The following is a discussion that came about based on a question to Christians. The question read as follows: Which is appropriate for a Christian to say about themselves?
A. I’m a sinner, saved by grace
B. I was a sinner, but I’ve been saved by grace
For me the real point of this little quiz was to provoke people to think about their identity in Christ and how God truly sees those of us who have been saved. While the names of these participants have been exposed to the internet already, I am going to use only first names here. Also I am going to edit some of the comments for the sake of space but will do my best to keep the original sentiment intact. This exercise confirmed for me what I’ve known for quite sometime which is for the most part Christians have an identity crisis; and when we don’t know who we are in Christ it affects every area of our lives.
The overwhelming majority of people who responded see themselves as sinners, more than twenty, even though they claim to be saved and or born-again. I’ll let the responses speak for themselves. Here they are.
Dave: A. for all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God.
Dona: B. I have been made perfect in Christ…!!!
Tammy: We are still capable of sinning…but with his love and forgiveness “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13
Joyce: A…we are still sinners…but, one day we will be like HIM!!
Ron: Not sucking me into this one.
Louie: Thanks so much for the responses but before I tell you my answer let me ask one more question. When Paul addresses his letters to the saints at Rome, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, etc. is he addressing you? If so does that mean the terms “saint” and “sinner” is interchangeable?
Dawn: A. God’s grace saved me. I’m still a human, still sin and won’t be perfect until He calls me home.
Dawn: I believe yes to your follow up question. Saints and sinners are the same. Saints saved by grace.
Louie: Here’s a thought: Before Adam disobeyed (ate the forbidden fruit) he wasn’t a sinner was he? I would say no. This means we don’t have to be a “sinner” to commit a sin. I think the Bible is clear that if we are “in Christ” we are a new creature (saint). This of course doesn’t mean we cannot commit a sin but according to 1 John it does mean we will no longer “practice” sin. So with all that being said, I think B. is the appropriate answer. If Jesus came to seek and save that which is lost I am either lost or found. I cannot be a lost/found person can I? “By His doing you (me) are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). All of this is the work of the cross. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). “All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in him in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete…” (Colossians 2:9-10).
Tammy H.: This is to your follow up question…saints are not sinless. The word saint means sacred. All who belong to Christ by faith are saints. We are born in sin. You become a saint by being reborn. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t sin.
Tammy H.: I was wrong it is B…sorry. I should have thought longer before answering…
Ron: 1 Cor. 13:9-12: We don’t always see ourselves as he sees us. Face to face is when we see the perfect complete creation. We know that we are complete/perfect in his eyes! Still have to live in an imperfect world in an imperfect sack of flesh! We still make mistakes. Face to face we will know as we are known. Amen
Louie: my thing with this line of questioning is based on my desire for us Christians to really see ourselves as God sees us. Jesus Christ paid much too high a price for us to go around seeing ourselves as sinners. He has bought us with a price, made us whole and set us apart for a purpose. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are a branch for Him to produce fruit through, and we are to be an expression of Christ for the world to see.
Ron: Don’t forget about the thorn that Paul carried around his whole earthly life. Think Grace.
Tim: What difference does it make A or B whether we believe we are a sinner or not?
Louie: Tim, the short answer is we are what we think. If we see ourselves as a sinner we will continue in sin. If we see ourselves as someone freed from sin less sin will manifest. “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Viewing ourselves as a sinner tends to become a cloak for sin. If we see ourselves as that we give ourselves an excuse. Well, I’m a sinner so I guess I can’t help it if I sin, so I might as well.
Ron: Got some people in the Word tonight. If you noticed I never did give my answer. According to the Word I believe in my spirit that the answer is…
Louie: Think about the song “Amazing Grace.” I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Part of being a witness for Christ is telling others I once was one way but now I’m another. It is all about our identity. Here’s another illustration. When we are born we are born a sinner (Pig). When we are born again we become a brand new creature not just a washed off pig. The nature of a pig is to wallow in the mud and like it. Once we are born again we become a new creature let’s say a sheep. The nature of a sheep isn’t to wallow in the mud and like it. No, in fact a sheep may very well find himself in the mud (sin) but rather than stay there he will get up and go the shepherd to clean him. So we are no longer pigs (sinners) we are sheep (saints).
Tim: This is what happens when we take proof texts to try and describe a biblical concept. Paul takes the whole book of Romans to systematically outline the doctrines of Justification and Sanctification. Legally in God’s eyes we are as you say, perfect sinless saints, but experientially we still wrestle with our sinful nature. So in a sense both A. and B. are true. The danger for each is that if we lose sight of our position in Christ we will live like sinners. However, we should not let our guard down to our sinful condition.
Louie: This idea of a sinful nature is a tough one, but I believe once we are born again we no longer have a sinful nature. In fact I believe we humans have no nature of our own. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we were all dead in trespasses and sins and were “by nature” children of wrath because of the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. The good news is now that we are in Christ we are a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). So in my view we are either by nature a child of wrath, because of the spirit of error indwelling us, or we have been born again and have become a partaker of the very nature of Christ. Either way we have no nature of our own rather we are joined to the nature of another.
Tammy S.: Sinner does not mean one who sins. In the Word, sin and death means separation. So a sinner is one who is separated from God by sin. The thing is we should only say about ourselves what God says and He NEVER calls His children sinners so neither should we. You know I bowl sometimes but I don’t identify myself as a bowler. I was a sinner, but I got saved by God’s marvelous grace, and now He says I’m a saint. In my spirit I am the perfect new creature that I am going to be throughout all eternity, and I am in the process of renewing my mind to think like the new creature He created me to be. Hallelujah!!
Tim: Oh boy, this could turn into a big can of worms based on our different understandings of the doctrines of the human condition and such.
Karen: I like to say it like this; I am not a sinner because I sin. I sin because I am a sinner born with a sinful nature however now saved by grace in Jesus name.
Louie: There are no worms here Tim just some people discussing what faith in Jesus Christ means. I don’t think there’s any bad vibes here. “Iron sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
Heather: There is none that is perfect…No not one! Salvation is a free gift of undeserved mercy for the sinner, so we are saved by Jesus Christs’ sacrifice and grace. We are to turn from sin and follow Christ. However, we may fall and stumble along the path until we are made perfect in Heaven with our Lord. So we are a sinner, saved by grace. A.
Ron: Are we done yet? Just kidding. Good debate. No winners. Saved by grace through faith. Sinner or saint doesn’t matter what word you use to describe yourself. Saved by grace through faith is what’s important. Amen.
Tammy S.: Thank you Lord for revealing to me who I am in you.
Keith: We are new creatures. Thinking that we are not sinners doesn’t make us not sinners, and having a sinful nature/body doesn’t cause us to sin more…unless we use that excuse. There’s only one human who walked the earth that was sinless: Jesus Christ. There’s no way we can say we ever become sinless, or that we don’t sin anymore. We ALL sin no matter what. So when we do sin, what then? Are you not born again? A child of God anymore? You still are!
Louie: Wow! This was amazing. Obviously there are deep rooted beliefs about whether or not we should call ourselves “sinners” after we’ve been born again. This reminds me of how many people, who have had an addiction, see themselves as an addict forever. To me we have a choice to make either we see ourselves as the world or (tradition) sees us or we see ourselves as the Bible sees us. According to the Word, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). I’m going to leave it here but maybe we’ll try another little quiz soon. Thank you so much for the great participation. I’ve learned a lot.
Keith: In addition to being a deep-rooted belief (because of what God’s Word tells us), you/we have to take his Word collectively, as a whole, and base you beliefs on that, not on a verse here and there. **I’m not saying you are I’m speaking in general about KNOWING what God says.
Kelly: After reading all of your posts, I still agree with answer A. Our spirits are saved by faith and God’s grace, and because we seek to be like Him, we ask for His will and guidance in our lives, and we trust Him to “lead us not into temptation,” so to speak. But, while we are still human, our nature is still sinful from birth on. We sin daily…even the slightest rude thought towards another is a sin. Angry reactions and harsh words, even simple sarcasm, to people and circumstances, is sin. Ever thought of another woman Louie? Lust? Ever wished you had as much as someone else? Envy or coveting however you chose to say it. Ever told a teensy weensy, well-meaning lie? It’s still a lie. Ever cursed in your mind but not out loud? God still hears it. Not one of us can say not to any of these. But, as Christians, we know it is wrong, and we repent daily, even minute by minute for some of us (me!!). I am no theologian by any means, and I don’t have 100 verses of scripture to back up what I’m saying. But I DO know I can never lose my salvation, if I am truly saved. And because He lives through me, I can have the strength to go on KNOWING I am a sinner, saved by His grace through my FAITH in Him. It is through that very faith that we turn to Him to forgive us, daily, of our sins and to try to keep from those sins to the very best of our ability. And when I get to see Him, because of my faith and trust in Him, I know I will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I screw up daily, not because I want to, but because I am not God. I am not perfect. But I love Him for loving me despite all my wretched faults. And I will sleep well knowing I am a forgiven child of the King every night. God bless you for making me think on this tonight, I hope and pray I haven’t offended anyone with my beliefs. Goodnight.
Louie: No one is indicating a Christian can’t or won’t sin. The original question was about how we identify ourselves. Jesus himself said, “I came to seek and save the lost.” The good news is once He has saved us we are no longer lost. Whenever a blind man was touched by Jesus he went away seeing, so do we still call him a blind man? When a lame man was healed by Jesus, was he still lame? What about Lazarus? After Jesus raised him from the dead would we consider him to still be a dead man? Look to nature for a minute with me. Have you ever looked at a butterfly and said to yourself, “Look at that beautiful caterpillar?” Pertaining to thoughts, do you think, no pun intended, Jesus ever had a “bad” thought? For instance in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus didn’t appear to want to do what God wanted, He said, “my soul is deeply grieved and sorrowful (thoughts and feelings), even unto death” and “If there’s any other way.” Thoughts and feelings come and go all day everyday and we simply cannot control all of them nor do I think they are necessarily sin. There is a place where a thought becomes lust but simply having a renegade thought doesn’t automatically mean it’s sin.
In conclusion let me say, part of my job as a student of the Bible is to question traditions and rituals to see if they line up with the Word of God. I hope this has rattled a few of you, at least to the point of making sure of what you know. All I ask is that you don’t allow your thoughts and feelings to override what God says to be true about you. Our thoughts and feelings are to be the caboose not the engine.