free from the law of sin and death,” Romans 8:2 (emphasis mine).

God shall live in, fill, and rule your hearts; and, in what He fills and influences, neither Satan nor sin can have any part. If men, slighting their own mercies, cry out, this is impossible! - Whom does this arguing reprove - God, who, on this ground, has given a command, the fulfillment of which is impossible.

"But who can bring a clean out of an unclean thing?" God Almighty - and, however inveterate the disease of sin may be, the grace of the Lord Jesus can fully cure it; and who will say, that He who laid down His life for our souls will not use His power completely to effect that salvation which He has died to procure.

"But where is the person thus saved?" Wherever he is found who loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and his neighbor as himself; and, for the honor of Christianity and its Author, may we not hope there are many such in the Church of God, not known indeed by any profession of this kind which they make, but by a surer testimony, that of uniformly holy tempers, piety to God, and beneficence to man?

Selah.


Love Made Perfect

Recently I elaborated on the Liberty of the Christian. The writer of the illustration I quoted presented the idea of a “perfect man.” At first, I thought surely his choice of words was inaccurate. How can we as earth-bound Christians be perfect people? Only Jesus was perfect, right?

So I began a Bible search for the word “perfect.” To say the least, I was surprised by how many times it is used. There is definitely a direct correlation between perfect, and love.

My research on this is very enlightening to our study of freedom. I will break it up over the next few posts to keep it from being too long.

For now, I want us to ponder the Webster’s Bible translation of 1 John 4:7-21:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is from God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.

In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.

God is love: and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. In this is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth, is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man sayeth, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.

For he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God, love his brother also.

Matthew Henry puts it this way:

A loving Christian is a perfect Christian; set him to any good duty, and he is perfect to it, he is expert at it. Love oils the wheels of his affections, and sets him on that which is helpful to his brethren.

Selah.