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Fellow ship > An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection (Part V) Christ: Our Saviour from Sin


An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection

An Exposition of the Doctrine of Christian Perfection

by Tom Stewart

V. Christ: Our Saviour from Sin

  A. Who is Christ?

    1. Jesus (literally, Saviour)

"Thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Christ's name, Jesus, reminds us how great a God we have. He came to save us from our sins... from sin's penalty, from sin's consequences, and from sinning itself.

When we appropriate Christ by faith in all His offices, relations, and capacities to meet every need in our lives, then we truly are
"perfect, even as [our]Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). To appropriate Jesus, our Saviour, by faith, meets our need of salvation from sin's consequences, as well as from sinning itself. Jesus came, not simply "for the remission of sins that are past" (Romans 3:25) and to deliver us "from the wrath to come"(Luke 3:7), but that we would "be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our LORD" (Romans 6:11). Jesus gives us a present tense salvation.

Salvation from sin is not only Jesus revealing Himself as
"the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe" (1Timothy 4:10), but also as our present Saviour. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2). To not live longer in sin means to not be sinning. "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid" (Romans 6:15). In response, we shall not sin because we are "His servants... of obedience unto righteousness" (Romans 6:16).

    2. The Lamb of God

"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). What does the Lamb of God do? He takes away the sin of the world. In what sense? Only of those of the world who believe. "Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ, and thou shat be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31). Just as the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament was necessary to take away sin, so the Lamb of God's once-for-all-sacrifice takes away all sin in the New Testament.

    3. His Blessed Son Jesus

"God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities" (Acts 3:26). Why did God send and raise up His Blessed Son Jesus? To bless us. How? In turning away every one of us from our iniquities. To be without sin is a blessing. You can see that if man is not shackled with the extra baggage of original sin, a sinful nature, and constitutional sin, then a man who has turned away from his sin- courtesy of the Father's Blessed Son Jesus- is truly blessed! That man is perfect in Christ. No metaphysical or theological sleight of hand is needed to say that the Father's Blessed Son Jesus has blessed us in making us as perfect as He is perfect. Hallelujah!

    4. The Head of the Church and the Saviour of the Body

"Even as Christ is the head of the Church: and He is the Saviour of the Body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:23-27). What a mouthful! We are the Church... "which is His Body" (Ephesians 1:23). Christ is the Head of the Church... the Head of our Body. "He is the Saviour of the Body" (5:23).

An example of sanctification is the use of the headship of Christ to the Church, to demonstrate how the wife ought to be subject to the husband. In the same way,
"as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it" (5:25), husbands ought to love their wives and give themselves for them. This is practical sanctification or Christian perfection.

The object of Christ in giving Himself to the Church is
"that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word" (5:26). A pure Church. A clean Church. "A glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (5:27). Divorce the Church from the Word, and you rob the saints of their means to walk as perfect Christians. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word... Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:9,11). Cleansing from sin and preventing sin, come from the Christian's voluntary compliance and conformity to the Word of God. "Sanctify them through Thy Truth: Thy Word is Truth" (John 17:17). Christian perfection means that we are cleansed and set apart to Christ for His service by the instrumentality of the Word of God. The result is a body of Christians who are "holy and without blemish" (5:27) not merely in theological theory, but in actual practice.

Christ, the Saviour of the Body, prayed for our Christian perfection in His exemplary prayer...
"Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Inspite of all the limitations of our flesh, the Saviour of the Body prays for our present compliance "in earth, as it is in Heaven" (Matthew 6:10) that we "should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). If this does not teach you Christian perfection, what else must the Head of the Church and the Saviour of the Body do?

    5. Our Redeemer from All Our Iniquity

"Looking for that Blessed Hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:13-14). Who is the Blessed Hope? Christ is the Blessed Hope of the Christian. "Unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time" (Hebrews 9:28). Christ inspires hope in His people. Why has our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ given Himself for us? "That He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (2:140. The Word of God says it. We ought to believe it. How much iniquity? "All iniquity." If Christ is not Our Redeemer from All Our Iniquity, then how can He "purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (2:14)? When professed Christians do not walk in purity, then Christ is not their Redeemer from all their iniquity.

    6. Mercy Seat for Our Sins

"He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the world" (1John 2:2). We are the children of God because "as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name" (John 1:12). The Apostle John addressed the first epistle of John to "my little children" (1John 2:1). John told his "little children" that Jesus Christ is the "propitiation", or mercy seat, for our sins. In the Old Testament, the mercy seat was the covering of the ark where the LORD accomplished atonement for His people. When Christ is represented as the Mercy Seat for Our Sins, it is difficult for the Christian to not be overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude to Christ for cleansing all our sins and making us one with Himself.

    7. In Him Should All Fulness Dwell

"For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in Heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled. In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled,and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under Heaven" (Colossians 1:19-23). The evidence can be continually accumulated to prove that Christ was manifested to take away our sins, in the plural-- not the singular, in the present-- not simply the past, in the actual-- not simply the theoretical. Who else but Christ can be called In Him Should All Fulness Dwell? This One reconciles, or brings "at-one-ment", to His people who "were sometime alienated and enemies" of His. And what is His purpose? Again, "to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (1:22). Does this sound like a partial redemption from sin, or a future event that takes place when we finally get to Heaven? Not hardly. His salvation is complete, and His redemption is now. Notice the "if" provision attached to the end of this passage... "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (1:23). Our continuing in the faith is the basis of His presentation of us "holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (1:22). To not continue is to not be presented "holy and unblameable and unreproveable". "You... hath He reconciled... to present you holy and unblameable... if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled" (1:21-23). To not be presented is to not be reconciled. You cannot say you had what you thought you had if you do not continue. This method of evidence is acceptable to Him in Whom All Fulness Should Dwell. It makes sense to me, too.

    8. The Hope of Glory

"Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:27-28). The Hope of Glory is a worthy name for Christ. The Hope of Glory is in you, if you know Him. Think of it: We are "perfect in Christ Jesus" Who is "in you, the Hope of Glory". With all of that working for us, should not Christians be embarrassed to continually be talking about sin areas and sin problems that they are still working on? As if sin, especially their sin, was so complex a problem that it could not be immediately dealt with! What is the solution for sin? "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). Repent. That is to take sides with God against yourself, just like David (Psalm 51). How do you prevent sin from returning? "Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:11). The Word of God hidden in our hearts, ready to be claimed and obeyed-- not just memorized in our minds-- is the Hope of Glory's sin prevention program.

You've got to love the heart of the Apostle Paul, too. Preaching, warning, and teaching
"every man in all wisdom" (1:28). Cooperating with the Holy Spirit, Paul strove to secure the sanctification of his readers and listeners. He preached and taught, but he also had to warn. Recall that Paul was warning Christians. "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled" (Colossians 1:21). Christians are reconciled.

Is it proper to warn Christians? Obviously, yes! Warn them of what?

      a. Necessity of the Christian to continue

Warn them to continue.

(1) If ye continue... Then you are a true disciple.
"If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free" (John 8:31-32). Live in God's Word because it is you life. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Measure your spirituality, or lack of it, by your relationship to the Word of God. "And His name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13). Freedom is not measured by what human government allows its people, but by how much Truth has found its place in your heart... "ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

(2) If ye continue... Then you are truly reconciled.
"You... hath He reconciled... to present you holy and unblameable... If ye continue in the faith" (Colossians 1:21-23). To be reconciled to God is to be made at one with God. Christ's reconciliation is conditional. Though it is offered to whosoever will and "the world" (John 3:16), reconciliation only effects the one who puts his trust in Christ. "He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47). Reconciliation is conditioned upon faith. "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled" (Colossians 1:23).

Faith, by its very nature, requires the believer to continually exercise that faith to receive the promised blessings of that faith.
"The other disciples therefore said unto [Thomas] , We have seen the LORD. But [Thomas] said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe [present tense unbelief]. And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing [present tense faith]. And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My LORD and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed [past tense faith]: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed [potentially, future tense faith]" (John 20:25-29).

      b. Scope of what it means to continue

"Continue" is a more important word in the Christian vocabulary, than many have been taught. Notice the scope of what a Christian is enjoined to "continue in"... the love of God, the grace of God, the faith, His goodness, prayer, the doctrine, the things which you have learned, brotherly love, and that which you have heard fro the beginning.

"Continue in":

        (1) Continue in the love of God.

"As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love" (John 15:9).

        (2) Continue in the grace of God.

"Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43). Grace is given by God and is necessary for salvation... "For by grace are ye saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). Again, though grace is given by God, we must be persuaded to continue in it... "Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God" (Acts 13:43).

        (3) Continue in the faith.

Paul and Barnabas
"returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:21-22). Again, faith to be true faith must be a continuing faith. Faith does not rest simply on what it has believed or even upon what it will believe. Faith must continually work... "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).

        (4) Continue in the goodness of God.

"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou shalt be cut off" (Romans 11:22). God's goodness, like His grace, only gives us benefit "if thou continue in His goodness". God's goodness is conditional, even upon those who have already received His goodness. If you do not continue in the grace of God, then "thou shalt be cut off", just like unbelieving Israel... for "blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25).

        (5) Continue in prayer.

"Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds" (Colossians 4:2-3). "Pray without ceasing" (1Thessalonians 5:17). "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). Paul was a bold apostle, fearlessly opening his mouth where no man had gone before, but he still asked the help of fellow Christians that he would have the opportunity to utter "the mystery of Christ" (Colossians 4:3). Why is it a mystery? Because we have yet to discover all the Truth as it "is in Jesus" (Ephesian 4:21).

        (6) Continue in the doctrine.

"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1Timothy 4:16). What is the result of paying attention to yourself and the doctrine (teachings of the Word of God)? "Thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (4:16). Paul practiced what he preached. "What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:18-19). Again, salvation is past, present, and future:

(1) past:
"Thy faith hath saved thee" (Luke 7:50),
(2) present:
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), and
(3) future:
"This shall turn to my salvation" (Philippians 1:19).

        (7) Continue in brotherly love.

"Let brotherly love continue" (Hebrews 13:1). To continue in brotherly love assures our hearts that we are the children of God. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1John 3:14).

    9. The Very God of Peace

"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 5:23). Who is The Very God of Peace? The One who Paul asked to sanctify wholly the Church. Already He has pronounced about this Laodicean Church and final phase of Church history: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold or hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spur thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see" (Revelation 3:15-18). "Lukewarm" means that the pot on the stove was hot at one time (just as Christians were once hot with love to their LORD) but has now cooled off. Cold is pagan and lost. Hot is true Christianity. Because of Laodicean Christianity's lukewarmness, Christ is so sick to His stomach that He threatens to vomit these out of His mouth. Professed Christians who are backslidden from their "First Love" (Revelation 2:40, sense no need of Christ. Speak to them of The Very God of Peace, and they will wonder at you as to who, what, and why you speak thus. They will say, "Oh, I already know that. Don't speak to me about that." If you do not realize your need of Christ, you cannot be wholly sanctified. Without that sanctification you can only be described as: "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). The Very God of Peace speaks to you: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19). That is the warning and the invitation. The LORD Jesus Christ, the LORD in the midst of the seven candlesticks (Revelation 1:13), makes His personal appeal to His wayward Church to accept Him and His cleansing and His complete sanctifying: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20).

    10. Our Sanctification

"Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1Corinthians 1:30). Christ, Our Sanctification, has already given to us the commanding motivation for Christian perfection. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Certainly the LORD has commanded and we ought to obey, but why should we obey? Simply, because "God is". Because God is, we ought... God is holy (1Peter 1:16), so we ought to be holy. "The Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48), so ought we to be perfect. He who is infinite gives His all, while we who are finite give our all. This is perfection. Discover who and what God is and you will know the foundational reason why you are obliged to be like Him. "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world" (1John 4:17).

  B. Christian perfection is to appropriate Christ by faith in all of His offices, capacities, and relations to meet our every need in life.

Not only does Christ motivate us to Christian perfection, but He gives us the assistance needed to secure our sanctification. Call it entire sanctification or Christian perfection. Both describe the same thing. Listen to the yearning of Christ, Our Sanctification:
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). What better way to sound the call for Christian perfection... "Learn of Me"?

All that any Christian needs to know about Christian perfection is based upon our knowledge of Christ. For this reason
"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: 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" (2Peter 1:3-4).

Is it any wonder that the Apostle Peter enjoins us at the end of his epistle...
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Peter 3:18)? Christian perfection demands growth. True growth goes beyond the mere intellectual assent to what the Scripture states about Christ, but rests upon how we have personally appropriated Christ, by faith, to be all and do all that He says.

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