Christian Perfection – 18: To Walk As He Walked
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)
Throughout A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley continually refers to our walking as Jesus also walked, which we specifically discussed in Chapter 5. However, because of the importance of our understanding this important concept of Christian perfection, we are discussing it again here in this Chapter.
Let’s begin by looking at the Biblical passage from which comes this understanding of walking with Jesus (1 John 2:4-6):
4. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;
5. but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
6. the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. NAS
The apostle John’s words are extremely strong. The person who calls himself or herself a Christian is also one who is saying, “I have come to know Him,” and am following Him. If such a person is not “living” the commandments that Jesus commanded us to follow, which are fulfilled through unconditional love (Matthew 22:37-40), then the apostle John says that such a person is a liar and that the truth of Jesus Christ is not in them.
The key to our understanding of how we walk with God (Jesus) is love. To have the love of God perfected in us is a state of being; it is not something we achieve by doing. Love produces the good works, not the other way around. The way we physically live, speak and act is a reflection of our spiritual being. However, as the apostle Paul discusses extensively, and as we have already discussed, our physical being is constantly subjected to the lusts and desires of this corrupted world. While both of these opposites, the perfection of God’s love and the corruption of the world, are as real as light and darkness, or hot and cold, or good and evil, they are all controlled by the “positive” and not the “negative”. In other words, light cancels out darkness and the truth cancels out the lie.
Most people consider the opposite of love to be hate, but it is really fear; and as the apostle John also tells us “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Thus, the more we love, or the more that God’s love is perfected in us, the less fear we should experience. Similarly, the more light we have, the less darkness; the more heat, the less cold; and the more good, the less evil. Going along with the world, giving into ungodly peer pressure, or just acting upon our lusts or pride are expressions of our fear of not being accepted or of missing out on something we want. But God’s perfect love can change our desires, if we truly want them to be changed.
Thus, we could say that our Christian perfection is the spiritual state of being in which God’s love is truly perfected in us. And once God’s love is perfected in us, then it becomes increasingly more evident in our physical life (speech and actions). This is when we learn to walk as He walked.
With this in mind, let’s look at what Wesley wrote in Part 15:
About a year after, namely, in the year 1742, we published another volume of hymns. The dispute being now at the height, we spoke upon the head more largely than ever before. Accordingly, abundance of the hymns in this volume treat expressly on this subject. And so does the preface, which, as it is short, it may not be amiss to insert entire:
“(1) Perhaps the general prejudice against Christian perfection may chiefly arise from a misapprehension of the nature of it. We willingly allow, and continually declare, there is no such perfection in this life as implies either a dispensation from doing good, and attending all the ordinances of God, or a freedom from ignorance, mistake, temptation, and a thousand infirmities necessarily connected with flesh and blood.
We have found that there seems to be in many sectors of Christianity a deception that seeks “a dispensation from doing good”. This is done through an attempt to use scripture to justify evil and perverted acts, rather than following those attributes evident in perfected Godly love. As an example, they attempt to justify war by citing Cornelius, a Roman soldier, who became a Christian. They justify hunting by emulating Nimrod and Esau, two men who were evil. They justify the horrors of factory farming because Jesus supposedly ate a piece of fish. They justify destruction of the environment and the torture of animals because God gave us “dominion”, rather than following its true meaning of “stewardship”. These are just a few of the many examples by which people try to justify their evil intent and deny any portion of Christian perfection. It’s as if there is a deliberate attempt to distort Ephesians 2:8-10 to say “we are saved by grace for evil works, which God prepared before hand.”
“(2) First. We not only allow, but earnestly contend, that there is no perfection in this life, which implies any dispensation from attending all the ordinances of God, or from doing good unto all men while we have time, though ‘especially unto the household of faith.’ [Galatians 6:10] We believe that not only the babes in Christ, who have newly found redemption in His blood, but those also who are ‘grown up into perfect men,’ are indispensably obliged, as often as they have opportunity, ‘to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of Him,’ [Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26] and to ‘search the Scriptures’; by fasting, as well as temperance, to ‘keep their bodies under, and bring them into subjection,’ and, above all, to pour out their souls in prayer, both secretly and in the great congregation.
“(3) We, secondly, believe that there is no such perfection in this life as implies an entire deliverance, either from ignorance or mistake, in things not essential to salvation, or from manifold temptations, or from numberless infirmities, wherewith the corruptible body more or less presses down the soul. We cannot find any ground in Scripture to suppose that any inhabitant of a house of clay is wholly exempt either from bodily infirmities, or from ignorance of many things; or to imagine any is incapable of mistake, or falling into divers temptations.
“(4) But whom, then, do you mean by ‘one that is perfect’? We mean one in whom is ‘the mind which was in Christ,’ [1 Corinthians 2:16] one who so ‘walketh as Christ also walked’; a man ‘that hath clean hands and a pure heart,’ [Psalm 24:4] or that is ‘cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit’; one in whom is ‘no occasion of stumbling,’ and who, accordingly, ‘does not commit sin.’ To declare this a little more particularly: we understand by that scriptural expression, ‘a perfect man,’ one in whom God hath fulfilled his faithful word, ‘From all your filthiness and from all your idols I will cleanse you [Ezekiel 36:25]: I will also save you from all your uncleannesses.’ [Ezekiel 36:29] We understand hereby one whom God hath ‘sanctified throughout in body, soul, and spirit’; one who ‘walketh in the light as He is in the light; in whom is no darkness at all, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son having cleansed him from all sin.’
“(5) This man can now testify to all mankind, ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ [Galatians 2:20] He is ‘holy as God who called’ him ‘is holy,’ both in heart and ‘in all manner of conversation.’ He ‘loveth the Lord his God with all his heart,’ and serveth him ‘with all his strength.’ [Deuteronomy 6:5] He ‘loveth his neighbor,’ every man ‘as himself,’ [Leviticus 19:18] yea, ‘as Christ loveth us’; them, in particular, that ‘despitefully use him and persecute him, because they know not the Son, neither the Father.’ Indeed, his soul is all love, filled with ‘bowels of mercies, kindness, meekness, gentleness, long-suffering.’ And his life agreeth thereto, full of ‘the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labor of love.’ ‘And whatsoever’ he ‘doeth either in word or deed,’ he ‘doeth it all in the name,’ in the love and power, ‘of the Lord Jesus.’ In a word, he doeth ‘the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven.’ [Matthew 6:10]
“(6) This it is to be a perfect man, to be ‘sanctified throughout,’ even ‘to have a heart so all-flaming with the love of God’ (to use Archbishop Usher’s words) ‘as continually to offer up every thought, word, and work, as a spiritual sacrifice, acceptable to God through Christ.’ In every thought of our hearts, in every word of our tongues, in every work of our hands, to ‘show forth his praise who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.’ [1 Peter 2:9] O that both we, and all who seek the Lord Jesus in sincerity, may thus ‘be made perfect in one!’ “
This is the doctrine which we preached from the beginning, and which we preach at this day. Indeed, by viewing it in every point of light, and comparing it again and again with the word of God on the one hand, and the experience of the children of God, on the other, we saw further into the nature and properties of Christian perfection. But still there is no contrariety at all between our first and our last sentiments. Our first conception of it was, It is to have “the mind which was in Christ,” [1 Corinthians 2:16] and to “walk as he walked”; to have all the mind that was in him, and always to walk as he walked; in other words, to be inwardly and outwardly devoted to God; all devoted in heart and life. And we have the same conception of it now, without either addition or diminution.
For anyone to challenge the ideals of Christian perfection is to also challenge the truth of Scripture. If Jesus knew it was impossible for us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, then why did He tell us to be perfect? (Matthew 6:10) If we were not to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), then why did the apostle Paul tell us that all born again believers are given the mind of Christ? If we were not to have the love of God perfected in us in a manner that would allow us to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6), then why did the apostle John tell us to walk as He walked? We are told these things because they are true, and because they are possible, and because we can and should walk as He walked.