Holiness: Saints or Sinners?

I am sometimes asked, “As Christians, should we view ourselves as saints or sinners?” My answer is, both. We are simultaneously saints and sinners. The apostle Paul often referred to believers as saints (Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1), and we really are. We are saints not only in our standing before God but in our essential persons as well.

We really are new creations in Christ. A real, fundamental change has occurred in the depths of our beings. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell within us, and we have been freed from the dominion of sin. But despite this we still sin every day, many times a day. And in that sense we are sinners.

We should always view ourselves both in terms of what we are in Christ, that is, saints, and what we are in ourselves, namely, sinners. To help us understand this twofold view of ourselves, consider Jesus as an analogy. In His own person He was sinless, but as our representative He assumed our guilt. However, He never had any of the personal feelings associated with guilt. He was fully conscious of His own sinlessness even when bearing our sins and the curse of our sins in our place. In like manner, while we should always rejoice in the righteousness we have in Christ, we should never cease to feel deeply our own sinfulness and consequent unworthiness.
In other words, just as Christ could maintain a separate sense of His personal sinlessness and His official bearing of our sin, so we must distinguish between the righteousness we have in Him and the sinfulness we see in ourselves.

If we refuse to identify ourselves as sinners as well as saints, we risk the danger of deceiving ourselves about our sin and becoming like the self-righteous Pharisee. Our hearts are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and we all have moral “blind spots.” We have a difficult enough time seeing our sin without someone insisting that we no longer consider ourselves as “sinners.”

written by Jerry Bridges

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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