Christian Perfection is a doctrine which maintains that after conversion but before death a Christian's soul may be cleansed from the stain of original sin. It is chiefly associated with the followers of John Wesley who are part of the Methodist movement. Perfection has been understood as responding appropriately in a particular moment to God's call to love in that moment.

The doctrine in ScriptureEdit

  • Deuteronomy 6:5 - "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." (ESV) - the use of "shall" in English translation suggests an absolute, not merely a possibility
  • Deuteronomy 30:6 - "And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." (ESV)
  • Matthew 5:48 - "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (KJV)
  • Romans 12:9-21 - in Wesleyan thought, this is read as a definition of perfection
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 - in Wesleyan thought, this is read as a definition of perfection
  • Hebrews 6:1 - "..let us go on unto perfection..." (KJV)
  • Hebrews 10:14 - "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (KJV)
  • 1 John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (ESV)
  • 1 John 5:18 - "We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him." (ESV)

The doctrine in church historyEdit

The doctrine in WesleyEdit

Christian perfection, according to Wesley, is “purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God” and “the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked.” It is “loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves” (A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, 109). It is “a restoration not only to the favour, but likewise to the image of God,” our “being filled with the fullness of God” (The End of Christ’s Coming, 482).

Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment. It also does not mean we no longer violate the will of God, for involuntary transgressions remain. Perfected Christians remain subject to temptation, and have continued need to pray for forgiveness and holiness. It is not an absolute perfection but a perfection in love. Furthermore, Wesley did not teach a salvation by perfection, but rather says that, “Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ.” (A Plain Account of Christian Perfection)

This is a poem that Wesley taught to his followers, lest they forget the doctrine of Christian Perfection;

Do all the good you can,
to all the people you can,
at all the times you can,
in all the ways you can,
by all the means you can,
as long as ever you can.

The doctrine in HymnodyEdit

  • Charles Wesley

Post-Wesley developmentsEdit

  • John Fletcher
  • Holiness movement, entire sanctification, baptism with the Holy Spirit
  • Charles Finney
  • Social gospel

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit



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