The Perfection of Glory

by | Apr 1, 2009

“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (I Corinthians 13:10).

Many sanctified preachers proclaim that this verse speaks of Christian Perfection or entire sanctification. But this is a mistake calculated to do harm by putting the standard so high that none can reach it. For those who honestly seek after that holiness without which no one shall see the Lord become discouraged.

Remember that divine perfection belongs to God only and is absolute. Remember, too, that the perfection of glory belongs to the glorified state, including the unfallen angels and glorified humanity.

The body has two ways to enter the glorified state:

  1. translation like that experienced by Enoch and Elijah and all the saints who shall be on earth at the time of the Rapture; and
  2. the resurrection.

In Philippians 3:12, Paul is speaking of the glorified perfection which he had not yet attained; yet in verse 15 he mentions the Christian Perfection which he at that time enjoyed. As you see, he claims the latter but disclaims the former.

When our Saviour was interviewed in reference to the woman who had survived her seventh husband and asked whose wife she should be in the resurrection, he answered, “They will be as the angels of God”—Greek, isoi aggleloi. Isoi means “like” and it means “equal,” involving the conclusion that we will be like the angels and equal to them in the glorified state.

Hence, while entire sanctification confers on us Christian Perfection, it will be glorification that imparts the perfection of heavenly beings. Justification takes away our guilt, sanctification our depravity, and glorification our infirmities. Critics are hard on our doctrine of sanctification, because they sometimes see our peoples’ infirmities, which carnal people think sanctification on this earth will take away. In this they are mistaken. Glorification must do this work.

These infirmities are not sin, but the effects of sin through the collateral influence of the mind and body. Consequently we are in constant liability to do wrong even while we are aiming to do right, thus committing sins of ignorance. These do not bring condemnation, though they need the atonement of Christ, which reaches them in its normal efficacy like infants.

God in His great mercy frequently does not reveal these infirmities to us at the time we commit them lest they make us discouraged and somewhat disqualify us for the work He has given us to do.

It is very dangerous to the cause of Christian holiness to try to apply the scriptures describing the perfection of glory in heaven to the perfection of sanctification on earth. John Wesley said:

“Putting the standard too high is in the greatest of all errors, as it is calculated to drive the experience [of entire sanctification] out of the world,”

by putting it so high that none can reach it. The holiness people need a great deal of instruction on the perfection of glory and the spiritual gifts, as they are so likely to include them both in sanctification.

This not only discourages them themselves, but also others, thus, as Wesley says, “grieving those whom God has not grieved, and perhaps sending them to Hell.” Christian living, i.e., purity of heart and life, is indispensable to admission into heaven; but glorification perfection and the spiritual gifts are not. The spiritual gifts are not necessary to qualify you for heaven, but for usefulness in this world that you may be instrumental in saving others.

Remember, though, that glorified perfection you cannot receive in this mortal body, but when you are glorified all your infirmities will be swept away forever. As we have already said, justification takes away our guilt, sanctification our depravity, and glorification our infirmities.

The Rev. W.B. Godbey was a vastly influential figure in the early holiness movement. He was a prolific author, well-known lecturer, and world traveler. He loved God’s Bible School and died on campus in 1920. This selection is abridged by Larry D. Smith.