Saints, not Sinners
In Bible terms, we did nothing to become a sinner. We were born that way. It’s who we were by nature. In the same way, we did nothing to become a saint. We were re-born that way. It’s now who we are by nature.
It was not our bad deeds that made us a sinner. It was our birth. And it was not our good works that made us righteous, Saints. It was our re-birth. This means that we get our identity from our birth, not our behavior. And this is how God operates. He says, we are not what we do.
Simply put, our sin does not make us a sinner. Our sin means we are a Saint who sins. We are not both a saint and a sinner. We are a saint. We are not two people. Our identity as Saint is not changed by how we live since our identity as Saint was not earned or given by how we lived. This is why we are called Saints, not sinners, over and over again.
Still doubting your new identity? Read what God says about you:
“For we are His Masterpiece.” Eph. 2:10
“In Him you have been made complete.” Col. 2:10
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” 1 Pet. 2:9
“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ.” 2 Cor. 2:15
“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. 6:11
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 2 Cor. 5:17
You are all that God says you are. You are not what your feelings, your past, or your friends say that you are.
Your new identity and the Life you now carry within you means that you are designed to live holy. Of course, we will all stumble in many ways, and will not always have our act together. But God has created within us a desire to trust him. And He is both patient and kind towards us. He is not in a hurry for us to behave perfectly. No, that is not his goal. His goal is to conform us to His Son by simply being with us, in us, and for us, every moment of every day.
This new identity means we have a new heart. This heart is obedient, full of God’s love, and pure (Rom. 5:5; 6:17; 1 Tim. 1:5). This new heart wants what God wants. This is why sin does not make sense. Our new heart does not want to take advantage of our total forgiveness. Instead our new heart wants to live as the cleansed and forgiven person we are.
Here’s the thing, our new identity is a process of discovery. We are already all that God wants us to be, but we are discovering what that means each day. At first, it may seem weird to not want to sin. But over time you will realize that being yourself and walking by God’s Spirit feels the same. Living out of who you are in Christ is your new default, and over time you will learn to choose that more naturally.
Why Do We Still Sin?
If we are righteous and holy, then why do we still sin? It is important to realize that we do not sin because of our nature or self. We sin because we have a tempter, a force acting against us (sin), and old habits and thoughts (the flesh).
The power of sin is a force that wages war against our mind (Rom. 7:23). It is something that is in us, but is not us. This is why when Paul sinned, he said it was not him, but sin that dwelt within him (Rom. 7:17, 20). But the good news is we are no longer bound to the power of sin. We are dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11).
This means we now have the power to choose. We no longer have to sin, we can choose to walk another way. So, when you get those thoughts and temptations, know that they are not coming from you. They are coming from a power called sin. And God has freed you from sin so that you can choose Him, not sin, in those moments.
The flesh is the other reason we sin. Now, the flesh is not your old self. That was crucified and buried. The flesh is the way you used to get identity and the way you used to think (1 Cor. 1:26; Phil. 3:4-6; Gal. 3:3). It’s your old habits and ways of coping.
The flesh wages war against the Spirit. That is why we are called to walk by the Spirit. When we do walk after the flesh and sin, we are still in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). We are not called to fight the flesh or focus on the flesh. Instead we are told to “keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).” Put simply, look to Jesus.
In summary, we do not need anything more. We have all of Jesus. And all the identity we need. Put another way, we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).
Chief of Sinners?
Every reference to sinner in the New Testament is always talking about unbelievers. The Church on the other hand are always called Saints. No writer ever calls a believer a sinner. However, the apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners. What did he mean?
Once again, context is our friend. Paul is not referring to his new self as the chief of sinners. Nor is he telling the Church to wear this as a badge of honor like many do today. Instead he is talking about his former way of life and how awesome God’s mercy on him was. Remember, Paul gave approval to the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1).
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16
There is a “but” after Paul said he was the foremost of sinners. He goes on to say that he received mercy for this reason. What was the reason? He was the foremost of sinners. That is why he received mercy. Paul is giving his testimony. Jesus saved Paul, the foremost of sinners, as an example to those who were to believe in him. Paul is saying if Jesus can save me, he can save you.
Although it may sound humble to call yourself the chief of sinners. It is actually telling God that what he says about you is not enough. Sure, we all sin. But we are not sinners any longer. We are Saints. And we are all that God says we are.
To read more, check out my bestselling book, "The Cross Worked."