Can You Be A "Saved" Sinner?
sin, and about how it is an error for Christians to refer to themselves as sinners. However, some still struggle with the Scriptural truth that those in Christ have been freed from sin (Romans Chapter 6; Galatians 5:24; I Peter 4:1; I John 3:6-9).
In fact, to get around this issue, many professing Christians are attempting to separate one's standing in God from the issue of sin altogether. It is this perspective which generates the falsehood that God is a friend of sinners. As a result, we are presented with a salvation experience in Christ which has no bearing on sin. You continue as you were, but you are now "saved".
Such also means of course that once you are saved, your sin no longer matters so you can never lose your salvation. You are still a sinner, but you are just forgiven. The essence of salvation then is not that you are delivered from a state of death (sin), but that God simply turns a blind eye to your dead condition.
Yet, does this view hold water? We know that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, but is it true that we continue being sinners after being reconciled to God in Christ?
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such WERE some of you: BUT ye are washed, BUT ye are sanctified, BUT ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." I Corinthians 6:9-11
Be not deceived." Deceived about what Paul? About thinking that any persons in these sinful states will inherit the Kingdom of God. When we believe that such persons will be saved, we have been deceived.
Now wait a minute! Aren't at least some of these Christians still fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexual, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, or extortioners? How can Paul address this text to the entire group of believers at Corinth - without knowing each individual personally - and say with confidence that such sinful states were collectively a thing of the past for them?
Why doesn't Paul make allowance for even one of them to still be what they were before? Because he knew that they - as with all believers - had been washed, sanctified, and justified.
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also WALKED some time, when ye lived in them. BUT NOW ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." Colossians 3:5-10
Was there not even one who was still "walking or living" in fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, covetousness, and idolatry? How did Paul know that putting off the old man and putting on the new man meant that these believers no longer "walked" in the sinful ways that they did before? Because they had been renewed to reflect the image of their Creator.
"For we ourselves also WERE sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Titus 3:3-5
Weren't at least some of these believers still foolish, disobedient, deceived, lustful, hateful or envious? Not according to the text. Paul could say with assurance that these individuals had been changed by God. They used to be these things, but now they are not. They had been saved, washed, and renewed by the Holy Spirit.
"Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he NO LONGER should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For THE TIME PAST of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we WALKED in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye RUN NOT with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you." I Peter 4:1-4
Are believers the same as sinners, but simply forgiven? No. Faith in Christ presents a stark contrast that even sinners can see whereby Paul can say unequivocally that sinfulness has become a thing of the "past".
"But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." Galatians 2:17-18
Consider the above text. Are we still sinners after being justified by Christ? No. In fact, Paul indicates that such a thing as being a sinner is at odds with being justified by Christ. If we are, then it is because we have made of ourselves a transgressor.
In all of these texts, where are the "saved" fornicators? Where are the "saved" homosexuals? Where are the "saved" liars and thieves? Where are the "saved" idolaters? Where are the "saved" sinners? They don't exist. You are either one or the other. You are either still in sin or you have been changed. God does not make room for any in-between conditions in these texts.
These texts tell us certain truths about sin in relation to believers:
- Deliverance from sin is not merely imagined. When discussing the various sinful states, God doesn't say, "And such ARE some of you, but you have been forgiven." The change is not theoretical.
- Deliverance from sin is not merely imputed. It is not just that God no longer sees our sinful state, but a real difference in our lives occurs so that even sinners take note, thinking us "strange" that we no longer partake in sin. The change is not just imputed.
- Deliverance from sin is actually imparted. God states repeatedly that believers are no longer what they were before. The state of sin they "were" in is a thing of the past precisely because they have been changed by the power of God.
- Sin is not primarily an issue of immaturity. Being no longer under sin is not something we acquire as we grow in the faith. The texts above are not addressed to only mature believers, but to all believers. This lets us know that the power over sin is an inheritance given to every believer from the start.
How is it that in the days of the early church, faith in Christ was synonymous with being delivered from sin, but now we have a "Christian faith" whereby we are saved while continuing in sin?
What are these new and popular gospels missing which the true Gospel contains? It is the born again experience.
The graphic to the right says, "Sinner by birth, saved by the grace of God. Ephesians 2:8" This image is telling you precisely what the problem is with these false gospels: they deny the reality and necessity of the born again experience.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God...Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." John 3:3, 7
While it is true that we have all been born into sin, it is also true that all must be born again by the Spirit to be freed from sin. If you are not born again, then you will not be freed from sin. Instead, you will remain a slave to sin...or in other words: a sinner.
Let me be very clear. Proclaiming to be a sinner while also claiming salvation in Christ Jesus is not a show of your "humility". It just means that you are repudiating everything Christ has accomplished on the cross and the power that comes by it. While clinging to your self-identification as a sinner and a Christian, you are calling God a liar.
"And you hath he quickened, who WERE dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein IN TIME PAST ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all HAD our conversation IN TIMES PAST in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and WERE by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
There is a repeating theme in these verses of two principles: justification and sanctification. Both are needed and both are part of the Christian walk.
When we turn in faith to Jesus Christ and are born again, our sins are forgiven, but we are also given the power to be free from sin. We are justified by being covered under the blood of Jesus - which makes us acceptable to God - but also empowered by the Spirit to be sanctified from sin.
justified: to declare, pronounce, one to be just or righteous.Some might ask, "Why must we be sanctified if we are already justified?" Yet the word of God says that it is not enough for us to simply be declared holy; we are to be holy (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 1:4, 5:27; I Peter 1:15-16; Revelations 22:11). Unlike before, where we were carnal and ruled by soulish desires, we are commanded to now be in possession of our own souls (Luke 21:19). We have been changed (by the power of God alone), and now we must walk in that change (again, by the power of God alone).
sanctified: to render or to be venerable or hallow; to separate from profane things and dedicate to God; to purify.
"For ye WERE sometimes darkness, but now ARE ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:" Ephesians 5:8
The last thing I would want this article to do is to set people off "trying" to stop sinning in the flesh or feeling condemned because of a struggle against sin. I deal more with that topic in another article and will not be addressing how we obtain victory over sin here. I am not speaking of being "perfect", but being "perfected". I am speaking about our attitude towards sin.
What I hope this post makes abundantly clear is that we cannot reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ, while still claiming to be alive to sin (Romans 6:11)! There are no "sinners" who are at the same time "saved." Truly being born again means acknowledging that old things are passed away and that we are made new in Him. We are not to cling to the old things, but to put on the new man who is not a sinner, but is made after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness (Ephesians 4:22-32)!
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, THAT HENCEFORTH we should not serve sin." Romans 6:6
Remember, you must be born again. The answer to sin is not to pretend that it doesn't matter. True humility is seeing sin how God sees sin, and recognizing that our only deliverance is in the victory He gives us over it.
In the following vidoes, Min. David Pawson gives a quick breakdown on the difference between justification and sanctification.
Afterwards, Pastor Zac Poonen speaks on "Living As Jesus Lived", where He addresses:
- The Greatest Promise in the Bible - II Peter 1:4 says, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." The greatest promise in the Bible is that we can receive the nature of Christ so that we can actually be as He is. Being a Christian is not about "acting" like Jesus. You can study and learn how to act like anything, but it won't change who you really are. Only God can take man and give him a new nature so that man will no longer be what he was.
- Jesus Overcame by Grace - I John 2:6 says, "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.". A Christian has a primary responsibility to walk as Christ walked. But how do we do this? Many do not realize that even Jesus needed grace to walk out his human existence (Luke 2:40; John 1:14-16) and grace to die for sin (Hebrews 2:9). He is our pattern, and we also need grace. The same thing that grace did for Him, it will do for us.
- Jesus Overcame as a Man - Romans 6:14 says, "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Either we must be master over sin or sin will be master over us. The Bible says I will master sin, if I receive the grace of God. So if I am not mastering sin, that is proof that I am not receiving the grace of God. I am only imagining that I am receiving grace. Why is it that many Christians not only are blind to this truth, but consider such unScriptural, even when it is reiterated throughout Scripture? It is because they do not understand the mystery of godliness; that Jesus overcame as a man by the power of the Holy Spirit (I Timothy 3:16).
- Entering a Life of Victory - The recounting of the Israelites not entering into the Promised Land is told 3 times in the New Testament for what God says is our admonition. Why is this? The Promised Land is a picture of a life of victory, a life of living as Jesus lived where the giants of sin are killed. The Israelites who were killed in the "Wilderness of Sin" were unable to enter in because of unbelief. Even today, many Christians do not believe when God says that He has given us the victory over sin, and remain trembling & weak under these giants, unable to live in the promises God has already given.
We are told that Caleb entered into the Promised Land because he had "another spirit" from the Israelites who died in the wilderness. This is our answer to living in victory. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, which is different than simply receiving the Holy Spirit. It took many years for the Israelites to kill the giants, and it will take time for God to kill the giants of sin in your life, but He is faithful to do it if we believe!
- The Results of Living as Jesus Lived -The reason people do not live like Jesus is because they don't believe it is essential and therefore, they are not willing to pay the price to do it. That which you feel is essential, you will do anything to obtain. What will our lives be like, if we do in fact live as Jesus lived?