Saints and Sinners

“No great saint lived without errors.”

Martin Luther

You can’t be a student of the Bible without realizing the truth of this quote.  Think back at some of the people we consider heroes of the Bible.  Abraham lied and told the Pharaoh Sarah was his sister.  Jacob was a deceiver;  David committed adultery and murder; Joseph boasted; Martha was self righteous; Peter denied Christ.  I’m not sure where we got the idea that “saint” meant “perfect.”

As Martha said in her post at the beginning of the month, we don’t have to live up to some impossibly high standard of Christian behavior to be a saint;  as believers, we are all saints — and we are all sinners.  In fact, the Lutheran definition of saint is just this :  forgiven sinner.  Our sainthood does not depend upon our works, it is completely and simply God’s grace.  In fact, Martin Luther is quoted as saying “sin boldly” — although he doesn’t mean we should be proud of our sinful status, or seek to sin more.  Here is the original quote in a letter he wrote to Philip Melanchthon:

“If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

In other words, our relationship with Christ is the crucial element:  we are saved saints because of His mercy and sacrifice, not our behavior.  And all God’s children said:  thanks be to God!

 

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