Can Christians be Perfect, Flawless or Without Sin?

By Anonymous Author

BIBLE: NO – Perfection cannot be humanly obtained. (Perfection = Sinlessness)

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23  

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 1 John 1:10

"The heart is the most deceitful thing there is, and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is! Only the Lord knows!" Jer. 17:9, 10.

"The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who are wise, who want to please God. But no, all have strayed away; all are rotten with sin. Not one is good, not one!" Psalm 14:2, 3.

"We are all infected and impure with sin. When we put on our prized robes of righteousness we find they are but filthy rags." Is. 64:5, 6.

Only one man was perfect and without sin—Jesus Christ.

WHITE:  YES--Perfection is possible through good works.

"As the Son of man was perfect in His life, so His followers are to be PERFECT in their life. A well-balanced character is formed by single ACTS WELL PERFORMED. One defect, cultivated instead of being overcome, makes the man imperfect, and closes against him the gate of the Holy City. . . . In all the redeemed host not one defect will be seen. . . . " The Faith I Live By, page 44,

"Christ has given us no assurance that to attain perfection of character is an easy matter."  My Life Today, page 271

BIBLE: Christ has given us assurance that his yoke is easy:

"The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load that I give you to carry is light." Matthew 11:30

As long as we attempt to attain a perfect character or we attempt to bear our own spiritual fruit, a Christ-like character will NEVER be an easy matter—it will be impossible to reach. However, Christ has given us assurance that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. This assurance comes from the same Christ who does NOT expect us to recreate our own perfection, our own fruits, or our own righteousness. He is the vine and we are the branches. Without Christ we can do nothing. NOTHING! (John 15:5)

According to scripture, all humans are born in sin and commit sin. Hence, humans can never become perfect without claiming the perfection of Christ. Christ’s perfection is freely offered since the cross. Before the cross, perfection from the sinful human nature was available through faith in the future promise of the perfect Christ. The lamb sacrifices and the annual day of atonement both pointed to the future cross. A human can NEVER commit enough "single well performed acts" to perfect a “well-balanced character” and thus open the gates of heaven based on their own good works. Only Jesus can open the gate of heaven for any human. Ellen’s teaching is called "perfectionism"   Perfectionism or salvation through good works is a dangerous heresy that is taught by Christian groups such as Catholics and SDAs. Other similar Christian groups de-emphasize God’s free gift of grace and emphasize earning God’s merit through good works. Our sinful human nature and past sins will always make us imperfect.  If Ellen’s teaching of perfectionism is correct, our imperfect, defective, sinful, human condition would close the gate of the Holy City to every human being that has existed. Thank God that through repentance, and faith in Jesus, the gate can open up again!


"We can overcome. Yes; fully, entirely. Jesus died to make a way of escape for us, that we might overcome every evil temper, every sin, every temptation . . . " Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 144.

"Not even by a thought did He [Christ] yield to temptation. So it may be with us." Desire of Ages, p. 123.

"In order to let Jesus into our hearts, we must stop sinning." Signs of the Times, March 3, 1898.

"To be redeemed means to cease from sin." Review & Herald, Sept. 25, 1900.

" . . . conversion is not completed until he attains to perfection of Christian character." Testimonies, Vol. 2, p. 505.

"Human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character." Acts of the Apostles, p. 531.

"Perfection of character is attainable by every one who strives for it." Selected Messages Vol. 1, p. 212.


In the same year of Ellen's death, it appears as if she finally admits that no one is perfect but she continues striving for perfection through good works. Repeated, lifelong failed attempts to perfect her own character through her own effort is what she believes closes the gate of the Holy City on her. She apparently carries a heavy load because she sees absolutely no Biblical assurance of salvation for those whose faith remains in Christ Jesus. 1 John 5:13, 1 John 3:24, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17. We should obey God because we love Him. On the contrary, Ellen White’s motivation to obey God appears to be centered on perfectionism and the misconception that she has a great “WORK TO DO BEFORE” God will accept her performance and open the gate of the Holy City to His self-perfected child. Needless to say, heaven is NOT inherited by earning enough “good works” merit points.

WHITE: Pacific Union Recorder, April 29, 1915, paragraph 7-8, "Further Word Concerning Mrs. E. G. White"

"I do not say that I am perfect, but I am trying to be perfect. I do not expect others to be perfect; and if I could not associate with my brothers and sisters who are not perfect, I do not know what I should do. No one is perfect.  If one were perfect, he would be prepared for heaven. As long as we are not perfect, we have a work to do to get ready to be perfect."

Ellen admits she is imperfect but she continues working to become perfect. She believes those who become perfect are the only ones that are ready to enter heaven.

At the Ellen White Estate Web site SDA apologists say Ellen never taught that we must be perfect before we can come to Christ. This statement is NOT accurate as it is obvious by the above listed quotes. Ellen claims that Jesus won’t come into our hearts unless we stop sinning and conversion is not complete until we attain a perfect character. Perfection before conversion is an arrogant, disregard of our desperate need of Christ perfecting atonement. Furthermore, Jesus’ inability to enter our hearts before we stop sinning would mean we have to stop sinning long enough to experience Christ entering our hearts and as soon as we made another sinful mistake Christ would leave our heart again until we took another break from sinful mistakes, repented and reaccepted Christ back into our heart. This Ellen White theology would promote a vicious cycle of conversion and reconversion or rebaptisms until a pastor gets tired of the repeated, weekly, public demonstrations of dying with Christ through baptism. The point is that Ellen taught the heresy of perfectionism through “performance/good works/acts well performed” instead of teaching perfection through faith in Christ alone.

SDA apologists who are drowning in denial face a grand challenge in denying Ellen White taught perfectionism.  Many of her writings are saturated with a critical, judgmental, perfectionist mindset.  To deny she taught perfectionism would mean that many of her published writings would need to be discontinued and much "White Out" would be needed to erase what has already been published.

We can never become perfect through our own effort. Our sinful human nature and past sins prevent us from living a perfect life. Christians can claim God’s perfection only through Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christians are perfect only through the one sacrifice that Jesus made. Scripture says this very clear:

"Because by one sacrifice he has MADE PERFECT FOREVER those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:14

We are perfect in Christ alone so we cannot brag about "perfect" human efforts that will always fall short of Gods glory. Salvation is not based on human perfection or on our performance.  We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone (Romans 3:23-24). Perfectionists must realize that good works will NEVER earn them enough points to get into heaven. Grace is a free gift from God.  Faith acts and works in response to professed Biblical beliefs. Real faith in Christ is the basis of salvation.  Real love for God is demonstrated through obedience. Through the constant leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish God’s will for our lives. However, through one sacrifice Christ made it possible for us to become perfect in him and claim the righteousness of God through Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The heresy of perfectionism is so serious that two more quotes will be listed. David Seamands warned:

"Perfectionism is a counterfeit for Christian perfection, holiness, sanctification, or the Spirit-filled life. Instead of making holy persons and integrated personalities—that is, whole persons in Christ—perfectionism leaves us spiritual Pharisees and emotional neurotics." Healing for Damaged Emotions, p. 78.

One of Adventism’s leading theologians, Edward Heppenstall, said:

"The pretension to sinless perfection at any time in this earthly life is the root of spiritual pride and self-righteousness . . . Salvation by grace alone means that absolute perfection and sinlessness cannot be realized here and now." Leaflet Is Perfection Possible?, p. 11, 12.

Perfectionism Under the Microscope

It may sound strange, but frequently a person with a poor self-image tends to be a perfectionist.  If you feel inadequate, unsure of other people's love, then you start saying to yourself, "If only I try harder, if I achieve more, if I'm a better person then I'll feel better about myself and other people will love me.

Perfectionism however, is NEVER SATISFIED! If you can't accept any good things that people say of you, then even if you do great things, your accomplishments will not satisfy that insatiable gulping appetite of perfectionism.

The perfectionist never asks the question, "How much is enough? At what point can I stop? How much perfection will I have to accomplish to receive the love and acceptance from God or the people that I really want? There never is an end; only divinity is perfect.  Humans are NOT divine and humans are NOT perfect.

Perfectionism also fails to realize that GOD LOVES UNCONDITIONALLY. God doesn't withhold love until we arrive at perfection. He loves us while we are growing and even while we are his enemies.  GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE ENABLES US TO CHANGE AND MATURE.

Tragically, perfectionists think other people will like them better for their perfection.  But truthfully, it is just the opposite.  People like to be around flexible, tolerant, imperfect people--like themselves.  Perfect people frighten them and cause them to withdraw.

Perfectionists are always paying a debt. The irony is that no one is asking that any debt be paid. Perfectionists do all of this because their poor self-images manipulate them into doing it (Author-Jim Conway).

The Bible speaks about perfectionism.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us." 1 John 1:8

"Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. ... Do not be excessively righteous, ..." Ecclesiastes 7:16,20

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23

Perfectionism CANNOT earn favor with God. Jesus' death would have been in VAIN if we could save ourselves by becoming perfect under the law.

The devil's deception is that our works can attain perfection and thus we can become like God or we can become like Adam and Eve before they sinned. “Your eyes will be opened, and YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD ..." Genesis 3:5 Keep in mind that if this were really true we wouldn't have need of our wonderful savior Jesus Christ.  If our works could earn favor with God, then we could redeem ourselves by keeping the law perfectly and being sin free.

The devil leads us to believe that we can become little perfect MINI-GODS made in God's image. When we fall short of perfection, this is were the DEVIL REALLY STICKS IT TO US! He accuses us -- "You sinner!  You don't deserve salvation!"  And from there he proceeds to identify all our shortcomings and our true sinful nature. He can be so successful at doing this that perfectionists would find it very difficult or nearly impossible to approach the throne of God where there is grace and mercy when we need it (Hebrews 4:16). Yes, we are unworthy, but grace is the greatest, priceless gift that imperfect sinners can receive!  We don't  have to earn it because it is a free gift. Even if we owned the world, we couldn't buy grace. Satan tried to pay, but failed to buy out the plan of salvation (Matthew 4:9). Don't let him deceive you into believing that you must earn grace or pay for it.

The Christian whose faith is in the blood of Jesus Christ knows that  faith makes us right with God. He knows that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and make our sins as white as snow. God wipes the slate clean and forgets our sins. This kind of faith is what sends the devil running out furious and scheming on his next method of attack.  The devil knows the slate has been wiped clean and he cannot point out our black spots while our faith is in the grace of the blood of Jesus Christ. Praise God that there is mercy and refuge when we fail to be perfect!

"... be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, ..." Leviticus 20:26

"Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16

Claiming God's free gift of grace does NOT mean that we have freedom to live like the devil. The children of the devil live to please themselves instead of choosing a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. God wants us to pursue holiness.  He wants us to live the Holy Spirit filled life.  "I  am the vine and you are the branches." God wants us to be led by the Holy Spirit who produces fruits in the branches. Our works and actions speak louder than our words. We have a choice in that matter.  Lovers of sin and iniquity will eventually commit the unpardonable sin, which is the sin against the Holy Spirit. There is no forgiveness from that sin.

Jesus set a high standard: We must be as perfect as our Heavenly Father! (Matt. 5:48) However, God wouldn't have sent Jesus if humans could make themselves perfect through their own good works and human effort. That's what Jesus was for! For under the law we face condemnation.  The wages of sin is death! Thank God we can be released from carrying the heavy burden of past sins! Thank God that if we ever stumble, amazing grace is like God's hand breaking our fall so we don't perish. As long as our eyes stay focused on God and our savior Jesus Christ, we cannot go wrong! This constant focus or faith is what makes us perfect enough to walk on water as Peter did. It is when Peter took his eyes off the savior and lost his faith that he started sinking in the water.

Jesus didn't come to save self-made perfect people. He came to save sinners perfected through His own sacrifice!

Category: Bible vs. Mrs. White
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