Sin, Salvation, Holiness, Justification, Etc
First of all let us establish that we were created and born for God’s good pleasure (Revelation 4:11). We were created and born to do that which God wants us to do. To love him, worship him, love one another, and keep his commandments.
That is, God wants us here to do right and not do wrong.
Because we as the human race have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, he has sent his only begotten Son, Jesus, to reconcile us to God. This reconciliation makes us a new creation. In Christ we have the new birth which makes us a new creature/creation.
This new birth is of the Spirit not of the flesh.
Salvation is to not be condemned for sin (John 3:16-17; Romans 8:1). Salvation arises out of repentant faith in Jesus Christ as the sacrificial lamb for our sins. Repentance has to do with one’s attitude and heart toward God and his Word, Will, and Way (Acts 8:21-23). Regeneration is rebirth into the body of Christ; it is not by works but of mercy and grace (Titus 3:5).
Righteousness is having always done the right thing. But since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God only
Jesus can definitively be said to have always done the right thing. Thus, our righteousness comes through
our faith in his finished work on the cross (2 Cor 5:21). That is, we are counted as righteous because of Jesus; hence, we speak of positional righteousness.
Holiness is to do the right thing. Sanctification is transformative. It empowers and trains one to do the right thing more and more. God’s truth/word sanctifies (John 17:17).
Righteousness is only positional (2 Corinthians 5:21). However, holiness is both positional (Colossian 1:22) and progressive (1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Corinthians 7:1).
Jesus came here holy from the womb and always walked in holiness here on earth (Leviticus 20:26; Ephesians 4:17-24; 1 Peter 1:14-16). Having biblical faith in Jesus Christ clothes us with his righteousness. It is through justification that we receive right standing, a right position with God. Because of Jesus, God imputes righteousness to us.
The Holy Spirit helps us to walk in holiness for we are called and saved to walk in holiness (Hebrews 12:14; Matthew 7:19; James 2:17; 1 John 2:4) , to do the right thing. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us as he improves our minds and hearts so that we discipline our flesh for God’s glory.
The word sin does not occur in Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve disobeyed God. In fact, neither the word disobey nor any of its variants appear in the account of Genesis 3. Yet, we infer from the account that they disobeyed and this disobedience is sin.
The first mention of the word sin is in Genesis 4:7. In Genesis 4:7 God speaks to Cain about his anger concerning God’s acceptance of Abel’s offerings and God’s rejection of Cain’s offering. God says to Cain “If thou doest well shall thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shall rule over him.”
What is sin? It is not to do well. Now then what is not to do well? To do other than that which is right to do is not to do well. God tells us what is not to do well. God tells us this in various ways. He has written his laws on our heart (Romans 2:14-15). He has given us his laws and his Word through the scriptures. He sometimes speaks directly to men and women. He sometimes speaks to us through others. No matter the way, it is God who tells us what it means to do well. He told Adam in the Garden of Eden when he commanded Adam not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The primary way he tells us today is by his Son Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Hebrews 1:2, John 1:14). The primary way Jesus speaks to us today is through the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what the Word of God says as well as teaches us and gives us understanding (John 14:24-26).
Note that God did not issue a commandment to Cain saying Thou shall not kill your brother. Yet when Cain killed his brother Abel God let him know he had not done well. Note that sin occurred even in the absence of the written law both in the case of Adam and Eve as well as Cain not doing well. So then the absence of the law does not mean the absence of sin. In other words, to not be under the law does not mean the absence of sin.
Indeed, one can define sin in a number of ways. The Bible gives a number of definitions of sin. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). All unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:7). Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
Simply put, sin is any violation of God’s standard as written in the Holy Scriptures or as written on our hearts. Is there something good lately that you know you should have done but you did not do it? Well if so, James says to you it is sin. Sin is to miss the mark or not measure up to God’s holy standard of behavior. It is to step across or go beyond a boundary or limit. It is disobedience and rebellion. It is simply wrongdoing.
Note also that conformance to the law is not the standard for righteousness. Indeed if it was, none of us would ever be righteous (Romans 3). Indeed, Jesus and Jesus only is the standard for righteousness (II Corinthians 5:11). Jesus life, death, and resurrection meet and met the standard for righteousness. We are clothed in that righteousness when we properly receive him as the sacrificial Lamb of God who shed his blood for the remission of our sins.
The scriptures speak of God forgetting and not remembering our sin. Scriptures of interest regarding God forgetting and having no record of our sins include: Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18-19; Heb 8:12; Heb 10:17. The above scriptures have to do with God not remembering our sins for purposes of condemnation. He does remember them for some purposes, e.g., to remind us of the need to repent as he did regarding the churches of Revelations 2 (e.g., Rev 2:5, 16).
Now as final note on sin in particular, let me briefly discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer as it pertains to post-conversion sin. Scripture of interest include: Gal 5:16-18. For some purposes one can describe man as a tripart-being: flesh/body, spirit, soul (Genesis 2:7). So then we are yet flesh, spirit, and soul as Adam was. That which is born of Spirit is spirit but that which is born of flesh is flesh (John 3:6). Clearly, we are yet flesh and spirit. Galatians 5:16 clearly shows we are to focus on submitting to the Spirit less we submit to the flesh. Galatians 5:18 means we are not under the law for condemnation. Yet, the biblical principles clearly show that we are under the law for obedience (Romans 3:31), that is to say the moral law but not the ceremonial law.
Sinner and/or Saint Overview
Even citizens of Israel were called sinners in the scriptures. That is to say, members of God’s chosen nation were called sinners. Therefore, Jews were called sinners as well as Gentiles. Thus, a child (son or daughter) of God is in the church due to faith in Jesus Christ; yet, one could not rightly conclude that such a person cannot be called a sinner based upon his/her citizenship in church.
The words sinner and saint are not necessarily opposites. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The context under which they are used largely determine their meaning. For example, biblical principles generally use the word sinner to have the following meanings:
1. One who commits sin
2. One who is under the penalty of sin because they have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour
In the sense of (1), all are sinners since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God even those who have accepted Jesus Christ. That includes those who were called saints in the Old Testament (Psalm 30:4; 106:16; 1 Samuel 2:9) and saints who died (Matthew 27:52) before Christ came. In the sense of (2) all who have not accepted Jesus Christ are sinners. Yet, one could have accepted Jesus Christ and still commit sin in a time of weakness (1 John 1:8-10); in that sense he/she is a sinner (one who commits or committed sin).
So the answer to the question as to whether one is a sinner or saint or both depends on what one means by sinner. If one means (1) above then a believer is both a sinner and a saint. If one means (2) above then a believer is not a sinner and is only a saint. So if one says “I am a sinner saved by grace” that statement is correct if he/she is using the word sinner in the sense of (1) but incorrect if one is using the word in the sense of (2). In either case the key is that he/she understands that if he/she sins, God expects repentance (1 John 1:8-10).
The word saint in the Old Testament emphasizes one’s commitment to the Word, Will, and Way of God; the word sinner indicates the lack thereof. The word saint in the New Testament emphasizes one’s faith in Jesus Christ; the word sinner indicates both (1) and (2) above. It is best that the believer refers to himself as a saint in most circumstances. Yet, if one chooses to emphasize the fact that he has not yet obtained perfection but does occasionally sin and come short of God’s glory, then use of the word sinner may be appropriate.
Sinner and/or Saint More Details
In a sense one is a saint when he does the will of the Lord; he is a sinner when he does not do the will of the Lord. Here the word sinner simply emphasizes that one has not yet attained perfection. The word saint emphasizes that one is concerned with and focused on attaining perfection. Under the New Covenant that concern and focus should be on accepting and following Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some suggest the word sinner is restricted to one who habitually or customarily practice sin. But the scripture says if one breaks one law one is guilty of all. Does that not make one a sinner, even if one physically breaks only one law? How many times does one have to sin to be a sinner? Does not the Bible say just once? Did not Paul understand this (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 3:7)?
In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save [Luke 9:56; 19:10] sinners; of whom I am chief.” Paul also identifies himself as a saint (Eph 3:8). Also he identifies himself as least among the saints (Eph 3:8) and least among the apostles; yet, his calling himself least does not mean he is not a saint or an apostle. Here we have the contrast between chief and least. In both cases, Paul was exercising humility
regarding his imperfections in relationship to other persons. Paul seems to not have minded identifying himself a sinner when he was emphasizing his imperfection before (1 Timothy 1:13) and after (Romans 7:14-25) his conversion. For certainly he therein identifies himself as one who sins which is one definition of a sinner. In other words he identified himself as one who commits sin (1 Timothy 1:13-15).
Paul was humbly recognizing his past sins as well as the fact that he had not yet reached perfection (Philippians 3:12-14).
This imperfection was in the sense that he did not always do that which was good to do (Romans 7:14-25, James 4:17). In no way was Paul saying he was under condemnation. In no way was Paul saying he was not righteous (2 Cor. 5:17-21). He was simply acknowledging his imperfection. He did not mind applying the term sinner to himself although he usually applied the word saint to the believer.
Some say that Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 was only referring to what he said in 1 Timothy 1:13 when he refers to himself as chief among sinners. They say the phrase “I am” in verse 15 does not mean present tense but rather past tense. That is, some say he was not including his present state of imperfection as described in Romans 7:14-25. Judge for yourself what Paul is saying!
Some suggest that those believers who refer to themselves as sinners are doing so to justify their weakness in sinning. Of course, that could be the case or not be the case depending on the mindset and heart of the person referring to himself as a sinner. Moreover, one could speculate that a person who does not identify himself with being a sinner, whether stated or not, could be neglecting to recognize the sins he commits and God’s expectation that he repents from his sin.
James also mentions sinners in James 4:8; 5:20. Was James only speaking of the unsaved in using the word sinner in those verses?
Sinner and/or Saint Conclusion
Some people may mind applying the term sinner to themselves. That is their personal right and I certainly will try to respect that right. Indeed, it is best to emphasize being a saint in contrast to a sinner as that is certainly what the Bible does. Yet, to occasionally remember and remind of where God has brought one from and one’s continued fight to overcome sin (Hebrews 12:3-4) is also appropriate less one or others forget the importance of repentance.
Yet, I will also ensure that we all understand the importance and value of repentance from sin, both before and after conversion, whether called a sinner or not. The importance and value of repentance is clearly evident in Jesus letter through John to the churches of Revelations 2 (e.g., Rev 2:5, 16).
There are some who use the phrase sinners saved by grace. It is probable that they use the word sinner therein in the sense of (1) above rather than (2) above. It is probable they do so to acknowledge their person yet includes flesh. Now then if a person uses such a phrase in an attempt to justify unrepentant sin then that person should be warned of the importance of repentance.
The word saint simply emphasis the saved new creation aspect of one’s life.
Indeed, when one usually says a person is a basketball player whether that person is a professional basketball player or plays for some school, league or other organized entity. We generally don’t refer to those who only play basketball on the playground as a basketball player. Yet, a person who plays on the play ground may refer to himself as a basketball player to indicate that he ocassionally plays basketball. For example, he might say to someone “I am a basketball player and not a football player” or he might say “I play basketball but not football” thus indicating he is a basketball player without explictly using the phrase basketball player. If that is how he sees himself then that is his right as he is technically a basketball player. Others may see him that way as well and may refer to him as such. We should always be mindful that the meaning of a word depends on the context in which the word is being used and the point being communicated in using the word.
Salvation occurs in three primary forms: We are saved from the penalty of sin (Justification). We are saved from the power of sin (Sanctification). We are saved from the presence of sin (Glorification). Justification and Sanctification take place while here on earth. Glorification only takes place in the next life. Paul in Romans 6 speaks of us being saved from the power of sin but not the presence of sin.
Salvation is to be saved from the condemnation of the law and the penalty of sin. Salvation is by grace through faith and not of our own works. Rather it is of the works of the law and works of righteousness by Jesus Christ who fulfilled the law on our behalf and who paid the penalty of our sin on the cross.
Repentant means change of mind, heart, and spirit, It is a turning to God and away from Satan. Repentance is a life long commitment and requirement unto holiness and spiritual maturity. Repentance is to recognize one’s wrong and be truly sorry for one’s wrong to the point where contrition affects what one does in the future.
Regeneration refers to a person’s new beginning, a new genesis, (Titus 3:5) because of his faith and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. This is the new birth (John 3:1-8), the becoming of a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This rebirth or regeneration occurs because of the beckoning/call of the Holy Spirit and one’s affirmative response to that call. One receives the Holy Spirit according to God’s Word, Will, and Way. The receipt of the Holy Spirit is as if God breathed again into a person and he/she became a new living soul. Regeneration is not of water baptism but of the living water of the Holy Spirit.
Water baptism is an outward physical expression of one’s inner spiritual acceptance and commitment to Jesus Christ.
In Christ we have the new birth which makes us a new creature/creation. This new birth is by the Holy Spirit; it is of man’s spirit but not of man’s flesh (John 3:1-8; Romans 7:15-18; Galatians 5:13-26; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:44).
Rebirth is as if a new nature is placed on top of the old nature; yet, the old nature remains underneath for now and constantly tries to unseat the new nature.
Now some say we don’t have an old nature but rather “a garment of sinful flesh”. Well whatever you call it there is an A and there is a B. There is an old and there is a new. There is a remnant of what we once were. The old man was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). This means our sins were crucified in Christ so that at the end time we not be condemned unto
eternal death. Yet, the old man himself yet live for we were not crucified but Christ was crucified taking our old man into his crucifixion. Jesus died physically. We did not die physically.
Some refer to the old nature as the sin nature. God created Adam with a natural part. The sin nature is a defect in that natural part. Therefore the sin nature is unnatural and therefore sin is unnatural. Therefore, the Bible is right to say, for example, homosexual sin is unnatural as says in Romans 1. The natural man is now defective. So then it is understandable for one to say sin is natural in the natural man in which case there is reference to the defective natural
man. So then to say sin is natural would be correct only if it is meant sin is natural to the old man (the defective natural man) but not to the new man (the born again man).
Righteousness means to not be tainted by sin. Righteousness is a gift from God and refers to our position in Christ Jesus. Righteousness is right standing with God.
It is totally of God.
It is imputed not earned. It is imputed by atonement that flows from Jesus sacrificial death.
For without him our righteousness is as filthy rags per Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:19-23; 4:3; Genesis 15:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8-10. We don’t do right to become righteous; we do right because we are righteous through Christ Jesus. Holiness on the other hand is a combined effort of the Holy Spirit and our obedience to his beckoning in spirit and in truth. Righteousness is the total responsibility of God.
Holiness is a shared responsibility between the God and man per 2 Corinthians 7:1. Romans 6 also speaks of this personal responsibility.
Holiness is doing right, that is to say, to not sin. It is to live separate from the world. We are in the world but not of the world.
This separation is not physical but spiritual. It is to live a life that distinguishes one from the evil things of the world.
Since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, none can produce his own righteousness. Jesus came here holy
from the womb and lived holy from birth to death. Thus he is qualified to present us holy (Colossians 1:22; Ephesians 5:26-27)
Sanctification is to be made more like Christ in every way. We are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 4:21). It is transformational. Sanctification is positional (1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; Hebrews 2:11; 9:11-15; 10:10; 10:29; 11:40; 12:23; 13:12; Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 1:2) and progressive (2 Corinthians 3:18; 7:1; Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13; 3:12-15; Colossians 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 10:14; 1 John 3:1-3; Romans 12:1-2). It is to make sacred. It is to set aside or set apart a person, place, or thing for a particular purpose
Justification is to be declared righteous. It is by God (Romans 3:26; 8:30, 33), by grace (Romans 3:24), by blood (Romans 5:9), by faith (Romans 5:1; 3:28; 4:5), by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:11), by works (James 2:14-26). Is there a contradiction between James in James 2 and Paul in Romans and 1 Corinthians? No, there is not! Together they show that it is God who justifies but God expects he that is justified to do just works. Paul and James were in agreement with this viewpoint as demonstrated at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1-25 where both Paul (Acts 15:2) and James were present (Act 15:13).
We are saved through justification. Justification is to be made just or made righteous in the eyes of God. It is the act of making one guiltless and therefore no longer subject to penalty of sin. This comes through our faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
Justification comes by faith and by works. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24). This work is not works of perfection regarding the law, given by Moses and the prophets or written in our hearts; for none has perfectly kept the law except for Jesus Christ. This work is works of repentant faith from the heart rooted in love and hope. All are to continually reach for works of perfection rooted in love and hope not only love for oneself but also for God and other humans. Yet, when one falls short, he is to by true faith confess and repent and accept God’s unconditional forgiveness and cleansing of unrighteousness. So let us not despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; and let us know that the goodness of God leads use to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
Paul speaks to justification also in Romans 3:23-31; 4:1-8, 16-25.
Paul says we are justified not by the keeping of the law; here he has to mean the whole law since if one could keep the whole law then he would be justified. This is what he means in Romans 2:13 where he says the doers of the law shall be justified. But of course none do such regarding the whole law. Paul is emphasizing that we are not justified by our own works but by the works of Jesus Christ. Justification is positional; it is not progressive. Justification is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross not his continual work after resurrection.
James explicitly says if we break any part of the law we have broken the whole law. So both Paul and James tell why we are not justified by the law. The reason is that none keep the whole law though he may at times keep part of the law.
But both Paul and James confirm the importance/value but not necessity of keeping the moral law brought forward under the New Covenant, which of course excludes the ceremonial law.
Now then there are two methods of justification. This shows the largeness of God in that there is not one way of doing a thing. (1) Paul speaks of justification by faith only concerning Abraham. (2) But James speaks of justification by faith and works concerning Abraham. But neither by works of the law only! For Paul’s example has to do with the birth of Isaac; this required no work of faith just faith. That is, though he and Sarah were of old age Abraham believed that God would give him a son from whom would spring many nations. But then James speaks of the offering of Isaac. That is, Abraham not only believed God but was willing to do what God told him to do so that he worked the works of obedient action in faith. In both cases, Abraham followed God’s Will for his life as led by the Spirit of God. So then faith and when led by the Spirit works of obedience pleases God.
Paul gives an extensive dissertation on faith and works. James sums it up when he says faith without works is dead. By that James says if a person truly has a repentant faith then the proper works will be present. God and only God can determine whether the proper works is present. We may see some indicators that we think are indicators but we may be knowing in part and seeing through the glass darkly so we must be careful about passing judgment.
Our task is not to judge unto condemnation but to exhort unto righteousness. This exhortation involves commending as well as rebuking, teaching, and correcting as appropriate.
Justification is the opposite of condemnation; it is not the opposite of sinlessness. For the scripture says: And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. (Romans 5:16)
Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS)?
There are some who promote the doctrine of once saved, always saved. There are others who say that doctrine is not biblical. Each point to scriptures that support their position. My hope is certainly that the doctrine of once saved, always saved is true and biblically sound. Yet, I am reminded of numerous biblical warnings concerning those who profess to be saved yet are not. Furthermore, I am mindful of James who says faith without works is dead (James 2:20) and Jesus who speaks of our works glorifying the Father (Matthew 5:16). In the final analysis it is not about what I say or you say, it is about what Jesus says in the end time to each of us individually. The decision is ultimately in his hand. So it is important that I continually self-examine my faith (1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 13:5). It is valuable to ask the following question of ourselves continually:
“Are you sure your faith is faithful enough to enter Heaven thus avoiding Hell? How about your spouse, children, friends, etc.?”
Scriptures some use to support OSAS include:John 3:15-18; 10:28-30; 2 Corinthians 5:17
Scrptures some use in opposition to OSAS include: Rev 2:5; Hebrews 3:12; 12:15; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Peter 2:20-22; 1 Cor 9:27; 1 John 2:24; Matt 7:23; John 15:6;
References that support it include:
References that oppose it include:
the Jesus Commandment
To God Be the Glory!
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