But my question is, "Can't we?" Shouldn't we desire to know what God means by the words He uses? Shouldn't our professions (and our reality) line up with His about who we are in Christ?
hamartōlos - Devoted to sin, not free from sin; pre-eminently sinful, especially wicked. Most common use of the word "sinner" in the New Testament.In the Old Testament, it is entirely appropriate to refer to God's people as still sinners as they had no way yet of being redeemed from that old nature. They were simply to submit to the law as an outward control on that rebellious old man.
opheiletēs - One who owes another, a debtor; one who owes God penalty or whom God can demand punishment as something due. New Testament word.
chata' - miss the way, go wrong, incur guilt, forfeit, purify from uncleanness. Old Testament word.
Yet in the New Testament, that old man of sin is to be crucified with Christ and we become a new man (Ephesians 4:17-32; Colossians 3:5-10). The definition of being a sinner in the New Testament necessitates that one is outside of Christ. Looking then at the definitions of the words translated as "sinner", are these apt descriptions for Christians?
- Are Christians described by God as being "devoted" to sin or does He say that we are to abstain from sin?
"Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame." I Corinthians 15:34
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not." I John 2:1a
- Are Christians "not free" from sin or have we been freed from sin?
"God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?...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. For he that is dead is freed from sin." Romans 6:2, 6-7
- Are Christians "full of sin" above all others (preeminently) or have Christians been given power over it to be called righteous & holy?
"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof." Romans 6:12
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," Hebrews 12:1
"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24
"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." I John 3:6-9
- Are Christians still "debtors" to God for sin or has the debt been paid in full in Christ Jesus?
"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake." I John 2:12
"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matthew 26:28
remission: aphesis; release from bondage or imprisonment; forgiveness, pardon or remission of the penalty
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:14
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." Ephesians 1:7
redemption: apolytrōsis; a releasing effected by payment of ransom
"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world....Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." I John 2:2, 4:10
propitiation: hilastērion; relating to an appeasing or expiating; atonement
Remember, the question being addressed in this article is not, "Do Christians sin?" The question under evaluation is, "Is it Scriptural to refer to Christians as 'sinners'?" The answer is clearly, "No!"
When Christians profess to be "sinners", they are testifying to being, "devoted to sin, still in bondage to sin, full of sin, and outside of the redemption found in Christ Jesus."It is clear from the Scriptures that the word "sinner" could never - and should never - be applied to a born again Christian. In fact, it never is. Not only do the definitions prohibit it from being applicable to Christians, so does the context of its use. God's expectation is that we are to be different than "sinners" because we are not sinners.
"For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again." Luke 6:32-34
If God considers Christians to be sinners, then the above words of Jesus Christ are nonsensical. Why would Jesus be contrasting His believers against sinners if in God's mind they are one and the same? If Christians are considered by God to be sinners, then He should have no expectation that we would behave any differently then they. Yet, it is clear that God does expect us to be different from sinners.
The sad part about this article is that this is a non-issue for those who truly love the Lord. Only those who still want to live for themselves have a problem in this area. A Christian is not to be a "sinner"; he/she is not to live in agreement with sin and have a lifestyle of practicing sin. The only ones who cannot cease from sin are what the Scriptures call "cursed children" (II Peter 2:14). If you are still living as a "sinner", then you need to repent and be born again.
As I have said before, claiming to still be a sinner is not some show of humility. It is a denial of the very purpose for which Jesus Christ came and died for us. In being born again, we should no longer identify ourselves with sin because we have victory over it in Christ Jesus.
From the mouths of babes: Change. I couldn't have said it better myself.