What has been the point of all these lessons on righteousness by faith? Have we just learned some interesting Bible teachings to put in our memory files? Are we now qualified for a course completion diploma? If that is all we have received, our study has been a waste of time. There are much bigger issues at stake here, and we need to see the big picture before the part we play in it makes any real sense. (This final lesson will not be like the previous lessons, with questions and answers to be supplied. Instead, the student is asked to reflect thoughtfully on each text, asking the questions, How does this apply to my daily life? What is the real purpose for my existence? Does God have a role for me to play in the last days of earth's sinful history? Will God's plan be delayed if I fail to carry out God's plan for me?)
Sin is not just about me and my salvation. Sin is dishonoring God and proving that Satan is right in the great struggle between God and Satan. Satan has always claimed that God's law is unfair and cannot be obeyed, particularly by those who have fallen natures. "Satan declared that it was impossible for the sons and daughters of Adam to keep the law of God, and thus charged upon God a lack of wisdom and love. If they could not keep the law, then there was fault with the Lawgiver." (Signs of the Times, Jan. 16, 1896)
The real issue at stake here is the truthfulness and trustworthiness of God. "Let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged." Romans 3:4. Will God's way of handling the problem of sin be upheld and vindicated, or will Satan's accusations win the day? Will the universe be safe for the rest of eternity with God's government? Is God an arbitrary despot with more power than the rest of us, or is He the loving God portrayed in the Bible? These and other questions need final answers before the great experiment of sin can come to an end.
How can God be vindicated when His people are proving Satan right a good share of the time? This is why the sins of believers are far more serious than the sins of unbelievers. The sins of Christians seem to say that God's law and His power are no match for the deceptions of Satan. Unless the divine-human connection shows that God's grace has more power than Satan, what is the point of it all? Justification and sanctification are God's way of revealing His power to transform and restore, not just to forgive and overlook.
God's final generation will have a role to play in the vindication of the credibility of His word. "And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes." Ezekiel 36:23. We and many generations before us have dishonored God's name and His government by our continued sinning. Before the conflict can end, there must be a resolution of this problem. God must be sanctified, or vindicated, in us, before those who scoff at the God of heaven. In fact, God will vindicate His own name by providing His people with the divine power to obey His law perfectly. "If there ever was a people in need of constantly increasing light from heaven, it is the people that, in this time of peril, God has called to be the depositaries of His holy law and to vindicate His character before the world." (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 746)
Thus the perfect character developed by God's people is crucially important in the final resolution of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. This is the real reason for stressing the concept of perfection in God's end-time people. God claims that total obedience is possible. Satan claims that a sinful nature and character make obedience impossible. Who is telling the truth? Only God's final generation can prove that Satan is a liar.
This final generation is described in a very special way. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Revelation 12:17. The reason Satan is so angry with the final remnant is precisely because they keep God's commandments, which Satan maintains is impossible. It is over the issue of obedience that the final battle will be waged.
The primary reason for a short period before Christ's coming during which there is no Mediator for sins is to dramatize before the watching universe the reality of God's complete power over sin in the lives of those whose wills are totally and forever united to His will. Some of the very people who formerly betrayed their sacred trust by agreeing with Satan that it is impossible to obey God's law will finally demonstrate that there really is no excuse for sin, that God does have more power than Satan's temptations. The close of probation will play an important part in the final demonstration that God is making before His universe; that, indeed, it is possible for fallen man to obey God's law, which is righteous and good and holy.
Final conclusion: Perfection means being in so close a relationship with Christ that the individual ceases to respond to external or internal promptings to sin. Perfection means entire cooperation with Christ. Perfection means continuous death to self and a denial of one's own independent will and inclination. Perfection is total rejection of egotism and pride. Perfection is a merger of man's will with Christ's will so that the Holy Spirit is in full and final control. Perfection is an unbroken exercise of faith which keeps the soul pure from every stain of sin or disloyalty to God. Perfection is Christlikeness, combining a relationship with God like Jesus had with the qualities of character which He revealed. Perfection is living a mature life in the Spirit, full of the fruits of the Spirit and thus without sin. Perfection means no longer yielding to rebel, sinful desires.
When we are more concerned about God's vindication in the great controversy than about our own salvation, then we have the purest motivation to live a holy life, and God will honor that motive by placing all the power of heaven in our hands. No longer will we have occasional forays into the land of self-indulgence. To silence the last lingering question that perhaps Jesus was sinless because He was God, the final generation will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that men and women with fallen natures can live without sinning. This final demonstration will be the last step in the vindication of God's character, His government, His justice, and His mercy--and the great controversy will be very near its conclusion.
"Christ took humanity and bore the hatred of the world that He might show men and women that they could live without sin." (The Upward Look, p. 303) Do we believe God's promise? Can we accept this challenge? Do we see this as the most glorious prospect ever set before God's people? May God bless your continued study of His Word as you reach out for the prize of your high calling in Christ Jesus.