Arthur W. Pink (1886–1952)
Editor: I have added footnotes remarking on statements made by Pink in this article. The intent is for clarity or to offer a provocative counter-argument. None of these comments are to be considered an attack on the character or Christianity of Pink or people who share his points of view. It is freely admitted that most of his criticism of the Wesleyan concept of holiness is implied rather than directly stated.
suppose that every Christian has been exercised at some time or other by verses
in Scripture containing the word “perfect” or “perfection.” While
convinced that those who lay claim to sinless perfection
err, yet probably you have not been fully satisfied by any explanation which you
have seen of those verses. For example, take such passages as the following:
“We speak wisdom among those who are perfect” (1 Corinthians 2:6): the Holy
Spirit speaking through Paul acknowledges some are “perfect,” and He was
referring to those still on earth. “This also we wish, even your perfection”
(2 Corinthians 13:9): that was the desire and longing of the Apostle for those
saints; did he wish for something unattainable, impossible? “All scripture is
given by inspiration of God, and is profitable . . . that the man of God may be
perfect”: such a verse ought to exercise us. “But the God of all grace . . .
make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Peter 5:10): this too
is while we are on earth. “I have not found your works perfect before God”
(Revelation 3:2), which clearly intimates they ought to have been: the Ephesians
were being rebuked because their works were imperfect.
verses as the above have puzzled and troubled many. Honest hearts have been
exercised as to the exact meaning of the term “perfect” or “perfection.”
I want then, to try and give you an outline of the teaching of God’s Word on
this important subject. Let us turn next to Job 1:1, “There was a man in the
land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect.” Yet in 9:20 Job
says, “If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me; if I say, I am
perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” There seems to be a flat
contradiction between those two verses. The explanation is simple: the word
“perfect” is used in different senses in those two passages. Job 9:20
signifies, If I were to say I am sinless, faultless, absolutely perfect, I would
what is meant in Job 1:1 where God Himself says that he was “a perfect man”?
The term there, and in many other passages of the Old Testament means
“sincere, honest”; such verses speak of a perfection of sincerity as
opposed to hypocrisy; compare Ephesians 6:24. But there are other verses,
especially in the New Testament, where that definition does not fit, where the
word “perfect” signifies much more than “honest” or “upright,” and
which are by no means easy to interpret. I refer to such verses as we looked at
at the beginning. Those verses trouble sincere souls, for such feel that they
are very imperfect. While it is true that the Christian may be able to rejoice
over what he reads in Hebrews 10:14— “by one offering He has perfected
forever those who are sanctified”—yet he mourns and grieves over many
more closely to our subject, I want to carefully consider what kind of
“perfection” is attainable in this life by the saint. In Philippians 3:15
Paul says, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect,” and yet in the 12th
verse of the same chapter the Apostle affirmed of himself, “Not as though I
had already attained, either were already perfect.” Now Scripture does not
contradict itself, yet we need to make distinctions, discriminating between
things that differ.
We must discriminate between legal and evangelical perfection.
Legal perfection is that complete and constant conformity in desire,
thought, word and deed which God requires from us unto His holy and righteous
law. This is the perfection which God demands from every creature—a full and
flawless obedience, both internal and external, loving Him with all our hearts
and our neighbors as ourselves; and this, not occasionally, but perpetually.
This has been God’s demand in every age, and it cannot be lowered. “Cursed
is everyone who continues not in all things which are written in the book of the
law to do them” (Galatians 3:10), is the Divine sentence resting upon every
transgressor. There must be a steady perseverance in doing those things which
God has commanded, and in abstaining from all those things which He has
prohibited. But no fallen human being can possibly meet that demand. As Romans
8:3 declares, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the
flesh”: an imperfect man cannot live perfectly; a sinful creature cannot yield
it is at this point the marvelous grace of God towards His people appears. As
Romans 8:3-4 tells us, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was
weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of
sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order
that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us.” God sent
His Son here as the surety of His elect to meet the demands of the law by
perfectly obeying it in their stead. But does this mean that Christ fulfilled
the law for us so that our responsibility to the law has been removed? Does it
mean that Christ has kept the law so that there is no longer need for us to keep
it? No, that could not be. God cannot forego His claims, and Christ would be the
minister of sin if He had introduced a system of lawlessness. What then?
has procured for His people the gift of the Holy Spirit, and in regeneration the
Spirit begets in our hearts a love for the law, a desire after that which is
holy and righteous before God, and the real Christian longs to meet God’s
claims, walk obediently, and endeavors to do so. Through Christ God accepts this
real desire and genuine effort to obey Him. Here then is where we must draw the
first distinction on “perfection”: we must discriminate between legal and
evangelical perfection, for sinless obedience was found only in Christ. Evangelical
perfection or sincere obedience is found in every Christian.
“sincere obedience” is meant an honest desire and a real effort to keep the
law, please God in all things, not allowing any known sin. Evangelical
perfection is primarily a thing of the heart, at which God ever mainly looks.
The Christian seeks to please and honor God in all things: I speak of what is
characteristic or general of him, that which marks the main tenor of his heart
and life. Let me illustrate this point to you. The needle of a ship’s compass
which is in working order, always points to the north. You may take that compass
and jar it, and the needle will swing in another direction; but when that
compass regains its level, or the interfering finger is removed, the needle
resumes its normal and correct relation. Now the normal condition of the heart
of a regenerated person points toward God, seeks God, desires God, aims to
please Him. There are times—in the storms of life, in the disturbances of
temptation, in the assaults of Satan—when the heart is deflected and turned
away from God; and this happens frequently in the experience and life of every
Christian for “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). Nevertheless, just
as surely as the needle of the compass when released from an interfering power
turns again to the north, so the heart of a regenerated person comes to itself,
recovers its poise, and instinctively turns back to God.
this evangelical perfection has marked God’s children in every dispensation.
Unto Abraham—the father of all those who believe—the Lord said, “I am the
Almighty God; walk before Me, and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1). That was God’s
standard then: a heart completely surrendered to His claims, a sincere desire
and determination to please Him in all things.
“I beseech you, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before You in truth and
with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Your sight”
(2 Kings 20:3). This is a verse which has puzzled many, particularly the words
we have placed in italics. Was Hezekiah lying? Can you conceive of a man who was
dying turning to the Lord and uttering a deliberate falsehood? Was he mistaken?
No. The mistake is ours, if we fail to interpret this in the light of other
Scriptures. Hezekiah did not mean that his was a sinless heart, nor one that had
never deviated from God: but instead, a heart that, in its deepest depths, in
its genuine nature, in its real tenor, desired to please God, and which despite
many failures, had sought to do so. And this is something which everyone that
will enter Heaven must have.
you, Solomon, my son, know you the God of your father, and serve Him with a
perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searches all hearts” (1
Chronicles 28:9). Here is another scriptural declaration which helps us to
understand the nature of evangelical perfection: the obedience which God
requires must be performed
readily and not by constraint, with a willing mind. It must be spontaneous, and
It must proceed from love, and not from terror. That obedience which is
acceptable to God, issues from the gratitude of a renewed heart, and is rendered
freely, and not from external constraint. So that to serve Him with “a perfect
heart and a willing mind” signifies to obey Him, readily and gladly, freely
and out of love.
a contrast from 1 Chronicles 28:9 take 2 Chronicles 25:2, “And he did that
which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.”
Amaziah had received a godly training and had acquired certain godly habits: his
external conduct was according to God’s law; but He who looks within, declared
that his heart was not perfect—which refers not to a state of sinlessness, but
signifies that his heart was not even honest, it did not ring true. There was
not a real desire to please God and an ardent effort to carry out that desire.
That is very solemn. It makes one think of James 1:8, “A double minded man is
unstable in all his ways,” and O how many such there are in Christendom today!
some amplification of what has just been before us may prove helpful. How often
we meet with people who are scarcely the same twice together: they are as
variable as the weather. On some occasions they appear to be really spiritual,
ready to talk about Divine things, anxious to know the way of the Lord more
perfectly, desirous of pleasing Him. But, perhaps only a few days later, you
find them thoroughly wrapped up in the things of the world, with no appetite at
all for spiritual converse. The hearts of such people are like the pendulum of a
clock in action: never stationary, ever swinging to and fro. It is as the Lord
said of Israel of old, “Their heart is divided” (Hosea 10:2)—vacillating
between love of self and love of God, fluctuating between occupation with
Christ, and occupation with the world. O my friends, this is solemn and
searching: God will not tolerate a rival. Do not mock Him by seeking to give Him
half your heart; do not insult Him by imagining that you can love Him and the
world too. Be either one thing or the other: 1 Kings 18:21, Revelation 3:15.
to sum up this first point of distinction. Legal perfection is that
sinless perfection which the Law demands from man: that absolute, undivided,
continuous obedience, both inward and outward, to all its precepts. This strict
and faultless obedience Christ rendered unto the Law in the stead of and on
behalf of His people. Evangelical perfection is that sincere desire of a
renewed heart to please God in all things, a desire which is inseparably linked
to an honest determination and effort to do so. True, that desire is never fully
realized by any of us in this life; yet He who looks at and knows the heart,
perceives its true and deep longings after Himself, and so, for Christ’s sake,
accepts the will for the deed.
We must distinguish between absolute and relative perfection.
And here too the former was found only in Christ, for He along
received the Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). He is the only one that
could truthfully say, “I always do those things which please Him” (John
8:29). How blessed and refreshing it is for our hearts to turn away from the
world, from considering our own failures, and contemplate that blessed One who
lived here for thirty-three years, the eye of the Father ever upon Him and
always seeing that which delighted Him, ever able to say, “This is My beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Christ is the standard which God sets before us. “Let this mind be in you,
which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5); “Christ also suffered for
us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21);
“he who says he abides in Him ought Himself also so to walk, even as He
walked” (1 John 2:6). God has set before us a perfect standard, but it is
never fully reached by any Christian,
for the flesh is still left within us, and “the flesh lusts against the
Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the
other: so that you cannot do the things that you would”
(Galatians 5:17). Now that very opposition between the flesh and the Spirit in
the Christian, issuing in so many failures and sins, causes him to hang his head
in shame, groan and cry “O wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24).
That was true of Paul himself: this was his experience. It was the beloved
Apostle who said, “O wretched man that I am,” and he said it not before
conversion, nor during the early years of his Christian life, but much later on.
So with us there is a daily failing, and need for a daily forgiveness.
while sinless perfection is unattainable by us now, there is a relative
which should be reached by the Christian, and which may be attained in this
life. Let me seek to define the nature of this. It is really twofold.
as Christians are compared with
non-Christians. In contrast from the unconverted, the saints are
subject to Christ: they have surrendered to His Lordship, accepted His yoke, and
so are “perfect” in contrast from those who yield not themselves to Him.
“Jesus said unto him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and
give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven: and come and follow
Me” (Matthew 19:21). The obvious meaning of that word was, “If you will be a
Christian, if you are anxious to be saved, here is what you must do—go and
sell what you have, give to the poor, come and follow Me.” In other words, if
you wish to enjoy the privileges of the Gospel you must submit to the rules of
the Gospel. Thus, the word “perfect” is used here in a relative way, to
describe the Christian in contrast from the non-Christian.
When one becomes a Christian he has reached relative “perfection,” in
contrast from those who are not Christians.
passing on, we had better anticipate a question, suggested by “If you will be
perfect, go sell that you have,”
which should be linked up with Luke 14:33. The question is this, Does God
require me to part with all that I have? The answer is Yes, and No. Yes, in the
sense that God requires me to hold everything that I have at His disposal; and
it may be that before many months have passed He will put some of us to the
test. God requires me to hold every object I have in this world at His disposal,
so that if He makes it clear I am to relieve His poor suffering people to the
extent that I should give away every cent, I am to do so. Nothing that I have is
mine absolutely: this must be recognized and owned. What I have is only loaned
me by God. Then does this mean that it is wrong for me to have any money in the
bank at the present time? No; it means I am to say, “Lord, You have been
pleased to prosper me, I have so much on hand, but it is for You to say how it
shall be used: if it is Your will for me to keep it, Your will be done; if it is
Your wish for it to be used in relieving the distress of others, I am ready to
do so.” The man who does this has a “perfect” heart: there is no reserve
in it, it is fully yielded to God. The man who has not done this is no
Christian: he is not regenerated, for his heart treasures gold more than God; if
he will not place his gold at God’s disposal, that money is his god—which
proves that he is unsaved.
God saves a man He works in him a miracle of grace: He changes the natural
character or bent of the heart. It is the natural bent of the heart to hold on
to that which we have worked hard to obtain; but the supernatural grace of God
makes us willing to lay all at the Lord’s feet. This is true not only of gold,
but of our children also. A regenerated person will place each child at the
absolute disposal of God, saying, “It is not mine, it is Yours to do with, as
You please; to enlighten or to leave in darkness, to save and send forth as a
missionary to the heathen, or to remain here; it is Your creature, and my heart
relinquishes all absolute claims upon it.” Everything we have and are must be
laid before God, and by the heart truly held at His sovereign disposal. This is
the nature of relative Christian “perfection”: it is the difference between
the heart of a converted and an unconverted person.
there is a relative perfection as one
Christian may be compared with other Christians. Even saints
differ much among themselves. Though none attain unto absolute and sinless
yet there are several degrees of grace and diversity of growth among Christians.
There are babes, young men, fathers: (1 John 2;13): the strong and mature
Christian is relatively “perfect” in contrast from the weak and immature,
who has less wisdom to detect error and less strength with which to resist sin
and Satan. I want us to look at Scripture in connection with this point. “That
we be no more children, tossed to and fro” (Ephesians 4:14); God is not
honored by our remaining spiritual dwarfs; He is not glorified by a Christian
continuing a spiritual infant all his days. We should outgrow our spiritual
speak wisdom among them that are perfect” (1 Corinthians 2:6): “perfect”
here means matured, fully grown, in contrast from spiritual babes.
The Corinthians were squabbling, one saying “I am of Paul,” and another “I
am of Apollos”: they were so carnal as to be fighting among themselves;
consequently the Apostle said, “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual,
but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ” (3:1).
you see there are differences among God’s people. “For everyone that uses
milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong
meat belongs to those who are of full age” (Hebrews 5:13, 14). “Brethren, be
not children in understanding: . . . be men” (1 Corinthians 14:29)—act like
such. “Stand fast in the faith, be men of courage; be strong” (1 Corinthians
16:13). Those who are well instructed by the Spirit in the mysteries of the
faith, who have made real progress in practical godliness, who are firm and
established in their love for God, are, comparatively “perfect” in contrast
from the “babes” in Christ.
There is also a “perfection” of parts. Let me illustrate from the
physical. A child born minus a limb, lacks a complete or perfect body; so one
born with two arms and loses one, no longer has a complete or perfect body. Thus
it is if a Christian lacks the development of any of the really vital graces: he
may have faith, zeal, perseverance, but if he lacks compassion, he is
deficient—his spiritual character is maimed. If a Christian has tenderness,
patience, great consideration for others, but lacks courage, faithfulness,
unflinching righteousness, he is lacking in parts. 2 Peter 1:5–7 is for the
correcting of this, inculcating the fully developed Christian character, bidding
us cultivate all the graces of the Spirit, and thus be a “perfect”
Christian, that is, complete in all his parts. “May grow up into Him in all
things, who is the Head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15)—not only in faith,
courage, patience, but in everything.
There is also a “perfection” of degrees or growth in grace, an advancing
from spiritual babyhood to spiritual maturity. “When I was a child I
spoke as a child . . . but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1
Corinthians 13:11). See the little one surrounded by its toys in the nursery:
behold the same child fifteen years later—it has no use for those toys, it has
outgrown them. So it should be with us spiritually. Look again at an infant: it
is easily peeved, it cries at almost anything: that is the characteristic of a
“child”; and it is largely the same with a “babe” in Christ—worrying
and fretting over trifles. “When I became a man, I put away childish
things”: God help us all to do so.
me restate the four principal points which occupied us earlier.
there is an evangelical perfection in contrast from that absolute
perfection which the law demands, God in His grace accepting from His people
(through Christ) sincere obedience of the heart: that genuine desire and sincere
effort to please Him in all things.
relative perfection in contrast from absolute: this is what distinguishes
the Christian from the non-Christian.
perfection of parts, that is, the adding of one grace to another, so that
a well-rounded Christian character and conduct is developed.
perfection of degrees, that is, growth from spiritual babyhood to youth,
and from youth to full maturity. It is after the third and fourth we should
daily and prayerfully strive.
way of application, let me point out, first, that the Christian ministry has
been appointed by God for “the perfecting” of His saints: see Ephesians
4:11, 12. God sends His servants that you may be instructed, nourished,
sanctified. “Night and day” Paul “prayed exceedingly” that he should
come unto the Thessalonian Christians, and this that he “might perfect that
which is lacking in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10): this is the yearning
of every true servant of Christ’s.
our improvement of this means, the response which God requires His people to
make unto the ministry of His servants: “As you have received of us how you
ought to walk and to please God, so you would abound more and more” (1
Thessalonians 4:1): may this be true of you.
nothing short of this should be our aim and diligent endeavor, that you may
“stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).
Reasons why we must be perfect.
is, not only sincere, with a heart desiring to and seeking after the glory of
God, not only having all the spiritual parts of a Christian, and striving after
the highest possible growth, but that we may actually attain unto all that is
possible for us in Christ, in this life.
we have to do with a perfect God, and therefore we should seek perfection of
character and conduct: “Be therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in
Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The main reason why God has been pleased to
make known His attributes, to reveal unto us His perfections, is that we should
take them for our copy.
a perfect standard is set before us, and God will not lower it. To Abraham He
said, “Walk before Me, and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1). Abraham is the father
of us all (Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7), therefore what God says to him, He also
says to us.
we have a perfect rule to regulate us: see 2 Timothy 3:16, 17. Those verses show
that the strictness of the law is embodied in the Gospel. The high standard
which God has set up under the old covenant, has not been lowered under the new
covenant. The exhortations of the New Testament are but so many explanations and
applications of the Ten Commandments.
we have a perfect and all-sufficient Redeemer to rely upon: Colossians 2:9.
There is everything in Christ which is needed by us, and all that is in Him we
may appropriate. God has not only given Christ for us, but He has given Him to
us. Christ Himself is ours! O that the Holy Spirit may teach us how to draw from
His infinite fullness.
Motives to Stimulate.
all that we lost in Adam should be found again in Christ, or we do not honor
Him. The last Adam is far more able to save than the first Adam was to destroy:
Romans 5:17—yet that “abundance of grace” has to be diligently sought; it
is not given to the lazy and halfhearted. O that the Spirit may deeply impress
each of our hearts with the fact that the more we “grow up in Him in all
things,” the more Christ is glorified through us.
we pray for perfection (at least, I hope we do) and therefore, should strive
after it with all our might, otherwise our prayers are but a pretense. True
prayer is a solemn binding of ourselves to use the means that we may obtain the
blessings which we ask: if this be not the intention of our hearts, then our
prayer is merely empty words. When we truly ask God to make us more holy, we
pledge ourselves to use every means which makes for holiness, and strive our
utmost to be holy. Prayer was never designed to be a substitute for diligent
effort. Therefore if we are praying for the highest perfection attainable in
this life we must strive after it.
we should remind ourselves more frequently of what we lose when we slacken in
our efforts after spiritual growth.
All around us we behold illustrations of the fact that God has closely linked together sin and misery; so also has He inseparably
connected holiness and true happiness. Therefore we should
consider how much we miss when we slacken in our efforts after Christian
perfection. It is those who take Christ’s yoke upon them, who find rest unto
their souls; it is those who walk closest with Him that enter most into His joy.
Not only so, but they who live a holy and happy life have a triumphant exit from
this world: Psalm 37:37. Balaam said he wished that he might die the
death of the righteous, but he was unwilling to live the life of the
righteous. If our daily lives be right with God He will look after us in death:
this thought is also brought out in 2 Peter 1:11, which supplies the climax to
the whole of that passage.
Means to Help.
make sure that a Divine work of grace has begun in you; and, my friends, we
cannot be too sure, nor be too diligent in the duty of self-examination. But
there must be life before there can be growth: it is no use trying to grow if
you do not have spiritual life. If you are in doubt, get alone with God and
earnestly beseech Him to begin a good work in you. We must definitely choose God
for our portion before we can cleave to and serve Him. Just as a young man
selects his vocation or calling, and later chooses the woman to be his wife, so
the Christian must definitely choose God. The enjoyment of God, the service of
God, the pleasing of God, must become the soul’s portion for time and
eternity; but we cannot cleave unto God, walk with Him, or go on with Him, until
we first take Him for our portion. David said, “The Lord is my portion.”
give special attention to the radical graces. Just as in our physical bodies
there are some organs and members more vital than others, playing a larger part
in determining whether we are well or sick, weak or strong—so there are
certain graces in the Christian character which are more vital and radical than
others. What these are is intimated in 1 Corinthians 13:13: faith, hope, and
love. Let us be especially concerned to have a strong faith, a lively hope, and
a fervent love.
that word of the Lord to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23: they were very careful
about minor things, most punctilious about washing their hands, so particular
they would not eat if the shadow of a Gentile even crossed their path. But God
is not found in such things, neither is the spiritual life promoted by them.
Give your attention to that which is vital and fundamental.
seek grace to appropriate Philippians 4:13, and turn it into earnest prayer:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Unbelief says, I
cannot; previous failures say, I cannot; past experience says, I cannot; the
example of fellow-Christians says, I cannot; Satan tells me, I cannot. But faith
says, I “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”: turn that
statement into believing, fervent, persistent prayer. Count upon God making it
remind yourself frequently that failure to strive hard and constantly after
perfection dishonors Christ. O that the love of Christ may constrain us, that
gratitude to Him will compel us to seek a closer conformity unto Him. The more I
am like Him, the more I honor Him; the less I am like Him, the more I dishonor
Him. We must realize this if our hearts are to be stirred up unto renewed
efforts after perfection.
there are two extremes to guard against. On the one hand, the workings of pride,
assuming that I have made more progress than is really the case. On the other
hand (and to a genuine Christian, this danger is just as real), the workings of
unbelief, a mock humility denying that I have made true progress. Now every real
Christian should be anxious to know what measure of growth he has attained unto.
You know how it is with growing children: how anxious they are to test
themselves. They make a mark on the wall to register their height, and in a
month’s time see whether they have gone beyond it: so it should be with us
spiritually. I am going to mention five things by which we should test ourselves
concerning our growth.
increasing deadness to the world.
The closer we approximate to Christian perfection, the deader will our hearts be
unto the world. The more fully we are conformed unto the image of Christ, the
less power will the world have to attract us. When I say that, I refer to
something more than its amusements and grosser sins; I mean also its pretty
things. One of the marks of a child is to value a thing not according to its
worth and usefulness, but according to its attractiveness to the eye. There are
many forms of worldliness: Isaiah 3:22 warns against “changeable suits of
apparel”—such savors of pride; it is an unnecessary expense; and, it is a
denial of our strangership. The more we are really growing in grace the less
shall we be attracted by such baubles, and the more attention shall we give to
the adorning of our souls. One half of practical godliness is a dying unto the
world; the other half is a living unto God: the mortification of self-love, and
the strengthening of love to God. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in
the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and
I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14)—that is the language of a perfect
Christian, that is the experience of a mature saint: dead to the world. It no
longer has any attraction for him and no power over him.
increasing dissatisfaction with our
present attainments. Instead of being pleased with and proud of the
progress he has made, the growing Christian increasingly mourns over the
littleness of it, groans daily because of his sinful failures, and is burdened
over his lack of conformity to Christ. Instead of self-delight for having
attained unto this or that; there is a realization that “there remains yet
very much land to be possessed” (Joshua 13:1). The nearer I come to real
Christian perfection, the more imperfect I feel myself to be. Therefore, dear
friends, the measure of spiritual growth you have made during the past year is
the extent to which you have grown out of love with yourself.
increasingly being moved by love rather
than by fear. The weak and immature Christian is most obedient when he is
most in fear of punishment from God—either fear of His law or fear of His
chastisement. But the mature Christian, he who has grown in grace, is moved more
by the love of God and love to God: this is what regulates his actions: “For
the love of Christ constrains us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The extent to which
we have grown spiritually during the last twelve months may be gauged by the
measure in which our conduct is now regulated by love to Christ.
increasing humility. Where there
is real and deep humility, one sees more quickly and is more concerned about his
own defects than those of his fellow Christians. A proud man is quick to note
the faults of other people, but it takes a humble man to recognize and
acknowledge his own. A babe in Christ is far more likely to be proud of his
spiritual attainment than is a mature Christian: the latter is filled with
self-abhorrence. Thus, increasing holiness means increasing self-loathing.
increasing deliverance from childishness.
I believe the analogy holds good at every point between the natural and the
spiritual. Let me name one or two points of resemblance.
touchiness characterizes an infant: a little child will cry over every trifle,
but as he gets older he outgrows that. The same holds good spiritually: alas,
that such growth does not always keep pace with the added years. Oftentimes one
who has been a Christian for twenty years has really grown less than one who is
only five years old spiritually. Where there is growth, one is less sensitive of
being hurt over trifles.
a child is regulated very largely by his senses, rather than by his reason. Take
food as an example: if something looks nice, tastes nice, smells nice, the child
wants it, whether or not it is good for him—he is regulated by his senses. But
as he grows older he learns that some things which look and smell good are
injurious, and so he learns to leave them alone. So it is spiritually: a
developed Christian is regulated by his judgment rather than by his senses.
a child is incapable of helping others very much: it is always needing attention
itself. But as the child grows older it increases in usefulness: it becomes able
to help mother in the home, and later on to do other things in the world. So it
should be spiritually. That Christian who is all the time needing attention and
help from others is not growing; he is only a spiritual babe.
a child is always getting into mischief or trouble, constantly doing something
or other which it ought not, so that it is not safe to allow it to be long out
of sight. But as it grows older, if it is properly trained, it grows out of
that. Now, my friends, honestly measure yourselves by these tests.
closing, let me say, praise God for any real growth that you can see has been
wrought in you: to Him alone belongs all the glory. Strive earnestly after
further growth, avoiding all things which hinder and retard it, making a
diligent use of all the means of grace which God has appointed for the promotion
of the same.
John Wesley never pretended to sinless perfection and disavowed such a thing
in his preaching and his writings. The Holiness Movement follows Wesley in
this thinking and, as a whole, does not believe in or teach sinless
perfection. There are radical people that will insist on a sinless
perfection, but they are in error. Pink does harm by associating all people
that believe in and experience “Christian Perfection” with the error of
The Bible makes no such distinctions between a legal and evangelical
perfection. I think Pink ads confusion to his paper
by making this unbiblical distinction. The word perfect implies completeness
and where Pink hints at this meaning, he is on track.
And this still is God’s standard. Nothing has changed except under the
gospel people that experience salvation through Christ also receive the Holy
Spirit Who enables them to live out this standard.
Perfection, or completeness, is not something that can be “performed” as
Pink says here; it is a state of being into which Christians must enter.
Holiness people refer to this as entire sanctification.
It is obvious that Pink is referring to legalism. People that do not
understand Christian perfection as taught and experienced by “holiness”
people tend to characterize us as being legalistic because we apply God’s
standards of behavior to our lives. In fairness to Pink and others, it does
not help our argument that there has been a great deal of legalism in the
holiness movement, such as the strong emphasis against wearing jewelry, not
going to theaters, and such.
This accords perfectly with the Wesleyan concept of Perfect Love from which
Christian perfection flows. Pink is intimating that love prompts some of our
Christian living but it cannot consistently live without committing sin.
This is true of human love but it falls all too short of the love of God
shed abroad in our hearts. (Romans 5:5)
Is Pink applying that this is the standard of Holiness under the gospel?
Cannot the blood of Christ and the purifying power of the Holy Spirit cure
the double mind condition? We believe it DOES!
Again, Pink contrasts legal perfection under the Law of Moses and
evangelical perfection, which is a term he has invented. To say that God
accepts the will for the deed is preposterous. Romans 8:13 says that living
according to the deeds of the flesh brings death but the Holy Spirit enables
us to put to death the deeds of the flesh. Also, 1 Peter 1:17 says that God
judges each man’s WORKS without partiality.
There can be no such distinction; partial perfection is a contradiction in
Ask yourself, why would God set a standard for us we cannot live out?
Wouldn’t it be more reasonable for God to have given us a standard we CAN
live—do the best you can and it is OK with Me? Pink’s argument makes God
unreasonable and unfair in His expectations of Christians.
What about Galatians 5:24, Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh
with its passions and desires. Also, see Galatians 2:20. It is very clear
that Christians are to experience a crucifixion of the flesh—put it to
death in a spiritual sense—and allow Christ to live His life through their
Most evangelicals say that this expression applies to the Apostle Paul as a
Christian, but a careful reading to Romans chapter 7 reveals that this
statement applies to Paul as a Jew before he was saved as a Christian. To
say that this is the standard of Christian experience contradicts everything
in Romans chapter 8.
There can be no such thing as relative perfection. The word perfection is
defined as “a state of a thing when completed.” Nothing can be
relatively complete; either it is complete or it is not, and something that
is not complete is not perfect.
If Christians are not perfect and sinners are not perfect, what degree of
perfection do Christians have that makes them relatively perfect compared to
sinners? Pink’s answer would be that the Christians have submitted to the
lordship of Jesus, but how can they be submitting the rules of the gospel
and still go on sinning? Pink’s answer would be that they ask forgiveness
for their sins. So it would appear that the only difference between a
Christian and a sinner is that a Christian asks God to forgive his sins
while the sinner does not. So, it appears that sinning and asking
forgiveness is “relative perfection.”
Amen! This paragraph contains a great and obvious truth.
But, if the miracle of grace can change the natural character or bent of the
heart, why cannot that miracle of grace keep a Christian from sinning? Is
not sin the “natural or bent of the heart” as well as the desire to keep
the material things we have gained?
Again, the mischaracterization of Christian perfection as believed and
experience by holiness people. Holy people do not commit sin, but the
possibility that they can sin still exists. We are kept from sin by that
miracle of grace!
I believe Pink is saying that mature Christians do not sin as much as young
This paragraph is a spurious argument for Pink’s partial perfection.
Again, another spurious argument. Yes, Christians grow in grace and mature,
but they are still in the realm of Christian perfection as they grow. They
are not partially complete, they are as complete as they can be at the time.
This may appear to be just a matter of semantics, but it is a matter of
reality. A babe in Christ can be kept from sin just as much as a mature
Amen. This is where God wants you to be and where His grace causes you to
Amen. Then let God do that in you, don’t just take it for a copy.
This marks the difference between the Christian and the nominal Christian,
who has only a profession of religion but not a possession of salvation.
However, according to Pink, the only perfection to which we can attain is
partial perfection. How much partial perfection is enough?
We have partial perfection, but slacken to have less-partial perfection.
What degree of partial perfection lead to the true happiness? It seems the
implication is that there are degrees of true happiness—partial happiness
for partial perfection—relative happiness for relative perfection.
Then, could not the grace of God keep us from sinning? Or is it a matter of
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me—except from
sinning.” By the way, how many things are “all” things. If you asked
for grace to keep from sinning, would not Christ give you that grace?
The points Pink makes in the following section are very good. What he would
call relative perfection, holiness people call growing in grace.