Always Sinful, Always Justified by Grace in the Judgment Hour
Those who think that they are being saved by sanctification or the "new birth of the indwelling Christ" have always opposed the true gospel. Even Paul was accused of speaking against the Law, because he declared that by the keeping of the Law no flesh shall be justified in God's sight. No matter that we have continually stated that the justified man continues to press on towards perfection of character and growth in love for God and our neighbor. No matter that we have clearly stated that we begin the life-long work of sanctification as we daily trust only in the imputed righteousness of Christ. The sinless perfectionists continually accuse evangelical Christians of not teaching sanctification and of not striving in gaining the victory over indwelling sin.
So long as they insist that there will come a time in the near future before Jesus comes when they will not need to be justified by imputed righteousness, they will oppose anyone who confesses that they will need forgiveness all their lives until Jesus comes again.
The fact is that ALL Christians have remaining indwelling sin. This remaining indwelling sin is the sin which Laodicea refuses to see and acknowledge and is therefore wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. The perfectionist always sees himself as a holy person who is greatly advanced in the way of personal holiness and gives thanks that he is not like other "carnal" Christians who are not as close to perfection as they. They consider the admission of the evangelical Christians that there is still remaining sin in their lives and the admission that they sin daily and must ask forgiveness daily and trust in imputed righteousness until Jesus comes to be weakness and a compromise with sin.
Cain will always hate Abel, because Cain always brings his sanctification (with the help of God's Spirit of course!) and good works of obedience to God for acceptance at the altar. Abel always trusts only in the blood of the sinless life and atoning death of Jesus for his acceptance with God. Who in the end really had the true sanctification? Cain who claimed to be righteous ended up hating and then murdering Abel thus showing the fact that only those who are trusting only in the blood are the ones who have true sanctification of the heart. As Paul so boldly declares:
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel He saith, 'All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.' "
Evangelical Christians are seeking perfection of character and victory over sin in our lives. I do not however claim to have arrived at this condition and I think if the perfectionists are honest they will have to admit that neither have they. And according to the clear testimony of the Bible no one who is ever saved will be able to claim to be sinless until Jesus comes again. Jesus could and did in fact claim to be sinless and without fault and that he always did the Father's will. No Christian can make this claim, because it would be telling a LIE. We all have remaining sin in our lives and we will be overcoming and putting away sin in our lives until Jesus comes again.
Perfectionists believe that because of "grace" in the heart they are not "sinning" any longer because of this indwelling grace. Those who believe that because they are keeping the commandments of God and therefore they are no longer sinning have embraced the Roman Catholic definition of salvation by inward grace. This represents the "mystery of iniquity" of salvation by sanctification by the Holy Spirit in the heart. Perfectionists have no idea of the issues of the Protestant Reformation and justification by imputed righteousness until Jesus comes again.
When the final sinner is saved before Jesus comes, all believers will continue to be saved by the unmerited grace of God alone through faith alone in the blood of Christ which keeps on cleansing us from all unrighteousness and presents us as faultless in the merciful reckoning of God. Those who think they are sinless at that time are those who are lost and have received the mark of the beast.
Perfectionists need to read Paul's letter to the Roman believers and learn what the text means, "All have sinned and all continually fall short of the glory of God". Perfectionists have no idea of what constitutes salvation by grace through faith in the sinless life and atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is the unmerited favor and acceptance of God of ungodly people like you and me.
Do perfectionists see themselves as ungodly? Of course not! They see themselves as righteous people who only "sin" occasionally when they slip up once in a while. This is the very blindness of which our Lord warns the Laodicean church and for which He pleads they repent because they do not know that they are wretched and miserable and poor, blind, and naked. Those who are trusting in the Holy Spirit in their hearts for their salvation are LOST. The only righteousness that is without sin is the righteousness in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ which covers all who believe until Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven. When probation closes only faith in the blood of Christ will be accepted in that time and all other "righteousness" will be the offering of Cain and will receive the mark of Cain.