Most of us think that other Christians are having a better go of it than we are. We think that we are alone in our secret temptations—that other Christians don’t find the same difficulty resisting temptation that we do. In particular, we hold a few people in particularly high esteem; we think that they enjoy consistent and daily victory and fellowship with Christ at a level higher than we’re able to maintain.
Maybe it’s a pastor or youth pastor, or a teacher, or a coach. I thought of someone that way (he’s now with the Lord), and some years later he and I were members of the same church. Working more closely with him, I never found that he had feet of clay, but I also came to realize that if he had known that I thought of him as a “super Christian,” he’d have laughed incredulously.
Some theological positions promote the idea of super Christians. The holiness movement, for example, posits a “second blessing” in which the old nature is eradicated. Wesleyans prefer to call this concept “entire sanctification.” Charles Wesley was thinking of this when he wrote,
Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heav’n, to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling; all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion; pure, unbounded love thou art.
Visit us with thy salvation; enter ev’ry trembling heart.
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit into ev’ry troubled breast.
Let us all in thee inherit; let us find the second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be.
End of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.
Come, Almighty, to deliver; let us all thy life receive.
Suddenly return, and never, nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise thee without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.
Finish, then, thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory, till in heav’n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.
Interestingly, John Wesley never believed that he had attained “that second rest,” though he did think that a younger friend, John Fletcher, had. I’m not aware of any historical record of Fletcher telling anyone what he thought about that.
In Scripture, however, you don’t find that God’s people have experienced this. There are only two significant people in Scripture of whom God records no evil (Samuel and Daniel)—yet we know that they were sinners, for all of Adam’s descendants are (but One). And the greatest of God’s leaders, we find, had great struggles with their own sinfulness. Moses, for example, was kept from the promised land for disobedience. David lost his family and his kingdom because of his sexual sin. And even Paul recorded the darkness of his own heart:
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Ro 7).
There are no super Christians. There are only wicked people who, by the grace of God, are regenerated through faith and then find and fulfill God’s plan for them. Interestingly, the Bible tells us enough about Paul’s spiritual life that we can learn how he did it, however imperfectly.
To be continued.