The Truth Between Extremes
by Kenneth E. Thomas
Paul admonishes us in Romans 6:1 with a question: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" He then answers his own question with "Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin, live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:2). Later in the same chapter he admonished them (and us) not to allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies that we should obey it and the lusts thereof (V-12).
Some, however, in their attempts to "justify themselves in living a life filled with sin," are often heard to say things like:
1). "Well, after all, "nobody's perfect." If by such a statement folks mean none of us live sinlessly perfect lives, we would all agree as does the New Testament with such an evaluation: See (1 John 1:8-10; Romans 3:10, 23; Ecclesiastes 7:10). Do such passages give "license to sin?" Absolutely not! We must balance the Scriptures and not array one passage against another. To do so is faulty exegesis, or improper interpretation. It is a failure to "rightly divide" or to "handle aright the word of truth" as we are commanded to do in (2 Timothy 2:15). A failure to do so leads to the "twisting" or "perverting" the word of Christ and Peter as well as Paul, informs us that if we do so, it is "to our own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16; Galatians 1:6-9).
Let us consider the word "perfect" as used in the Scriptures. We have already stated that we know better than to use the word in our cases at least to mean "sinless" since none of us so lives, for whatever the reasons. It could be ignorance, it could be choice, it could be weakness, or whatever. I shall not go into the arguments made by the "perfectionist" among us at this time. Suffice it to say that the word "perfect" is used in more senses than one in the New Testament. In one usage of the word, we are commanded "be ye perfect.." (Matthew 5:48). The context will show how the word "perfect" is being used. If we are able to do as our Heavenly Father who sends the sun and the rain on the just as well as the unjust, that is, if we reach the point that we are able to love even the unlovable, having their best interest at heart, even though they are our enemies, we have reached "perfection" in this regard. We have accomplished "maturity," we are "full grown" Christians.
SOME PERFECT PEOPLE IN THE O.T.
1). Job: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil .And the Lord said unto Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and ensheweth evil?" (Job 1:1, 8) (KJV)
2). Noah: "These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God" (Genesis 6:9).
3). Abram: "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect. And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly ." (Genesis 17:1-5). This was a renewal of God's earlier promise when He called Abram. (Genesis 12:1-4). On this occasion God changed Abram's name to Abraham and told him he would be a "father of many nations." Clue: read other versions of the Bible and you will see the word "perfect" translated "blameless" or "mature." However, even the word "blameless" doesn't carry the idea of "sinlessness or perfection."
4). When instructing the priests and the Levites as to how they were to not partake in the ungodly activities of the people into whose land they were coming, the land of Canaan, Moses informed them, "Thou shall be "perfect" with the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 18:13). If you are of a mind to do so, look up and consider each of the following; (this list is by no means exhaustive). (1 Kings 8:61; 15:14; 2 Chron. 15:17; Job 2:3). A complete list of folks who were either admonished to be perfect, or who were said to be perfect would be of considerable length. I believe these from the Old Testament will suffice for our purpose in this lesson.
SOME PERFECT PEOPLE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT(ALONG WITH SOME WHO WERE NOT PERFECT)
1). The "Rich Young Ruler": Some of the illustrations I shall use, while found in the New Testament, have to do with folks who were still under the Old Testament dispensation of course, folks whom Jesus encountered and whom He taught. My first illustration is a man whom we call "The Rich Young Ruler." Not all of those things are said about him in any one context where he is spoken of. It takes a combination of all the Scriptures say about him to label has as the above. This man came to Jesus desiring to learn from Him what he must do to inherit eternal life? Since they were living under the Old Testament dispensation (Hebrews 9:15-16; Colossians 2:14), the answer Jesus gave is proper. He told him to keep the ten commandments. He affirmed that he had done all this from his youth and wanted to know, "what lack I yet?" Knowing the man's heart (John 2:25), Jesus told him "If you would be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." (Matthew 19:16-21). He could not be "perfect" so long as he "trusted in his riches." Are you "perfect" when it comes to material things and their place in your life? See (Matthew 6:19-33; Mark 10:24; Colossians 3:5-6).
It isn't riches per se that will keep one out of heaven, no, it is when we put our "trust" in riches (1 Timothy 6:6-11, 17). God gave great wealth to many of His worthy servants of old. If wealth in and of itself were evil or sinful, God would have been the cause of some of their downfall! Surely none believe this. Read all of the passages just cited please! Those who "trust in riches" can no more enter into the eternal kingdom of God than a camel can go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25).
2). We are to "be made perfect in one," said Jesus in His intercessory prayer, first for His chosen apostles, then later for those of us who would believe on Him (John 17:20, 23). In writing to the Ephesians we learn of how we come to be the "perfect man" when the full revelation of the will of Christ was made known (Ephesians 4:11-16). Then we should no longer be "tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine " (V-13).
3). Paul wrote of his former life in the Hebrew religion in more passages than one. As he wrote of his manner of living under that system. He said "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the "perfect" manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day." (Acts 22:3) Notice he was taught after the "perfect" manner of the law.
4). Paul wrote: "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are "perfect:" yet not the wisdom of this world, that come to naught." (1 Corinthians 2:6). (KJV). Let us read the passage from the NIV. "We, do, however speak a message of wisdom among the "mature," but not the wisdom of this age, who are coming to nothing." It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the translators understood that the Greek word translated by the old English word "perfect" in 1611, corresponds to our present word "mature" in 1999.
"I WRITE THESE THINGS UNTO YOU THAT YOU SIN NOT "
(1 John 2:1-3) (KJV)
The little books of 1-2&3rd John are interesting as we consider our topic of discussion. Only such as "walk in the light" are in fellowship with God and with others who are likewise in their fellowship (1 John 1:6-7). To claim to be in fellowship with God and to walk in darkness is living a lie. However, even in these verses which demand that one walk in fellowship with God, you will notice that there are sins that need forgiveness! The conclusion must of necessity be that "walking in the light" isn't speaking of "sinless perfection," or there would be no sins needing forgiveness don't you see?
We must conclude that a "step in darkness" therefore isn't "walking in darkness," but is the occasional accidents when we "miss the mark of sinless perfection" as we all do from time to time for whatever the reason.
How then do we stand justified before Christ? By doing like the old song we have sung for years, "If I walk in the pathway of duty; if I work till the close of the day. I shall see the great King in His beauty, when I've gone the last mile of the way. If for Christ I have earnestly striven, if I've tried all His will to obey will enhance all the raptures of heaven when I've gone the last mile of the way." Or, "Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee; Forgive the secret sins I do not see;.." (S.S. Pg. 35).When we see or learn that we haven't measured up, we repent, confess and pray and we stand justified, not by performance, but by forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).
Now let us notice 1 John 2:1-4. Remember now that we have already read that if a child of God claims that he doesn't sin he is a liar, and that the one who claims he has not sinned makes God a liar. Now we come to a passage which says that we are not to sin. How are we supposed to reconcile the two contexts of passages from the same book? We know that "God cannot lie" (Titus 1:2). Any interpretation we put on these passages therefore must agree, Right? Right! "My little children, there things write I unto you, that you do not sin." What can this mean in light of the passages that say to so affirm is to be a liar? It means that one doesn't live a sinful life-style, one who is in fellowship with Christ doesn't have to ask, "forgive me of my many sins " if he has "many sins," such a one is not "walking in the light." Those who walk in the light may have some sins such as sins of weakness or sins that have escaped their conscious recollection. We read earlier that we are not to "continue in sins that grace may abound" (Romans 6:1).
This very passage which admonished us not to sin, makes provision for us when we do sin. "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He is the propitiation for our sins " (1 John 2:2). A part of "keeping His commandments" as Vs-3-4 teaches, involves the provisions of using our advocate who is our propitiation (to gain or to regain favor with the Father) for our (occasional) sins.
This little book gets even more interesting as one continues reading. We learn that a man who "abides in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him" (1 John 3:6). I could really impress the reader by going into my "on line" Greek word studies and lexicons showing the continual action under consideration when it says "sinneth not" but most folks have only their English translation on which to depend and we believe that is sufficient. Now we read- "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9).
In the light of what we have already learned, we know that this must mean that one cannot continue in a sinful life-style. It isn't impossible for such a one to sin, not literally. Sin is simply out of character for the one who is truly "born of God." Sin in the life of the faithful child of God are those occasional slips and blunders brought about by any number of influences and forces at work. Remember Satan is ever vigilant and so must you and I be if we would live the life that will be rewarded at last (1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7-8).
If such a great man as the apostle Paul had to "buffet" his body to prevent being disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27); If angels could fall and await judgment (Jude 6); And since we are admonished to "take heed lest you fall," then certainly, we must be careful.
Those who have made Jesus "a mere man" in their attempts to prove that we can know all and do all flawlessly, just have to be wrong! Let us all be "perfect" as we are commanded. Perfect through Christ by forgiveness in His precious blood (1 John 1:1-10; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; Revelation 14:13; 22:14; Hebrews 5:8-9; Hebrews 3:12-19; Colossians 1:18-28).
It is important for many reasons for the Christian to live a Godly lifestyle, for we are to be "light" and "salt" in the wicked world, leading others to "the Christ" by example and by teaching (Matthew 5:13-15; Philippians 2:15-16).
Paul's admonition to the Romans (and consequently for Christians today-2 Timothy 2:2) was that we-"be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1-2). Does this depict you, my brother/sister in Christ?
Back to the Top | Back Home