Christian Perfection

1 John 3:6

Spiritual health, or daily victory over temptation, should be taken as the Christian norm. In one sense “normal” is a totally inadequate word. It is “super-normal,” one of the wonders of divine grace, that we should triumph at all over the sins which do so easily beset us. Yet we should not think of this life of daily victory as if it were reserved for the few who, by reason of disposition, could be described as naturally religious. The victorious life is not beyond the normal believer.

This does not mean that perfection in the final sense—nothing to learn, no further progress to be made—is for this life. To quote John Wesley: “There is no perfection which does not admit of continual increase.” As the Army Mother used to say: “Sanctification is not final growth.” It is not the same as complete attainment.

Glory will be required fully to crown what grace has begun below. But that does not mean that we cannot step out here and now on the highway of holiness.

With the Apostle Paul we do not think of ourselves as having already attained perfection or as being already perfect. It is no contradiction to say that part of the experience of Christian perfection is an awareness of one’s own imperfections. So the Apostle Paul could describe himself as the chief of sinners. This is why our Founder could confess: “My great sorrow is that I have served the Lord so imperfectly.”

The closer a believer’s communion with his Savior the more keenly does he realize how far he falls short of resembling that same Lord. His self-reproaches arise from his nearness to the Master. Were he not so aware of the beauty of Jesus the less conscious would he be of his own shortcomings.

The first word in the Christian vocabulary is not struggle—but surrender; not one more try—but to yield to the divine will; not one more effort and this time you will make it—but to submit to Another.

Frederick Coutts, The Splendor of Holiness


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