Sinless Perfection (Colossians 1:27-29)
I believe in sinless perfection. I’m not ashamed to say so, not even on the World Wide Web. In fact, I’m delighted for the opportunity to openly declare my belief in sinless perfection.
I believe that every Christian is now and will one day be perfectly sinless. But before you fire up the chain e-mails and rally all my friends against me, I hope that you will read the rest of what I have to say.
Paul declared that the riches of the glory of ‘this’ mystery among the Gentiles is this: Christ in you, the hope of glory. This is the Christ that Paul and Epaphras preached (1:28), warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom. And they had a distinct purpose in preaching this: so that they might present every man perfect in Christ. Paul himself labored to this end, according to his working, which he worked in Paul mightily.
This is Christ’s purpose in reconciling us — “to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (1:22). This was the reason Epaphras labored so fervently for them, “that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” In fact, this is the reason God gives us pastors and spiritual leaders:
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Perfection was an obsession of the Gnostics. Paul uses the Greek word teleion (an adjective for perfect or mature) in verse 28. “The Gnostics used τελειος of the one fully initiated into their mysteries and it is quite possible that Paul here has also a sidewise reference to their use of the term.” (1) They believed that perfection came independently of Christ. I find that those in our day who believe in some sort of sinless perfection achieved in this life also believe that this comes independently of Christ. But faithful believers in Christ also believe in, and in fact are obsessed with perfection. Allow me to explain.
Christ is Perfect
He is the perfection of all holiness, of all goodness, of all wisdom and knowledge and truth. Christ is perfect. He did no sin, neither was any guile found in his mouth. Christ perfectly fulfilled all of God’s law, perfectly satisfied all of God’s demands for justice, perfectly finished the work of the cross. Christ is perfect, one man who is perfectly sinless. Believers acknowledge His sinless perfection.
We are Perfect
In Colossians 2:10, Paul says, “And ye are complete in him…” In Christ dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete (made full) in him. Our life is hid with Christ in God (3:3), and Christ is our life (3:4). Having no righteousness of our own, His righteousness is imputed on us, and we are made righteous in Christ. And, God calls those things that be not as though they were (Romans 4:17). In Christ, we are perfect. Not that we have achieved a level of sinlessness in this life. For we are always told to put away those things. But that we are made perfect in Christ. This is the point. When we discuss the possibility of sinlessness or of perfection, we tend to look inward. I cannot be sinless, or sinlessly perfect in this life. We must look outwardly — outside of ourselves, if we would find ‘sinless perfection.’ We must look to Christ. For Christ is sinlessly perfect, and my identity is all wrapped up in Him.
We are Not Perfect
This is the point of Paul’s preaching, of his warning, of his teaching in all wisdom. Paul wanted to present the Colossians perfect in Christ. Paul labored to this end, according to God’s working (the Greek word here is energeian – God’s energizing), which worketh (same Greek word in a verb/participle form) in me mightily. We are made perfect and complete in Christ, and yet we are not perfect or complete. And therefore, we are changed into Christ’s image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18).
From time-to-time, men lose sight of their position in Christ, and strive to gain a position for themselves. The Colossians were doing this. False teachers taught them to deny themselves, to deny the lawful pleasures of this life and to deny their own body, all in the name of achieving this higher holiness. The modern day holiness movement, especially the segment that springs out of the teaching of Charles Finney, pursues this same kind of thing. Men are trying to reach some degree of sinless perfection on their own, in their own strength, and for themselves. They attempt to achieve this in their own flesh.
Believers must be satisfied to look to Christ. His righteousness, His holiness, His perfection must satisfy them. Our striving for personal holiness then comes out of our satisfaction with His holiness, and our desire to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.