“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col.1:28 NKJV)
Paul’s mission and passion
Paul of Tarsus, after his conversion to Christ, was called and was separated by Christ and God the Father, to be apostle to announce God’s gospel. Jesus Christ had entrusted him with the evangelism of unbelievers and the edification of believers. Paul’s mission was to announce Christ, to exhort all men everywhere to repent and to instruct all men in all wisdom, in order to present to God every man perfect in Christ (Col.1:28). In Paul’s heart, a passion prevailed: those that were “won” to Christ to become strong in Christ and to present them pure before Him, blameless and above reproach (Col.1:22). Not anymore babies in Christ floating and taken away to all wind of doctrine (Eph.4:14; Héb.5:14) but spiritual adults in Christ, mature Christians (Heb.4:2). Our Lord said: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mt.5:48). This is why, all Paul’s epistles were intended to believers. He exhorted them to walk in a manner worthy of the call that has been addressed them (Eph.4:1; 1Th.2:12) and of Christ’s gospel, so that they stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Php.1:27). He wanted them all to be fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col.1:10)! He was trying to help believers to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph.4:13). He exhorted them to walk according to the Spirit and to have the fruit of the Spirit that is of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; otherwise said, to procure them a spiritual deepening!
Christians in whom Christ was not yet formed in them
Paul was suffering whenever he saw some Christians lagging behind, stumbling and falling! This is why we read in Gal.4:19 “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you”. It means that, in spite of their faith in Christ, Christ was not yet formed in them! Christ was not reigning completely in them and they had not yet «embraced» completely his teaching. Why? Because the fruit of the Spirit was missing in them; the works of the flesh in their life betrayed them: there were works of the flesh as impurity, foulness, enmities, quarrels, jealousies, animosities, disputes, divisions, envies etc. (5:19-21). Paul warned them that those that committed such things would not inherit God’s kingdom. He also told them (5:15) “… if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another”. In the case of the Corinthians – in spite of their faith in Christ – they risked to die spiritually, because of contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults, pride, unrests and especially because of the fact that they had not repented (2Co.12:20-21). They were still carnal! They camped on their positions…
In these two cases we see that Paul ‘classified’ certain believers in the category of Christians where Christ was not yet formed in them! In all his epistles, he gives very lucid instructions everywhere but especially in the epistle to the believers of Rome: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts…… but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God…” (Ro.6:12-14). And, pursuing, he tells them: “…For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” (Ro.6:19). Therefore, the goal is sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb.12:14; 2Co.7:1; 1Th.4:3; 4:7). The key sentences in these passages are: ‘you should not obey it in its lusts’ and ‘present yourselves to God’! The apostle concretizes his exhortation concerning a life worthy of their celestial vocation by saying: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Ro.12:1)
The source of their problem
I have known sincere and good willed Christians that wanted to do God’s will but they could not manage it! This is why they dedicated themselves one day; the next day, when they fell into sin, they re-dedicated themselves! And this vicious circle, this destructive repetitive behavior, continues during years. I tried to understand the reason. I found out, to my great astonishment, that the answer was very – very simple: it was the faith that was missing!!! “… without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb.11:6). The Bible tells us: “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mrk.11:24). In some of them, their will was not yet ‘ripened’…
These problems are due, in part, to teachings and erroneous traditions that prevent the faith to function normally in the daily life. IF faith doesn’t function well, because of doubts, known sin and despair, nothing is possible in the spiritual life. Of course, faith can operate well only under certain conditions among which occupy a primordial role a good conscience and a forgiving spirit!… Does one put pure water to drink in a dirty glass? Of course not! “If I regard iniquity in my heart (known sin), the Lord will not hear” the Psalmist says (Ps.66:18). In the same way, our celestial Father doesn’t confide faith in a heart that is not pure, whose conscience accuses of known sin and/or of an unforgiving spirit and if, man does not desire God’s will with “all his heart” and does not cry for deliverance in desperation!
Two basic and concrete problems
To make the problem of the bad functioning of faith more concrete and clearer, I will refer to two points, which are misunderstood and are misinterpreted and that cause important spiritual damages in our life.
1. The fear or the conviction that we can but fall into sin
Among the wrongly interpreted passages is the following: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jo.1:9). This verse wants to say clearly that Christ forgives us AND purifies us of the sins that are even deeply embedded in our nature or character. God renews us and reforms us by purifying the heart, from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2Co.7:1).
Unfortunately, there is an erroneous teaching that it is impossible not to fall into sin or even into the same sin because we are invested with weakness and because the power of sin is always present as long as we live. Also, there is the erroneous impression that those that teach “a victorious life”, that is, that it is possible to be delivered of the power of the flesh, of bad habits, of passions and lusts are accused to teach, in reality, the false doctrine of “sinless perfection”. The truth of God, however, remains: And this truth is that “sinless perfection” doesn’t exist but that the victorious life is possible and is enjoined. It is an imperative for the believer! And if it is an imperative according to the Word, then it is possible. God can save to the uttermost! An “up and down” life is not a normal Christian life! Here is a statement/description of normal Christian life: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Gal.5:24)
Regretfully, there are people who believe that though they confess their known sins, they most probably will fall again into the same sins because of their character or idiosyncrasy or surroundings. And it is done according to their unbelief! It is probably also because they are still living the experience of chapters 6 and 7 of Romans [O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death ?- (7:24]) and have not passed into the experience of chapter 8 [For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God – (8:14)]. They have not yet been set free from their pride, anger, greed, evil eye, vain glory, evil criticisms etc. Of course, the fact that one has been delivered from known sin or passion or bad habit does not mean that he should not take heed not to fall again (1Co.10:12).
In addition, in some people’s mind there is confusion between the expressions “have sin” and “commit sin”: The Bible teaches that there is sin in us that we are not aware of. That is why Job was asking the Lord: “Teach me what I do not see; If I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (Job 34:32). God holds us responsible for known sin… It is not spiritually profitable to ask forgiveness for sins we have not committed. On the contrary, God commands us to ask for His forgiveness whenever we sin. Temptation is not sin. Sin is whenever we fall into temptation… The fact that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places points out that we must simply be on our guard, be equipped with the whole armor of God and understand Satan’s wiles in order to withstand in the evil day… (Eph.6:10-13)
If it is true that man is weak, it is equally true and much more true that God has put at our disposal all the power that is necessary to resist sin and the Devil’s temptations by which he is trying to make us fall and to bind us … Is it not so? The grace that God has given us is more than abundant to help us to defeat the power of sin, resist temptations and understand the wiles of the Devil. Paul, hasn’t he said that: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”? (Php.4:13). The Bible also says “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb.7:25).
What a wonderful, what an encouraging, what a comforting statement! Our Lord Jesus Christ is able to save completely – to the uttermost – at all times and in all circumstances! This is indeed “good news” not only for the sinner, irrespective of how deeply sunken is in sin but also for His saints. Yes, for believers, because irrespective of how dramatic or hopeless is their affliction, difficulty or trial, JESUS has provided a way to escape that they may be able to bear it (1Co.10:3). This is true not only for now but also for the future, whatever complex the need might be. This is why we can draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, we find grace to help in every time of need (Heb.4:16). Why then should I fear? “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Ps.42:11)
This false doctrine, which is extensively taught, makes God weak or incapable to deliver our soul from our weakness and from some sins bound to our character as anger, gluttony etc. In addition, it strengthens our enemy!!! It is a mistake and a trap due to our incredulity. We ask God to forgive us; we believe that he forgives us but we are afraid or rather we believe that we are going to fall again and again. We cannot maintain the conviction that God can save perfectly – even to the level of the mastery of tongue – those that approach of Him by Christ. We don’t believe, actually, that “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1Th.5:24). We rely on our strength and on our past experience. And because of our inability to believe correctly everything happens according to our incredulity! This attitude means that we don’t believe God’s promise that “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1Co.10:13). Therefore, when we yield to a temptation that is our responsibility and we are guilty of it!
2. The erroneous opinion that it is necessary to humble ourselves and consecrate ourselves every day
Another misinterpreted passage is: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Ro.12:1-2). Because of the same problem of incredulity, numerous are those among the Christians that believe that it is necessary for us to re-consecrate ourselves to God every day. What is going to happen if we forget and disregard our decision of re-consecrating ourselves one day? Let’s stop and think: We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice on God’s altar today; the following day we come again to offer ourselves all over again to Christ because we fell into a sin or because we are overzealous. Let us ask ourselves: since we put and left our “offering”, that is ourselves, on God’s altar, yesterday, as a living sacrifice, how is our offering again in our hands, today? Did God accept our offering yesterday or not? The only case that God doesn’t accept what we put in His hands is if we are not sincere or if we do not ask it with all our heart! Instead of rededicating yourself, it would be preferable to identify the source of the problem. The weakness of the flesh and our march by “sight” make us fall from the position of faith. The Bible however, tells us: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2Co.5:7)
Numerous are those that believe that it is necessary and spiritually profitable to re-dedicate oneself to God every day! They especially take as a basis the verse that says: “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Lu.9:23). But, what does it mean? To repeat the procedure of the consecration of himself every day in order to follow Him every day? Their idea, as they mean it, is very erroneous because to become disciple of Christ can be compared with a contract signed between man and God or to an enrolment to the University. Is it necessary to sign the contract every day? Is it necessary to enroll in the University every day?
A Christian with a sound mind and heart asks for forgiveness whenever it happens to sin (1Jo.1:9). He does not “renew” every day the covenant he has made with God (Ps.50:5), by giving, for example, his heart to God again and again to be born again and become a child of God… The Christian who has decided to serve God by becoming – officially or unofficially – a missionary, has made a covenant with God; he does not become a missionary every day… He does not repeat that procedure daily because he is already a missionary. The only thing he has to do is to come boldly to the throne of grace that he may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb.4:16) and to ask the Lord every day – every moment – so that He may help him to accomplish his duty faithfully as a good steward (1Co.4:2).
If you promised the day of your marriage to be faithful to your wife all the days of your life, do you repeat the same promise to her every day? If you repeat this promise every day, your wife will end up questioning if there is something wrong… Do you repeat your promise to her by repeating your marriage ceremony? If you happen to behave badly to your wife, you should humble yourself and ask her to forgive you (even seventy times seven a day) but you should not repeat neither your proposal to marry her or repeat the marriage ceremony! And if you really love your wife (or the wife her husband) and have truly repented for your bad behavior, you will not repeat your bad behavior. This principle is of application, mutatis mutandis, in relation to God. Just as we gave our heart to God some day and at certain instant, in the same way, in one instant, we present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. And if we really love Him we will keep His commandments and behave correctly! As far as sin is concerned the Bible says: “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro.6:11). This decision and state of reckoning is reflected in practice by the verse: “always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2Co.4:10).
Conclusion: It is necessary to do our duty every day, to carry our cross or burden every day or to bear our testing patiently every day and not only once or sporadically in a heroic manner. The attitude of doing our duty faithfully is the fruit of a decision of renouncement or of obedience in one instant in order to follow Christ in a permanent manner. It is a motor decision! From the moment you took the decision before God, ALL THAT IS REQUIRED IS TO KEEP YOUR COMMITMENT daily. It is written: “If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (No.30:2)!!!
Where are we?
Let’s not deceive ourselves. The only thing that is required is to continue to keep diligently what we have promised to God. Christ who knows man’s heart will never accept the responsibility to help a man to hold his commitment, if this man is not sincere in his intention to hold his commitment! God doesn’t accept to bless, to give His Holy Spirit and power against sin and the Devil to people who are double-minded, who won’t be faithful and that will become one day allies of the Devil and of sin and the other day they will try to honor God with lips! On the contrary, when man gives his heart to God in sincerity, God circumcises his heart to love the LORD with all his heart and with all your soul, that he may live (De.30:6); puts His law in his mind and writes it on his heart (Jer.31:33 – Heb.8:10) and puts His fear in his heart so that he will not depart from Him (Jer.32:40)! Alleluia!
May God keep us from faithlessness, lack of repentance, doctrinal mistakes and false teachings! May God give us the passion to obey His will for His glory and for our good. Yes, so that the Holy Spirit can present us perfect in Christ Jesus, blameless and above reproach. Amen!