We are commanded to be perfect. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." -- Matt.5:48. "For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. 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.13:9, 11. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection." -- Heb.6:1.
We must be perfect in love. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." -- Luke 10:27. "And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." -- Col.3:14. "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." -- 1 John 2:5. "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.... Herein 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." -- 1 John 4:12, 17.
Perfect in unity. "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." -- Heb.2:11. "And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." -- John 17:19-23.
Perfect in Christ. "Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power." "Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." -- Col.1:28; 2:10; 4:12.
Perfect in purity. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure." -- 1 John 3:2, 3. "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." -- 2 Cor.7:1. "And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: to the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." -- 1 Thess.3:12, 13.
This perfection is attainable. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." -- Eph.4:13. "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." -- Phil.3:15. "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." -- Heb.10:14. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God." -- Heb.7:19. "Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience." -- Heb.9:9.
A perfection not attainable in this life. "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."
Christian perfection is not maturity in wisdom, grace, or knowledge. "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." -- 2 Pet.3:17, 18.
Christian perfection is looked upon by some as an impossibility in this life; but when we turn to the word of God and see the many plain texts upon the subject, it must become evident to every candid mind that it is in the plan of redemption that every child of God should attain to it. It would not be according to the nature of divine grace to require of us anything we could not do. No reasonable earthly parent would demand an impossibility of a child, and it is certain our heavenly Father would not command us to be "perfect even as he is perfect" unless he has provided abundant grace to bring us up to this blessed experience. According to our own power or ability we could never reach such an exalted plane, for it is not within the power of man to change his depraved nature, and every self-effort to reach a state of perfection is but vain. But God is able to make all grace abound and as an All-wise Father he has made it possible that we should be perfect.
From the scriptures quoted we can plainly see that the perfection required of us is reasonable and just. Had he commanded us to be perfect in knowledge, wisdom, judgment, or in anything else in an absolute sense, we would be forced to the conclusion that God has either required an impossibility of us or it is not for us to attain in this life and therefore belongs only to the resurrected state. But we can clearly see the nature of his requirements and that they are all within the limits of his grace toward us in this life.
When Jesus commanded us to be perfect (Matt.5:48) we can quite easily comprehend his meaning when we notice in the few preceding verses that we should be perfect in love, even to the extent that we shall love our enemies, that we may indeed be the children of our Father which is in heaven. The children of this world love those that love them. It is an easy matter and quite natural to do this. But to love our enemies is very contrary to the depraved nature; unless there has been the cleansing wrought within, there will be some inward consciousness of hatred toward those who despitefully use and persecute us. The high standard of righteousness which Jesus teaches here and throughout this chapter is the standard of sanctification. The love of God must be perfected in us, which destroys every element of the old nature, of which hatred is a prominent characteristic.
The first and great commandment, both of the old and new dispensation, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," etc., is also a standard too high to be attained perfectly without the experience of entire sanctification. This commandment was given during the old dispensation; but it was not possible then that it could be kept perfectly, for there was no provision then made to destroy the power of, and cleanse the heart from, inbred depravity. The blood of those sacrifices could do no more than sanctify "to the purifying of the flesh." The inward condition of the heart could not be changed. Thus we see clearly that this commandment could not be kept in the New Testament sense of perfect love. Now, the blood of Jesus, which he shed on the cross that he might sanctify and cleanse our hearts, can make us holy. When the heart has realized the power of this cleansing and the love of God "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost," we can in deed and in truth love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Praise God for his wonderful love to us! He furnishes the love with which to love him. If we but give him our hearts he will furnish all the rest. He wants an empty, clean vessel into which to pour out his love, that it may be manifested in this dark and sinful world.
Oh, that every child of God could see the imperative need of an absolute consecration and then cheerfully and voluntarily meet the conditions of the same, so that God could fill each heart with love, and cause each one to know what it means to love God with all our heart. As long as our affections are divided between God and anything else, our love is not perfect and until the regenerate heart has made the scriptural consecration, there will be a divided condition of the affections. The obedient regenerate heart dwells in God, and thus is taught of God the necessity of the perfect consecration, which, when fully complied with, enables the perfect cleansing to become effected. The apostle John says, "Herein is our love made perfect," and "his love is perfected in us."
No one can ever be fully satisfied in this redemption life until this second work of grace is accomplished in the heart. Justification brings us into the blessed kingdom of God's love. Sanctification perfects his love in us. This second grace enables us to realize not only the meaning of perfect love, but we also comprehend the glorious fact that God has wrought in us perfect purity and holiness. This implies our being perfect in God's will, and because we have yielded our will completely to him. Every disposition of our will which sought its own way is now in perfect conformity with his and as Jesus could say in Gethsemane, "Thy will be done," which meant death on Calvary to him, so we have said the same to God with a vivid consciousness that once for all it meant death to us. It has required the perfect will of Jesus to obtain this grace of sanctification for us, and it now requires our perfect will to receive it from him. Here is where we can stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Another beautiful characteristic of sanctification is perfect unity. One of the most striking features of the religious world today is division among those who profess to believe in and follow Christ. There is no greater evil existing than this. Men have made creeds and sects and have persuaded the people to join them, until the disgusting spectacle of division is seen everywhere, and the non-professing world is amazed at the sickening sight. Hireling preachers are pleading for their respective denominations, and while many honest children of God are dissatisfied with this sad state of affairs, they are taught from the pulpit that God has made these divisions and it is the duty of every Christian to join and support them. But such is not the will of God; he has designed that his people should all be one, and in his prayer Jesus expresses the extent of this unity. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." This certainly implies a wonderful and perfect unity. Many sect advocates cry, "Impossible, impossible; God's people cannot be one." But the whole theme of Jesus' prayer is unity. As we carefully read this prayer we can readily perceive the divine method to effect this unity. It is plain and simple: "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.... Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one." Then in Heb.2:11 we see again that this is God's plan -- "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one."
This grace not only brings us into a perfect inward unity with Jesus himself, but it just as truly brings us all into a perfect inward unity with each other. Divisions, sects, and factions are productions of the flesh (Gal.5:19-21) and not of the Spirit. Sanctification destroys all the works of the flesh and extracts the very root itself and renders divisions impossible. Every sect yoke is destroyed because of the anointing. Isa.10:27. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to effect this unity in us with God and with each other. Every human effort to accomplish this must necessarily end in failure. There are many efforts today to effect a union among Christians, but union is not scriptural unity. Union of sects is far from the scriptural unity of believers. A union consists upon a human basis and may consist of a union of sects, or a union of individuals, without any conditions of spirituality whatever. Each individual or body retaining its distinctive and separate division. Scriptural unity is based upon the inner-wrought grace of sanctification, where everything non-spiritual is entirely destroyed and the Holy Spirit has the right of way in every respect according to the perfect will of God.
It is only as we are thus perfected in this grace that the prayer of Jesus will be fully answered and his people lose every vestige of division. No sanctified heart can remain loyal to anything that separates the people of God. All sect holiness is below the Bible standard, for it upholds that which sanctification destroys. This is a far-reaching assertion, but in the light of God's word it is true. Many have lost this experience by listening to the perverted teachings of false shepherds and remaining in sectism. God says the "anointing" breaks and destroys the yoke, and no sect yoke will ever again fit on the neck of a sanctified person, if such remains loyal to the Holy Spirit. Praise God! He alone can effect perfect unity in us, by his divine process -- sanctification. Then by the careful adherence to the teachings of God's word this beautiful apostolic unity can be maintained and demonstrated among men, and the prayer of Jesus further answered, "That the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
=The difference between present and future perfection.= In his letter to the church at Philippi, the apostle speaks of a perfection in the future, which unless understood may confuse some minds upon this subject. In Phil.3:12 he writes, "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." Here it sounds as though perfection is not attainable in this life, but if we notice the language of the context we can clearly see that he is speaking of the resurrection of the dead. Ver.11. It is the resurrection perfection that he here has reference to, which cannot be attained in this life. We must wait with the apostle until this "mortality shall be swallowed up of life," before we reach a state of absolute perfection, and with him, "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." But in verse 15 he says, "Let us therefore as many as be perfect be thus minded," showing that there is a present perfection which he, with others, has already attained. This is the experience which it is the will of God for us all to enjoy. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Dear reader, have you attained it, or are you yet living beneath your blood-bought privilege? "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." -- Heb.13:20, 21.