Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Vision (2.6.14): The Bible does not teach "perfectionism"

Note:  Last Sunday afternoon, I preached on Question # 65 in the Spurgeon Baptist Catechism series, “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?”  Once again, I leaned heavily on the Puritan Thomas Vincent’s exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  The catechism clearly rejects any notion of “Christian perfectionism,” all the while urging “evangelical” obedience to the commandments of God.  As Vincent puts it:  “The saints on earth do keep the commandments of God sincerely, but not perfectly.” The section below is drawn from Vincent’s proof that no mere man [the Lord Jesus was no mere man] has been ever been able to keep God’s commandments absolutely:

How do we prove that no saint ever attained perfection in this life?

1.  Because the best of saints, in this life, are renewed but in part, and have remainders of flesh and corruption, which do rebel and war against the Spirit and renewed part in them.  Consider:

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

2.  Because the Scriptures tell us expressly that none are without sin; and that such are deceivers of themselves, and make God a liar, that affirms the contrary.  Consider:

Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

 James 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The point here is that the Bible does not teach what is called “perfectionism.”

3.  Because the Scriptures hath recorded the sins of the most holy persons that have ever lived.

Noah became drunk.

Abraham and Isaac dissimulated by saying that their wives were their sisters.

Lot committed incest.

Jacob deceived his father to take the blessing from his brother Esau.

Joseph swore by the life of Pharaoh (Gen 42:15).

Moses spoke unadvisedly (Psalm 106:33).

David committed adultery and murder.

Job and Jeremiah were impatient.

Peter three times denied and cursed Jesus.

Paul and Barnabas quarreled (Acts 15).

Vincent concludes:  “And if such persons as these, who were filled with the Holy Ghost, and had as great a measure of grace as any whom we read of, either in the Scriptures, or any history, were not perfect, without sin, we may safely conclude that no saints, in this life, have ever attained unto absolute perfection.”

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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