Am I A Saint Or A Sinner?

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God
-Ephesians 2:19

From time to time the discussion emerges regarding the identity of Christians. Is it proper for us to refer to ourselves as sinners? Or since we have been bought by the blood of Christ and given new natures and desires, are we only to refer to ourselves as saints?

I remember being a new Christian and reading Neil T. Anderson’s “Victory Over the Darkness,” in which he writes at length of how important it is not to refer to oneself as a sinner. Once we’ve placed our faith in Christ we receive a new identity from Him in which we are now called saints of God. I don’t disagree with the principle here, but I don’t believe it is the whole picture. Psychologically, I believe there is a great benefit to this way of thinking. It allows us to lay hold of our new identity as Christians and perhaps this helps us to align our life with the new desires we receive from Christ. However, we will never be perfect this side of glory. And to that end, I don’t think it is wise or necessary to correct people who refer to themselves as sinners.

The apostle Paul says it this way, “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” (1 Tim 1:15). For my current purposes the most important word in this sentence is the word “am.” He doesn’t say he was as sinner, but that he is a sinner. It’s in the present tense. To that end I think we have no business nitpicking the words others use when referring to themselves as either sinner or saint. Are we sinners saved by grace? Or saints who occasionally sin? My answer: yes!

[Photo credit: Wasfi Akab via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND]

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