Philippians 3:12 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”

     It must be nice to be perfect.  At the time of writing his letter to the Philippians Paul hadn’t got there yet.  Either have I.  Perfection isn’t a slippery concept, rather our minds that handle this thought can slip badly considering it.  If you think you’re perfect you likely aren’t.  Pride is a tricky thing; it can work on your vanity and fool you into being ‘giddy’ about yourself. John Wesley said that Paul’s self assessment was made with a sober spirit; “But observe how, in the utmost fervour, he retains his sobriety of spirit.”

     The Forerunner Commentary says; “Clearly, Paul was not perfected at the time he wrote this, and neither have we been perfected as we read it. But God in His merciful grace has judged and now ‘sees’ us as He would see Jesus Christ in order to give us time to become perfected through being created in His image.”   When we are in Christ, God looks at us and sees His son!  We are clothed in His righteousness not our own; “. . . and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

     John Wesley defined perfection; “…that habitual disposition of the soul which, in the sacred writings, is termed holiness; and which directly implies being cleansed from sin, ‘from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit’; and, by consequence, being endued with those virtues which were in Christ Jesus; being so ‘renewed in the image of our mind,’ as to be ‘perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect’ (A Plain Account of Christian Perfectionism, p. 12).”  What might this look like in an ordinary man? 

Humility would be a very prominent characteristic of a ‘perfected’ man; “. . .  humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7)  The devil loves a proud ‘perfected’ man who is all wrapped up in his own self-righteousness.  A sobering  question about perfection is – if you  proudly claim it do you really have it?  Paul tells us plainly; ” But ‘he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’ For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” (2 Corinthians 10:17,18)

     Why have such a doctrine then?  If ideas like sanctification and perfection can lead to proud boasting and carnal claims about ourselves is it not best to abandon them?  Jesus told us to be perfect; “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  God calls us to be holy; “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy.” (Leviticus 11:44,45)  The Bible tells us that holiness, sanctification and perfection isn’t an option it’s a command.

     I can’t be holy.  I can’t become sanctified or perfected by myself.  On my own, I’m sunk- no hope for me!  God doesn’t leave us stuck.  Thank you Jesus that you haven’t abandoned me.  The apostle Peter tells us; “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”( 1 Peter 1:13-16)

     We must never forget Who enables us to stand.  “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21,22)

     We must never forget Who gives us the strength to be holy; “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12,13)

     Praise the Lord!