Simultaneously Justified and Sinner
I sinned today. I sinned yesterday. I will sin tomorrow. As I grow older, I become more and more aware of just how much I need God’s grace and need the Holy Spirit to keep me. I become more aware of the depravity I was rescued from and just how deeply it penetrates my very nature. I will never graduate from being a sinner in this life.
Having a two year old and an 11 month old, I also see sin in my children at a very young age. It’s in their very nature too—they inherited from my wife and I. We didn’t have to teach them how to do it; it was something they were born with. Sin is a dreadful condition that has plagued every human since Adam and Eve first disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit.
At the same time, I am not the sinner I once was. I am a saint. I have been rescued by the sinless Savior. God sees his righteousness instead of my filthiness. My sins from yesterday, today, and tomorrow have been atoned for. God does not count my sin against me and He counts Christ’s righteousness in my stead. This is such good news because I have been justified.
Martin Luther used a Latin phrase that expressed this war we feel within our souls as Christians. He said we are “simul justus et peccator” or simultaneously justified and sinner. Before Luther, Paul expressed this tension in Romans 7:21-24:
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (ESV)
Some interpret Paul here as expressing the life of the unbeliever, but I agree with those who feel he was expressing the tension he feels as a follower of Christ. Romans 7:25 says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” For Paul and for us, the victory is in Christ. Our hope is in Christ. All we have is Christ.
As long as we remain in bodies that are aging and decaying, we will fight sin. Paul knew this, but he also knew the greater hope we have in Christ. Ours is the victory. We are being sanctified. We are being made to look more and more like our Savior Jesus and one day—when we are free from these earthly bodies—we will be glorified and sin no more.
While I still struggle and must repent daily, I have a greater hope. I pray one day my girls will have that greater hope. I will graduate from sinning. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!