As I stated in last monthâs article, I will continue to expound on, what I consider poor theology, Christians considering themselves sinners. I will be the first to admit that I have sinned since I have been saved, and I do not know of any believers that have not sinned since they became a believer. However, sin must not be our habit. You are what you practice. If you practice righteousness, holiness and faithfulness, then that is what you are. If you practice or have a habit of sin, then you are a sinner.
In last monthâs article I closed with the suggestion that some may ask, âwhat about Paul claiming to be chief of sinners?â I would like us to take a look together at this portion of scripture where Paul makes that statement. It is found in I Timothy 1:15; âThis is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.â No doubt that the way this is translated into English it appears Paul is claiming to be the foremost sinner. Before I continue to look more into this verse I want you to consider a few things. If Paul is really stating that he is not just a sinner, but the worst of them all, why would he rebuke the Corinthians for allowing that man to have an incestuous relationship with his fatherâs wife? If Paul told them to remove that man from the church should they not remove Paul too, especially if he is a worse sinner than that man? If Paul was the worst of sinners, should he not heed his own warning to the Corinthians about the Lordâs Supper when he said, âFor he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.â (1Co 11:29). The worst of sinners would most certainly drink in an unworthy manner.
Again I ask, do you think the great apostle Paul was the worst of all sinners after he became a believer? I am sure he wasn’t and I am sure you donât really believe he was either. I am a stickler when it comes to reading the bible. I believe, for the most part, we must believe the bible for the simple words it says, but every once in a while something is said that seems contradictory. When that happens we have to take a closer look at the passage(s). One of the most important rules of good bible study is to take the verses around a verse and let it help bring a clearer understanding to the passages in question. I tell my church often, âlet the scriptures interpret the scripturesâ Of course we cannot leave out the biggest factor of true bible study and that is the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. As we apply the rule of keeping scripture in context, not just with the verses around it, but the text of the whole teaching of the bible, we can get a clearer understanding of what Paul was really saying. Letâs look at the few verses that surround what Paul said in regard to being a chief sinner. Notice how often he talks in past tense in I Timothy 1:12-16.
âAnd I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; (13)Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (14) And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. (15)This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (16)Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.â
In verse 12, Paul acknowledges that God found Him faithful. In verse 13 he states that he âwas beforeâ a blasphemer and persecutor, who at that time obtained mercy. In verse 14 he states that grace âwasâ exceeding abundant. Then going on to verse 16, Paul tells us he obtained mercy (past tense). When you read these verses together you can come to a simple conclusion that Paul wasnât considering himself a sinner at the writing of this epistle, but that his life prior to his conversion was when he considered himself to be chief of sinners. Donât forget, Paul persecuted the church of Jesus Christ and that is one reason why he felt he was such a sinful man. If there is one verse that I would think summed up Paulâs life after his road to Damascus experience it is, âI am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.â (Gal 2:20). I am certain none of you would argue against the point that if Christâs life is being lived out in Paul and his natural life is reckoned dead, then he is not a sinner. The same is true for you as well. This truth helps bring clarity to what John meant when he said, âWhosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.â (1Jn 3:9). That seed of Christ, which is in us, cannot sin. When we live according to the Spirit of God that is in us, we live the life of a saint, not a sinner. This is what is called walking in the Spirit.
When you walk in the Spirit, you are walking according to the nature, character and righteousness of Christ, in the measure of light He gives you. If you walk in the flesh, you canât help but to express the deeds of the flesh. That is a sinful life. As I said in last monthâs article, this could be the reason some Christians make the statement that they are just sinners saved by grace. It may be because they refuse to walk in the Spirit and instead walk in the flesh. If you walk in the flesh you are not going to feel very saintly; if you live in the flesh you are not going to feel close to God. However, if you walk in the Spirit, you will have the peace and joy of the Lord, and you will go out with confidence and boldness to tell others they too can be delivered from being a sinner.
Let me finish by saying that when we became new creatures in Christ, we received the indwelling Spirit, but there also remained that old fleshly nature. Through the Spirit we have power to overcome our flesh, and through the cross we can reckon our old man dead and crucified with Christ. If you are one that insists that we are still sinners because we have that old nature that we give into once in a while, I wonât really argue that point with you. I am well aware of the battle between the Spirit and the flesh. However, if you would read the New Testament in its entirety, you will see that the title of being a sinner is not given to the saints of the living God. If God doesn’t call us one, I am not going to argue with Him.