Christian perfection is that love of God and our neighbour, which implies deliverance from all sin. – John Wesley
Christian perfection is simply the love of God and neighbor that proceeds from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This consuming love is the true evidence of sanctification, or baptism by the Holy Spirit. God’s will for us is not that we would be content with being saved from the fires of hell, but includes sanctifying us entirely so that we can properly receive His love and respond accordingly.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV).
The work of Jesus, upon the cross, created an atonement for our sins. God, out of love, chose to become the sacrifice for all sins. Ours is simply to not reject this truth. The work of God’s grace continues through the baptism of the Holy Spirit which gives us a new heart. You see, our natural hearts are egocentric—that is, we are selfish. This is true of every one of us, and without exception. We are born selfish. God removes that old, selfish heart, and through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we are given a new heart, a heart that beats with life and empathy for the rest of creation. We are given a heart that loves God and can love others the way God loves them.
What does this have to do with deliverance from all sin?
First, perfect love causes us to detest sin. Sin, in any form, causes division between us and God. Perfect love cannot tolerate anything, or anyone, that tries to separate us from those we love. A husband who loves his wife will not allow anything or anyone to come between them. However, if he flirts with other women or pushes the boundaries of infidelity then he simply does not have a perfect love for his wife. If he did, he would keep as clear as possible from those things that might separate him from her. In the same way, our love for God causes us to reject sin, not simply because it’s considered “bad”, but because we do not want anything to compromise the integrity of our relationship with God. For this reason, at least in part, we are taught that the love of God and the love of our fellow man is the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 22:37-40).
This perfect love also has an empowering attribute—it keeps us from fearing sin. Although the sanctified Christian knows that sin only brings death, he or she has no fear of sin because the Holy Spirit testifies within us that He will not forsake us. We can understand, at least in part, that God’s love for us is so great that He will always provide us with the strength and ability to resist sin. Perfect love means that we do not have to sin. If we sin, it is simply because we chose to.
If the work of God is simply to make me sin free, then I will fear the world because I do not want it to corrupt me and threaten my salvation. The work of the Holy Spirit frees us from sin—this is much different. I no longer fear that the world might infect me with sin because God has freed me from that bondage.
When we lack the perfect love of the Holy Spirit, we will find that we still fear being infected by the world. Much like ignorance caused many to fear AIDS victims in the 80’s and early 90’s, ignorance causes many Christians to fear the world today. Ignorant fear leads to hatred. These do not exist in the heart of the Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Without the perfect love of God, we may continue through life convinced of our salvation, but still fear sin to the point of rejecting or excluding people or groups that we consider sinful. The Christian who lacks this work of grace fears the unknown and hates that which they fear. Without perfect love, the Church becomes the body of people who condemn, persecute, and marginalize people they fear in the name of Jesus