"Perfect, even as He is perfect..."

Perfect is a word common within the covers of the Bible, both New and Old Testaments. It is, therefore, little wonder that Frank Sandford in his headlong desire to please God, his "winner-take-all" personna, and his penchant for a strict literal interpretation of God's Word believed God's favor was attained and maintained by striving to achieve that elusive behavioral goal. For me, as well as many others affiliated with the Kingdom, perfection fostered a monolithic struggle within all who attempted to be serious in their Christian walk. Beyond Elijah, beyond the northern voyage, beyond the separatism, it was the most enigmatic and frustrating concept I dealt with during my 41 year sojourn there. Simultaneously, I understood that perfection was impossible, while simultaneously believing a Christian could and should be as perfect as their heavenly Father. It was, to me, the Catch 22 of my spiritual existence.

It was clear from a very early age that this doctrine was special to the Kingdom, and perhaps because of the frustration it engendered, I never fully bought into it. For as a child of five who had trusted in Jesus and taken Him at his word, I believed that because of his sacrificial act on Calvary, no matter what happened to me for the rest of my days, my soul was free for eternity. This spiritual truth dominated my faith then as it does now, but with an even deeper understanding and appreciation today for what it means to me. I am in no way a Bible scholar or teacher, but because our desire is to demonstrate truth as best we can within these pages, we are compelled to return to the tangled theological ball of Kingdom doctrine and try to "see with new eyes" what else Jesus could have meant.

We've divided this piece into three sections, the first labeled "The Purge", which attempts to showcase the Kingdom perspective more fully. We have first chosen to reproduce a portion of Dr. Ida Miller's letter quoted in both Shirley Nelson's Fair Clear and Terrible and Frank Murray's "Sublimity of Faith".  Dr. Miller draws her object lesson from the pages of the Song of Solomon. Her words are prefaced by an excerpt from Dr. William Hiss's doctoral thesis.   Attempting to balance Dr, Miller's perspective, nurtured at the feet of her mentor Frank W. Sandford, the second section entitled "Jesus Teachings" includes a portion of Christ's Sermon on the Mount together with the story of the rich man's inquiry on how to get to heaven, also from the pages of Matthew's gospel. It contains one of the more memorable verses which I recall the Kingdom drawing on to drive home the concept of Christian perfection. Through these examples Jesus tries to reveal to his audience and us the true nature of God the Father, and to demonstrate that love is always the driving force behind God and His plan for us. Section three is taken from the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen, and uses their section heading "Paul's Battle". Here the authors speak to us more directly on grace vs. legalism. The text in this section of this color represents the editor's opinions and observations.  The black text represents quoted materials.

I   The Purge

But even those accustomed to the tension at Shiloh, who assumed that suffering went along with saintliness, never forgot the "fair, clear and terrible" period.   Although no one was belittled and most serious Christians did not doubt their salvation, all experienced fear and trembling, for Sandford made it clear that he was restarting the school afresh and would only take those who measured up.  To combat their worry and depression, the members prepared for the interviews with hours of Bible study and small group prayer; "Oh! how we prayed for one another," one remembered.* Another wrote:

"I remember as far back as 1900, that first time I heard the expression, fair, clear and terrible."  Father was able to leave for a while his rather minor job with the Lewiston Daily Sun and, relying upon his income from the rented dairy farm, attend the Bible School at Shiloh.  As it was only 12 miles by trolley to Lisbon Falls he came home on weekends.  He was feeling pretty blue one Saturday and I heard him say to Mother that he doubted he would be able to pass the test when it came his turn for criticism as to his spiritual state.  It was well enough for the enthusiastic and pliable youngsters at the school, but he was too sedate and set in his ways to participate actively in the battles against Satan and his cohorts which were the growing practice there, or to join the shouting . . .sessions of praise at the moment of victory.  He was not really a warrior for God of the fair, clear and terrible type.   But as I learned in later years, Mr. Sandford respected him for his worth to the movement and had other work for him to do . . ."**

* Autobiography of John A. Cummings, manuscript

** Arnold White, The Almighty and Us p.11

the following is excerpted from "Sublimity of Faith" by Frank S. Murray

Dr. I. M. Miller, who remembered vividly those eventful weeks, wrote about them as follows:

"Previous to my arrival at Shiloh it had not been a pleasure for me to read the Song of Solomon. It had seemed sentimental, and not at all consistent in spirit with the rest of the Bible. Under Mr. Sandford's teaching, however, in the latter part of 1900, the Holy Spirit showed me its true meaning. I saw it had to do with Jesus, our Bridegroom, and with the human beings who were to make up His bride. I was appalled. It was like approaching the Judgment Day. I saw how far short I fell of the perfection that He had died to furnish and fully expected to see in His bride.

Mr. Sandford showed us that nothing but the absolute transformation of our natures into Christ's divine nature would be acceptable. Our Lord wanted a consort that would be "fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. "Fair" meant no blemish, no trickery, beautiful from the heart out and not from some outside cover that masked the evil within. "Clear" meant without guile, honest, transparent in our every word and act. "Terrible" meant that nothing outside of the Lord Himself so frightens the devil as a human soul redeemed, purified, and transformed by the power of Christ within.

We were told that a Church like this would mean the whole world redeemed back from the devil's power. Is it any wonder that we threw our whole souls into receiving this sort of commendation from our Lord? Those tickets meant more to us than anything material could ever have meant. We learned to say it and mean it that "in our flesh dwelt no good thing." Of course getting the tickets then did not mean that our purifying was over. The attitude we took then has lasted all our lives - daily "putting off the old man" and "putting on the new," daily depending on Jesus to make us bridal in His sight."

There is little doubt Dr. Miller's letter represents her own learned experience, and was her honest response to the teachings of Frank Sandford. It is my observation that her remark,

"Mr. Sandford showed us that nothing but the absolute transformation of our natures into Christ's divine nature would be acceptable."

is highly illustrative of the subtle twisting of truth. This 'transformation' of which she speaks should be taken no more literally then Nicodemus's query regarding the return of one to his mother's womb for rebirth. Christ made it clear that this transformation, or 'rebirth' as He put it, occurs at the level of the soul. Obviously in many cases, outward behavioral changes are inevitable. It is our belief, however, that because Christ's Spirit in-dwells the Christian, changes occur from the inside out, not the outside in. The Christian's behavioral adjustments are not made so much an act of conscious will and determination but from the changes in attitude and perspective of the individual. Whatever behavioral modifications occur should be attributable to the Holy Spirit's presence in their lives and the faith that flows from that presence. The legalisms taught, promoted and enforced by Sandford and his regime, then and now, impose themselves from the outside in. Their will and vision of Christian attainment and potential perfection are imposed on anyone who will permit them to do so. The conditioning the Kingdom utilized in order to deliver to a returning Christ His 'perfect bride' is a tyranny of the mind.  It was and is responsible for the deep dissatisfaction, frustration and disappointment experienced by so many Kingdom adherents. Ironically, it is also the same wrinkle which draws and keeps so many within its borders. Expressed differently, the adherent's rationale goes something like, "Don't confuse me with the theology of grace; just show me the checklist and through sincere prayer and denial, I'll demonstrate to the Lord all I can do."

Probably the most critical facet to the understanding of grace, almost totally obscured by Sandfordian legalistic theology, was the concept of total forgiveness and total acceptance. Because of what Christ did on Calvary, I, ("just as I am") am made acceptable to God the Father. This is not because of any selfish effort or denial on my part toward righteousness and perfection, but only through, in effect, the filter of Christ's redeeming act which God sees through when He looks at me.  If it were not for that "filter", I could not now nor would I ever be acceptable in God's eyes, no matter how "good" I became.  Christ is the "go between" between us and God the Father.  He's the 'interface', if you will, between us and eternity. My 'ticket' has already been purchased by Him.

2Cor. 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

The 'ticket' to which Dr. Miller refers was given to those who, in November of 1899, passed through what was known as the 'Fair, Clear & Terrible test'. It was a spiritual purge, delivered by their leader and the most sanct to everyone else on the hilltop. Once one had prostrated themselves before God and man, and found worthy, one was awarded a 'ticket'. A brief description is provided below, from Shirley Nelson's "Fair Clear and Terrible" . The names of her grandparents, Wendell and Annie, are mentioned, as well as her father and mother, Arnold and Elvira.

    "Not many months after Elvira's enrollment at Shiloh, the White family, Wendell and Annie and the children, moved from the Growstown farm [Brunswick] to Lewiston, to the house provided by Annie's father. It was in this fall of 1900 that Wendell began attending classes at Shiloh, taking the electric cars to Lisbon Falls each Monday morning and staying throughout the week, and it was on a Friday night in this November, that Arnold overheard his parents in conversation in the Lewiston kitchen. Wendell, other than expressing his fear that he would not make it through the purge, never explained any more than that in Arnold's presence. The words "fair, clear, and terrible" were from Sandford's favorite verse of Scripture, in the sixth chapter of Song of Solomon: "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners?" The event was intricately planned. To make the experience as concrete as possible, Sandford printed tickets with the words, "The bearer 'looketh forth' from the Upper Room, 'Fair, Clear and Terrible.' " The ticket admitted a person to the Armory, the large auditorium above the eastern wing of the Extension, for a special service of celebration. To obtain a ticket, one must pass a grueling examination of the inner and outer life.
    The examination began at the top, with the ordained ministers, followed by the students, with those tested and passed becoming examiners and chastisers. The first Cleaning-out had come about spontaneously. The Fair, Clear, and Terrible purge was carefully planned and incorporated not just confession, but long day and night sessions open and unrelenting criticism of each other. One's capacity to accept that scouring in a contrite and cooperative spirit, without resentment or defensiveness, was the first step in passing the grade.
    Sandford lived in Jerusalem turret for most of the time involved, praying almost constantly, believing that the entire movement hung on the cleansing force of the intense process. It was he who gave out tickets to the Armory one by one as individuals were brought before him for a final scrutiny by "the seven eyes of God." Those not examined at this final level gathered in intercession for each other, and those who passed prayed for those not yet "come through." The final product of this refining fire must be a company of people "adjusted - tight, dependable links in the new chain of authority. It was a spirit matter, after all, as it was presented, not a political one - not a case of obedience to man, but obedience to God.
    Wendell White, so sure he would not make the grade, may have been worried about his temperament, the old uncontrolled fits of anger which still filled him with shame. Or perhaps he questioned ultimate human authority, or maybe he felt uneasy about the meaning being squeezed from the Song of Solomon. He had no trouble saying so, if that was the case. Expressing his opinion was a personal habit. Whatever was at issue, a two-inch scrap of browned newspaper from a column in the Lisbon Enterprise tells the story. Nathan Harriman, as a minister who had passed the test (in itself significant), was present at Wendell's final examination by Sandford and apparently was later interviewed by the Lisbon Enterprise--either that, or the Enterprise got its information in the usual way, by overheard gossip. According to Harriman, says the news item, Frank Sandford prayed for Wendell with his hand on his head, and then announced that Wendall's "skull had been scraped clean and his mental machinery was in good working order."
    When the Fair, Clear and Terrible test was over and the wash out on the line, almost all of the students found themselves reinstated, many who later pointed to the experience as a supreme spiritual turning point. The weeks of tension ended in celebration, with the wedding of Ralph Gleason and Christine Marple in the Armory. Sandford himself was enormously relieved. Shiloh had been "set in order." He had heard God whisper, "An eternal excellency." "

II Jesus' Teachings

Matthew 5:30-48 "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. It has been said, `Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Was Christ recommending we maim ourselves? I don't think so. Was he instructing us how to divorce successfully? I think not. I believe His point has more to do with respect for ourselves and our peers in the first instance, and to take our commitments to each other as seriously as God does in the second. In both examples He contrasts a common situation together with the remedy under the Law, and then opens His wisdom to us. "But I tell you..." In both instances the message he delivered must have caused mouths to drop.

"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your `Yes' be `Yes,' and your `No,' `No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

    "You have heard that it was said, `Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

It is my belief that the first comparison above dealing with personal language has more to do with integrity than the actual parsing of our speech, while the second example, as in the first, introduces the same revolutionary thinking.   Let him strike the other cheek, give him your cloak as well, and walk the second mile doesn't match up too closely with the "eye for an eye" mentality of the Law.  They have much more to do with love and respect for your fellow man.  And by fellow man, the reference is to apply not just to our friends, relatives or pew mates.   If we can look into the words and not at the words, I believe Jesus' thesis becomes self evident. He lived a life that demonstrated that thesis, which far outweighs in its importance and significance any one example he spoke in a literal sense. If you grab onto that thesis, (i.e. His Life) the rest falls into place.

    "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

And finally, before He delivers the knock-out blow to our normal, two dimensional and very human way of analyzing data, He assaults our "me first" mentality with "Love your enemies, ...that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Wow! A son of my heavenly Father! One of the family, even!  I must have to do something pretty dramatic to achieve this status, yes? Uh oh, what's that He just said?

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Maybe all that stuff He's just said that rattles the status quo of dealing with life was only a the build up to this. Maybe He wants us to stop judging ourselves and our neighbors by the yardstick(s) that we are so sure of and instead look at our own lives from a different perspective, i.e., His Father's. Maybe we should stop defining and judging these situations by our rules, but by His instead. Maybe the perfection we are so sure we understand has nothing to do with dotting i's and crossing t's. Maybe the perfect we are to be is defined by God, and not us. Maybe His definition of perfect is based more on how we treat each other as people, as families, as neighbors, as co-workers, as "enemies" then checking off my morning Bible reading schedule. Maybe the perfect God wants us to be springs from His definitions, His wisdom, and His understanding, and His grace, and not from our own understanding and 'righteousness'.

Matthew 19:16-22 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
    "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
    "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and `love your neighbor as yourself.' "
    "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
    Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
    When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Somehow I think that Jesus, knowing the mind and heart of God as He did, could have redelivered His Father's list of conditions in plain black and white once more, you know, the Mt. Sinai Top 10 ways to please God, obey his commands and be "perfect".  But He didn't.  The rich man had been keeping the top 10 (at least those Jesus mentioned) but he realized all too well there was still something missing. The final ingredient to the man's perfection had less to do with the 10 commandments, and more to do with what they were based on, namely, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself". Isn't that what the Sermon on the Mount was all about? Isn't that what Jesus life was all about? Shouldn't that be what God's Kingdom is all about?

Isa. 64:5 "...How then can we be saved?

Isa. 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags..."

1 Pet. 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.

III Paul's Battle

from The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse : by David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen p.36-38

In his writings to the church, Paul also used a variety of terms to confront those who were spiritually abusing the people of God, including: the circumcision, Judaizers, the false circumcision, the dogs, the evil workers and the false brethren.

Perhaps the most illuminating example showing us the dynamic of spiritual abuse is Paul's example in the book of Galatians. During his first missionary journey, Paul had preached the Good News of life and forgiveness in Christ in an area called Galatia. People were gloriously saved by placing their faith in Jesus. He later revisited the area to reinforce the faith of those who believed in Christ. It was then he learned that a group of people had followed behind him and spread a teaching that demanded the people be circumcised as an added proof of their spirituality.

In that day, of course, circumcision was the ultimate act of external religious performance. Abraham had been circumcised, but as an outside expression of the internal reality of his faith. The act itself had little to do with his standing spiritually. In Genesis 15:6, we read that he believed God and God "reckoned it to him as righteousness." The teaching that came to Galatia after Paul's departure was contrary to what he had taught, as well as a distortion of the original intent of circumcision. Consequently, he was dismayed and even indignant. Therefore, a spiritual system to be avoided is one in which the leaders or teachers add the performance of religious behaviors to the performance of Jesus on the cross as the means to find God's approval. The teaching of the Judaizers went something like this: "Faith in Jesus is right, and you must have it. But it's not enough. In order to really find positive standing in God's eyes, you have to be circumcised." In others words, false spiritual systems teach that right standing with God depends on what Jesus did, plus those "spiritual" acts that you do.


The weight we are describing is called legalism. It is a form of religious perfectionism that focuses on the careful performance and avoidance of certain behaviors. It teaches people to gain a sense of spiritual acceptance based on their performance, instead of accepting it as a gift on the basis of Christ.

Why were the leaders of Jesus' and Paul's day spreading legalistic teaching? Was it simply a matter of being right? It's more serious than that. Look at Galatians 6:12-13:

Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh.

You see, living with Jesus as your only source of life and acceptance is a confrontation to those who seek God's approval on the basis of their own religious behavior.

This, then, explains the pressure you feel to perform religious behaviors in spiritually abusive contexts. If you perform as they say you must: (1) it will make them look good; 2) their self-righteousness will escape the scrutiny of the cross of Christ as the only means to God's favor; (3) it will allow them to examine you instead of themselves; (4) they will be able to "boast in" or gain a sense of validation from your religious performance.

Can you see the abusive dynamic described in chapter one? Here we have religious people trying to meet their own spiritual needs through someone else's religious performance. And it's all cloaked in the language of being holy and helping others to live holy lives. Paul catalogs the damage at Galatia throughout the book of Galatians. In 1:7 he says they were "disturbed," the meaning of which ranges from "thrown into mental confusion" to "urged to commit treason." In 2:4 Paul calls this false teaching an attempt to "bring us into bondage." In 3:1 he says they were "bewitched, which means they acted as if they had a spell put on them. In 4:29 he calls what has happened to the Galatians "persecution." In 5:7 he says they were "hindered from obeying the truth." And in 4:l5 he asks the sad and telling question, to both them and us, "Where then is that sense of blessing you had?"

People who are spiritually abused feel so tired and so belittled because they cannot live up to other's spiritual expectations, that they have lost their sense of blessing.

A Seething Confrontation

While the words Paul uses to describe the abuse are vivid, his confrontation is seething. Paul says, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the Grace of Christ, for a different Gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the Gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-7).

When someone deserts from the army, they are Absent Without Official Leave. The Greek word for "desert" does not mean "absent." It means to "defect." When someone defects, they go over to the side of the enemy. In other words, those who are "disturbing" you are urging you to commit treason. Note, too, defection is not from denomination or doctrine, but from "Him" who called you by grace. Paul told the Galatians that if any person, even an angel from heaven, or even Paul himself, were to preach a gospel contrary to (other than, or more than) the one they had first heard and received, "let him be accursed," or consigned to destruction. In short, Paul took it very seriously when someone replaced the spiritual life of grace and rest with a life of imposed works.