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Can Christians Be Morally Perfect?
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“Moral perfection is a condition without which you cannot be saved!”

Few professing Christians today will hear such a statement without taking great offence and making rash charges of heresy. The words “moral perfection” are what many cannot bear. The very concept is an abomination to them. And whoever preaches moral perfection is placing his neck on the chopping block of orthodoxy, where through the ages many prophets of God have lost their heads in their opposition to hypocrisy. Whoever preaches the moral duty of man to be sinless risks being labeled a legalist, an heretic, a cultist, and a teacher of a salvation based upon works, and will be banned from most of the church pulpits in America (as would Jesus)!

Let me define my terms. Just what is moral perfection? “Perfect” means “complete”, so moral perfection is complete conformity to your obligation to keep the moral law. What is the moral law? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt.22:36-40). Anything less than “all” falls short of what God demands and therefore is unacceptable and wicked! Moral perfection is synonymous with holiness, righteousness, or sinlessness. The perfect man loves God supremely and his neighbor equally. “Put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfectness” (Col.3:14).

Moral perfection does not imply freedom from unwillful ignorance, mistake, bodily infirmities, or temptations. These things are involuntary, and God’s law does not legislate over them. Sin is voluntary transgression of God’s law (I Jn.3:4). Sin is doing what you know you should not do and not doing what you know you should do (Jas.4:17). All sin is an act of not loving God supremely and your neighbor as yourself.

Let’s examine the Scriptures. “Behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, ... If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:16-22).

“If thou wilt be perfect....” In other words, if you want to be perfectly compliant with God’s law and find eternal life, distribute your wealth to the poor and follow Me. He claimed to keep God’s law, but was not. Jesus put His finger on his greatest sin and insisted that he must give this up to Him before he could be saved. The man had broken the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” - he loved his possessions more than God. A return to obedience to God’s law was a condition without which he could not be saved.

. Jesus told the inquirer that he could do something right that moment to be perfect. This perfection could not mean maturity, for that is a growth in wisdom and knowledge and is not instantly obtained. It could not be mental or physical perfection, for that will not be obtained in this life. It could not refer to God mystically imputing him with Christ’s moral perfection (as many teach), for that blood had not yet been shed, and therefore that type of perfection could not be instantly obtained. The only other type of perfection mentioned in the Bible that it could be is personal moral perfection, or sinlessness, through repentance and faith which works by love. For this fellow, it meant giving his wealth to the poor and following Jesus. Unfortunately, this sinner rejected Christ’s invitation into the Kingdom of God. Unless he forsook his sin and began to love the Lord with ALL his being (not simply some or most), and his poor neighbors as himself before he died, he is experiencing the torments of hell at this very moment!

If this young man had responded to the altar call of your typical evangelical church in America today, he probably would have prayed the sinner’s prayer, been baptized, tithed, and maybe even done great works for God. But if temptation ever made him have to choose between his riches and the Lord, the true god of his heart would have been evident for all to see. We would label him a “backslider”, but the truth is he never slid forward in the first place! Jesus required death to self, turning from all sin, and perfect submission as a prerequisite to salvation. Jesus demanded moral perfection from the onset for one to enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus must be your First Love if you are to be God’s child.

When a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life in Luke 10:25-28, Jesus told Him that he must love God supremely and his neighbor equally in order to live forever! This is in harmony with the teachings of Christ throughout the Gospels. “Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom.2:13). If someone is not in perfect compliance with God’s law of love, they are not saved! They either have not repented, or they have repented of their repentance.

The Bible makes it very clear that repentance is a necessary condition for salvation (Luke 13:3; Mk.1:15; Prov.28:13; Isa.55:7; etc.). Repentance in today’s evangelical church has been perverted to mean anything but what the Bible says it is. Repentance is forsaking sin, and sin is transgression of God’s law - so repentance is a return to obedience to God’s law. They that have repented do not sin anymore, but keep God’s law (I Jn.3:4-10)!! They do as King David said, “Stand in awe, and sin not” (Ps.4:5). They do as Paul said, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” (I Cor.15:34). They do as Jesus told the lame man to do, “Sin no more!” (Jn.5:14). They do as Jesus told the adulterous woman to do, “Go and sin no more!” (Jn.8:11). Not “Go and sin less!” Not “Go and sin occasionally, but feel guilty afterwards and confess it.” Not “Go and sin more, but don’t worry about it because My grace will make up for your deficient repentance.” SIN NO MORE!!! This is everywhere the doctrine of the Bible. Repentance is a 180 degree change of moral direction - from self-gratification as the ultimate aim of your life to God-glorification as the ultimate aim of your life, from loving self supremely to loving God supremely. Repentance is a return to perfect obedience to God’s law. I emphasize perfect obedience because anything but perfect obedience is disobedience! Anything but perfect submission is rebellion! (Read I Samuel 15 if you doubt it.)

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