Is Christian Perfection a Goal or a Given Grace?

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‘Works’ based religions, or those religions which base their perfection on their works, will tell you perfection is a goal to be attained. They measure this perfection by the purity and holiness of their actions and how well they keep the law. They base their beliefs on the statement of Jesus who tells them to ‘be perfect as their father in heaven is perfect’. They strive to be like Jesus because he epitomizes the human equivalent of one who is perfect. Some in these religions consider the world around them an evil they must constantly fight against. They even enter into convents or monasteries where free from outside influences, they might obtain the purity and holiness they desire.

The law is perfect

In the Gospels, Jesus tells us the law is perfect and that ‘Heaven and hell may perish but not one syllable of the law will perish’. He tells the rich man who asks him ‘what must he do to be saved’ that he must obey the law perfectly. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus tells him that his sons can avoid his predicament if they obey the law perfectly.

Throughout the Old Testament and the Gospels, we get this message that perfection is obtainable if we act correctly. ‘Works’ based religions, therefore, would be correct in assuming that perfection is a goal that can be obtained… if those parts of the Old Testament and Gospels were the only bible references available.

The question to be asked of these ‘works’ based religions is this: What value is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and dying for their sins if they have the power to save themselves by being perfect and sinless?

Grace-based Religions

‘Grace’ based religions, or those religions which base their perfection on the grace given them, will tell you their imperfections are forgiven and forgotten by the grace of God. If their imperfections are forgiven and forgotten… all that is left is perfection. They know the bible is full of examples of how imperfect man is. Among them: the Apostle John tells them ‘there is none good, no not one’. The Apostle Paul tells them ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’. He tells them ‘the law entered that sin might abound’ and ‘by the law, sin is made exceedingly sinful’. He says ‘the flesh profits nothing’ meaning there is nothing they can physically do to obtain their own perfection and salvation. Finally, he says “God has concluded all in sin that He might have mercy on all’.

‘Grace’ based religions realize God can’t have mercy on someone who is able to obtain sinless perfection on their own. Only by making the keeping of the law and being perfect an absolute requirement, then turn around and make it so that no one can do so, can he show his love and mercy to the greatest degree possible by forgiving them for not doing so. To them, Jesus dying on the cross and paying the price for their inability to be perfect is the greatest act of love the world will ever know.

There are very few purely ‘works’ based or ‘grace’ based religions. Most ‘works’ based religions agree they are saved by God’s grace but then turn around and say his grace depends on their works. Most ‘grace’ based religions agree that they are saved by God’s unconditional love but turn right around and put conditions on getting this grace like accepting it and showing they are thankful for getting it; or prove they have it by changing their ways and doing good works, etc.

To God, we are perfect

In our eyes a flower is perfect. In our eyes a tree is perfect. They are not perfect because they smell good or give good fruit; they are perfect because we love them just as they are. To God, we are perfect, not because we do or say the right things; but because we are loved just the way we are.

Christian perfection is the state of God’s grace found in us.

 

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