So says one who thinks he knows all the rules and has made par for the course. The rules are found in the Bible, and the course is the whole of life from birth to death. Actually, there is only One who has “parred” the course, and He has not only “birdied” it, but has made “a hole in one” off every tee.
Sometimes it is a little difficult talking to a “sinless perfectionist” about his “I’ve Got it Made” or “I Have Arrived” doctrine. It’s difficult not only because he has such a facility of shooting Bible texts at me like a thick hail and then challenging me to retaliate with a similar deluge, but also because I’m not always up there, where he always seems to be, on Cloud Nine. It’s difficult for me because I’m one of those men who is always carrying around with me, my own Slough of Despond, and that Slough bothers me. So does the fellow who doesn’t have one (a slough), or doesn’t know that he has one; he bothers me, too. I’m worried about him. He knows nothing about that Slough, not anymore, anyway. He got out of it, and on up to the mountain top, where he has been ever since, with his head in the clouds, like the disciples on Mt. Transfiguration. He hardly knows what is going on down below in the every day world of Sin, Slough and War with Apollyon. There is no more battle, for there is no more sin. Within his own gaggle everyone is honking, silly geese that they are, “We have overcome!” No more does he pray the Disciples’ Prayer, “And forgive us our sins.” Now he does not sin anymore. He has reached the state of “sinless perfection.”
Is that because he is such a profound Bible student? Does the deep Bible student, the one well acquainted with the teaching of Scripture, go around claiming that he is perfectly able to, and actually does perfectly keep the commandments? I am thinking of such deep Bible students like James, Job, John, Solomon and Paul. You don’t get into the Scriptures to much depth if your instructor does not come at you with something like this: “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?” and then teach you to answer, “No mere man, since the fall, is able, in this life, either of himself, or by any grace received, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but does daily break them in thought, word and deed.” Well, now, is that answer true, or is it just the word of man? Let the best Bible scholars answer. James says, “In many things we all offend.” (Jas. 3:2) Job put it this way, “What is man, that he should (could) be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should (could) be righteous? Behold, He putteth no trust in His saints (holy ones!); yea, the heavens are not clean in His sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man who drinketh iniquity like water?” (Job 15:14-15) John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I Jn. 1:8) Solomon says, “There is not one just man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Eccl. 7:20) In fact, “there is no one who does not sin.” (I K. 8:46) So that self-deceived (says John) perfectionist would rather that Moses “butt out” and not come with his contention that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Gn. 8:21) There was never a man nearer to the highest perfection than Job, yet he said, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say, I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse.” (Job 9:20)
When we say “no mere man” has the ability perfectly to keep the commandments of God, we make distinction between ourselves and Christ, who, rendering perfect obedience for us, was no “mere man.” By a “mere man,” we mean one who is man and no more than man. Christ is not a mere man; He is God and man with two distinct natures in one person forever. Was there ever any mere man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? Yes, before the fall Adam and Eve were created in righteousness and holiness, capable of and perfectly equipped for keeping the law. So Moses and Solomon in their infallibly inspired writings teach us. (Gen. 1:27; Eccl. 7:29) Shall any mere man ever be able to keep perfectly the commandments of God? Yes, through the grace of God the redeemed from mankind (Rev. 14:4) shall be made perfectly to conform to the moral law. Paul says that when sin and death itself are destroyed, we shall have the victory of perfection. (I Cor. 15: 26,56,57) The perfecting of the saints, when the entire Church becomes a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Eph. 4:11-13; 5:26,27), shall occur in the coming of the New Heaven and the New Earth. (Rev. 21:2,11) There are now also spirits of just men made perfect, but they are “in heaven,” in the “heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22,23) Yes, man renewed by grace will be able perfectly to keep all God’s commandments in the glorified state. When it comes to the question, “Can ‘mere man’ in this life perfectly keep the commandments of God?” We must answer that man, renewed and redeemed, can through God’s grace keep them, but not perfectly, as Paul says, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.” (Phil 3:12) Has any mere man since the fall ever in this life perfectly kept or obeyed the law of God? No, Christ did so keep it, but He is not a mere man.
When Paul maintains, “I am not already perfect, he is certainly speaking as a regenerated person. So also in Romans 7, he is not speaking as an unconverted, unregenerate person, but as the best Christian must confess. The most eminent saints confess and miserably feel their sinfulness, their indwelling sin, i.e., corruption subdued, but still lurking in the heart. That is what Paul makes so plain in Rom. 7:14-24, there giving proof “sinless perfection” is not possible in this life. What he says there compares in the Authorized Version with the following paraphrase: “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am flesh, sold as a slave to sin. I am doing something strange, because I don’t do what I like but what I hate. But if I do what I don’t like, I agree that the law is right. It is no long I doing it, but sin living (at home) in me. I know that nothing lives in me, that is, in my flesh. I’m willing, but I’m not doing what is right. I don’t do the good things I like, but I do the evil I don’t like. Now if I do what I don’t like, it is no longer I doing it but sin living in me. So I find it a rule: When I want to do what is right, wrong suggestions crowd in. In my inmost heart, I agree with God’s law, but in my whole natural make-up I see another law fighting against the law that my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the sin ruling my body. What a miserable man I am! Who will rescue me from the body that brings me to death? Thank God-He does it through our Lord Jesus Christ!” Every man who has the true Christian hope (I Jn. 3:3) purifies himself. Therefore, every Christian in this world has in him impurity, i.e., sin.
When the scripture speaks of certain men being perfect, as Job “was perfect and upright” (Job 1:1,8; 9:20), David was “the perfect man” (Ps. 37:37; 40:12), and Noah “was a just man and perfect” (Gn. 6:9), the meaning is that they were comparatively perfect, that is, there was a marked contrast between them and others. They were constitutively perfect, i.e., constituted perfect in all the essential elements of character, though in an imperfect degree; perfectly a human being (but only as renewed in Christ), but not a perfect human being. They were representatively perfect, i.e., every believer is perfect and complete in Christ their Representative. (Rom. 6; 8:1; I Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:10)
The man who wrote “Rock of Ages” said, “what think you concerning the tenet of sinless perfection which supposes that the very inbeing of sin may on earth be totally exterminated from the hearts of the regenerate and that believers may here be pure as the angels that never fell, yea, (I tremble at the blasphemy), holy as Christ himself? …Indwelling sin and unholy tempers do most certainly receive their death wound in regeneration, but they do not quite expire till the renewed soul is taken up from earth to heaven.” That same man, Augustus Montague Toplady, said, “Would you see a perfect saint? You ‘must needs go out of the world,’ then you must go to heaven for the sight. Forasmuch as there only are ‘the spirits of just men made perfect.’ (Heb. 12:23) This earth on which we live never bore but three sinless persons: our first parents in the short state of innocence (goodness, RCH), and Jesus Christ in the days of His abode below. Of the whole human race besides, it always was every will be true, that there is ‘not a just man upon earth who doeth good and sinneth not.’ One man pictures “The Life That Wins” so: “I have learned that, as I trust Christ in surrender, there need be no fighting against sin, but complete freedom from the power and even the desire of sin. I have learned that this freedom, this more than conquering, is sustained in unbroken continuance as I simply recognize that Christ is my cleansing, reigning life.” (Charles Gallaudet Trumbull) In great contrast to this, another man sees the Christian ever as “The Fainting Warrior,” saying, “I know it is my duty to be perfect, but I am conscious I cannot be. I know that every time I commit sin, I am guilty, and yet I am quite certain that I must sin – that my nature is such that I cannot help it. I feel that I am unable to get rid of it…It is my agonizing death struggle with my corruption that proves me to be a child of God. These two natures will never cease to struggle so long as we are in this world. The old nature will never give up; it will never cry truce; it will never ask for a treaty to be made between the two…What a fight is that! It were worth an angel’s while to come from the remotest fields of either to behold such a conflict.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in a sermon, Jan. 23 (859) So you see why even the great apostle Paul could not say. “I’ve got it made!” nor could he even think it of any of the saints. Instead he prayed for them. “The God of peace himself make you holy in every way and keep your spirit and life and body sound and without a fault when your Lord Jesus Christ comes. You can depend on Him who calls you – He will do it.” (I Thes. 5:23f, Beck’s NT)