The Perfection Of The Sanctified
“The God of all grace, who has called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.” (I. Peter 5:10,)
Whatever the perfection of suffering may be, it evidently does not relate to the purifying of the heart, or the perfecting in holiness, — for Christ was absolutely pure, and perfect in holiness before He suffered, and yet we read, “It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory; to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Heb. 2:10,) Here is the error of the Romanist, in supposing that by doing penance and torturing his body he may in some way merit the favor of God and thus purify his heart and obtain holiness.
No amount of physical torture can merit the favor of God, nor purify the heart, for we are told that “though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing,” No amount of physical suffering can eliminate sin from the soul.
The ministry of suffering is for the perfecting of those who are cleansed from all sin and perfected in love, Paradoxical as it may seem, they who are in the enjoyment of Christian perfection still have need of being made perfect. Christ surely was perfect in holiness and yet afterward, as the captain of salvation, was made “perfect through sufferings,” Through His suffering He was made “perfect as a completed sacrifice, legal and official, not moral, perfection is meant.” — Calvin. The failure to understand the place and meaning of suffering has wrought disaster in many lines, the old heathen philosophy that adversity and suffering is the evidence of divine displeasure and wrath, is one of Satan’s devices to discourage and destroy souls. He will suggest, “If God loved you, and if He were pleased with you, why should He permit you to be thus afflicted?” As in the case of the man who was born blind, even “disciples” inquire, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Jesus here clearly indicates that what seemed to be this man’s misfortune was in no sense the result of sin, nor of the divine displeasure. Some of the holiest of men and women that have ever lived upon the earth have been the greatest sufferers, and met with what seemed to be the greatest misfortunes. Many need to learn, that, as in the case of Lazarus, Jesus said, “This sickness is for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” God may be as certainly glorified in our sickness as in our health, if by patience, submission and faith we wait before Him.
A successful sailor must learn to make use of a headwind. The apostle Paul said, “We glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh –;” and again He said, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake.” Not that he was insensible to the pain, nor that he practiced Christian Science and tried to ignore the fact of suffering; but he had learned that his weakness and need was simply the occasion and opportunity for the larger manifestations of divine grace and power. Great trials simply make way for great grace. Where the need is only five pounds, the Lord will not send five hundred pounds, He would rather have great trials and abundant grace, than no trials and a meager supply of grace. Trials are blessings in disguise, in that they develop the iron graces of true Christian character; they prove the measure of our moral strength and heart loyalty to God.
An infant may be perfect as an infant, in that it is perfectly formed and has all that pertains to the perfection of an infantile state; but in order to reach the perfection of manhood it requires the development of those faculties and powers that it now possesses. As there is an infantile state in the experience of regeneration, so in like manner there is an infantile state in the experience of Christian perfection. Perfect purity is not maturity. Though we may not be made more pure, and may in the fullest sense enjoy Christian perfection, we yet have need of a perfecting of our Christian character in order to reach a symmetrical, full orbed, thoroughly tested sainthood. “Till we all come * * * Unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13.)
Perfect obedience, perfect submission, perfect patience, perfect sympathy, perfect faith are fruits of the spirit that can only be fully developed and perfected in the furnace of affliction and suffering. We read of Jesus, “Though He were a son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8.) He learned how to fully sympathize with us in temptation, and now is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities, in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted,” and “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
So we read that patience is perfected by suffering: “Tribulation worketh patience.” (Rom, 5:3.) “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” (Jas. 1:3, 4.)
The suffering referred to is not self inflicted, but the legitimate result of heart-loyalty and faithful service on the battlefield, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” (11. Tim. 2:12.)