I just ran into a couple of people, on Facebook, who are preaching the doctrine of Sinless Perfection and trying to tell people that they, themselves have attained to that state and no longer sin.
1 John 1: 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
If you view sinless perfection as a real and reachable goal, you will chase after it for the rest of your life and never attain to that goal. This will leave you frustrated and feeling condemned. This can lead to suicide or worse.
If you lie about it and pretend to others that you have attained to sinless perfection, God is not amused and Scripture says that you are calling God a liar. That is not a place that I would like to find myself, and I would strongly suggest that you do not go there.
Those who preach sinless perfection, pull a number of verses out of context and try to convince you that both Paul and Jesus have commanded you to be sinless. You can find verses that appear to say so. For instance:
Matthew 5:48 “Be Ye Perfect as your Father in Heaven is Perfect.”
However, as in every verse they pull out, they make gross errors in understanding the meaning of the text. In Greek, the word translated “perfect” is teleios. (a) complete in all its parts, (b) full grown, of full age, (c) specially of the completeness of Christian character.
Teleious is an adjective meaning, “consummated goal” – mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, i.e. developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process (spiritual journey).
[This root (tel-) means “reaching the end (aim).” It is well-illustrated with the old pirate’s telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).] It means “reaching the end (aim).”
There is nothing in the definitions of the word “teleios,” that could ever be construed to mean “sinless.”
Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to “Go and sin no more.” The sinless perfection doctrine would understand him to mean, “Go and be sinless.” That was not Jesus’ intention. Jesus was more than aware that she, an unsaved Jew, still under the Law, could not stop sinning altogether. What he was saying was that she should get out of that relationship and not live an adulterous lifestyle. She could not be sinless, but she very well could stop sleeping around with other women’s husbands.
Paul speaks of being “Dead to the Law.” In this sense, we are perfect. Dead men do not break the Law. It is true that when we are Born Again, our sins are washed away. God sees us through the Blood of Jesus and He sees us as the perfection or righteousness of God. We are sinless if we are in Christ. However, we live in a sinful, fallen body and in a sinful, fallen world. We are still subject to temptation and we still sin. This sin, messes with our relationship with Christ. We must repent. When we do, He forgives us and makes us right again.
Those who preach sinless perfection are divided into three groups:
- Those who believe in it but admit they have not yet attained to it.
- Those who lie about it (and call God a liar).
- Those who turn to Gnosticism for an answer.
Looking at them:
- The first group is frustrated, condemned and suicidal.
- The second group is going to Hell in a handbasket.
- The third group is, of all people, most to be pitied.
I will leave the first two groups lie. Let’s talk about the third group. This group will tell you not only that they believe in sinless perfection but that they are indeed, sinless. When you examine their lives, you find drunks, drug addicts, wife beaters and sodomites, all of whom are telling you that they are “sinless.”
“How can that be?” you ask. Good question.
Gnosticism is a deep subject and far too deep to cover here. Let us limit our conversation to the issue of how a rank, habitual, unrepentant sinner uses Gnosticism to proclaim himself “sinless.” Gnosticism predates Christianity but it infected Christianity from day one. Paul fought the Gnostics, day and night. The one Gnostic belief that applies here is this:
The Body and the Soul may be separated, one from the other. It is possible for a sinless soul to dwell in a sinful body.
In other words, through prayer and meditation I can develop a soul that is perfect before God. My body is getting drunk, whoring around, cheating on my wife and robbing my neighbor but my soul is sinless. My Body will die and go to the grave because it is evil. My soul will go to God because it is perfect.
There is a sense in which this is true. As a Christian, my body will die or, if Jesus comes first, it will be changed. My soul has been washed in the Blood and made perfect. Based, not on my own works but on the Grace of God, my soul will go to be with God. Later, my body will be resurrected, changed and reunited with my soul.
However, my soul and my body cannot be separated while I live. When my body sins, my soul sins. When my soul sins, my body follows. My soul is not, in fact, sinless in practice. If my body commits adultery, it is usually following my soul, where the act first took place. This calls for repentance.
I cannot live in sin and claim that I am sinless because only my body is sinning. This is foolishness of the first order.
Interestingly, the Bible speaks of three salvations:
- We have been saved.
- We are being saved.
- We shall be saved.
We were saved the day that we accepted Christ. By the Grace of God, we left the road to Hell and got on the path to Heaven.
We are now being saved. Salvation is a process. Being freed from sin and changed into the likeness of Christ is a lifelong process. We are born again as spiritual babies. After years of Prayer, Bible reading, Christian fellowship and discipleship, we find that we have grown and matured a lot. However, the closer we get to God, the brighter the light. The brighter the light, the easier it is to see our own sin and failings. Baby Christians compare themselves to other Christians and feel pretty good. Mature Christians compare themselves to Jesus Christ and see themselves as wretched sinners. This is why Paul wrote, at the very end of his ministry, that he was the “Chief of Sinners.” Paul was not comparing himself to other Christians but to Christ. In that light, the great Apostle could only see himself as a sinner, having never attained to the likeness of Christ.
On the day that we die, or on the day Christ returns, whichever comes first, we will be saved. We will, at long last, be freed from all sin and all temptation and we will in fact and practice, have become the righteousness of God.
John’s short thesis is an amazing piece of Scripture; he covers two heresies in one paragraph.
1 John 1:5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. 6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
A FAITH THAT DOES NOT CHANGE YOU, HAS NOT SAVED YOU!
Those who claim that Grace has given them a license to sin, are not saved. Period. When you are Born Again, you do not become perfect, but you do change directions. If you are a drunk, you may not stop drinking but you agree with God that drunkenness is a sin and you start the fight to free yourself from alcohol. You may still fall to temptation and get drunk when a friend stops by with a bottle, but you no longer hang out in bars five nights a week. If you fall and get drunk, you feel conviction, you know it was wrong, you ask God to forgive you and help you beat the temptation to get drunk. If you say you are saved but still get drunk five nights a week and you feel no remorse, no sorrow, no conviction and you go on your way, insisting that the Blood of Jesus has cleansed you from all sin, you are a liar, and the truth is not in you.
NEVER CALL GOD A LAR!
On the other hand, sin is a strange thing. There are things that I did without a thought when I was a baby Christian… things that I cannot do anymore. It is a strange thing, as a Christian, to wake up one day, under conviction that something you have done freely, as a Christian, for twenty years, is a sin. Sometimes, just when you are starting to feel really holy and righteous, God suddenly convicts you that something you thought was okay, is not okay with him. He let you do it while He was working on your grosser sins. Now that they are conquered, there are, you discover, some finer points that God wants to work on. Just when you think that you are about perfect, God stands you up next to Jesus and starts comparing the two of you. That is a very uncomfortable process.
Years ago, in an old fashioned, country Church of God, I ran into two very self-righteous old biddies who claimed to have attained to sinless perfection… They were “Totally Sanctified.” They wore clothes from head to toe. Only a little of their face showed. Even their hands were hidden in gloves. Their hair, never cut but very gray, was neatly stacked in a “Pentecostal Bun” and hidden under a scarf prayed for by Oral Roberts and never washed. Not a hint of makeup or jewelry could be seen and no perfume hid their body odor. The Black, King James Bibles they carried, seemed to weigh them down. They were, however, the meanest backbiters and the most terrible gossips I have ever met in my life. They would stand and pray things like, “Lord, please help Brother Smith who I saw coming out of a motel with a woman, last Thursday Afternoon…” Mean women… really mean, but “perfect,” as they would happily brag.
Let us not continue to live a sinful lifestyle but let us not sin by pretending to be perfect.