Am I a Sinful Saint or a Saintly Sinner?
by Joseph Franks
On the sixth when man was first created, he became a sinless saint.
He was perfectly made in God’s own image and likeness and was thoroughly holy in all his affections, thoughts, words, and deeds. Adam brought great glory to God, and with pride the Father looked at his first human creation and said, “He is very good.” Then, for some time to follow, God and man greatly enjoyed the presence of one another. God and man dwelt in perfect union in the Garden of Eden.
On the sad day when man rebelled, he became a sinful non-saint.
Adam and Eve were tempted and they switched teams. The seed of sin began inside; it grew and soon manifested itself in outward decisions and actions. Their failure to worship internally led to their failure to worship externally, and the results were catastrophic. As man switched allegiances and joined the family of Lucifer, together they considered God their enemy. God saw all of this ugly defiance. He looked down and witnessed man willingly doubting his goodness, disbelieving his Word, discounting his wrath, disobeying his Law, and devouring the forbidden fruit. Consequently he proclaimed his promised curse. All were wicked. All were devilish. There was “none good, not even one.” All earned his wrath. Man had made their choice, and they had chosen poorly. They preferred the friendship of Satan and made God their enemy.
Strange was the response of God! Showing undeserved love towards his enemies, God decided to postpone the execute of man; they would not be immediately and permanently cast into the abyss of fire. He determined to provide a remedy for his enemies; he would go to work on their behalf and provide for them an second opportunity to assess their situation and make the right decision. God would send and sacrifice his Son. His Son would earn the righteousness and pay for the unrighteousness of all God’s enemies who admitted their sins and bowed in faithful submission to him. God then did that which he promised. He sent his Son. He watched his Son. He killed his Son. Then he raised his Son from the grave to rule on the throne forever and ever. God then sent apostles and disciples throughout the world presenting the Gospel to those at enmity with God.
Strange but not shocking was the response of men! Though receiving a temporary stay of execution, and though hearing the Good News of God’s undeserved love and righteousness, man was not interested in repenting and submitting. One might ask, “Why would a damned and cursed enemy respond to a good and gracious God in such an unreasonable manner?” The answer is clear; it is because men are evil to the core. He is wicked and “not good” in his affections, thoughts, words, and deeds. His cancerous depravity has infected the entire man — including his “free will” that was freely choosing to reject God each and every time.
But God was not finished showing undeserved love, grace, and omnipotent power …
On the special day when man was regenerated, he became a sinless saint or a saintly sinner?
First, God transformed the dysfunctional hearts and wicked free wills of those at enmity with him. With sovereign, unrequested, grace and love, he drew near to some. Effectively he poured revival fire upon their hearts, and convinced them to hear, understand, appreciate, believe, repent, and choose him. The Omnipotent Lover became irresistible to them, and his enemies willingly bowed their knees, bowed their heads, bowed their wills and called out to Christ for salvation.
Then God declared those who were “not good” to be “very good.” Those who were his enemies were now his beloved friends. They were clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. They were were justified. They were positionally sanctified. They were adopted and declared to be his sons and daughters. From now on, they were holy saints, and there was nothing anyone could do to change this title.
Then God led them in living victoriously over sin. Though they were perfectly declared acceptable by the Father, clothed by the Son, and filled by the Spirit, God determined not to end their struggle with sin. Oh, he surely could have done so, but in accordance with his divine wisdom and plan, he chose not to do so. Therefore, holy saints were still required to struggle with their nagging, fleshly, sinful old nature. God allowed it to hang around and give them hell. Even the best of disciples, even the Holy Spirit inspired disciples, never reached a stage of Christian Perfectionism. Paul wrote:
Galatians 5:17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Romans 7:15,18-23 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do … I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do– this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
However, this is not the end of the story …
On the set day when man breathes his last, he will become a sinless saint.
Many of us will cross over to the other side when our bodily curse consumes us. Who knows, all of us may cross over to the other side when Jesus comes again, before our bodily curse consumes us. However, whether by means of natural causes or a supernatural second-coming, all our days are appointed and numbered. And on that glorious day, when our eyes see Jesus face to face, we will only be like him. Our days of being sinless saints or saintly sinners will be over. From that point on we will experience our final, eternal, and infallible condition. No longer will there be a conflict between our holy souls and our hellish world, flesh, and devil. Our sin nature will be neutered and we will never again struggle with sin.
Let us not discount our iniquity and enmity.
C.H. Spurgeon says:
When young folks tell me how terribly wicked they are, and therefore they are afraid that they cannot be saved, I sometimes reply, Yes, but you are much worse than you think you are. They look so astonished for they hoped to be comforted, and they are plunged into a deeper ditch.
This Christian spokesman is not satisfied with his parishioners having a general understanding of sin. Instead, he wants us to sense how deeply offended is God by our gross affections, thoughts, words, and deeds. And we are at enmity with a holy, omniscient, omnipotent, and immutable God. We are in perilous straights. We are like Jonathan Edwards’ spider hanging from a thread over the flame of God. We are like the Japanese receiving the final warning from America before the bombs of fury fell. Having the holy God as our enemy is not safe in any way. How many days do we have left? Who knows.
However, Spurgeon will not leave us there. He continues:
I would them tell them that the Lord Jesus came to save the weak and worthless. We lay the axe to the tree of self that men may fly to the tree of life.
Jesus Christ would have us buckle before the Law, tremble before his judgment, that we might be saved by his loving, merciful grace. He has come to save us who are sinners. He has come to save us who acknowledge we are not healthy but filled with a spiritual cancer. He has come to save us who know we are not friendly, but are at enmity with God. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day for us to put down our arms, wave the white flag, and come marching to his side.
Let us not discount our war.
Now, after coming to his side, let us with Christ wage war against wickedness. Yes, God could have rescued us from our sinful world, flesh, and devil. And yes, some day he will do so. But for now we fight; this is our calling. So let us not be defeated, for we already have the Son’s righteousness, the Father’s acclamation, and the Holy Spirit dwells within. The Bible tells us, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Therefore, as we walk in accordance with the Spirit, and are led to the place of temptation by God’s sovereign Spirit, we too can say “No” to sin. And when we find ourselves weakly and sinfully not saying “No” to sin, we can with full confidence repent and practice saying “No” to sin the next time.
Friends, the Law becomes more than a taskmaster for us on Jesus’ team.
- It now represents the righteousness we already have in Jesus Christ.
- It becomes the declaration of how God views us in Christ Jesus.
- It also describes the desire of our revived hearts as we pant for righteousness.
- It provides the way of wisdom for us who long to worship God rightly.
- It proclaims our objective as we obey and struggle in our ordained, holy war.
- It points out what we will experience fully in paradise when sin is no more.
Therefore Christian, let us walk in the Spirit, keep step with the Spirit, abide in the Spirit, live spiritually, and wage our holy war. We are not sinful-unsaints. No, we are sinful saints or saintly sinners waiting for the V-Day when God will completely finish that which he has already begun. We are waiting for graduation day when we are sinful saints no more and only sinless saints.