Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sinner or Saint?

I am a disciple of Jesus. Am I a sinner or a saint? The answer seems almost obvious, but to hear the talk of other believers one could be led to wonder.

For example, I often hear other disciples say this: “I’m a sinner saved by grace.”

I understand what this little bit of Christianese means: “I am a person who sometimes sins, and the grace of God has saved me through Jesus Christ.” I certainly agree with this, but just because a disciple sins, does that make him a sinner?

Paul called the believers in Rome saints (Rom 1:7). Luke reported that when Peter raised Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:40-41), “he called the saints and widows, presented her alive.” (KJV). There are many other such usages in the New Testament.

We have become culturally accustomed to using the word “saint” in the sense of some exceptionally holy person. Wikipedia explains:
“Saint is a term used to describe a person who is perceived of being an example of exceptional holiness. It is predominantly used within Christian religions, which have specific usages for the term depending on the denomination involved. The word is derived from the use of the word "hagios" (Greek άγιος meaning "holy" or "holy ones") in the New Testament, where it is used to describe the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.[1]

As Christianity developed, the word "saint" became to be used more commonly to designate specific individuals who were held to be exemplars of the faith, and who were commemorated or venerated as an inspiration to other Christians. Within the Roman Catholic tradition, a formal process of canonization developed for identifying individuals as saints. Within Protestant traditions, "saint" is also used to refer to any born again Christian.”
I suggest that the writers of scripture made no such distinction. From the usages of the word in the New Testament, it is clear that they are referring to believers. While there have been some towering examples of faith in Christ, I and they are alike in that we are both saints.

Well, isn’t this just a trifling matter, a question of semantics?

I don’t think so. It is a matter of identification. I sin; although by the grace of my Master, I sin less today than years ago, and I believe I will sin less in the future as I grow in Him. But I am not a sinner. Sinning is not the trajectory of my life.

My identification is that of a saint.

1 comment:

  1. David, this is a profound and wonderful word for the Body of Christ, and one that needs to be paid forward systemically in the body right now. It's critical to the "season" we are in, thanks for posting it.

    Teeg Stouffer
    Council Bluffs, IA