Three older posts that should probably be read before you dig into this one is Justification, Grace, and Repentance. As this blog digs deeper into theology the reader should expect less and less posts to be stand alone.
A phrase made popular by Martin Luther is that all believers are presently “Saint and Sinner”. Both of these are a current reality in all of us. They don’t get along with each other as both push and pull against the other in this life.
The Steadfast Lutherans blog has a nice article on this that I recommend, but I will quote a piece of it:
“Too easily we imagine that we at one time were among the ungodly, but now enjoy our own inherent righteousness, or“sanctification.” We behave as if that’s what keeps us right in God’s eyes. Far too many Christians, even those in the churches who bear Luther’s namesake, ignore the dual reality that the German reformer articulated in his famous dictum that we are simultaneously justified and ungodly: fully sinner and wholly saint at the same time.”
“The Latin phrase “simul iustus et peccator,” that a Christian is“simultaneously justified and a sinner,” is the hinge on which not only Lutheran pastoral care hangs, but Lutheran theology as a whole, especially as regards justification.” – Steadfast Lutherans
Ultimately this understanding comes from the simple acceptance of the entire Word of God on this matter as being true. There are many passages that teach the total sinlessness and past tense sanctified nature of the believer. Also true, is that many teach the sinfulness that still resides within us.
Rather than abrogate one with the other and miss out on half of the council of scripture, it is best to accept both as true and let this confession form the teaching. Before reading I recommend you take another spin through Romans 6 and 7. I will pull from the text but you will miss important themes without the full context.
|Believers are Presently Perfect|
You have heard that sanctification is a process? This isn’t necessarily an untrue thing depending on what sense you mean that in. If you’re speaking about the believer as a whole then yes. But with regards to the ‘new man’ it is not the case at all. Because of this I prefer words like Christification or Theosis to refer to a process. The term sanctified I feel is best used to refer to the saint nature of the Believer.
“9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:9-11 KJV
Above notice that these words are in the past tense. Not only that, but they are juxtaposed against wicked sins that are no longer present in those being spoken to. This is a full and completed thing. He is not pointing to one day when it will take place, but presently speaking that it has.
What I want to point out above is that baptism is a past tense event performed upon the believer by God. In this act we are literally dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
become dead to the law
delivered from the law
our old man is crucified
freed from sin
death hath no more dominion over him
dead indeed unto sin
alive unto God
Don’t fight this teaching, it is true. The Believer is born again in the waters of their baptism. Holy and pure and dead to sin. Perfect in every way which Christ commanded (Matt 5:48). This is the merit Christ has won for us. An eternal perfection in word thought and deed, a new man created by the power of God unto salvation.
|Believers are Presently Sinners|
Just as the Bible teaches we are presently sinless, it also teaches us that we are sinners. Both are true at the exact same time. Just look at the Apostle Paul:
The obvious implication of the above verse is that since Paul was a sinner we should expect to be too. There are some groups out there that teach you are to expect to never sin at all, but look at Paul. Not only was he a sinner but he called himself the chiefest. Don’t fight it, it’s in the Bible just roll with it as true.
“7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:7-10 KJV
If you say you are not a sinner then you are a liar. John is saying this to believers, and he isn’t speaking of them before coming to faith for it speaks of being cleansed by Christ before calling you a sinner and then cleansing you again. Read the whole chapter and see for yourself. This is the Christian life of constant forgiveness in the waters of your baptism.
in my flesh
Above Paul speaks of what I can only describe as an internal tug of war between the new man and the old. The old man pulls and gains victory over the new, and the new pulls harder and gains victory over the old. This is an on-going struggle in our life. One side wicked and depraved, another sinless and perfect, each hating the other and seeking the upper hand.
|The Tug of War|
Below Paul describes this on-going struggle. My understanding is that rather than an “either/or” dichotomy scripture is teaching a “both/and”. At the same time that we are perfect in the eyes of God through the shed blood of Christ there is a struggle in the flesh during this life. Notice that Paul exhorts us to stand in this struggle and not yield to our wicked desires.
It is most simply understood that the Old Man is evil and the New Man is regenerated. The Old is sown in the earth upon our death and at that time this tug of war will be over. In the mean time each nature fights on.
It is my opinion that this struggle is for our own good. In this fight we must continually turn to Christ in faith, remember our baptism, seek absolution, hear the preaching of law & gospel, and receive the body and blood of Christ in bread and wine.
At the end of the day I find this understanding of scripture to be both clarifying and a great comfort. The fight is real and it is not made less important, but knowing that salvation isn’t hinged upon temporal success or failure in fighting the Old Man lets one place this burden on Christ in faith.