Can We Attain Perfection In This Life?
Christians occasionally claim that we can be as perfect as God commanded (Matthew 5:48). Some preachers (we immediately think of the famous revivalist Charles Finney) have taught that Christians can attain a second level of God’s blessing, wherein they receive the ability to live free of sin in perfect obedience. Even though this doctrine is brimming with good intentions, is it a biblical teaching?
The first problem that arises is the nature of sin. With a comprehensive understanding of sin, the plausibility of earthly sinlessness is doubtful, or more accurately, impossible. Sin permeates the depths of man’s being, affecting every action and thought with wrongful motives.
The second observation is that the doctrine of sinless perfection is contradicted by the Scriptures themselves. In 1 John 1:8–2:1, the Scriptures elucidate that ongoing sin is a reality. That is why we are provided an ever-constant advocate in Jesus. Furthermore, there isn’t a second level of Christian grace mentioned.
From the rest of the Bible, we also see that as we grow nearer to God, we grow more aware of our present sinfulness. Consider Isaiah who was one of the few during the reign of Uzziah who pursued the Lord. When God revealed Himself, Isaiah was self-deprecating, for his hidden sins were revealed to him. Consider Paul, perhaps one of the greatest Christians ever, who would not consider himself perfect. In fact, he said just the opposite (Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15). Also, among those who hold to the teachings of Christian perfectionism, most will not advocate that they personally have attained this blessing.
God desires His people to be holy. A biblical command (1 Peter 1:16) does not necessarily mean that we can attain it in this world. Praise Him that He has promised glorification to His children (Romans 8:30), and that all will be fully and finally made perfect in the world to come!