Ephesians 4:13 says that the spiritual gifts are given to build up the body of Christ “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Some translations say that we will become “perfect” (instead of “mature”), and from this some people have mistakenly thought that we can reach sinless perfection in this life. The Bible teaches that, while we are in the flesh, we will always struggle with a sin nature (see Romans 7:14-24). No one will be “perfect” (sinless) until we reach heaven.
The word translated “mature” in Ephesians 4:13 is the Greek word teleios. It is used throughout the New Testament to mean “perfect,” “complete,” “full-grown,” and “mature.” What Ephesians 4:13 teaches is that, the more we grow in Christ, the stronger and more unified we will be as a church. The verse does not teach that we will stop sinning.
Another passage that sometimes causes confusion is Colossians 1:28, which says, in some translations, that Paul wants to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Also, in Colossians 4:12 Paul prays that we would “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” In both verses, the word perfect should be translated as “mature” or “full-grown,” not “perfect,” in the sense of having no sin.
As human beings we are bound under the curse of Adam in this world. No matter how hard we try not to, we will still sin against God. The apostle Paul rebuked Peter for showing favoritism (Galatians 2:11-13). Late in his ministry, Paul calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Peter, James, John, and Paul all admitted that they were imperfect. How could you or I claim anything different?
True perfection will not come until the Rapture of the church, when we rise to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At that time we will receive a new body (Philippians 3:20,21; 1 Corinthians 15:54). We will attend the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) where our works will be judged and rewards will be given (1 Corinthians 3:9-15). We will then live forever and reign with Christ in sinless perfection.
While there is not a Bible verse that specifically states we commit a sinful act each day, we do have verses that remind us that we have inherited the capacity to sin at any moment. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). In addition, we have commands that we know we never keep, much less on a daily basis. For instance, who can claim to love God with all his heart, mind and soul every moment of every day? No one. Yet, that is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-38). Failing to love God completely at all times is a daily sin for all Christians.
We also have a verse that warns us of the deceitfulness of our old sinful nature, which in a sense is warning us of the potential, if not the likelihood, of daily sin. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Even the apostle Paul was frustrated with his own battle against indwelling sin. “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:22-23). This capacity to sin led him to cry in desperation, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
Solomon knew full well that he and all men not only have the potential for sin, but that we all exercise that capacity routinely. As he stated in his prayer at the dedication of the temple, “If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not)” (1 Kings 8:46). And Solomon spoke of it again in the book of Ecclesiastes: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Again, while these verses do not unequivocally indicate daily sin, they certainly warn us against the pride of saying at any moment that we have no sin.
The good news is that we will not have to strive forever against daily sin. One day we will be in heaven with our Savior and will be freed from the presence and power of sin, just as we have already been freed from its penalty.