Christian Perfection by Grace and Works
Perfection by Grace
When we follow Christ, no matter the cost, our eyes are only on Christ. When we take our eyes off Christ, and we begin to look at the waves around us, and we begin to sink.
Matthew 14:28-31 Peter answered him and said, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the waters." (29) He said, "Come!" Peter stepped down from the boat, and walked on the waters to come to Jesus. (30) But when he saw that the wind was strong, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" (31) Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
This is how we overcome sin. We keep our eyes on Jesus. We don’t worry whether or not we have as yet overcome sin. We overcome sin by faith. We have faith that the Holy Spirit in us will complete the work that he began.
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
This verse above is saying two things. First is that the Holy Spirit is doing a work in us that will be completed. Secondly, there is a deadline. The work must be completed by the time Christ returns. Paul always wrote with the assumption that Christ could return in his lifetime. As it turns out, that was not the case. If we die before Christ returns, we can have faith that the Holy Spirit will complete the work before we die. This work must be completed before Christ returns if we are to reign with Christ over the nations when he returns.
Revelation 2:25-26 Nevertheless, hold that which you have firmly until I come. (26) He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.
The work of the Holy Spirit is a process called sanctification. Protestants tend to see sanctification as something that is separate and distinct from salvation. Many Protestants see salvation as a "born again" event that starts our journey of sanctification. But literally speaking, to be "born again" is to be literally born with a new spiritual body. Thus, we are born again at the end of the journey. And salvation is that journey.
John 3:5-7 ESV Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'
Catholics view salvation as a journey. If it's a journey, one must ask, when does the journey begin? The Catholic answer is at infant baptism. They simply state, without evidence, that being born of water is baptism. But notice the parallelism between being born of flesh and being born of the Spirit. If you follow the parallelism, to be born of water is to be born of the flesh. The mother's water breaks just before the infant is born. The traditional Catholics view is that you must be baptized into the Catholic Church in order to enter the kingdom. Protestants would say that if salvation is really a journey, then it begins when we first put our faith in Jesus Christ.
If salvation is a journey, one must also ask what happens if one does not complete the journey before death. The Catholic answer to this question is that you will have to spend some time in purgatory. The New Wine System, on the other hand, is like a free-grace alternative to purgatory. It's all about interpreting the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament. It's just like the Jews believed based on Old Testament Scripture. The dead are asleep and await the resurrection of both the just and the unjust. The unjust continue their journey during the millennial reign of Christ. The wicked, on the other hand, who deliberately and knowingly reject Jesus Christ, are not resurrected.
Acts 24:15 having hope toward God, which these also themselves look for, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Protestants reject the idea of purgatory. And of course, the Protestants who believe in infant baptism do not believe sprinkling switches the infant from eternal hell to temporary purgatory. The Protestant solution is to avoid thinking of salvation as a journey. Salvation becomes a one-time decision for Christ. However, there is much more Scriptural evidence for salvation being a journey than a one-time decision for Christ.
Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (13) For it is God who works in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure.
If we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, then salvation must be a journey. But we have assurance that God will complete the work that he is doing in us (Philippians 1:6, quoted above). So we have an assurance of salvation. Yet we must do our part. We must have the desire (will) to overcome sin, and to do the works of the Father. If our faith in God moves us in that direction, God will work in us to bring about his "will and work," which is to desire and do the works of the Father. So it's a process. It's a journey. It's a journey that we must undertake for ourselves. Yet as we take that journey, God does the greater work.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-24 Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good. (22) Abstain from every form of evil. (23) May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it.
It must be understood that salvation is a journey of righteousness to entire (complete) sanctification. Peter said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In addition, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Greek word used for “way” means road. Thus, the verse can better be translated as, "I am the [road], the truth, and the life. No one [journeys] to the Father except through me." Salvation is a journey of righteousness; a path that we must take.
Most Christians believe in Jesus but they don't take the journey seriously. They don't think they can really overcome all their sinful habits. They are told, "Nobody is perfect." So they die without completing the journey. But they are still saved. They will be resurrected. They won't reign with Christ because they don't overcome sin. For those who die before they complete the journey, the journey can continue into the millennium. But until the journey is completed, there is no eternal life.
Through the Holy Spirit, we are being conformed into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5). The journey ends with the glorification of our bodies (1 Cor. 15:50). We were saved by hope in the promise (Romans 8:24). We are being saved by God's power in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:18). And we will be saved because we have been reconciled by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:10).
Romans 8:24 For we were saved in hope, but hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for that which he sees?
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Romans 5:10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.
Salvation must include reconciliation, justification, sanctification, and finally the glorification of our bodies. Reconciliation means Christ paid the price for everyone’s sins at the cross. This allows everyone to be resurrected. When we become a believer we are justified. Justification means to be declared righteous. Our sins are forgiven when we are justified. Abraham was saved by faith. God credited (NIV), reckoned (WEB), counted (ESV), or imputed (KJV) Abraham with righteousness because of his faith (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3, 4:22-23, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23). This does not mean that Abraham had already achieved righteousness. It simply means that Abraham had begun a journey that would lead to righteousness. God calls things that are not as though they are (Romans 4:17). God knows the future, and speaks of the future as if it's already past. God calls the man of faith righteous because God knows he will be righteous. This can only be understood if salvation is a journey.
Abraham was credited with righteousness when he acted on his faith. God told Abraham to leave his home and all he knew, and to go to a promised land. This journey to the Promised Land is symbolic of the journey to righteousness. It's a journey to holiness. It's a journey to Christian perfection.
When we understand that salvation is a journey to holiness, we understand that faith is not just belief that Jesus is the Messiah. It is faith, hope, and a genuine desire that God will work in us, through the Holy Spirit, to make us righteous. It's faith that God will make us "perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect." It's a faith to become like Jesus, which is to walk without sin. It's a faith that brings about Christian perfection. And it's a faith that we ourselves participate in and act upon. We sincerely and fearfully work towards Christian perfection and believe that God will do the greater work in us.
Sanctification is the journey towards that righteousness. For those who are mature in Christ, the glorification of their bodies will happen when Christ returns. Many however, have a belief in Christ but not a faith for Christian perfection. For many, the glorification of their bodies must wait until they are entirely sanctified during the millennium.
What is grace? What does it mean to be saved by grace? A well-known definition for grace is the unmerited favor of God. The Greek word for grace means favor. Grace and favor is the same Greek word. When God decides (or elects) to favor us, it's unmerited. When we read verses about grace, you can substitute "unmerited favor."
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by [unmerited favor] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, that no one would boast.
When salvation is incorrectly understood to be a decision and not a journey, unmerited favor is perceived to simply be an election for salvation. Calvinists believe that God chooses, by unmerited favor, who will be saved and who will go to hell. But when salvation is understood to be a journey, then unmerited favor means that God elects whom He will fill with the Holy Spirit to completely overcome all sinful habits in this age. God chooses who will be made perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect during this age, so that we can reign with Christ during the age to come. But it doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey.
Romans 6:21-23 What fruit then did you have at that time in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (22) But now, being made free from sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit of sanctification, and the result of eternal life. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Those whom God does not elect to become perfect in this age are simply resurrected to continue their journey when Christ returns. The elect are chosen to be firstfruits of the harvest.
1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep .
Romans 8:23 NIV Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
James 1:18 NIV He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created .
The elect are those chosen by God to reign with Christ over the nations. The elect is the Bride of Christ. Grace is unmerited favor, which is election. The elect are those who complete their journey of salvation, through unmerited favor, to become perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect, before Christ returns.
The elect are the firstfruits of the harvest. The rest of the harvest happens during Christ's millennial reign. At the resurrection of the just and the unjust, the elect are the just. The unjust still have an opportunity to continue their journey of salvation during Christ's millennial reign.
The rest of the harvest, however, will not be saved by grace and through faith. They are still justified by the blood of Christ. But their journey of salvation is not that of election. So it will not be by unmerited favor. They are not saved by faith because faith is hope in that which is not seen. Christ will have returned, so everyone will see him. Every knee will bow and worship Christ. So the journey of salvation during the millennium will not be by grace and through faith.
Instead, salvation during the millennium will be by the Law of Christ, similar to the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was a theocracy and foreshadowed the theocracy and Law of Christ. Instead of being taught by the Holy Spirit, the nations will be taught by the Bride of Christ. Those who overcome sin in this age will reign over the nations as priests and kings in the age to come (Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6). Satan will be locked up for the thousand years. And the world will not be filled with pornography, prostitution, and every other form of open sin wherever you turn. Those who do not reject Christ's reign will overcome all their sinful habits, and will also become perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.