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Dangerous Doctrines: Sinless Perfectionism

In the same way the Hebrew Roots / Legalistic doctrines are dangerous, “sinless perfectionism” is equally dangerous. It wrongly interprets scripture and asserts that we will (or should) become perfect.

One of the stumbling blocks for these “perfectionists” is Ephesians 4:13. The King James translation of Ephesians 4:13 uses the word “perfect” instead of “mature”:

Ephesians 4:13 (KJV) "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 fullness of Christ

Ephesians 4:13 (ESV) "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

While we can argue the true meaning of this particular passage, we can easily prove that scripture does not suggest we can become perfect. The Bible teaches that while we are in our earthly, fleshly bodies, we will always struggle with a sin nature:

Romans 7:14-24 "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 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. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 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. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

If we convince ourselves that we are (or can be) Jesus’ equal by attaining His status of perfection, then there is no longer a need to rely on Christ, and our own pride begins to creep in and distort the desperate reality of our own sin.

James 1:14-15(KJV) "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

As a believer struggles with their own sin, having a “faith” that requires you to be sin-free is an obstacle that cannot be overcome. How can we draw near to God if we believe that He has a standard of perfection of us that we know we cannot meet? This doctrine also leads to harsh and critical judgement when the “sinless perfections” see obvious sins and character flaws in others. This leads to dangerous territory, especially the “plank / speck” syndrome:

Matthew 7:3-5 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

We need to be able to see ourselves clearly first, in our own sinful state, before we can edify, judge, or condemn others. Outside of Christ, we cannot obtain salvation. Nothing we can do apart from Christ’s finished work on the cross will benefit us. If we don’t have the true gospel – which is that Jesus’ blood alone atones for our sin – then our spirit becomes dismayed as we realize the impossibility of trying to walk in God’s shoes in our sinful flesh. That is why the people who dispel false doctrines exude a nervous spirit, because they simply can never be assured that their salvation is secure.

No one will be “perfect” (sinless) until we reach heaven. The logical conclusion of the “sinless perfection” doctrine is that we can become like Jesus, sinless and perfect. If we can be perfect in the flesh like Jesus, then why should we cling to Him any longer? It is also dangerous because we lie to ourselves if we claim to be without sin:

1 John 1:8 NIV If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.