In this article, we will be discussing the heresy of sinless perfectionism. It is impossible to be sinless at any time on our Christian walk of faith. Who could claim to be perfect when we look at what God calls perfection? We are trapped in unreedemed flesh and when we compare ourselves to the perfect Christ we fall flat on our face.
When we look to the holiness of God and what is required of us we are without hope. However, thank God that hope does not come from us. Our hope is in Christ alone.
Jesus taught us to confess our sins daily.
Matthew 6:9-12 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
When we say that we have no sin we make God a liar.
1 John is a chapter written clearly for believers. When we read 1 John in context, we see that one of the aspects of walking in the light is confessing our sin. When I hear people say that they don’t remember the last time that they sinned and that they are currently living perfectly, that is a lie. We deceive ourselves when we make such claims. Confessing your sins is one of the evidences that you are saved. You can never hide sin in His light.
A person with a genuine relationship with their father is going to confess their faults. The Holy Spirit is going to convict us of sin and if He’s not, that is evidence of false conversion. If God is not treating you as His child, then that is evidence that you are not His. Having unconfessed sin blocks God from listening to you. It’s dangerous to claim to be without sin.
Psalm 19:12 teaches us to confess even our unknown sins. One second of an impure ungodly thought is sin. Worry in sin. Not working 100% fully for the Lord at your job is sin. Sin is missing the mark. No one can do what is required. I know I can’t! I fall short daily, but I don’t live in condemnation. I look to Christ and it gives me joy. All I have is Jesus. I’m trusting in His perfection on my behalf. Our sinfulness makes Christ blood on the cross so much more meaningful and precious.
1 John 1:7-10 “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous 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.”
Psalm 66:18 “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”
We are not perfect.
The Bible says to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If there is any truth in you, then you are going to admit that you and I are not perfect. “Many are going to say, “why would God command us to do something that we can’t do?” It’s simple, God is the standard and not man. When you start with man you have problems but when you start with God, then you begin to see how holy He is and how desperately you need a Savior.
Everything in this life belongs to Him. Not one single drop of imperfection shall enter into His presence. All we have is the perfection of Christ. Even as a believer I’ve never been perfect. Am I a new creation? Yes! Do I have new desires for Christ and His Word? Yes! Do I hate sin? Yes! Do I strive for perfection? Yes! Am I living in sin? No, but daily I fall so short just like all believers do.
I can be selfish, I don’t do all things for God’s glory, I don’t pray without ceasing, I get distracted in worship, I’ve never loved God with absolutely everything in me, I worry sometimes, I can be covetous in my mind. Just today I accidentally ran a stop sign. This is a sin because I wasn’t obeying the law. There is always going to be something to confess in prayer. Do you not understand the holiness of God? I don’t believe sinless perfectionists do.
Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Psalm 143:2 “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.”
Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.”
Proverbs 20:9 “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?”
Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Godly Christians know their sinfulness.
The godliest men in Scripture all had one thing in common. They knew their great need for a Savior. Paul and Peter were close to the light of Christ and when you get closer to the light of Christ you see more sin. Many believers are not getting closer to the light of Christ so they are not seeing their own sinfulness. Paul called himself a “chief of sinners.” He didn’t say I was a chief of sinners. He emphasized his sinfulness because he understood his sinfulness in the light of Christ.
1 Timothy 1:15 “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Luke 5:8 “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Romans 7 destroys sinless perfectionism.
In Romans 7 we notice Paul talking about his struggles as a believer. Many people are going to say, “he was talking about his past life,” but that is wrong. Here is why it’s wrong. The Bible says unbelievers are a slave to sin, dead in sin, blinded by Satan, they can’t understand the things of God, they are haters of God, they don’t seek God, etc.
If Paul is talking about his past life why does he desire to do what is good? Verse 19 says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Unbelievers don’t desire to do good. They don’t seek after the things of God. In verse 22 he says, “For I delight in the law of God.” Unbelievers don’t delight in God’s law. In fact, when we read Psalm 1:2; Psalm 119:47; and Psalm 119:16 we see that only believers are delighting in God’s law.
In verse 25 Paul reveals the answer to his struggles. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christ is how we achieve victory over all sin. In verse 25 Paul then goes on to say, “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” This shows that he was referring to his current life.
Nonbelievers do not struggle with sin. Only believers battle with sin. 1 Peter 4:12 “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through.” As believers although we are a new creation there is a battle against the flesh. We are trapped in our humanness and now the Spirit is waging war against the flesh.
Romans 7:15-25 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Galatians 5:16-17 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
Sinless perfectionism denies sanctification.
Entire sanctification or Christian perfectionism is a damnable heresy. Once someone is justified by faith in Christ, then comes the sanctification process. God is going to conform the believer into the image of His Son. God is going to work in that believer’s life until death.
If sinless perfectionism is true, then there is no reason for God to work in us and it contradicts various Scriptures. Even Paul addressed believers as carnal Christians. I am not saying a believer will remain carnal, which is not true. A believer will grow, but the fact that he calls believers carnal Christians destroys this false doctrine.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 “But I, (brothers), could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”
2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
James says, “we all stumble in many ways.”
James 3 is a good chapter to take a look at. In verse 2 it reads, “we all stumble in many ways.” It doesn’t say some, it doesn’t say only unbelievers, it says, “we all.” There are a million ways to stumble before the holiness of God. I sin before I get out of bed. I wake up and I don’t give God the proper glory that is rightfully His.
James 3:8 says, “no human being can tame the tongue.” None! Many people don’t notice how they sin with their mouth. Engaging in gossip, talking about things of the world, complaining, joking in an ungodly way, making a joke at someone’s expense, making a rude comment, telling a half truth, saying a curse word, etc. These all false short of doing all things for God’s glory, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself.
James 3:2 “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.”
James 3:8 “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Psalm 130:3 “LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?”
All I have is Christ.
The fact of the matter is, Jesus did not come for those who are righteous. He came for sinners Matthew 9:13. Most sinless perfectionists believe you can lose your salvation. As John Macarthur said, “If you could lose your salvation, you would.” We all fall short of God’s standard. Can anyone love God perfectly with everything in them 24/7? I’ve never been able to do this and if you are honest, you have never been able to do this as well.
We always talk about the outward sins, but how about the sins of the heart? Who wants to live like that? “Oh no I accidentally ran a stop sign I lost my salvation.” It really is stupid and it’s a deception from Satan. There are some people that are going to say, “you’re leading people to sin.” Nowhere in this article did I tell someone to sin. I said we struggle with sin. When you become saved you are no longer a slave to sin, dead in sin, and now you have the power to overcome sin. Evidence of your faith in Christ is that you will be new. Your life will reveal a change. You will put off the old life, but once again we are still trapped in our humanness. There is going to be a struggle. There is going to be a battle.
When we see passages such as 1 John 3:8-10; 1 John 3:6; and 1 John 5:18 that say people born of God will not keep on sinning, it’s not saying you won’t ever sin which contradicts the beginning of John. It’s referring to a lifestyle. It’s referring to those who use grace as an excuse to sin. It’s referring to the continual pursuing and practice of sin. Only fake Christians live in willful sin and worldliness. Fake Christians don’t want to change and they are not new creations. They will probably cry because they got caught, but that is it. They have worldly sorrow and not godly sorrow. They don’t seek help.
Believers struggle! There are times when we will weep over our sins. We want to be more for Christ. This is a mark of a genuine believer. Matthew 5:4-6 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
However, for the most part believers can take comfort that we have a Savior, we have a risen King, we have Jesus who fully satisfied God’s wrath on the cross. Instead of looking at yourself look to Christ. What a privilege and what a blessing to know that my salvation is not dependent on me.
I’m trusting in the perfect merit of Jesus Christ and that is enough. Every day when I confess my sins I am more thankful of His blood. As I grow in Christ the Lord’s grace and His blood becomes more and more real. Romans 7:25 NLT “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 John 2:1 “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. (But) if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”