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John Wesley & Christian Perfection

Perfection is a concept that seems to have woven itself into the very fabric of our culture and has caught my attention.

  • Politicians are describing their perfect phone calls

  • Richard Quest had a CCN special on the perfect omelet

  • TickTok is filled with those seeking the perfect style

  • Travel Magazine is in search of the perfect hotel in every issue

Many of us are chasing our own perfect thing:

  • Perfect SAT Score

  • Perfect Credit Score

  • Perfect Weight

  • Perfect Job

  • Perfect BP Score

What perfect thing are you seeking?

In my mind, there is only one perfection to seek - Christian Perfection

John Wesley wrote a sermon about Christian Perfection in 1741. This past week, I returned to this favorite sermon and felt strangely warmed by this central tenant of the Wesleyan tradition. 

The sermon spoke to me with great clarity about what we could be seeking and the benefits of doing so. As I read words written in an unfamiliar style, I was struck by the familiar themes of the human condition.

Randy Marttox wrote, "Wesley’s developed notion of Christian perfection can be summarized by saying that he believed God’s loving grace can transform our lives to the point where our love for God and others becomes a “natural” response. But how soon should we hope to reach this dynamic level of maturity?” He provided further clarity by stating,” This became one of the hottest debates in Wesleyan circles. Prior to Aldersgate Wesley had stressed aspiring for holiness, whether it come before death or not. After Aldersgate, as his appreciation of God’s grace deepened, Wesley became convinced that holiness could be attained during this life.”  

         — Christian History Issue #69 in 2001

Wesly presented two main themes in this sermon:

First, why Christians are not perfect due to ignorance, error, infirmities, incomplete knowledge, and temptation? All the things that are defined by the human condition.

Secondly, in what sense are Christian’s perfect. We are perfectly created in the image of God and have the capacity to be in a perfect relationship with our creator. From the creation of a perfect Garden to the promise of a New Heaven and new Earth. Perfection is a journey from sin to confession and forgiveness to a cleansing from unrighteousness.

"Wesley took seriously Jesus's invitation to 'be ye therefore perfect as your Father which is in heaven is perfect' (Matt 5:48). By 'perfection,' Wesley did not mean moral flawlessness or sinlessness. He meant perfection in the sense of maturity." Wesley believed we could become perfect in love in this life. If Jesus invites us to seek perfection, perfect love is possible. He didn't mean we would be free from mistakes, temptation, or failure. – United Methodist Communications

“Wesley’s developed notion of Christian perfection can be summarized by saying that he believed God’s loving grace can transform our lives to the point where our love for God and others becomes a “natural” response”.        – Christian History Issue #69 in 2001

So, back to my question: What perfect thing are you seeking?

We cannot find perfection in ourselves, the church, the world, or in good works.

We can only find perfection by surrendering ourselves to the living Christ within us.

Northwind Institute offers customized certificate programs, and Northwind Seminary offers degrees in which you can research and explore John Wesley's Journals and sermons.

This blog post is part of a series on the Works of Wesley by

Rev. Dr. Robert J. Duncan, Jr.

Founder & President of Northwind Consortia

Academic | Institute | Seminary | Press

Professor of Leadership & Specialized Ministry

Affiliate Faculty - Kairos University

42 views3 comments


Gary Mason
Gary Mason
3 days ago

Great post, Doc. I think this is a timely and balanced look at the perfection we should be striving for. When all too often today we are looking at perfections that we will never come to, this view of Christian Perfection gives hope.



Thanks Rob - great post - I need to back and find the first 2..



Great post. Thanks!

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