Hi, this is Justin. Here at Theocast, we get a lot of questions about the Christian life, and if you look at those questions and try to find the common thread within them, it would be this: are we both saint and sinner at the same time? The answer to that question is yes.
One of the famous phrases that came out of the reformation is “simul justus et peccator,” which means “at the same time justified and sinner.” It could also be rendered “at the same time saint and sinner.”
What that phrase is trying to communicate is what the Bible says about us. We are, by faith, in Christ Jesus. In that regard, we are saints. We have been united to Christ by faith. All of his merits, all of the benefits – everything that is his is now ours by faith. All the satisfaction that he has made for our sins is counted to us. The death that he died under the law is counted to us. It is as though we have paid the penalty that we owe to God for breaking his law. Also, the perfect life of Jesus – his perfect record of obedience and fulfillment of the law in every way – is counted to us. It is as though we have done the righteous works that Christ did.
God the Father looks at us, in Christ, and declares us righteous. We have been born again by the Spirit of God. We have been circumcised in our heart with the circumcision that is not made with hands. It’s not the circumcision of the flesh, but it is the regenerating work of the Spirit of God to circumcise our hearts with the circumcision of Christ. In all of these ways, we are saints. We are new creations in Christ Jesus. We now delight in the law of God in our inner man. We are very much saints, and at the same time, we still battle the corruption of our flesh.
We still fight against sin, and that’s because we have not been fully sanctified yet. We have not been glorified yet. There will come a day when we will sin no more, but that day has not yet arrived. We will still battle against the desires of our flesh. Paul makes this very clear in Romans 7 and in Galatians 5:17, where he depicts so powerfully the internal war that we now experience. We often find ourselves doing things that we do not want to do, and we often find ourselves not doing the things that we want to do. This leads us to cry out with the apostle Paul, “wretched man, wretched woman that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?”. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord, there is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
So, the presentation of the New Testament is very consistent. We are saints in Christ Jesus. We are righteous in him. We are safe. We have peace with God. We have been reconciled to God and we are awaiting resurrection unto righteousness and incorruptibility. But, for now, until then, we will battle sin. We are still sinners, and that’s because we have not been completely delivered from the fallen flesh that we still live in. We are free from the slavery and tyranny of the law, we have been freed from the dominion, slavery, and tyranny of sin, and we will one day, in Christ, be raised incorruptible and imperishable. We long for that day. Until then, we continue to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and his finished work in our place, even as we continue to battle our corruption and the sin of our flesh.
Grace and peace to you.