“That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:17
What perfection does the Holy Ghost speak of here? Certainly not perfection in the flesh; that is but a wild dream of free-will and Arminianism. But perfection here and elsewhere means a being well-established and grounded in the faith, as we find the Apostle speaking (Heb. 5:14), “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age” (literally, as we read in the margin, “perfect”), “even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Christian perfection does not then consist in perfection in the flesh, but in having arrived at maturity in the divine life, in being what I may call a Christian adult, or what the Apostle terms “a man in Christ.”
When Paul therefore says, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect,” he means “being no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” but favoured with a measure of Christian wisdom and strength. It is this Christian maturity which is called in Scripture, “perfection,” and it is only obtained by suffering. It is only in the furnace that the tin and dross of pharisaic righteousness is purged away; and the soul comes out of the furnace “a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.”
The Lord of life and glory was made “perfect by suffering;” and there is no other way whereby his followers are made spiritually perfect. Until a man is led into suffering, he does not know the truth in its sweetness. We are full of free-will, pride, presumption, and self-righteousness. But when the soul is baptised into suffering, it is in a measure established in the truth, strengthened in the things of God, and conformed to the image of Christ.
J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)