TO BE OR NOT BE PERFECT, THAT IS THE CRUCIAL QUESTION!


The Bible tells us that there is absolutely nothing that can rival eternal life.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9

Jesus tells us us that eternal life is frees if we trust His sacrifice for our sins and put our faith in Him.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Paul writes similarly:
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8

But Jesus also tells us that we are to be perfect like God:
But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48

And John says,
“Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Revelation 21:27

So how can sinful people enter heaven? Can they go there only by believing in God’s grace with no change in their life and character, do they have to have perfect characters like Jesus, or is the truth somewhere between those?

A couple beginning things to understand to reconcile these are:
A) The Bible, Ellen White and Greek culture had many kinds of perfections. I have counted at least 18 kinds so far). Some are: heart perfection, character perfection, perfection in wisdom, perfection in beauty, perfection in various skills, sinless perfection, etc. Greek culture at one period of history had an idea that defined perfection as being able to keep improving. So by this definition, students could be perfect, but a master teacher could not be perfect. People could be perfect, but God could not.

B) The Greek word in Matt. 5:48 means teleios and it can mean ‘perfect’ but, The word more often is translated maturity or wholeness.

C) 10:26 says very clearly that continued willful rebellion against God cancels grace.

D) Since all sin is slavery (Romans 6:16) and always causes suffering to God’s people in some ways

E) For the reasons above and others, you can see in the Bible that many times, there was rebellion which God said would cause loss of eternal life. But there were also quite a few times that people said and God confirmed that they were perfect (David in Psalms 119***, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Job, Paul in Philippians 3, and God even said the whole nation of Israel was perfect in a couple cases). But at the same time, these same people would say they were sinners, sometimes in the same chapter or verse.

Many Christians have argued about perfection and whether it’s possible or important for us. Some believe it’s all grace and we don’t need to lift a finger or change anything in our lives to be saved. These are often called anti-nomians (against the law) or cheap grace advocates. On the other side are the legalists who say, grace is all fine and good, but we have to become perfect like Jesus is to live in a sinless heaven. If you understand the Bible’s doctrines well, neither of those sides has the complete Bible truth.

In Adventism, there has been a special debate focused on this topic, but especially on the last generation before Jesus. There are several different perspectives. Three major ones are:
1) A few Adventists, seldom leaders, are similar to the anti-nomians.
2) Many Adventist leaders say that we are saved by grace through Jesus’ sacrifice, but that this continually and fundamentally changes our hearts to want to follow God in all areas of our lives and become more and more perfect like He is.
3) A few Adventist leaders say that the last generation must become perfect like Jesus, but with His help, and finish God’s work, demonstrate to the world that people can achieve perfection and only then will they go to heaven. Andreason was a pioneer of this.

Who is right and does it matter? I would say it’s very important because:
A) When people follow legalism, in time, they realize that no matter how hard they try, even by praying and asking for God’s help, they have never been able to eradicate sin completely from their lives. Some of these give up hope and leave God’s faith and stop trying. When many people do this, it eventually destroys entire nations (Prov. 14:34) as history has repeatedly shown.
B) When people follow anti-nomianism, churches become so corrupt, that non-believers and many believers become disgusted and reject Christianity. When many people do this, it also destroys entire nations as history has repeatedly shown.

One of the key foundations that both sides believe is a basis for deciding what is the correct doctrine is Jesus’ nature. Those who believe we must be as perfect as Jesus often say He was born just like us and had the same physical nature and the same desires to sin as Adam had AFTER he sinned. So because Jesus’ overcame, we can become perfect too. Those who think that we are only saved by grace, but that we should become more and more like Jesus over time believe that Jesus was fully man, but his nature was like Adam’s before he sinned. He had no desires to sin and didn’t experience some of the difficulties that we as human beings do.

Let’s look at what Ellen White says about these things. Some of her quotes on this are here:
http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/books/qod/q-ap-b.htm

WE MUST SPEAK CAREFULLY/ACCURATELY ABOUT JESUS’ NATURE
Ellen White says:
“Be careful, exceedingly careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. Do not set Him before the people as a man with the propensities of sin. He is the second Adam. The first Adam was created a pure, sinless being, without a taint of sin upon him; he was in the image of God. He could fall, and he did fall through transgressing. Because of sin his posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience. But Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God. He took upon Himself human nature, and was tempted in all points as human nature is tempted. He could have sinned; He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity. He was assailed with temptations in the wilderness, as Adam was assailed with temptations in Eden.—Ibid., p. 1128.

I. The Mystery of the Incarnation
The only plan that could be devised to save the human race was that which called for the incarnation, humiliation, and crucifixion of the Son of God, the Majesty of heaven. After the plan of salvation was devised, Satan could have no ground upon which to found his suggestion that God, because so great, could care nothing for so insignificant a creature as man.—The Signs of the Times, Jan. 20, 1890.

II. Miraculous Union of Human and Divine
In Christ, divinity and humanity were combined. Divinity was not degraded to humanity; divinity held its place, but humanity by being united to divinity, withstood the fiercest test of temptation in the wilderness. The prince of this world came to Christ after His long fast, when He was an hungered, and suggested to Him to command the stones to become bread. But the plan of God, devised for the salvation of man, provided that Christ should know hunger, and poverty, and every phase of man’s experience.—Ibid., Feb. 18, 1890.

Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh. When we approach this subject, we would do well to heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where on thou standest is holy ground.” We should come to this study with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart. And the study of the incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field, which will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth.—The Youth’s Instructor, Oct. 13, 1898.

III. Took Sinless Human Nature
Christ is called the second Adam. In purity and holiness, connected with God and beloved by God, He began where the first Adam began. Willingly He passed over the ground where Adam fell, and redeemed Adam’s failure.—The Youth’s Instructor, June 2, 1898.

He was to take His position at the head of humanity by taking the nature but not the sinfulness of man. In heaven was heard the voice, “The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.”—The Signs of the Times, May 29, 1901.

He vanquished Satan in the same nature over which in Eden Satan obtained the victory. The enemy was overcome by Christ in His human nature. The power of the Saviour’s Godhead was hidden. He overcame in human nature, relying upon God for power.—The Youth’s Instructor, April 25, 1901.

In taking upon Himself man’s nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin. He was subject to the infirmities and weaknesses by which man is encompassed, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” He was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are. And yet He “knew no sin.” He was the Lamb “without blemish and without spot.” Could Satan in the least particular have tempted Christ to sin, he would have bruised the Saviour’s head. As it was, he could only touch His heel. Had the head of Christ been touched, the hope of the human race would have perished. Divine wrath would have come upon Christ as it came upon Adam. . . . We should have no misgivings in regard to the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of Christ.—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1181.

…Truth lies close to the track of presumption. In treating upon the humanity of Christ, you need to guard strenuously every assertion, lest your words be taken to mean more than they imply, and thus you lose or dim the clear perceptions of His humanity as combined with divinity. His birth was a miracle of God. . . . Never, in any way, leave the slightest impression upon human minds that a taint of, or inclination to, corruption rested upon Christ, or that He in any way yielded to corruption. He was tempted in all points like as man is tempted, yet He is called “that holy thing.” It is a mystery that is left unexplained to mortals that Christ could be tempted in all points like as we are, and yet be without sin. The incarnation of Christ has ever been, and will ever remain, a mystery. That which is revealed, is for us and for our children, but let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be.—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 1128, 1129.

What opposites meet and are revealed in the person of Christ! The mighty God, yet a helpless child! The Creator of all the world, yet, in a world of His creating, often hungry and weary, and without a place to lay His head! The Son of man, yet infinitely higher than the angels! Equal with the Father, yet His divinity clothed with humanity, standing at the head of the fallen race, that human beings might be placed on vantage-ground! Possessing eternal riches, yet living the life of a poor man! One with the Father in dignity and power, yet in His humanity tempted in all points like as we are tempted! In the very moment of His dying agony on the cross, a Conqueror, answering the request of the repentant sinner to be remembered by Him when He came into His kingdom.—The Signs of the Times, April 26, 1905

IV. Assumed Liabilities of Human Nature
Christ bore the sins and infirmities of the race as they existed when He came to the earth to help man. In behalf of the race, with the weaknesses of fallen man upon Him, He was to stand the temptations of Satan upon all points wherewith man would be assailed.—The Review and Herald, July 28, 1874. God was in Christ in human form, and endured all the temptations wherewith man was beset; in our behalf He participated in the suffering and trials of sorrowful human nature.—The Watchman, Dec. 10, 1907.

V. Tempted on All Points
God was in Christ in human form, and endured all the temptations wherewith man was beset; in our behalf He participated in the suffering and trials of sorrowful human nature.—The Watchman, Dec. 10, 1907

VI. Bore the Imputed Sin and Guilt of the World
It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature, even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity…into the world where Satan claimed dominion God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life’s peril in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, at the risk of failure and eternal loss.—The Desire of Ages, p. 49.

VII. Perfect Sinlessness of Christ’s Human Nature
He was born without a taint of sin, but came into the world in like manner as the human family.—Letter 97, 1898.

Amid impurity, Christ maintained His purity. Satan could not stain or corrupt it. His character revealed a perfect hatred for sin. It was His holiness that stirred against Him all the passion of a profligate world; for by His perfect life He threw upon the world a perpetual reproach, and made manifest the contrast between transgression and the pure spotless righteousness of One that knew no sin.—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1142.

He “was in all points tempted like as we are.” Satan stood ready to assail Him at every step, hurling at Him his fiercest temptations; yet He “did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” “He . . . suffered being tempted,” suffered in proportion to the perfection of His holiness. But the prince of darkness found nothing in Him; not a single thought or feeling responded to temptation.—Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 422.

He was a mighty petitioner, not possessing the passions of our human, fallen natures, but compassed with like infirmities, tempted in all points like as we are. Jesus endured agony which required help and support from His Father.—Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 508.

He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil. He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin. His humanity made prayer a necessity and privilege. He required all the stronger divine support and comfort which His Father was ready to impart to Him, to Him who had, for the benefit of man, left the joys of heaven and chosen His home in a cold and thankless world.—Ibid., p. 202.

VIII. Christ Retains Human Nature Forever
In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfill His word. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven.—Ibid., p. 25.

There are more quotes here:
http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/books/qod/q-ap-b.htm

Based on Jesus’ nature, there is an argument between some Adventists who say that the last generation must be perfect like Jesus to be saved (this is called last generation theology and is what Andreason and Priebe advocate). Other Adventists who say we can’t be perfect like Jesus and we can only just trust Jesus’ grace to be saved. The Bible and Ellen White show that both have part of the truth, but neither concept is fully correct.

The Bible and Ellen White talk about many kinds of perfection. There are many that we can experience with God’s power, but there are some that only Jesus has, and we will be developing our character’s throughout history to more fully copy. It’s important never to stay in sinful rebellion on any known sin. But at the same time, we should never say that we will become equal to Jesus’ perfection. Briefly:

BECOMING PERFECT LIKE JESUS IS IMPOSSIBLE
Ellen White repeatedly says that as long as we are on earth, as long as Satan reigns, there will be sins to overcome. There is no sinlessness on earth.

“So long as Satan reigns, we shall have self to subdue, besetting sins to overcome; so long as life shall last, there will be no stopping place, no point which we can reach and say, I have fully attained. Sanctification is the result of lifelong obedience.”—The Acts of the Apostles, 560, 561 (1911).{LDE 267.3}

She also says we can’t equal Jesus’ pattern and that to claim we are is a kind of blasphemy.

Ellen White in simple, forthright ways to the effect that “you cannot equal the Pattern [Christ], but you can resemble it” (MS 32, 1887, 2 MR 126).

Ellen White described those who claimed to be “equal with Him in perfection of character” as committing “blasphemy” (RH, Mar. 15, 1887).

She warns us not to create an unreal picture of perfection of the church in our minds.
“We may create an unreal world in our own mind or picture an ideal church, where the temptations of Satan no longer prompt to evil; but perfection exists only in our imagination.” The Review and Herald, August 8, 1893.{LDE 268.2}

Ellen White rejected claims of perfection of character herself.
“I wish that self should be hid in Jesus. I wish self to be crucified. I do not claim infallibility, or even perfection of Christian character. I am not free from mistakes and errors in my life. Had I followed my Saviour more closely, I should not have to mourn so much my unlikeness to His dear image.” EGW

PERFECTION AT OUR LEVEL IS POSSIBLE
“At every stage of development our life may be perfect; yet if God’s purpose for us is fulfilled, there will be continual advancement. Sanctification is the work of a lifetime.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 65

“In His humanity, perfected by a life of constant resistance of evil, the Saviour showed that through co-operation with Divinity, human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character. This is God’s assurance to us that we, too, may obtain complete victory.” Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, page 531

THE HEART IS THE KEY POINT
The key point is the heart issue. Have we surrendered it to Jesus? Do we desire and act to follow Him and give up everything else, no matter what, as we understand God’s will? If so, then Jesus accepts that and covers everything else with His merits due to His death on the cross.
“When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit.” Ellen White, FW 50.1

BRIEF SUMMARY
To summarize the above simply.
JESUS’ NATURE
A) Jesus was born with the same perfect nature that Adam had before sin. He had no desires to sin.
B) But Jesus experienced in his body the effects of 4,000 years of sin.
C) He experienced all the temptations, emotions, pain, suffering, sadness, etc. that we do.
D) But like Adam before sin, there was never any desire for sin in His mind. It was revolting to Him.
E) He could have sinned and been lost. But He overcame where Adam failed.

HUMAN PERFECTION
There are many kinds of perfection that we can experience with God’s power, but there are some that only Jesus has, and we will be developing our character’s throughout history to more fully copy. It’s important never to stay in sinful rebellion on any known sin. But at the same time, we should never say that we will become equal to Jesus’ perfection.

F) There are some Adventists who say we must be perfect, exactly like Jesus. They are wrong. No one can perfectly copy Jesus pattern, but we should constantly aim to resemble it.

G) There are some Adventists who say we can’t be perfect. They are wrong. If we give our hearts to God, He can help us overcome the sins that tempt us. But God does this level by level. There are always more sins we will become aware of and need God’s help to overcome until Jesus comes. There will always be higher truths to understand, more areas to become more like Jesus. There is no stopping point on becoming more perfect, either on earth, or in heaven (although in heaven, sins will no longer tempt us, but we can continue developing in many areas there too)

CONCLUSION
The most important thing is to focus our minds on Jesus:
“In all our helpless unworthiness we must trust in the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour. None will ever perish while they do this.” {Ellen White, AG 279.4}

If we keep looking to Jesus, He will transform our characters during our walk with Him and He will surely help us be sanctified to live in heaven with Him. That will be a wonderful day!

And nothing is more valuable than that. Ellen White says it is impossible to convey the glory of heaven. But she attempted in feeble human words:

“Now the church is militant. Now we are confronted with a world in darkness, almost wholly given over to idolatry. But the day is coming when the battle will have been fought, the victory won. The will of God is to be done on earth as it is done in heaven. The nations of the saved will know no other law than the law of heaven. All will be a happy, united family, clothed with the garments of praise and thanksgiving—the robe of Christ’s righteousness. All nature, in its surpassing loveliness, will offer to God a tribute of praise and adoration. The world will be bathed in the light of heaven. The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold greater than it is now. The years will move on in gladness. Over the scene the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy, while God and Christ will unite in proclaiming, “There shall be no more sin, neither shall there be any more death.”…

Stand on the threshold of eternity and hear the gracious welcome given to those who in this life have co-operated with Christ, regarding it as a privilege and an honor to suffer for His sake. With the angels, they cast their crowns at the feet of the Redeemer, exclaiming, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing…. Honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Revelation 5:12, 13.

There the redeemed ones greet those who directed them to the uplifted Saviour. They unite in praising Him who died that human beings might have the life that measures with the life of God. The conflict is over. All tribulation and strife are at an end. Songs of victory fill all heaven, as the redeemed stand around the throne of God. All take up the joyful strain, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain” and hath redeemed us to God.

In the earth made new, the redeemed will engage in the occupations and pleasures that brought happiness to Adam and Eve in the beginning. The Eden life will be lived, the life in garden and field. “They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” Isaiah 65:21, 22.

…Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body.”

With God’s power and help, I will be there. I wish to become perfect in all ways I can on earth and then to travel with Jesus to the New Jerusalem. I hope to meet each of you there too and God has promised that if we surrender to Him, He will be sure to help us develop in all ways we need to to live forever in a perfect place. That is God’s promise and He will be faithful to keep it***.

Experiencing how God’s truth energizes life!