Sanctification as Christian Perfection

by | Jun 1, 2012

When describing the work of entire sanctification, the words perfect or perfection are used in the sense of completing or making perfect the grace begun in regeneration.

It does not mean that one is made infallible, or that he is placed beyond the possibility of falling back into sin, or that he is free from mistakes, error, or human frailty.

What it does mean is that the heart is cleansed so that its attitude toward God and His will is no longer imperfect.

A. The terms perfect and perfection are applied to Christian experience.

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).


“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded….” (Phil. 3:15).


“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection;


not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Hebrew 6:1).

B. One phase of perfection is perfect love. This phase of the subject covers the whole range of the experience of holiness so well that the term perfect love has been chosen by some holiness writers as the best description of this experience and of its results in the soul:

  • Perfection of love is required as the sum total of the law.
    • “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37).
  • Love begins at regeneration.
    • “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I Jn. 5:1-3).
  • Love may be made perfect. “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him” (I Jn. 2:5).
  • Many passages which speak of love in the heart evidently describe it in its perfected condition.
    • “And above all these things put on charity [love], which is the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:14).
    • “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).
    • “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

C. The theme of perfection runs through the Scripture. It begins in the Old Testament. Beyond the direct and specific use of the term perfect or perfection, we find it in the demands for love toward God and our neighbor. This importance given to love shows that the Old Testament requirement was more than mere keeping of the Mosaic law.

The high ethical standards held up by the prophets further prepare the way for the New Testament development of this theme. Thus the ideal of perfection consisting in love is begun in the Old Testament and reaches full declaration in the New.

O glorious hope of perfect love!


It lifts me up to things above,


It bears on eagles’ wings.


It gives my ravished soul a taste,


And makes me for some moments feast


With Jesus’ priests and kings!


—Charles Wesley

Leslie D. Wilcox (1907–1991), well-known theologian, writer, and church administrator, served on the faculty at God’s Bible School & College for many years. The above is abridged from his book Be Ye Holy.