If Christians are “new creations” and no longer “make a practice out of sinning,” do they become sinless and perfect? Tim Conway, a reformed baptist preacher out of Texas, is accused of preaching this.
I have to say, there is something very simple and hard to dispute in his preaching. He emphasizes works a lot, but last time I checked, so did the Bible. But many, even my wife and me after watching the first 8 minutes of his Christian Perfectionism video (which if you wait long enough, he denounces the idea, but he makes you wait I suppose to “shock” you) thought he can get awfully close to denouncing grace. But ultimately he doesn’t, and then he ties it all together.
From what it appears to me, Conway is not teaching “perfectionism,” because he specifically denounces it. More accurately, he teaches, “You can’t be perfect, but in your life you should want to be” (my paraphrase). And how do you know that is the real desire of your heart? The way you talk is different, spend your money is different, work is different, etc. Your life is different.
“I am not saying you are always going to do what you ought to do,” he says about Christians in his video “Are You Struggling Against Sin or a Slave to Sin?,” “but when that is not the case, do you find that there are ‘wrestlings’?”
In my opinion, he is simply preaching very strongly against counterfeit lukewarm Christianity…the kind God said He would chew up and spit out in Revelation. Christians ought to be so faithful that their faith actually means something and thereby, looks like something to others.
Simply put, I have faith that tomorrow will happen when I go asleep, so I set my alarm. Setting my alarm is a work that is evidence of my faith, that tomorrow will occur. So, in effect you can see my faith when I set my alarm.
A Christian who has faith in Jesus Christ, but has no evidence in his life of that faith, simply is a liar and is faithless. That does not mean we can be perfect, as a Christian we will stumble. And, when a Christian does, he will feel guilty and take measures not to stumble again. It can take years of praying, sacrificing, and willing oneself with God’s help to gain increased mastery over sin. I maintain, there is no complete mastery over sin in this life, for “if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10)
None of this denounces salvation by grace, through faith. Let’s look at the key passage in Scripture in Ephesians:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10)
Let’s not get confused. There is a difference in chronology: grace first, then faith and then works. God gets all the glory. He is the beginner and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). That’s why chronology puts grace first. You don’t have faith by your own free will, it is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
However, there is a coexistence of all three (grace, faith, and works) once the ball starts rolling. God’s reason in saving a people by grace is so that they would do good works that He has planned out that had to be done since before the beginning of time. To discount this entirely is to ignore the overwhelming message of Scripture.
Spot on, my friend! Spot on! You said, “…there is a coexistence of all three (grace, faith, and works) once the ball starts rolling.” Yes! Once that ball gets rolling there is only a conceptual difference among the terms. It’s the whole package! But, that difference is crucial. It all begins – it has to – with grace.