SAINTS and Sinners Glenn W. Harrell 09-16
Ask the average guy on the street—no, go ahead and ask the average person in the pew—
WHO IS A SAINT — WHO IS A SINNER, AND WHY? Get ready for some interesting theology.
So, for the fun of it, let’s look at biblical doctrine and the truth of scripture to discover just who qualifies as a Sinner or as a Saint. We are about to reaffirm why a very stubborn belief persists generation after generation. That belief is that anyone—anyone can earn or work their way to God by doing good deeds.
A “Sinner” (noun) is anyone who remains outside the grace of God, having rejected His offer of Salvation. They are not sinners because of their bad behaviors, they behave badly because they are sinners. A Sinner is not a sinner because he/she sins. Rather because it is in his/her nature to do so while living outside of Christ and His forgiveness. He is obligated to do so. His sin is the symptom of being a Sinner, not the cause.
Just ask any Saint about this, they remember.
They can tell you. A Sinner cannot become a Saint through any amount of good behaviors. They are sinners because, well, they were born that way.
“Adam disobeyed God and caused many others to be sinners. But Jesus obeyed him and will make many people acceptable to God.” (Romans 5:19)
Their sins are but natural symptoms of their status as an “outsider” to God. They are yet “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) They are sinners, and contrary to secular opinion and feelings, no attempts whatsoever at moral self-restoration (being a do-gooder) will convert them into a Saint. No, these efforts only make them religious, obnoxious, and sometimes dangerous. A Sinner, absent of his repentance from unbelief and sin, is a condemned son of Adam bound to a Christ-less eternity apart from grace and the gift of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.
Whether straight, gay, identifying as a human or as a puppy, let us be as clear to one another as God is to us in His Word. Neither the Saint nor the Sinner is perfect, and they never will be. Yet only the Saint can live with the certainty that God chooses to call His children Saints because of, and only because of, His Son residing in their hearts and lives.
All people who sin…my sin, yours, theirs, Saints and Sinners alike–hear the good news! Sainthood is a spiritual birthright, not a fleshly human achievement or contest. No Saint ever won and or deserved the favor of God, and thus His salvation or Sainthood, by “doing good”. Neither will he loose it if he does something bad, as if God, in His grace, is a trader in sleight of hand and trickery.
“God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.” (Romans 3:22-24)
Saints are those who have been born again by God’s invitation, Spirit and grace. This new birth took away their status and identity as a “Sinner”. It is gone entirely, yet some may continue to call themselves a Sinner (noun), even though God does not. A Saint is a transformed Sinner who is heaven bound through no good deed of his own. Therefore, calling one’s self a Saint is not a cocky, presumptuous act of hypocrisy as some might preach. Doing so is actually agreeing with God about ones status as a child of God.
Sainthood is not about achieving human sin-less-ness or perfection as the world so defines. It is an exclusive title and position before God that only God can assign. (John 3) God saves the Sinner and sets him apart for his own character and purposes. Now, when a Saint calls himself a Sinner, it is a futile attempt at the pride of self-sufficiency and indicates a lack of understanding about his true identity in Christ Jesus.
A born again Christian proclaiming “I’m just a Sinner saved by grace” is but a mockery to the true grace of God that makes us His Child—His Saint.
As split, stubborn and sinful as local church congregations might become today, their dysfunction cannot begin to compare with the Church at Corinth. In spite of this reality, listen to what Paul still says to and about them:
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, Saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 1:2-3)
The followers of Christ, here spoken of as “Saints”, were not known to act as such. Quite the opposite actually. They were carnal, spiritually immature, and yet worldly minded in their thinking. Yet Pastor Paul reminded them of their Sainthood by calling in Christ.
Members of the early orthodox Catholic Church are responsible for defining Sainthood as becoming of personal moral achievement. The Apostle Paul is in disagreement about this canonization through human proclamation–for himself and anyone else.
The rest of his writing to them details how the Saint is going to mature and behave in this world. We learn here that all Saints were once Sinners. All Saints have a dark past and all Sinners can have a bright future. All Saints can join in with St. Paul in claiming the title, “chief of sinners”, but we do so as he. This was a trophy of the past—a symbol of just how far a man can run from God and yet how persistent God’s love is to transform those who will trust and receive him. The trophy is BC—before Christ.
Salvation by grace, through faith, not our moral or immoral behaviors, makes us to be His Saint’s. (Titus 3:47) We now share in the perfection of Christ, not the death of Adams curse. The potential for the Saint to sin remains until death. But now, his post-salvation sinfulness becomes a matter of Father-Son discipline, not eternal destiny. It has become a matter of loving obedience. The Saint wants as much as anything to please and obey the heavenly Father, not in order to become a Saint but because he is one. He has a love relationship, not a perfunctory list of do’s and don’ts. We are reminded of this many times throughout scripture.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) “I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know Me.” (John 10:14)
“Should we keep on sinning, so that God’s wonderful kindness will show up even better? No, we should not! (Romans 6:1)
“God corrects all of His children, and if He doesn’t correct you, then you don’t really belong to Him.” (Hebrews 12:8)
Christians (SAINTS) are not moral do-gooders, they are “new creatures”, (II Corinthians 5:17) and though sometimes sinful, they are no longer Sinners.
Go ahead. Be the Saint that you are. It’s not an act, it’s who we are newly created to be.