And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1–2 begins the final section of the letter. Paul shifts his focus from instruction to exhortation, from what we might call the indicative—what God has done for us—to the imperative—what we are to do in response.43 Moo explains, “If we take to heart the truth of the gospel that [the apostle] has presented, we will have a transformed worldview that cannot but affect our lives in uncounted ways. Paul has made this clear already in chapter 6, where he shows how our union with Christ in his death and resurrection leads to our ‘walking in newness of life’ (v. 4).”44 Now in this final section, Paul urges Christians to manifest the power of the gospel in specific areas of day-to-day life.
Romans 12:1–2 is one of the most well-known texts of Scripture. Its familiarity stems, I believe, from its perceived theological importance. This text is commonly viewed as having great import for the Christian’s spiritual life, and thus it is one of the passages most often memorized by children in Sunday School and teenagers in the youth group.
What is “sinless perfection?” What do the so-called “holiness churches” believe about growth in Christ and sanctification? Is there really a difference between, say, a Nazarene church and a Baptist congregation about the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s life? Today, we allow a Nazarene theologian, H. Orton Wiley, to explain for himself.
In this excerpt, Wiley explains what “Christian perfection” means:1
Christian perfection in the critical sense, represents the more positive aspect of the one experience, known theologically either as entire sanctification or Christian perfection. Entire sanctification, however, is a term which applies more to the aspect of a cleansing from sin, or the making holy; while Christian perfection emphasizes especially the standard of privilege secured to the believer by the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
Everyone called her “Mom Steel,” though the only ones in our group who could really claim to be her descendants were Matt, Shannah, Ruth, and John Mark. The rest of us were college kids excited to have a home-cooked meal and a place to fellowship on Sunday nights. Mrs. Steel’s motto was, “All are welcome. I can always add another cup of water to the soup to make it stretch farther.” And, although I never recall actually eating soup at her house, her actions and attitude showed that she was willing and ready to accommodate any strays who showed up at her house without advance warning on a Sunday night.
As a new bride, I was excited for the opportunity to show hospitality to others, as Mrs. Steel had, but I worried about the details. I wanted to make my very best meal each time. I wanted the house to be spotless. I felt like I had to plan entertainment. I worried about mismatched serving dishes. I fretted that my furniture didn’t seem nice enough. And as a result, I don’t think my guests felt entirely comfortable in my home. My anxiety over wanting everything to be perfect translated into guests and a hostess who weren’t entirely at ease. I wanted to be a good hostess, but I just didn’t understand what I was doing wrong.