Sermon: Perfection for Saints
Scripture: Matthew 5:48
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means to be perfect as God is perfect, that it is a work of God that involves the past, the present, and the future.
Theme: Growing in Perfection
The second way in which God works to perfect the believer is to begin to perfect him more and more in this life. This too is necessary. It is true that the believer has been perfected forever by his faith in Christ in one sense, but it is equally true that he is far from perfect in another sense. Paul knew this. Thus, when he wrote to the Philippians he wrote of two distinct types of perfection. He said, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). Then, practically in the next breath, he added, “Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded” (Phil. 3:15). Clearly, although he knew that the record had already been cleared before God on the basis of his faith in Christ, he was still aware of the practical work of his being perfected that lay before him.
Each Christian should also find this to be true in his own experience. When a person first believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, he normally has a great sense of joy and gratitude to God for removing the penalty of his sin, the sin that had previously condemned him. He is thankful. He is liberated. At the same time, however, and quite apart from these things, he is still not much different in terms of his natural inclinations and conduct than he was previously. Before he believed the Gospel he was filled with many wrong ideas about who God was and what He was like. He was wrong about himself and about what God required of him. He had bad habits. Now he is saved, but many of these wrong ideas and wrong actions remain. What’s to happen? Well, he is to begin to learn that many of these things must change. He is to develop a distaste for sin and a hunger for righteousness. In other words, he is to experience the second aspect of God’s work of perfecting.
This does not mean that the man is getting better and better so that the day will come when he will be able to say that he no longer sins. Some Christians must have said this in John’s day, for he wrote to them, saying, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). It actually means that the man is becoming more and more aware of his sinfulness. As a result, he is becoming more and more ready to turn to God for daily, and sometimes hourly, forgiveness and cleansing.
It is the old principle of the seesaw in theology. It is the principle that if God is up in theology, man is down; and if man is up, God is down. Both can never be up or down at the same time. Some persons have man up and are always talking about how well man is doing, but then they have a very small God because there is not much need of Him if man can manage so well by himself. Others, the ones who know their Bibles, have man down. But then God is everything, and He becomes increasingly wonderful to them. This is what God wants. Because He knows that as we get lower He will get higher, and we will look to Him for help, strength, and the encouragement that we so desperately need.
What two types of perfection does Paul write about in Philippians 3?
Explain what it means, as well as what it does not mean, to be growing in perfection.
Application: What sins have you become more aware of than you were earlier? How are you seeking to mortify them?