"We're all still sinners."
We've all heard the phrase tossed out like it's an axiom of the universe. For most people, it's a true statement. For those in Christ, it is not, or should not be true.
The word sinner comes from the Greek word ἁμαρτωλῷ (hamartolos). It is a word that is often casually tossed about to mean "one who sins", but that is not how it is used in the Bible. In the Bible it refers to someone devoted to, enslaved to sin, the lost. It is an antonym of the word ἅγιον (hagios), saint. It means purified one, one who is holy or who has been separated for a purpose.
The misconception is often drawn from a misunderstanding or misapplication of verses found in Romans 3. Romans 3:10 says, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" It is a quote of the 14th and 53rd Psalms. The problem is that most people stop with verse 10 as their proof text. If they'd keep going they would read:
"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:11-18)
Who of them would argue that these things are descriptive of Christians? I would hope none! In context, this is a reference to the Jewish and Gentile people before Christ. See my comments on this under Romans 3.
Romans 3:23 is another verse used incorrectly and you can see in Romans 3 this explained in context. In truth, this is a hold over from the denominational doctrines of John Calvin and others who speak so often of the total depravity of man, Grace alone, and so on.
Romans 6, on the other hand, presents a solid argument that there are two classes of people. Romans 6:10-18 reads:
"For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."
There are those who have been immersed into Christ (see earlier in Romans 6) who claim that though we are saved, we can't help but continue to sin since "we are only human". The issue with this is that humans are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; John 4:24). When we die because of sin we are separated from Him spiritually, but when we are immersed into Christ, we are recreated spiritually and are a new creature, once again in a right relationship with God. Furthermore, God calls us to be better. The best place to read of those who are saints is found in 1 John. I recommend the whole book because it explains it simply and better than I could. John, referring to Christians states that Christians are those who walk in the light, are righteous. Yes, they have sinned and for a Christian to say they have not is a lie. However, John goes on to write in 1 John 3:
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."
What of those who still struggle with sin? The Hebrew writer speaks of them in Heb. 5 and Paul alludes to this somewhat in the second half of 1 Cor. 13 but more to the point in 1 Cor. 3:1 where he calls them babes in Christ. He speaks of weaker and stronger brethren in Romans 14, 1 Cor. 8, and other places. There are those who are babes in Christ and who will have a hard struggle with the old habits that their physical bodies still demand (see Romans 7). Even Paul spoke of this battle as a mature Christian and how he had to discipline his body daily (1 Cor. 9:24-27) and put on the armor of God to protect himself (Eph. 6:10f). These younger Christians need to be protected, nurtured, watched over by first the elders (circa Acts 20:28 and a host of others) and also the mature members.
Yet there are those who have been in Christ for years, decades, and who have never matured. These folks still struggle with sin, not because they are young but because they are immature. Christ said the following:
- to the woman caught in adultery who the mob could not stone - "Go and sin no more." (John 8:11)
- in the sermon on the mount "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48)
Does Christ command that which is impossible?
Paul wrote in Gal. 2:20 - "I 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."
God calls sinners to repent. If you are still a sinner, you need to repent and turn to God, to walk in the light and not in darkness (1 John 1). If you are a long time Christian and still think you are a sinner, its time to grow up.
God calls us out of the world, recreates us in Christ, and commands us to be better, to be righteous. If we walk in the light, if we do righteousness, we are righteous.
"So you think you're perfect?"
Yes. Perfected in Christ. (1 Cor. 2:6; Phil. 3:15; Col. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 10:14; 12:22-23; James 3:1-2; 1 Peter 5:10)
So my reply to all those, especially Christians, who say, "we're all still sinners" I say,
In Truth and Love.