Saturday, January 14, 2012

we are saints

There's a popular notion that we, the redeemed are "sinners who are forgiven". I don't agree. We are saints and sadly we sin. But we are no longer slaves to sin. We are the righteousness of Christ. Michael Patton posts an excellent article by Robert Suacy here. It's long but if you wrestle with this concept, worth reading.

Regarding our identity however, I loved this part ...

Consideration of the scriptural description of the believer and his activity obviously reveals a mixture of sin and holiness. But when the focus is on the actual description of the person’s identity, the picture is decidedly positive. Even in the Old Testament, believers are described as living with a heart of integrity, soundness, and uprightness (e.g., 1 Kings 8:61; 9:4 {1 Kgs 9:4}; Pss. 78:72 {Ps 78:72}; 119:7 {Ps 119:7}). This of course does not mean that they were sinless or unaware of their sin. But they had a heart and life that was fundamentally devoted to God. Turning to the New Testament, Christians are frequently addressed as “saints” (e.g., Acts 9:32; Eph 1:1; Col 1:2). This surely has reference to their status in Christ, but other descriptions reveal that it also denotes something about their nature. Believers in the Lord are “sons” and “children of God” which, along with speaking of position or status, also depicts something of the nature of believers who are now oriented toward righteousness (1 John 2:29-3:2 {1 John 3:2}). Those in Christ are also called “light” (Eph 5:8) and “sons of light” (1 Thess 5:5), which means “they are characterized by light” as a result of the “transformation that takes place when anyone believes.”

The believer is part of the “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). He has put off the “old man” and put on the “new man” (Col 3:9-10; cf. Rom 6:6). This transition refers to the believer’s transference from the old corporate humanity under the headship of Adam to the new humanity with Christ as Head. But it also has reference to a change in the individual.6 Pointing to the imagery used of putting off and putting on clothing, Lincoln rightly explains that this “change of clothing imagery signifies an exchange of identities, and the concepts of the old and the new persons reinforce this.” Since the appellation “new man” also has reference to the individual, the descriptions of it as “created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph 4:24) and “being renewed according to the image of the One who created him” (Col 3:10) both have reference to the individual believer. Thus Bruce says, “The new man who is created is the new personality that each believer becomes when he is reborn as a member of the new creation whose source of life is Christ.” Putting off the old man and putting on the new are related to the teaching of the believer’s death and resurrection with Christ (Rom 6:4-6).9 In codeath and coresurrection the individual’s identity is radically changed. The old “I” dies and the new “I” rises in newness of life (Gal 2:20).

These descriptions of the Christian clearly indicate a positive identity and refer not only to status but also to the nature of the believer. This conclusion is borne out by the fact that the apostolic exhortation to new ethical behavior is made directly on the basis of the believer’s new identity. The apostles were not grounding their hope for a new behavior simply on a new position or status, but on a new nature which can produce new actions. True, these actions are due to the life of God in the believer and are called “the fruit of the Spirit.” But at the same time they are the product of the believer even as the fruit of the vine is the fruit of the branches (John 15:2-5,16). The exhortations to new ethical life are based on the principle Jesus taught that “good fruit” is borne by “good trees” (Matt 7:17). The nature as well as the identity of the believer is therefore seen as primarily “good.”

These descriptions of the believer point in the direction of the root identity of the Christian as “a saint who sins,” rather than “a sinner who is saved.”

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