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Perfecting Christian Character

Created: 26 Dec 2013 / Modified: 26 Dec 2013 Many Christians today believe and teach that we are ever to remain in sin until Jesus comes again. They believe that Jesus came and died merely that we might be forgiven of our sins. They teach that it is impossible for God’s people to “be holy, as He is holy”. Let us see what the Bible teaches on this subject…

Be Ye Perfect
During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ made the following profound statements: Matthew 5:48 KJV
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

John 17:23 KJV
I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.

Luke 6:40
The disciple is not above his Master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master.

As His custom was, Jesus was simply deriving His doctrine from the scriptures. “It is written:” Deuteronomy 18:13 KJV
Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.

Deuteronomy 28:9 KJV
The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in His ways.

2 Samuel 22:31-33 KJV
As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: He is a buckler to all them that trust in Him. … (33) God is my strength and power: and He maketh my way perfect.

Many today struggle with the idea that God has called us to be perfect here and now. They look at perfection as something to be attained only after the Second Coming, but the Bible indicates that not only is perfection possible today – it is essential. Similarly, the Apostle Peter makes a statement about holiness that is an echo of what God had already said through Moses: 1 Peter 1:15-16 KJV
But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Leviticus 19:2 KJV
Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.

Why would God ask of us something that we cannot attain? Doesn’t the Bible indicate that “all have sinned,” and that “there is none righteous, no not one”?

Perfecting Christian Character – v1 – by Andrew S. Baker

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Yes, it is true that having fallen, we have no perfection in or of ourselves. This was also true of Adam and Eve prior to their fall. (Even the righteousness of the sinless angels is from God Himself.) As 2 Samuel 22:33 plainly declares, it is God who makes our way perfect.

Righteousness by Faith
The good news of the gospel is not just that Jesus Christ came, lived and died to forgive us. No, it is that Jesus came, lived and died in order to reconcile and restore us. Forgiveness is important, but the mission of Christ is more extensive than that. Through Jesus, we are restored to God, and given the power to be overcomers just as Jesus overcame. God offers us righteousness by faith – not just justification, but also sanctification and glorification.    By Grace we are saved (justified) By Grace we are saved (sanctified) By Grace we are saved (glorified)

When we accept Jesus by faith, we are counted righteous, or justified (Romans 3:24). As we abide in Jesus, He gives us the power to live like Him, and we are made righteous, or sanctified (John 17:17,19; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). And, finally, when Jesus comes again, we will be given new, immortal bodies, or glorified (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:52-52). Each step of the process is by the power of God, and not of our own power. No step in the process is done without our cooperation or against our will. Our cooperation with God is not work – at least not in the sense that we are saved by our works – but they are God working through us. It is all by Faith.

Promises of Perfection
God requires perfection from us because He has made it possible for us to be made perfect. 2 Corinthians 7:1 KJV
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

The passage quoted above begins with the phrase “Having therefore these promises…” What promises? Take a look at verses 14 through 18 of the previous chapter. The Apostle Paul sets forth some admonitions mingled with questions (v14-16), as well as the promises (v16-18) that outline the standard of holiness that God seeks to give us, if we will but cooperate with Him. In John 17, Jesus prayed for His disciples to be made perfect through obedience to the Word. This sentiment is echoed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy: 2 Timothy 3:15-17 KJV
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Perfecting Christian Character – v1 – by Andrew S. Baker

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These are not isolated scriptures. There are many other passages in the Old and New Testaments that show that the prophets and apostles believed that the character of God’s people could indeed be perfected through the power of God. Here is a sampling of those scriptures: 1 Peter 5:10 KJV
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

1 John 3:3 KJV
And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.

Hebrews 13:21
Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 4:13
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:

Colossians 1:28
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

Colossians 4:12
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

Jude 1:24-25 KJV
Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Righteousness by Faith: Knowing and Doing
The Apostle Peter outlines for us the ladder of grace, which shows us the path to fullness in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. This progression is found in 2 Peter 1:1-12, but we’ll look at verse 2-8 here:

2 Peter 1:2-8 KJV

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, (3) According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (4) Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (5) And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; (6) And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; (7) And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (8) For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we can see that what God has required from us (righteousness, perfection and holiness), He has given us the knowledge of how to obtain them, and He offers us the power that is needed to perform them. (Hebrews 13:21; Philippians 2:12-13) We can only attain them by faith, for we must believe that He has given us the path and the power to accomplish them. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, but John 8:29 and Hebrews 11:5 show us the behavior that pleases God. That behavior is only attainable by faith.

Perfecting Christian Character – v1 – by Andrew S. Baker

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For Deeper Study
Please review the passages below, as they provide even more evidence of what God requires of us, and how we will be empowered to live that out. Christ came to give us a second chance to attain godliness in the God-approved manner. He didn’t simply come to say, “I forgive you, just hang out in sin until I come to get you.” When He comes back for His bride, the church, she is to be without any “spot or wrinkle or any such thing”.                 Deuteronomy 18:13 2 Samuel 22:32-33 Matthew 5:43-48 Luke 6:31-49 John 17:1-26 Ephesians 4:1-16 Philippians 2:12-16 Colossians 1:22-29 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Hebrews 13:20-21 1 Peter 5:6-11 2 Peter 1:1-12 Jude 1:24-25 Revelation 22:10-15

I invite you to begin today to perfect Christian character in the fear of God. Jesus has made this possible for us – by faith.

Resources for Further Study
The following resources are made available to aid believers in their study of the scriptures:
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The Key Principles of Effective Bible Study Addressing Biblical Challenges Properly

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Perfecting Christian Character – v1 – by Andrew S. Baker

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