FOLLOW-UP TO "The Fatal Trap of Holiness Preaching" article by Josef Urban
There have been a number of misunderstandings arising as a result of the recent article I published, "The Fatal Trap of Holiness Preaching". In this follow-up, I would like to clarify, further explain and prove just WHY born again children of God canít say they are without sin, and to make a humble attempt to bring us all to a practical conclusion on this matter (in other words, to explain the point of why I am trying to prove this). I pray that this short follow-up article will scatter the misconceptions and false accusations against us.
WE DO NOT TEACH LICENTIOUSNESS
Let it be stated in the most clearest and explicit terms that we do not preach licentiousness. We do not preach the grace of God as a license to sin. We are not Antinomians. We do not try to frustrate the grace of God. We are not trying to discourage the saints from seeking holiness and striving for perfection. We do not teach that God turns a blind eye to sin and winks at it in unjust favor. We are holiness preachers; strong, bold, uncompromising preachers of the pure, unadulterated, holy and living Word of God - and we preach that Christ is King and that submitting to His Lordship, authority, dominion and rule, and obeying His commandments by faith that works by love, and the resulting holiness this produces as its fruit, is essential to salvation.
This follow-up article is not written to condone, excuse, or justify any sin in any way, shape or form whatsoever. Sin is a serious thing and God hates it. If you, dear reader, are continuing in ANY known form of sin then you are in great danger (Hebrews 10:26-31). You cannot live in persistent or continually willful sin and hope to inherit the Kingdom of God unless you find true repentance. If that is you, and you are living in any such known and continued sin, then your hope is nothing but a hypocriteís hope and will not profit you in the day of wrath. Only righteousness will deliver you from wrath on that day, and without holiness and purity of heart through faith in Christ, you will not see the Lord.
This article is written to combat the errors of the perfectionists and to show the utter absurdity of such doctrines. It is designed to show first of all, why saints still have unknown, un-willful sin; and, second of all, to further prove this fact to be true; and third of all, to lead precious souls from out under the serious error of such doctrines as sinless perfection and into the glorious liberty of the perfect righteousness of Christís finished work through faith alone in the blood of His cross. His atonement is sufficient, His righteousness is complete, and His holiness is gloriously perfect to justify the greatest chief of sinners by grace alone through faith alone by the imputation of it by the Holy Ghost to the sinnerĎs account; and, bless God, I endeavor to earnestly contend for this glorious good news of the gospel truth though every one in the world call me a heretic and break fellowship with me. Christ alone is the Gospel Truth! Christ alone is our righteousness before God! Christ alone is our holiness before the Throne! Christ alone is our acceptance in the Beloved! Christ alone is the Anointed who breaks the yoke! Christ alone! Christ alone! And he doesnít need you to work on perfecting His already perfect work! Thank God that He had mercy on this poor, wretched, filthy, miserable sinner and transformed me into a saint by His free grace, and didnít expect me to get perfect before He accepted me, or else I would most certainly be hopelessly and eternally lost!
"Praise be to the Lamb for offering Himself for me,
And being the perfection that this wretch could never be!
O how I would give all I have, if only the world could see,
The glorious work that God by His grace has done in me!"
It is written: "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Proverbs 18:13). Dear soul, hear this matter! Give heed to the arguments proposed herein and weigh these words out carefully on the scales of truth! Donít decide before you truly listen with ears to hear and seek the Lord for the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the truth! Donít have your answer in mind before you hear the issue and truly search it out. The Spirit leads us into all truth if we will only stay humble and submitted to Him in wholehearted obedience and faith. If you believe in any form of sinless perfection, then I plead with you with a holy urgency and zealous desperation for the truth, pray over it and search the scriptures for yourself.
ORIGINAL SIN: THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH THAT DWELLS IN THE FLESH
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." (Romans 5:12)
Sin entered the world and passed upon all mankind through Adam. Every human being that walks the face of the earth was in Adamís loins when he sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit; thereby, when Adam sinned, we sinned as well, because we were "in" Adam when he sinned. As a result, mankind has been cut off from the life of God and sentenced to the death penalty that results from being cut off from Godís life. This death penalty is not only physical, but it is spiritual as well (and since it is spiritual, it is also eternal). The result is that all of mankind is by nature estranged from God.
Why does it say, "all have sinned"? Is this true? What about a little three-day-old newborn baby? Is it really true that a newborn baby has sinned against God?
Yes, a newborn baby has sinned against God. "All have sinned", and "all" means "all". How has this baby sinned? By falling short of the glory of God as a result of its corrupted nature. Sin is not just an outward action that is committed, it is also an inward principle of corruption that abides in the flesh. Outward acts of sin are committed only as a result of the inward corruption and principle of sin that abides within. This baby has sinned, first of all, because it was in Adam when he sinned, and second of all, because sin is now within him to abide as a principle of depravity and inner corruption until death liberates him from the sinful flesh.
"Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." (Romans 5:14)
Death reigns even over newborn babies who "had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression". In other words, they did not sin in the same way Adam did. Adam sinned as a willful, volitional and deliberate act of rebellion against Godís express and clear commandment. A baby, however, has not sinned in a willful, volitional and deliberate act of rebellion. The baby, however, was born into sin and has sinned as a result of being shaped in iniquity and thereby coming short of the goodness, perfection and glory of God. As it is written:
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalms 51:5)
All of mankind is born into sin and has inherited a sinful nature as a result. Now, we are all children of wrath "by nature", that is, we are naturally children of wrath, born into sin and under the judgment of God, because we inherited the law of sin and death that entered into Adam when he sinned:
"Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." (Ephesians 2:2-3).
"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." (Romans 5:19)
All of mankind was made sinners by Adamís original sin. This is undisputed fact. However, there is Good News! The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. He came into the world, conceived supernaturally in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Ghost, and didnít inherit the sinful nature passed on by Adam. Jesusí nature was not corrupt and sinful. He was not "by nature a child of wrath". He was not "shapen in iniquity". He was created "good", that is, without an inherently sinful nature, just like Adam was originally created. Adam was not originally born with a sinful nature, and in the same way, neither was Christ. This is why scripture refers to Jesus as, "The second Adam":
"And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45)
It was because Jesus was born without a sinful nature that it was possible for Him to never sin against God, not even once. Now, unlike the rest of mankind, it was Jesusí free choice whether to sin or not to sin, and He chose to not sin. This is how it was possible for Him to die a death under the wrath of God that He didnít deserve and to shed His blood for the remission of our sins. He was innocent, yet He took the penalty of sin and for the crimes we committed against God upon Himself when He hung on that cross. So we see that we all have a sinful nature that Adam passed on to us, but Christ, having no earthly father, but being conceived by the Holy Ghost, had no such depraved nature.
However, this leaves us with a dilemma. If we are sinners by nature, and helplessly shut up under the wrath of God, how can we be freed from this sinful nature and obey God? If we canít do anything except sin because of our nature, then how can we ever be set free so we can be holy as the Scripture commands? The answer is regeneration. The New Birth. "Ye must be born again".
When we repent from our sin and believe with a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God sheds forth the Holy Spirit on our hearts and spiritually transforms us into new creatures. We receive the Spirit of Christ into our hearts, and by this Spirit we are radically transformed and adopted into Godís family. Christ enters in and dwells within our hearts by faith. This doesnít completely and totally destroy our Adamic nature and make us perfectly, immediately and completely like Jesus in thought, word and deed; instead, it regenerates us to be continually and increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. Through the new birth, we receive a new nature. However, this leaves us with a big problem: The old nature of the flesh hasnít been removed. Our spirit becomes regenerated and created in the image of Christ, but our flesh is still inherently corrupt because of our sinful nature.
THE SPIRIT AND THE FLESH NOW COMPETE WITH ONE ANOTHER
"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Romans 7:22-23)
The inward man (the spirit of man) delights in the Law of God and wants to obey it, but the flesh fights and wars against this and seeks to bring the spirit back into slavery to the law of sin which dwells within the flesh. In Romans 7, we see two different and distinct laws that the Apostle Paul is talking about:
1. The Law of God as revealed through Moses in the Old Covenant
2. The law of sin that is within the flesh
Paulís point in Romans 7, speaking as a Jew under the Old Covenant, is that sanctification (holiness) is impossible through the Law of Moses because the law of sin that dwells within him wonít let him obey it. The Law of Moses is on the outside as an external command, while the law of sin (theologically called "original sin") is at work inside of him so that it gets the victory and brings him into slavery to sin. The good news is that this is NOT the normal Christian life! God has provided a way of victory over sin through the power of the Holy Spirit as a result of the New Birth. This victory is what Paul explains in Romans chapter 8. Now, as children of God, we donít have to submit to and obey the law of sin. We have dominion over it by the resurrection power of Christ and we can walk in righteousness and holiness before God as a result.
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)
So here we see a third law introduced that is different and much better than the two laws previously discussed. This third law is "the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ", and this law sets us free from the law of sin and death so that now we can obey ChristĎs commandments in love and be righteous before God through the imputation of the Spirit of Christ into our hearts by faith! Paul goes on to say:
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (Romans 8:5-6)
Then, in verse 13, he says:
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." (Romans 8:13)
We observe by these statements that the flesh is not completely removed and destroyed. The law of sin dwells within the flesh and it is a law, which means it is established as a rule that cannot be altered. It ever remains. The only way we can subdue the law of sin and get victory over it is by crucifying the lusts and desires of the flesh, because it is in the flesh that this law of sin ever dwells.
So, since Christ was born under the Law of Moses and fulfilled the righteous commandments of the Law on our behalf, and since this legal justification of righteousness is now imputed to us by faith, we are now freed from the Law of Moses. Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf and this righteousness is fulfilled in us through faith in Him. We are now no longer under the Old Covenant. Now, we have died to the Old and have been born again into the New Covenant. So the Law of Moses is fulfilled in us by faith, but that still leaves us with the two other laws mentioned in Romans 7 and 8. These two laws are now in our members and are striving against one another:
1. The law of sin and death (Romans 7)
2. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ (Romans 8)
This is further proved by Paulís epistles to the Galatians when he says:
"For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." (Galatians 5:17)
The flesh and the Spirit are striving against one another in an ongoing battle and war over the soul. However, Paul does not leave us in a defeated Christian life that is constantly getting overcome by the flesh. He offers us the victory through Jesus Christ. The two-fold step to victory and to the normal Christian life is by; first, crucifying the flesh, and second, walking in the Spirit:
"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galatians 5:24-25)
Praise God we have the victory over the law of sin! Now we no longer have to serve sin as our master; we can now serve the righteousness and holiness of God through faith in Christ! But, the fact is that the law of sin (original sin) will remain until the day we are taken home to be with the Lord and freed from the body of our flesh. Since original sin still dwells in our flesh, we must constantly crucify the flesh and walk in the Spirit. This is why Christ commanded us, saying:
"If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23)
There is a reason why we must take up our cross "daily". It is because the sinful nature which dwells within the flesh can never be totally eradicated and removed so long as we remain in this flesh that was passed on to us through our father Adam. So, the remedy for the disease of sin that has corrupted our flesh is to crucify the flesh that is corrupted by it - every single day - and to walk in the Spirit of life to get the victory over it. This is not a one time action, it is the ongoing and everyday practice of every true child of God. We have to deny ourselves (our flesh) and take up our cross daily. If original sin could be removed before death, then it would be logical to conclude that we no longer have to crucify the flesh since it would no longer be corrupt. This proves that original sin can never be eradicated and removed. It is ever-present and always trying to war against the spirit, which is why it must be constantly crucified.
Though original sin always remains, it does not have dominion over the true child of God: "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." (Psalms 19:13) "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:12-14)
We see that no sin has dominion or reigns over the true Christian, however, it most obviously ever remains as a law within the flesh until death liberates us from these corrupt bodies. Since this "original sin" is always dwelling within us, it produces a number of thoughts, words, and actions that fall short of the glory of God; In other words, "un-willful sins", sins that are unconsciously, unknowingly, and ignorantly committed (or omitted if they are sins of omission). This is why the Apostle John said:
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8)
If we say we have no sin, we are calling God a liar, because his word says that we do and that it ever remains in us until death liberates us from the flesh. We are also deceiving ourselves if we say this because we are being totally blind to our "original sin", and to the ignorant, "un-willful", unconscious sins that this law leads to, causing us to fail to confess them before God which results in a terrible self-righteousness. This causes us to forget our present need for the imputed righteousness of Christ and to take our eyes off of His finished work on the Cross and to put our eyes on our own works to trust in our own righteousness before God. Denying Johnís statement causes us to deny our present need for Godís mercy and grace, and to deny our need for "justification by faith", which is the heart and soul of the Gospel.
Renowned Puritan author and preacher, John Owen, in his famous work, "The Mortification of Sin" said: "Indwelling sin always abides whilst we are in this world; therefore it is always to be mortified. The vain, foolish, and ignorant disputes of men about perfect keeping the commands of God, of perfection in this life, of being wholly and perfectly dead to sin, I meddle not now with. It is more than probable that the men of those abominations never knew what belonged to the keeping of any one of Godís commands, and are so much below perfection of degrees, that they never attained to a perfection of parts in obedience or universal obedience in sincerity. And, therefore, many in our days who have talked of perfection have been wiser, and have affirmed it to consist in knowing no difference between good and evil. Not that they are perfect in the things we call good, but that all is alike to them, and the height of wickedness is their perfection. Others who have found out a new way to it, by denying original, indwelling sin, and attempering the spirituality of the law of God unto menís carnal hearts, as they have sufficiently discovered themselves to be ignorant of the life of Christ and the power of it in believers, so they have invented a new righteousness that the gospel knows not of, being vainly puffed up by their fleshly minds."
PROOF THAT TRUE CHRISTIANS STILL UN-WILLFULLY SIN
To further re-enforce and prove the fact that some form of sin is ever present in the life of a believer, let us define exactly what sin is. According to Scripture, there are at least five basic definitions of sin. Here are the scriptures that define this for us:
1. "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Romans 7:23)
2. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4)
3. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
4. "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23)
5. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23, 1 John 5:17)
Correspondingly, here are the definitions of sin in numeric order as quoted above:
1. Sin is a law that dwells in the flesh
2. Sin is transgression of Godís Law
3. Sin is knowing to do good but not doing it
4. Sin is anything not done in faith
5. Sin is anything that comes short of the glory of God
Let us now take each of these definitions of sin and examine ourselves. Please donít just read through these questions and skim over them lightly, for they undeniably prove sinless perfection to be utterly false. As you read each question, ask yourself if youíve done or if youíve failed in this. I am especially addressing those of you who claim to have attained to some degree of sinless perfection:
1. Have you been born of an earthly father and mother and are you a descendant of Adam? If so, you have a sinful nature that dwells within your flesh and you are inherently defiled and thereby guilty in the eyes of a holy God. (Romans 5:12, Job 15:14-16, Job 25:4, Psalm 51:5)
2. Do you perfectly obey the Law of God in thought, word and deed? Since becoming a Christian, have you ever exaggerated or stretched the truth, or said something that indirectly portrayed a false witness (lying)? Or have you lied when witnessing to someone, and a sinner on the streets asks you if you are without sin and you say you are? Have you ever looked with lust, even for half a second, at a member of the opposite sex (adultery)? Have you ever had a single impure thought? Have you ever desired to have something that does not belong to you or even entertained the thought of desiring it (covetousness)? Have you ever called somebody a "fool" or "idiot", or any other insulting name, out of the least degree of anger (which is murder)? Have you even entertained the thought of doing it? Have you accidentally taken a pen, paperclip, or any other item that does not belong to you and failed to make restitution (stealing)? Have you kept the Sabbath holy? Have you perfectly honored your parents in everything you do and say? Have you ever done anything, even the smallest of actions, or said the simplest of words, with regard to how it will benefit you yourself supremely rather than how it will benefit God, or done anything that disobeys any single command of scripture (1st commandment)? Have you ever made a single decision out of self-will? How about loving the Lord with all your heat, mind, soul and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself? Have you totally, completely, absolutely and perfectly done that since becoming a Christian? Or have you made the slightest decision or thought the smallest thought of getting some kind of personal benefit out of something rather than your neighbor in your stead? If you are truthful, you must certainly admit your guilt in the eyes of God, at least in thought or word.
3. Have you ever not done something you know you should have done, since becoming a Christian? Did you know something to be the good thing to do, or the best thing to do, but you failed to do it? Have you always done all the good you can, in all the ways you can, by all the means you can, to all the people you can, in all the places you can, as long as you ever can? Or have you failed in this? If youíve failed in this, you must certainly admit your sin before God, or else you deceive yourself.
4. Have you always had perfect faith before God? Have you ever doubted a single promise of scripture? Have you always done everything you have ever done since becoming a Christian in perfect, unwavering faith? Have you ever prayed for the sick and thought within your heart that they will not be healed because of your unbelief? Have you ever attempted to ask something in prayer that God promises in His word but thought within your heart of hearts that He wonít answer? Is every thought that you think a thought of perfect faith, in full conformity to the glory of God? If you donít admit to your present imperfections in this, then you are obviously blind and fooled. You are certainly guilty of sin in the eyes of God.
5. Since becoming a Christian (or attaining to "perfection" if you claim to have done), have you done anything that comes short of the goodness and glory of God? Have you thought a single thought that Christ Himself wouldnít think? Have you spoken a single word that Christ Himself wouldnít speak? Have you done a single thing that Christ Himself wouldnít do? Or are you so deceived as to honestly think you currently meet the standards of Godís glory? Remember, anything, anything at all, that comes short of the perfect glory of God is sin. Unless you are deceived, you must certainly admit your present guilt.
And, on top of these questions, ask yourself if you have ever thought a single thought that God would consider foolish? As it is written: "The thought of foolishness is sin" (Proverbs 24:9). Even thinking something foolish is sin. Do you honestly claim to be able to walk in such a state as to never think a single thought that God would consider foolish? Therefore, offending any single one of the points listed above even in just a brief thought is considered sin in the eyes of a perfectly holy and righteous God who can read and see your thoughts just as clearly as He can your outward actions.
As revivalist John G. Lake said, "Men tell us in these days that sin is what you think it is. Well, it is not. Sin is what God thinks it is. You may think according to your own conscience. God thinks according to His." We are not talking about the low, base definitions of sin according to the finite and limited understanding of mere men. We are defining sin by the Word of God and according to what Godís definition of sin is. Donít dare try to excuse such sins by saying they are not really sins - such a thing is a very shameful thing to do, to whitewash sin and paint it in a pretty picture. Call it what it is!
In fact, that is literally what the Greek word for "confess" means (for example, as in 1 John 1:9). It means that we say the same thing about sin as God does. It means that we abhor ourselves, forsake ourselves, and join God in His point of view on sin, siding with Him and trusting in Him alone to acquit us of our guilt. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness". Confessing our sins means we join God in His view of our sin and confess that we are wrong and He is right. This is not only an act of the tongue, as in admitting this fact in word only, but it is a deep sense of convincing upon the heart that results in a deep sense of realization and whole-hearted conviction of the fact of our present guilt apart from Christ. Confession in this true definition of the term is a continual process and the continual walk of every true Christian as he grows in sanctification. Confessing the fact of our present sin is not a one time act before conversion, but as 1 John 1:8-9 prove, it is a continual process of walking in the light in ever-increasing measures, being continually cleansed to greater and greater degrees as we walk in poorness of spirit before God and confess, with a conviction of this truth upon our heart, the destitution of our own spirituality in His sight, and as a result, we look solely upon the face of Jesus Christ as the sole basis of our redemption.
To get back to the questions, as we can see, only a totally deceived, blind, and ignorant and self-righteous Pharisee would ever even dare to say that they donít presently fall short in any single one of these areas. Further, in light of these definitions of sin, we conclude it utterly impossible for any one, with the exception of Christ alone, to be without present sin before the face of the God of Heaven this side of eternity. And this is only a very brief and partial list. We could go much, much more in detail with the self-examination questions listed above if we wanted, but such a brief list will suffice to prove the point. Seeing such a partial list alone has every mouth stopped and the whole world guilty before God, so what will happen, dear soul, when you stand before the very Throne of such a perfect and glorious God! Will you dare claim to say before His all-seeing eyes that you or any other man was without present sin and unworthiness? If you think you will, then may the very jaws of Hell open up wide to swallow you in your Pharisaical self-righteousness except ye repent! If you donít admit any present sin in light of these questions, then by the testimony of the word of God I say to you that the tax-collectors and harlots will enter the Kingdom of God before you!
Seeing exactly what sin is as defined in Scripture according to these five basic definitions has the most righteous of righteous men crying out, as did the holy and anointed King David, "Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me." (Psalms 40:11-12) Seeing this has every one of us crying out with the wisest man that ever lived: "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Ecclesiastes 7:20) and again, "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" (Proverbs 20:9). Seeing this, one can not help but to think, along with what the Apostle Paul said commenting on Davidís words elsewhere: "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." (Romans 4:6-8)
FURTHER SCRIPTURAL PROOF THAT TRUE CHRISTIANS SIN UN-WILLFULLY OR MAY STUMBLE INTO SIN
We must admit that if perfection were possible, then one must be totally and completely conformed to the perfect image of Christ and never come short in any of the areas listed above. Furthermore, let us ignorantly throw away the undeniable truth of what has just been said, and imagine that perfection was possible. If so, then two of the greatest Apostles that ever walked the face of the earth, Peter and Paul, must have certainly attained to it. However, we see recorded in the holy scriptures that they, too, sinned, and thereby we prove that they themselves didnĎt even enter into this "sinless perfection" that some heretically contend for.
"And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people." (Acts 23:1-5)
In the above Scripture, the Apostle Paul sinned by speaking against the Jewish High Priest that was appointed by God. Paul clearly admits his guilt and quotes the part of the law that he broke, apparently apologizing for his outburst of anger, showing his immediate repentance. This was at the end of his third missionary journey, after many years of laboring in the Gospel, and after many revivals and miracles being wrought by his hands. Certainly, if anyone could have attained to sinless perfection, it would be the Apostle Paul, but the fact that he sinned in this scenario before the High Priest proves that he was not yet perfect. Maybe it was in instances such as this that he had in mind to think: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)
How about the Apostle Peter? Was he walking in sinless perfection? Let us not speculate. Let us go to the scriptures and see. Apparently, Paul states in scripture that Peter did sin:
"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" (Galatians 2:11-14)
Paul claims that Peter was in sin here. Let us, for practical purposes, observe the guilt of Peter according to PaulĎs words:
1. He was to be blamed
2. He esteemed the praises of men above the praises of God by submitting to men rather than the clear revelation of God
3. He became a false teacher by his actions by leading the rest of the Jews, including Barnabas who was Paulís fellow-laborer and co-Apostle, astray, and by teaching with his actions that the ceremonial laws of Moses were still binding upon Christians in direct contradiction to the Gospel.
4. He sinned against known light, because it was Peter who had the open vision of the sheet of unclean beasts being let down from heaven, after which he preached to Gentile Cornelius and saw him saved and filled with the Holy Ghost by faith, and also after he, along with James and John, all approved of Paulís gospel and gave him the right hand of fellowship. This proves that he not only sinned un-willfully, but that he sinned against known light.
Did Peterís actions come short of the glory of God? Of course, they did! Obviously, Peter wasnít perfectly sinless, or else he would not have sinned. On top of this, this occurred at least 15 years after Pentecost! Peter has healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead, and even his shadow is healing people, but yet he stumbled into sin and sinned against known light! This proves he did not attain to the sinless perfection that other men who are much less than Peter claim to have attained to. Are such people greater than this chosen Apostle of the Lamb? Would the great Apostle Peter ever dare to say before the Throne of God that he was "sinlessly perfect"???
Letís take a look at some other scriptures that prove the heresy of sinless perfection to be false:
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)
Why would James command us to confess our faults to one another if we had no faults? If James is claiming that they are not saved, then why does he address them as believers and tell them to call for the elders of the church? If they hadnít yet attained to perfect holiness based upon the total absence of present sin, why does he not tell them to repent and be converted, if such perfect holiness is necessary to inherit eternal life? Why would believers (Christians) need to confess their faults if they had none?
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)
Love covers a MULTITUDE OF SINS. It is the bond of perfection, the fulfillment of the Law, the vast summary of the teaching of Moses, the prophets, and Christ Himself. However, if there are no ignorant or un-willful sins in the lives of true Christians, then why does the Apostle Peter exhort us to have fervent love among ourselves, saying that such love covers the multitude of sins? Observe, first, he says "among yourselves". He is talking to saints, and second, that such love covers many sins. Dare any man try to "explain away" this obvious and literal scripture to try and justify his own false pet doctrine? Beware if you seek to do that, dear soul, lest you be guilty of "wresting the scriptures to your own destruction".
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." (1 Corinthians 1:1-2)
Observe, in the above written scripture to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul calls them "the church of God", "them that are sanctified", and "called to be saints". Obviously he is not addressing those who he excludes from salvation in his exclusive list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, but those who are genuinely born again within this church and who currently possess eternal life.
Among the "sanctified" in the church at Corinth, however, there was a big problem arising. In fact, it was undeniably SIN. They were divided amongst themselves, one saying, "I am of Paul", and another saying, "I of Apollos", and another saying, "Iím of Cephas". Only some were rightfully saying "I am of Christ". Nevertheless, they were given to pride in a measure, fighting over men, and were given to factions, which Paul lists as a work of the flesh in Galatians. They were clearly in sin. However, Paul called them "sanctified". Furthermore, observe his statement to these saints in chapter 3:
"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)
The Apostle Paul first addressed them as saints that are "sanctified", but then turns around in chapter 3, as quoted here, and calls them "carnal". He accuses them of having envying, strife and divisions amongst themselves. How can a sanctified saint be "carnal"? On top of this, in case some would deny this, the Apostle Paul calls them "babes in Christ" in the same statement quoted above, clearly saying they were born again in Christ! You canít be a "babe in Christ" if you havenít been born of Christ! It is clear: the righteousness and sanctification of the saints at Corinth didnít rest in their own works (and especially didnĎt rest in their state of "sinlessness", as some would have us believe, otherwise they wouldnĎt have been in Christ at all); their righteousness, sanctification and perfection rested in the Person and finished work of Christ (see Paul saying this exact thing to them in 1 Corinthians 1:30 in the midst of addressing their error). They were permitted to come short of Godís glory in such a way and yet remain sanctified according to the scripture.
UNDERSTANDING THE DEFINITION OF TERMS
It appears that there is a vast misunderstanding among not a few concerning the terminology used regarding sanctification, holiness, perfection, and so on. Some, when reading the scriptures, read the term "sanctification" in their Bible and immediately attach the term "sinless perfection" to it as if the two terms are interchangeable and mean the same thing. This is serious error. Let us define this term.
"Sanctification" is a word which means, "to be set apart for holy use". The Bible uses the term "sanctification" in two different ways: First, in the past tense, describing the immediate act that takes place at conversion where God takes us out of the world and chooses us to serve and obey Him, making us holy by the imputed righteousness of Christ. The second way the Bible uses this term describes the ongoing process that continually fulfills Godís intention in saving us, in other words, continually making us increasingly holy by the (not imputed but) imparted righteousness of Christ. A vast sum of false theology has resulted in the failure to make a distinction in these terms and by joining these two tenses of the word together into one.
Sanctification as a one time act is perfectly complete in every one who is justified by faith. However, sanctification as an on-going process is never perfect or complete until the day of the believerís final glorification in the Kingdom of Heaven. There is always room to grow in Christ. There is always going to be a continual transformation taking place in the believerís life that results in a changing from "faith to faith", "glory to glory", and "grace upon grace", causing us to be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. God will continually root out more and more un-Christlike things within us and replace them with the fruits of His Spirit. Anyone who says they are perfectly conformed to the image of Christ, which means that they have nothing within them or about them that comes short of the glory of God (according to the definition of sin in Romans 3:23) only deceives themselves.
Those who contend for perfect sanctification are saying that it is possible to have perfect love, faith and hope. This means that naturally, such a one will have perfection in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Dare any one say that they are perfect in these things and have no room for maturity and growth? Yet this is exactly what some perfectionists are teaching! This is manifestly absurd! And, no doubt, if one does not have perfect faith, for instance, they are coming short of Godís glory, "missing the mark" of His perfection, and thereby un-willfully, unintentionally and perhaps unknowingly, sinning! "For whatsoever is not done in faith is sin". Show me the man who has perfect faith, and let me see if he can blow Peter and Paul away, whose shadows and handkerchiefs healed and delivered the masses and whose preaching resulted in massive revivals and the founding of the Church!
What about the word "perfect"? It is a grievously bad habit of perfectionists to take their King James Bibles and to abstractly take out a few verses that contain the word "perfect" and to try to paste them together, out of context, to prove their pre-conceived ideas of sinless perfection. Usually, since sinless perfectionists are sadly in bondage to religion and legalism, they will be "King James Only". This is because only the King James almost always translates the Greek word "teleios" as "perfect" wherever it appears in the KJV Bible. No other translation does this like the KJV! It is poor, very sadly poor, hermeneutics! It is the equivalent of "Jehovahís witnesses" using their own pet translation of the Bible because itís the only one that "proves" their false theology.
Granted, the Greek word "teleios" CAN be translated "perfect", depending on its context. However, anyone who knows even the basics of Greek knows that the translation of most Greek words largely depends on the context in which that word appears. This same Greek word can also be translated, "mature", which is most often the correct translation in context with the Greek, and this is exactly how almost every single translation of the Bible other than the King James usually translates it.
Another thing perfectionists do is read words like, "holy", "blameless", "faultless", and other similar words in their Bibles, but they attach the term "sinless perfection" to these terms as if they are interchangeable. For instance, I was reading recently where somebody did this exact thing with this scripture in Colossians:
"And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister." (Colossians 1:21-23)
This person was using this scripture to contend for sinless perfection. However, simply reading it in context proves this theology wrong. Notice it says that we were once enemies of God, but that CHRIST has reconciled us through His death on the cross. The reason Christ died on the cross was to present His saints as "holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight". In other words, every true saint is already in this state BY FAITH. We are holy and unblameable and unreproveable IN CHRIST and in His finished work on the cross! It goes on to say the condition of just how this is performed in us: "If ye continue in the FAITH grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the HOPE of the gospel". It is through faith and hope that the perfect righteousness and holiness of Christ is imputed to every one who has been reconciled to God! The condition for being holy and unblameable and unreprovable is not, "if you attain to a state of sinless perfection". Certainly not! It does not say that this is the condition. Rather, the true condition for being holy and unblameable is: "if you continue in the faithÖand the hope of the gospel".
If Paul was saying that Christ died to present us as "sinlessly perfect" based upon the absence of sin in our own lives, then by reason of plain common sense, if this is true, we must conclude that those who are not thus perfect are not saved, according to this scripture! They must still be enemies of God in their minds by wicked works if they have not been reconciled to God and presented as holy and unblameable in Christ. If the term "holy" in this scripture means "sinlessly perfect", then unless you are sinlessly perfect you wonít see the Lord according to Hebrews 12:14! This contradicts the whole New Testament and the testimony of the saints of the ages! This is HERESY. Sanctification is not by the works of the Law, it is by the Spirit through faith! It is a work of grace, Godís unmerited favor, not a work of sinless perfection based upon your own deeds. This sanctification by faith produces holy living and righteous works before God as the FRUIT and result of our acceptance before Him, not as the BASIS of our acceptance before Him. The only basis of our acceptance before God is Christ. When weíve done all these things we are only unprofitable servants!
It is important that when we read our Bible, that we donít attach false definitions to the words in Scripture. It is very important that we be diligent to understand the terminology and context of what the author is stating, otherwise, we fall into a vast array of serious error and bad doctrine.
TO THIS DOCTRINE MANY OTHERS AGREE
David Servant, in his book "The Great Gospel Deception" (page 173), said, "Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians: ĎHaving therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.í This indicates to us that true believers are not necessarily perfect as some extremists would have us to believe. Defilements of flesh and spirit remain in the lives of true believers".
David Wilkerson said, "Perfection does not mean a sinless, flawless heart. Man judges by outward appearances, by what he sees. But God judges the heart, the unseen motives (1 Samuel 16:7). David was said to have had a perfect heart toward God "all the days of his life," yet he failed the Lord often. His life was marked forever by adultery and a notorious murder."
Andrew Bonar said, "A believer is entirely free from guilt. God cannot point to a spot of sin on a soul that has believed on Jesus. The believer is also free from the dominion of sin; but he is not free from the existence of sin in the heart. Never till we see Christ as He is shall we be free from the presence of sinÖ 'If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.' If we say the root of sin is out of us we deceive ourselves. In Rom. 7:21 Paul says, 'I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.' 'Law' means a powerful tendency, like a law. There are always remains of the old nature, and in the old nature there is always deceit. 'It doth not yet appear what we shall be.' We are only on the way to complete deliverance.
Ray Comfort said, "Am I saying a genuine convert never sins? Of course not. A Christian has, every Christian has a battle with the world, the flesh and the devil. And sometimes he does fall into sin. But thatís the point. He falls into sin while the hypocrite, the false convert, dives into sin."
Paul Washer said, "There have been strains of Christianity, marginal Christianity, that down through the history of the church believed in a sinless perfection. Well, the bible does not teach that. The bible teaches that even the most mature, most Godly Christian is still susceptible to sin. What this is teaching us is this, that one of the greatest evidences that a person has truly been born again, is truly a child of God, is that they will be sensitive to the sin in their life and they will be lead to repentance and confession..."
Greg Gordon of Sermonindex.net said, "I remember sitting across from a brother and talking with him. And the conversation in scripture came to 1 John 1:8. He stated that he felt he had no sin right now as we were talking. And I asked him well do you think you sinned in the last hour? last 30 minutes? he said yes but he asked for forgiveness and with a straight face told me he had right now no sense of sin in his life. We can think we are sinless sitting by ourselves in a room but wait till God puts certain people or situations in our lives. Or even if the presence of the Holy God comes near to us we will actually start to realize how sinful we are in light of God's absolute purity and perfection! Have mercy on me God a sinner is my constant heart-cry."
Revival historian Martin Lloyd-Jones said, "The Christian who does not know his own sinfulness and the blackness of his own heart is the merest child in the Christian faith, indeed, unless he has some knowledge of it, I query whether he is in the Christian faith at all. Clearly, according to the Scriptures, people who are not aware of indwelling sin, are either the merest tyros (novices) or else are unregenerate"
Great-Awakening preacher George Whitefield said, "After we are renewed, yet we are renewed but in part, indwelling sin continues in us, there is a mixture of corruption in every one of our duties; so that after we are converted, were Jesus Christ only to accept us according to our works, our works would damn us, for we cannot put up a prayer but it is far from that perfection which the moral Law requireth. I do not know what you may think, but I can say that I cannot pray but I sin--cannot preach to you or others but I sin--I can do nothing without sin; and, as one expresseth it, my repentance wants to be repented of, and my tears to be washed in the precious blood of my dear Redeemer."
It has been said and contended for that John Wesley believed in and promoted "sinless perfection". However, I have many quotes which prove just the opposite. HereĎs five such quotes by John Wesley:
"I still say, and without any self-contradiction, I know no persons living, who are so deeply conscious of their needing Christ, both as Prophet, Priest, and King, as those who believe themselves, and whom I believe, to be cleansed from sin; I mean from all pride, anger, evil desire, and unbelief."
"Sanctification in the proper sense is an instantaneous deliverance from all sin, and includes an instantaneous power then given always to cleave to God. The proposition which I hold is this: a person may be cleansed from all sinful tempers, and yet need the atoning blood. For what? For negligences and ignorances; for both words and actions, as well as omissions, which are, in a sense, transgressions of the perfect law; and I believe no one is clear of them till he lay his body down."
"Perhaps the general prejudice against Christian perfection may chiefly arise from a misapprehension of the nature of it. We willingly allow, and continually declare there is no such perfection in this life as implies either a dispensation from doing good and attending all the ordinances of God, or a freedom from ignorance, mistake, temptation, and a thousand infirmities necessarily connected with flesh and blood."
"'Poverty of spirit', in this meaning of the word, begins where a sense of guilt and of the wrath of God ends; and is a continual sense of our total dependence on him for our every good thought or word or work; of our utter inability to all good unless he 'water us every moment': and an abhorrence of the praise of men, knowing that all praise is due unto God only. With this is joined a loving shame, a tender humiliation before God, even for the sins which we know he hath forgiven us, and for the sin which still remaineth in our hearts, although we know it is not imputed to our condemnation. Nevertheless the conviction we feel of inbred sin is deeper and deeper every day. The more we grow in grace the more do we see of the desperate wickedness of our heart. The more we advance in the knowledge and love of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . the more do we discern of our alienation from God, of the enmity that is in our carnal mind, and the necessity of our being entirely renewed in righteousness and true holiness" (Sermon #21, "Sermon on the Mount, I " [Matthew 5:1-4])
'But was he not then "freed from all sin", so that there is no sin in his heart?' I cannot say this: I cannot believe it, because St. Paul says the contrary. He is speaking to believers, and describing the state of believers in general, when he says, 'The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: these are contrary the one to the other.' Nothing can be more express. The Apostle here directly affirms that 'the flesh', evil nature, opposes 'the spirit;, even in believers; that even in the regenerate there are two principles 'contrary the one to the other'
As I said at the beginning, my point in this article is not to excuse, condone, or justify sin in any way whatsoever, no more than that was the point of David Servant, Wilkerson, Ray Comfort, Andrew Bonar, Paul Washer or Greg Gordon above. If you think that is what I am doing, then please go to www.revivalarmy.com and listen to my sermons under "Holiness Sermons" before any false accusations are aroused.
My point is to prove that true, born again Christians who are filled with the Holy Ghost are not perfectly sinless. Realizing this should produce the following practices in our lives:
1. It should cause us to walk humbly before God, realizing our desperate need of Him every moment of every hour, being totally dependant on Him and Him alone to save us (as Christ said, to be "poor in spirit").
2. It should make us realize the extraordinary and glorious work of Christís vicarious suffering and death on the Cross as a work that is perfect and complete in itself, as He said, "It is finished".
3. It should open our eyes to see the wonderful mercy and grace of God and His wonderful love wherewith He loved us even though weĎre so desperately unworthy.
4. It should strengthen our faith in trusting in Christ and His righteousness alone, causing us to stand on the cornerstone truth of evangelical doctrine: "Justification by faith".
5. It should lead those who once believed in sinless perfection as attainable or necessary as a grounds of perfect acceptance before God to come out from under this heresy and to stop condemning themselves for failing to meet up to these impossibly high standards of so called "holiness", and to trust in Christ alone and faith in His precious blood as the grounds of their acceptance before God.
Sinless perfection causes those who believe in it to go through continuous and repeated cycles of:
1. Assurance and strong hope when they think they are righteous enough (and thus the assurance of their salvation is based on their own works and not on the solid Rock of faith in Christ alone)
2. Extreme judgmentalism and condemning others who are not as righteous as they think they are (judging the deeds of others unrighteously based on appearance, which Christ condemned in Matthew 7:1 and John 7:24). Some even go so far as to condemn those who cannot publicly pray as good as them; IĎve seen it with my own eyes!
3. Condemnation and despair when they arenít being righteous enough (based on their own works), falling into periods of demonic condemnation, questioning their salvation, thinking that God is angry with them under a black cloud of despair.
Somebody who believes in sinless perfection but has knowledge of ANY present shortcoming or becomes aware to an un-willful, ignorant, unknowledgeable sin in their lives are in a constant cycle of condemnation because they are never walking in what they believe they should be. They are always coming short of what they believe is the proper grounds of their acceptance before God, and thereby, they are always walking with a defiled conscience, self-condemned, failing to be justified by faith in Christ. The very souls of such people is in great peril!!!
Iíve seen such people go through these cycles endlessly. Please, I donít condemn you if this describes you. I only ask that you examine this article and give weight to its arguments and to come out from under this sad condemnation of the devil for your own well-being! In LOVE, I plead with you to take a second look at the assurance of your salvation. You donít have to continue going through these cycles of righteousness, shortcoming and condemnation! There is joy in the finished work of Christ and you can enter into His rest by faith! I donít condemn you, I reach out to you in love and with a holy urgency! I have wept and prayed for your soul! Please donít take these things lightly!
We are accepted in the Beloved through Christ, not through our own "sinless perfection"! May the eyes of all be opened to see that our salvation is in Christ! Salvation is not a doctrine, it is not a perfectly correct theology, it is certainly not a performance of sinless works - salvation is a PERSON and His name is Jesus Christ! And you can "be justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24). We can be saved "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3:5). "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." (Galatians 3:10-11)
I have seen it clearly stated by some perfectionists that if somebody is a true born again Christian, and has no known sin in their lives, no willful and continued sin in any form, but has an unknown sin of some kind that hasnít been brought to light yet, and they die, that they would die as an unsanctified rebel and end up in Hell. Is this the doctrine of the grace of God as it is in Jesus?