Edward F. Lundwall Jr.
The Evangelist emphatically cried out: "If you don't win a soul a week, how are you living the Gospel? Are you sure you're a Christian? Are you sure you're saved?"
In making such a declaration, this evangelist reveals that he is an idealist. And idealist sees things in terms of the greatest expression of a principal. Yes, everyone ought to be trying to win souls! But idealism is simply undefined legalism!
Legalism declares that if one does not keep a set of rules that one is living under condemnation. The condemnation can be either the state of unforgiven or failing to live under the approval of God. In the Bible, legalism was keeping the Old Testament Law composed of rules for living, especially the Ten Commandments, but was not confined to them. They were required to maintain a state of forgiveness by offering the sacrifices for sins and worship. Without doing so they were under the condemnation of death.
Idealism differs from legalism in the way to obtain a idealistic acceptability is undefined. There are no intermediate steps. The standard is the fullest expression of a good principle. What are the principals under consideration where all comes short of it! The idealist considers no one or anything as adequate. All are condemned in light of the principal, whatever the principal being considered.
When the idealist states a principal, he asserts all who come short are living in a state of sin, or some form of condemnation, or inadequacy. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Rom 3:23).
The idealist either presents himself in some way as ideal, by limiting the principal he presents. In the idealistic statement by the Evangelist, he presents himself as living the evangelistic ideal, and in one way or another condemns all others who are not. Or, he softens his words, by including himself in the term "we," for after all, "all have sinned and come short" (Rom 3:23). Thereby, there are no steps in spiritual life whereby any one can become complete on that level, for the consideration is the ideal, the perfection of principle.
At this point, it is important to consider the literal meaning in the original Greek manuscripts, rather than any particular translation. In the King James translation, the word "perfect" in Matthew 5:48 which commands seeming idealistic perfection: "Be ye therefore perfect , even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
The Greek word is not idealistic perfection, but something that is complete concerning an end or a goal. As might be implied from: "The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master." (Luke 6:40). As it is here rendered in the New King James translation: "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:40 NKJV).
Also, the King James is not clear also in reference to the Lord Jesus: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect , he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;" (Heb 5:8, 9 KJV). The English idea of “perfect” would imply that before Christ suffered on the cross he was less than perfect! But He being God, how could He not be perfect from eternity past?
From the Greek word we would come to a different understanding. To be "made perfect" has the idea until His Gospel work was finished that his prophetic calling was not complete.
Biblically, the most accurate understandings of “perfection” would be in our condition of being perfect it is in our imputed condition by union with Christ and His Gospel work (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 6:11). In our experience, the Apostle Paul gives the understanding that while perfection is a goal, yet it is unattainable in this life (Phil 3:12-14). Therefore, we must progress by God's grace by keeping our life focused on Jesus so we can progressively be being changed into His character by the Holy Spirit's power (Rom 8:1-9; 2 Cor 3:18).
Therefore: “... let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” (Jer 9:24).
The idealist has a dangerous attitude because: “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Cor 8:1, 2).
Rather: “. . . be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud , and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (1 Peter 5:5, 6).
Related reading: The Many Triumphs of Christ's Resurrection; Who Am I in Christ?; Legalism and Idealism Are Antithetical to the Gospel