I was raised in a church culture that emphasized an immensely practical teaching—that every Christian is, at the same time, a sinner and a saint.
Did you know that? Every last person who trusts in Jesus, no matter how weak or immature in faith, is already a saint—forgiven, holy, blameless, pure, perfect, righteous, radiant, and more.
Here’s the proof—“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
At the same time, every Christian, no matter how strong or mature in faith, is still a sinner. Despite the Holy Spirit in our hearts, there is still an ugly, twisted, baffling, rebellious monster within us. A sinful nature. A corrupt flesh. An “old Adam.”
Here’s the proof—“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18,19).
Why do I think this teaching is necessary for your faith? Because it is the only hopeful way to explain your day.
Without the teaching of “still sinner,” you would panic at the stubborn sin that you seem to drag from Monday into Tuesday . . . and then Wednesday . . . and then every day. You might assume that a “real Christian” would never do something like that. That a true believer would have already put this sin to death long ago. That a child of God would be better than this, more mature than this, more like Jesus than this.
And without the “already a saint,” you would lose your hope. You would focus on your imperfections instead of the perfections of Jesus. You would spend all day thinking about your flawed behavior instead of the flawless behavior Jesus wrapped around you at your baptism. You would fix your eyes on a mirror instead of a cross, forgetting the good news that causes the Father to delight in you, rejoice over you, and accept you for the sake of his Son.
But put the two together—sinner and saint—and you have the recipe for humble joy. You have an answer to that proud part of your heart that thinks it can put its guard down or quickly judge “those people.” And you have the answer to the despair that cries out after a sinful day, “I’ll never be good enough for God!”
In other words, this teaching will help you become the confident yet meek Christian God calls you to be.
A few years ago, I read through the New Testament looking for both realities. In particular, I wanted to see how often Jesus and the apostles called God’s children “sinners” and how often they labeled them “saints” (or similar titles).
What I found changed the way I preached. And thought about myself.
In my rather informal research, I found 682 total titles used for God’s people: 612 of them were positive and only 70 were negative! For every 1 time God reminded his people they were still sinners, 9 times he declared that the blood of Jesus made them saints!
So maybe the best way to put it is like this: Through faith in Jesus, every Christian is a sinner/SAINT.
Shocking, isn’t it? So shocking I shared my research with some of my pastor friends. I signed the document like this: “Sincerely, Mike (a holy, righteous, perfect, pure, redeemed, justified, sanctified, saved son of God . . . who is also a sinner).”
9 to 1. That is God’s math. And it makes me love Jesus even more. By God’s grace, that is God’s math for you too.
That is a teaching to rejoice in!
Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.
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