Christian Perfection – 01: Introduction
By: Frank L. Hoffman
Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
(Wesley’s writings are in bold)
Many years ago, when I first read the Bible with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide me, I believed its teachings. And, I saw a huge gap between God’s creation and heavenly intent, and the ways of this corrupt world.
When I read, “Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), I believed that I was to be exactly that – perfect as God is perfect. If Jesus told me that I was to be perfect, then it was also possible to achieve perfection, and I should strive for it. Then I read in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “we have the mind of Christ”, and I was further encouraged, for as a born again (Spirit filled) believer, I should be able to think and understand God’s intentions for my life, exactly as Jesus did and continues to do. This was the true intent of the doctrine of sanctification, and one day, by the grace of God, I would be sanctified into God’s perfection. How long this process would take, was, for the most part, dependent upon me and my willingness to be conformed back into the image of God (Genesis 1:26).
Mary and I decided, by the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, to do everything in our power to live our lives in the perfection of our heavenly Father, and to teach this concept to others. And we have been doing this for many years.
Is this some new doctrinal concept? Not at all! John Wesley taught this concept of perfection, and even wrote a little book entitled “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”, which he wrote and revised between the years of 1725 and 1777. We will be incorporating Wesley’s book and some of his expressed thoughts into this series.
The Holy Spirit has been nagging me (yes, He nags) to write this series ever since I attended a pastors’ meeting in the Spring of 2001. I had been discussing Christian perfection, and was interrupted by one of the pastors who very emphatically stated, “We don’t believe in perfection. We live by grace.” When I said that the two work together and that Wesley also taught Christian perfection, they disagreed. No one said anything to counter this pastor’s statement, and to say the least, I was shocked, and my heart has been deeply troubled every since, for I had no idea that Methodism and “religion” had fallen so far.
Let’s look at one aspect of Christian perfection that we, as the Church, have been failing to achieve and, for the most part, working against. If there was no death in Eden, God’s original and perfect creation (Genesis 1-2), and if there will be no death in heaven (Revelation 21:4), and Jesus taught us to pray to our Father, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10), then we are to be praying for and working to achieve a deathless (as far as God will allow) earthly existence in the here and now. This also meant that Isaiah’s prophecy of the Peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 11:6-9) was not just for some future heavenly existence, it was for this earth, too, and it was also possible to achieve it in our present or near future time.
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the kid,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze;
Their young will lie down together;
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
This series is devoted to trying to wake us up to the realities of Christian perfection so that we would live in it. God has not given this concept to me and to a few others over time. It’s been an ever present reality since the beginning of creation. It’s time for us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. It’s time for us to think and act with the mind of Christ.