||ship > An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection (Part VII) Christ: The Example of Christian Perfection
An Urgent Call to Christian Perfection
An Exposition of the Doctrine of Christian
by Tom Stewart
||Christ: The Example of Christian Perfection
Christ not only commanded Christian perfection-- "Be
ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48)-- but He, better than anyone else, exemplified
that a man in human flesh, on this earth, can walk perfectly without sin--
"but was in all points tempted like as
we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
Is it really necessary to prove that any man, living or dead, has attained Christian
perfection, when we have Christ's example?
To understand properly the humanity of Christ is to appreciate that Christ's perfect
life in the flesh was not due to His divinity, but "learned
He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became
the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8-9). Study the humanity of Christ, and you must see
how appropriate Christ is as the example of Christian perfection! "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also
suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did
no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth"
||That God became man is astounding!
controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified
in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world,
received up into glory" (1Timothy 3:16).
The plot is so astounding that you can picture the angels in Heaven sitting at the
edge of their seats, craning their necks to see what the Son of Man would do next...
"which things the angels desire to look
into" (1Peter 1:12).
The LORD pronounced the prophecy of a coming Messiah by the prophet Isaiah. "Therefore the LORD Himself shall give you a sign:
behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel [literally, God with us]" (Isaiah 7:14). The LORD planned to send His Son, Who when
He is come, is "God with us". "For unto us
a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder:
and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting
Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
This Child is "The Mighty God"!
"In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with God, and the Word was God... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt
among us" (John 1:1,14). No longer does
Scripture prophesy that God becomes flesh. He has already come. Christ has come with
His name, "The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13), and still those who profess Christ
in this late stage of Church history complain, "I just can't understand the
Bible"! If Christ is the Word of God and you do not know the Word of God,
then you do not know Christ!
||In the likeness of sinful flesh
"God sending His own Son in the likeness
of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3). God forbid
that anyone should ever accuse Christ of sin, but how did Christ take on human flesh
without sinning? This is a difficulty for the doctrine of sin nature. Some who hold
this faulty doctrine claim that Christ extinguished the sin in His flesh the moment
He came into it. If this were true, Christ's perfect life, while on this planet,
could not be credited to grace or faith. If this faulty doctrine were true, why should
anyone be impressed that He did not commit sin? Perhaps... Christ came into the world
"in the likeness of sinful flesh" to demonstrate the power and victory that the weakest saint
could enjoy through appropriating Christ by faith. "This
is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1John 5:4). But, what about this phrase, "sinful flesh"? If
sin is an act of the will, a transgressing of the law (1John 3:4), then something
is only holy or sinful in relation to how one chooses. For one's flesh to be sinful,
one's choice must first have been sinful. "Sinful" is appropriate to describe man's flesh... "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of
God" (Romans 3:23). If this is not correct,
then how could Brother Paul beseech us to "present [our] bodies a living
sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is
[our] reasonable service" (Romans 12:1)? No longer "sinful
flesh", but now holy flesh!
"But when the fulness of time was come,
God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Galatians 4:4). God's time is always appropriate. Should any heresy
arise to claim that Jesus Christ did not come in human flesh and that He was not
as truly man as you or I, this phrase should stop that lie-- "made of a woman".
But, if we "are not under the law, but
under grace" (Romans 6:14), what does
this mean, "made under the law"? A few points should be made about the law of God.
"The law is holy, and the commandment
holy, and just, and good" (Romans 7:12).
"The law is good, if a man use it lawfully" (1Timothy 1:8).
||Justification is by faith.
"No man is justified by the law in the
sight of God" (Galatians 3:11). No saint
has ever been justified by the law. The just have always- and- only been justified
by faith. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17. Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38 are all
the same quotation of Habakkuk 2:4).
||The law is still necessary.
The law is just as important now as it has ever been. "Do
we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31). Christ presently promotes the law. "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the
prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil"
||The law is not ceremonial, but moral.
What is the law of which we speak? The law is not the ceremonial law of the
old covenant. "For the [ceremonial] law having a
shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with
those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto
perfect... For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take
away sins... For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:1,4,14). Christ is the once for all sacrifice
for those who walk sanctified.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love
the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the
prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). God's moral
law is unchanging. The Decalogue (the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20), as well as
"all the law and the prophets", have been boiled down to one simple requirement... PERFECT
LOVE. This is moral law, necessitating moral choice. This is not simply advice.
This is law. Refuse obedience and... "The
soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel
18:20). "for the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). "And
death and hell [will be] cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" (Revelation 20:14).
James describes the law as the royal law ["If
ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour
as thyself, ye do well" (James 2:8)] and
as the law of liberty ["So speak ye, and
so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty" (James 2:12)]. Brother John would probably call the law the law
of love because he wrote: "For this
is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous" (1John 5:3).
||The purpose of the law is to define sin.
What is the purpose of the law? The law was given to define what is a transgression
of the law. It tells us what is sin. How else can we know how to avoid sin unless
the law shows us intelligently what we are avoiding? Remember, "sin is the transgression of the law" (1John 3:4). The law "was
added because of transgression" (Galatians
3:19) for "where no law is, there is no
transgression" (Romans 4:15). Without
law, there can be no sin, "For by the
law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).
Some may say that the best way to eliminate sin is to eliminate the law. God forbid!
But, isn't that what we promote when we insist that those who require obedience to
God's law are legalists ? "What
shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the
law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet"
Because the purpose of the law is not to justify anyone-- never has and never will--
for "no man is justified by the law in
the sight of God" (Galatians 3:11)-- it
must merely state that the one who practices the law must live by the law. "And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth
them shall live in them" (Galatians 3:12).
In this regard, the law is very cause- and- effect, matter- of- fact mechanical.
How like the preaching of dead churches! Enough knowledge to condemn the hearers,
but not enough to secure their loving obedience in an entirely sanctified walk!
For the law to be law, it must be more than advice. The law must have a penalty to
be law. "For the wages of sin is death"
(Romans 6:23) tells us that those who sin have
earned, and do deserve, the payment of death. Sin's penalty is death. Knowing that
a righteous man is "justified by faith" (Romans 5:1), we understand "that
the law is not made for a righteous man [to
reward or justify him], but for the lawless
and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane [to penalize or punish them]..." (1Timothy 1:9, as well as v.10).
||Christ upholds the law perfectly.
What is the relation of Christ to the law? Because of Christ's unity with the Father--
"Believe Me that I am in the Father, and
the Father in Me" (John 14:11)-- it is
plain to see that Christ gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Christ supports the
law. Again: "Think not that I am come
to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For
verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no
wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one
of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least
in the kingdom of Heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be
called great in the kingdom of Heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness
shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case
enter into the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew
5:17-20). Christ advocates the law. "The
law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart" (Psalm 19:7-8).
The LORD Jesus Christ said, "Lo, I come:
in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God:
yea, Thy law is within My heart" (Psalm
40:7-8). He delighted in obeying the law! Christ testified on His own behalf: "I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in
His love" (John 15:10). Christ obeyed
the law perfectly. "And being found in
fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death
of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). Obedience
to God's law was so important to Christ, He willingly laid down His life on the cross!
||The law completely points to Christ.
What is the relation of the law to Christ? God is clear about the condition of all
unregenerate man... "the Scripture [i.e., the Law] hath
concluded all under sin" (Galatians 3:22)
because "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Because all have sinned, all are under
sin. Remember, sin, which "is the transgression
of the law" (1John 3:4), is a voluntary
act of the human will entrenching itself against God. Unrighteous actions beget a
pathetic condition... "all under sin" (Galatians 3:22). What is the effect of the law that concludes
"all under sin" (3:22)? The result is "that
the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before
faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards
be revealed" (3:22-23). Because all men
are under sin, all men need to put their faith in Christ. Man under sin has been
graciously offered a wonderful alternative to his certain judgment of death. What
is that alternative? Life! "That the promise
by faith of [in] Jesus
Christ might be given to them that believe"
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster
to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (3:24). The law points us to Christ, and why shouldn't it? After
all, Christ did give the law to Moses! "Christ
is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Romans 10:4). The end result of the law for the unrighteous
(Romans 6:23), while "Christ is the end [result] of the law
for righteousness to every one that believeth"
(10:4). It makes sense, now that we read Christ's statement: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy but to fulfil"
(Matthew 5:17). Christ is the fulfillment of the law. He has providentially place
Himself where all men can trust Him, where all men can see that their only alternative
to death by the law, is faith in Christ.
||Christ expects perfect obedience to His law.
Are we really expected to obey God's law? Can you honestly ask that question when
you think about it? Obviously, Christ expects obedience, or else His commands become
merely the advice of a meddlesome parent to a wayward child. "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor
as thyself" (Luke 10:27). This is more
than advice. This is God's moral law. This is the law of love. Our beloved brother,
Paul, agrees with the LORD Jesus: "Love
is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans
13:10). This is what Paul further described as "faith
which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6).
Love, for the Christian, is more than emotion or physical arousal. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments:
and His commandments are not grievous"
(1John 5:3). Love is obeying God. "If
ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John
14:15). "He that hath My commandments,
and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of
My Father, and I will love Him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21).
On the other hand, disobedience is classed with a lying profession of Christ, that
has no other hope than the lake of fire. "He
that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the Truth
is not in him" (1John 2:4). "And all liars, shall have their part in the
lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8)... "Except
ye repent" (Luke 13:3).
Law is the concept of oughtness. Why ought men to do what they know they should
do? Certainly because God has commanded them to obey. But why ought men to
do what they know they should do? "Be
ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). Because God is perfect, we should be perfect.
"Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1Peter 1:16). Because God is holy, we should be holy.
Why, then, should we be what we ought to be? Because God is. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him:
for He that cometh to God must believe that He is"
(Hebrews 11:6). "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).
Find out Who and what Christ is in all of His offices, relations, and capacities;
then appropriate them by faith... This sounds familiar!
Now, let us conclude a prior question... what does this mean, "made under the law"
(Galatians 4:4)? How can it be said that Christ was "made
under the law" (4:4)? Because Christ actually
became a man. He can completely sympathize with man and understand what it is like
to be required to obey the law of God. "Though
He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered: and being
made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).
||That Christ became our servant is humbling!
et this mind
be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought
it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took
upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found
in fashion [literally, habit] as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even
the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:5-8).
We are enjoined to have the mind of Christ. If Christ thought it not robbery to be
equal with God, it was only because He is God. If you have created the universe and
you do providentially superintend it, you must have a large reputation! What happened
to Christ-- He did to Himself. He "made
Himself of no reputation". He went from
somebody, to nobody. He "took upon Him
the form of a servant". God's choice is
wisdom. He will pick a servant's form, if it will best accomplish His purpose. He
humbled Himself as only a man needs to humble himself. He became obedient in the
same way we must obey to please those who rule over us. He actually died a physical
death. He was just like one of us!
"The servant is not greater than his lord;
neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him" (John 13:16). This was true with the Father and the Son, and it
is also true of ourselves and Christ. "For
even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give
His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
Why would Christ do this? Because He was the most preeminent man. He was the most
humble servant. "And whosoever of you
will be the chiefest, shall be the servant of all"
(Mark 10:44). Christ sets the pattern for the rest of us.
||That Christ suffered for us is sanctifying!
f Christ was not truly man, of what value are His
sufferings? If His flesh was not our flesh, then His pain was not our pain. If His
suffering was not our suffering, then how could we read Isaiah 53, about Our Suffering
Saviour and feel pity, grief, admiration, and love for Christ? But, Our Suffering
Saviour was truly man! "Who hath believed
our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For He [Christ] shall grow up before
Him [the Father] as
a tender plant [Christ's human growth], and as a root out of a dry ground [unregenerate, sinful humanity]:
He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that
we should desire Him [might miss Him easily
on a crowded street]. He is despised and rejected
of men [unpopular];
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief [grieving
about rebellious man}: and we hid as it were
our faces from Him [humanly speaking, not the
face sought after]; He was despised, and we
esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows [Christ "healed
all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias (Isaiah) the prophet,
saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses" (Matthew 8:17). This is a promise of physical healing, if we can
receive it.]: yet we did esteem Him stricken,
smitten of God [Christ's humanity allowed His
own hand to be turned on Himself!], and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the
chastisement of our peace was upon Him [Christ
offers atonement for sins to whosoever will.]:
and with His stripes we are healed [literally,
made whole-- because our sinning has damaged us in every which way, except in our
ability to repent.]. All we like sheep have
gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way
[Yes, pathetic like a sheep, but selfish, stupid, and wicked as a brute beast!]; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:1-6).
"But we see Jesus, Who was made a little
lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour;
that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him,
for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory,
to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both
He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of One: for which cause He
is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren,
in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto Thee. And again, I will put My
trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given Me. Forasmuch
then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took
part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death,
that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime
subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took
on Him the seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:9-16).
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