Yeah ... you're a legend in your own mind.
More than once I've come across the assertion that one is not a sinner anymore. The thinking is, "I'm a saint, so I must no longer be a sinner."
I've even been rebuked for saying that I am a sinner saved by grace.
I have had many discussions with folks on this topic and I find it troubling. One such discussion has sparked this post.
- - - - - - - - - -
I appreciate the heart of those who affirm sainthood to the point of denying their identity as sinners. I do. I think much of it comes from a desire to think oneself to be who one is, rather than who one once was. I appreciate that. I really do, but I have to disagree.
It's not that we're not saints, of course. But it's a false dichotomy and dishonest to say we're not sinners.
We're sinners saved by grace through faith. We're saints because we've been declared such, and should act like such.
Yet, we're saints that sin. That's the Reformed (or historic Protestant) understanding of justification.
As Luther penned it, "simul iustus et peccator" - Latin for simultaneously justified and sinner.
In other words, I am a saint and a sinner, pardoned and adopted by God's grace.
We're sinners simply because we sin and that's what the word means. To deny we sin is another problem in and of itself.
Plus, Paul speaks of himself as a sinner, in fact the chief of sinners in 1 Tim 1:15. And he does so in the present tense.
It's not "I was the chief of sinners," but "sinners, of whom I am chief."
Like the elderly Texas lady said of the KJV, "If it's good enough for the Apostle Paul, it's good enough for me."
There is often concern, however, that just as Satan tries to convince the unconverted that they're saints, so he tries to convince the converted that they're "unworthy sinners."
First, I would say, we are unworthy and will always be so, in and of ourselves. Any pleasure God has in us is because of Christ and His righteousness, not ours.
I also have to disagree, at least in my experience,with regard to spiritual warfare as to our identity. For me, the enemy's attack (post-conversion) has been more, "No, that's no big deal. It's not sin. If so, it's only a little one and, hey, you're a forgiven saint anyway, so what's the big deal? Jesus will still love you. Do it. You know you want to."
I have been told:
"Luther’s comment is not found anywhere in scripture and Paul’s statement is just an adjectival phrase of who Jesus came to save (he’s one of the group). Paul also said that he wasn’t fit to be called an apostle which, given the same kind of literalistic interpretation that you use in 1 Tim. 1.15, means that God really missed it.
While the Reformers saw some light on faith, that revelation does not transmogrify them into being foundational apostles or even put them in a class of elevated teachers. They, for instance, failed to understand the ontological significance of verses such as 2 Corinthians 5.21 (”we are God’s righteousness”) or Galatians 6.15 (”what counts is a new creation”) with their Latinized justification template."
Well, I'm just a caveman. I don't really understand transmogrified apostles or Latinized justification templates, but I do know this.
In 1 Cor 15 Paul speaks the truth, he wasn't worthy. He doesn't say he was "unfit," but I'll even go that route. God made him fit.
"For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." (v.9)
How can that mean anything other than what Paul meant? God called him by grace, since he wasn't worthy. Had he been fit, then it wasn't by grace.
Of course, there's always Romans 7 where Paul speaks in the present tense. Some will dispute the nature of his discourse, but in the context of dealing with sanctification you have the Apostle Paul speaking of himself as struggling with sin.
In 1 Tim 1:15 Paul speaks in the present tense of being a sinner. Sure, that's a literalistic interpretation. Is that a bad thing? Don't his words mean things ... literally?
Luther's comment, of course, wasn't in Scripture, which was obvious since it's Latin. But, of course, "trinity" is not found in Scripture either, but it's a helpful way of understanding things (cf. "hypostatic union," "forensic justification," "substitutionary atonement," etc.).
My question to those who claim to be saints, but deny they are sinners is always this: Are you saying that you don't sin? If so, I have little hope we'll come to any agreement on things of the faith.
But, if you sin, then you're a sinner ... just like the rest of us. We all know that's how language works.
One who runs is a ... runner
One who swims is a ... swimmer.
One who sins is a ... sinner.
In short, I think such folks assume the conclusion. They assume a false dichotomy that we can't be both a saint and a sinner at the same time, which is a very Roman Catholic approach.
They know we're saints, so they assume we can't be sinners. Then they interpreting these texts through such a lens.
The thinking is: "Well, they can't mean that a regenerate person is a sinner, so they must mean something else."
I just don't think these texts are given a fair treatment to allow them to answer the question of our multi-faceted identity.
In a discussion along these lines, one wrote:
"It’s one thing to admit that I sin. It’s another to wallow in that admission and fail to walk in the triumphant life Christ purchased for us on the cross."
Amen. I'm certainly not advocating that. We are to walk as children of light, living as new creations.
"The Word shows us that a sinner has the nature of the devil in him (John 8.44) and that he is also “energized” by the devil as Rotherham puts it (Eph. 2.2). The Word also shows us that one who is born-again has the very nature of God Almighty in him (see John 1.2, 4; 10.10)."
I've not heard of Rotherham, but even if he "saw some light on faith, that does not transmogrify [him] into being [a] foundational apostle or even put [him] in a class of elevated teachers."
(Just having some fun with it.)
I agree that there's been a significant, nay huge, change in those born again. I agree we were children of wrath and of the devil, etc. What I'm arguing, however, is that those things don't mean we're not "sinners saved by grace" in addition to all those other things.
"In that light, I am a saint. Not because of anything I did, but because of what Jesus Christ did for me! Yes, I sin - but I learn from it, ask forgiveness and continue on being “made” by the One I follow!"
Amen. We sin, because we're sinners and/or thereby making us sinners, but we're also saints.
I'm certainly not arguing that we're not saints.
"Call it “The New-Birth Birthright.” Yes, we will struggle with the old nature at times, but we’re all new creations in Christ. Our address has been changed from hell to heaven. Should we go back to hell and reminisce about the old days? No. We must claim the birthright He purchased for us by living obediently with Him as our Head. That’s the position we’re in now, the position of the saint. (BTW, Watchman Lee lays this out brilliantly in his exposition of Ephesians, Sit, Walk, Stand.)"
(I think it's Watchman Nee being referring to. His name seems to have been combined with Witness Lee.)
But, who said anything about going back to hell to reminisce about the old days? I'm talking about the here and now. As you note, we will struggle with the old nature at times ... and sin. That's our reality, isn't it? Saints that sin?
Do you sin? If you're not a sinner, then doesn't the answer have to be no?
In these discussions folks will often labor to convince me that we're saints, that which I'm not denying nor arguing against. I'm fully persuaded the redeemed are saints in Christ Jesus. So, if you're trying to persuade me of that, it's already a given.
What must be proven is that one cannot be both at the same time, not merely because we declare it to be so, but by Scripture or logic or something. Or what must be proven is that we are not sinners in any sense after conversion.
Those are the thoughts I'm challenging, not that we're saints, children of God, priests, new creatures, etc.
I don't want to come across as antagonistic, but this is an important issue that we not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, sinners saved by grace.