I was recently asked if I thought sinless perfection were possible for a believer. Here is my answer.
The old man IS crucified with its affections and lusts.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds
You have been crucified with Christ, it’s no longer you who lives but Christ
All of that is past tense. What Christ has gotten rid of and has now created is done. At the same time, sin is a battle, which is why, even in the contexts of those done-deal verses, he commands us not to do evil stuff and to do good stuff. The flesh lusts against the spirit.
I think the idea is that the old man is done, Christ finished him off, but his habits live on in us. Our job is to get rid of the habits of the flesh—mortify the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit—and this will be a battle.
However, there can be victory over these habits and every believer will show growth over time. Our failure to defeat sin is not Christ’s fault, He did everything possible to provide all we need for life and godliness. The rest is up to us and our desire to present our bodies living sacrifices to do and show his perfect and acceptable will.
The problem in giving up sin is not our inability, it’s our lack of desire to actually stop the sin. Sin is fun.
Is perfection possible? I guess I have to go with “yes,” because God doesn’t command people to do impossible things.
But I would also throw in that most holiness movement teaching seems to miss the point. They concentrate so much on their personal holiness that they miss the point of looking to Christ. Morality seems to be their end, not love, which is the true fulfilling of the law.
I have also seen in my dealings with people who think they have attained perfection, that they are quite clueless as to their own sin. Their opinion of their holiness seems quite generous, while their opinion of other people’s holiness never grants a benefit of the doubt.
So, I put it like this: Yes, I think perfection is possible, and if you attained it, you’d be the last person to know (Matthew 25:34-46).
To say it’s not possible is to say God commands the impossible and also eliminates the standard, which often leads to “Oh well, can’t do it anyway, why bother?” The goal is not to try to be a good little boy or girl, the goal is to look to Christ and grow in Him. Perfection Doctrines often miss that point.
Ultimately, your perfection is not the issue. Christ is the issue. Believers will be made like Him when we see Him as He is in eternity. Until then, our looking to Him transforms us into Him. Perfection is right around the corner. How much of that corner you turn here is up to you. We should all desire to turn it soon!