Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A Meditation On The Meaning Of The Lord's Supper


    In today's post I want to briefly lay out what is meant by the Lord's Supper. The intent of this post is not to give an exhausted listing of all that is conveyed by it. Rather, this post will focus on the account of the Lord's Supper in Mark 14:22-26. The Lord's Supper is rich in how God uses it to strengthen the faith of any follower of Jesus that partakes of it in the local church. Theologian Wayne Grudem, on page 1222-1223 of the 2nd edition of his Systematic Theology, gives a sample of the rich meanings associated with this covenant meal. 

1. Christ's death.

2. Our participation in the benefits of Christ's death. 

3. Spiritual nourishment.

4. Unity of believers. 

5. An affirmation of Christ's love. 

6. A portrayal of the blessings of salvation reserved for the believer.

7. It is where the Christian affirms to themselves their faith and love for for Jesus. 

    Below is a sketch of what we find in Mark 14:22-26 concerning the meaning of the Lord's Supper.

1. What is meant by the Lord’s Supper?     Mark 14:22-26

A. What is not meant.

This is not a bloodless sacrifice of our Lord’s body and blood, per the Roman Catholic Church (from here R.C.C). The Catechism of the R.C.C still refers to the Mass as "the offering of Christ in an unbloody manner." We can note the following reasons this is not the Lord’s Supper. 

    First, Christ died once and for all sin, and thus need not be sacrificed again (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 9:28). 

    Second, our Lord, in His humanity, is in heaven (Hebrews 1:2-4). By the Holy Spirit Christians have access to He as man and God, rather than through the elements (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). 

    Third, the Mass represents the teaching that the Pope is the Vicar, and thus the head of the church. Colossians 1:16-20 tells us it is not the Pope, nor R.C.C magesterium consisting of the Pope, Cardinals, and heirarchy, but Christ, Who is the head of the church.         

    Christ is not present in the elements in a spiritual way, as our Lutheran friends would suggest. Instead, Christ is present by His Spirit in those who have been born again and in His Church as a whole, composed of genuinely converted persons. 

B. What is meant by the Lord’s Supper.

    Below I list out the following truths we find in Mark 14:22-26, along with cross references.

*The wonder of Christ’s incarnation. Mark 14:22-23; Mt 1:23; John 1:14.

Mark 14:22-23 "While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, 'Take it; this is My body.' 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

*The work of Christ’s redemption. 

Mark 14:24 "And He said to them, 'This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.'"  

    In the Passover celebration, four cups are featured. The first two, that of "sanctification" and "deliverance", are drank early in the meal. In addition, participants would had eaten bitter herbs and unleavened bread to remember their harsh treatment while enslaved to their Egyptian captors. Near the end of the Passover, two more cups would had been drank: "the cup of redemption" and "the cup of the kingdom". 

    It is in Luke 22:14-23 we see two cups, that of redemption, and kingdom. Furthermore, Jesus is focusing the inaugural Lord's Supper upon the third cup, redemption, since it points to His mission. The fourth cup of the kingdom was not partaken by Christ, since it pointed to what He would do in the bringing forth of the kingdom's full reality in His second coming.  This is why the Lord's Supper has believers to look back on the cross and to look forward to His return (compare 1 Corinthians 11:26).

*The wonderful promise of His soon return. Mk 14:26 

Mark 14:25 "Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

    As mentioned, the cup of the Kingdom was not drank by Jesus. His Kingdom, though introduced and revealed spiritually in His first coming, will only be made visible and fully realized when He comes again. 

*The work of the local church. 

    Mark 14:26 "After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." 

    What was the hymn that Jesus and the disciples sang? In Jewish Passover celebrations, it was common to sing from the collection of Psalms known as "The Hallel Psalms". They were so named due to the phrase contained in the opening verses of Psalms 113-118. It was common to conclude the Passover with words such as we find in Psalm 118:25-29 

"O Lord, do save, we beseech You; O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity! 26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord; We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. 27 The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. 29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting."

    This final Hallel Psalm prophetically points to the ultimate Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, in the phrase "festival sacrifice bound to the altar". When Jesus instituted this Lord's Supper meal, it was on the evening of the day the Passover Lambs were sacrificed. 

    The Lord's Supper reminds us of not only what Jesus accomplished in His first coming, but also of His spiritual presence in His church, and each individual Christian, made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 12:12-13). We know that the Lord's Supper is meant to remind Christians of their relationship to each other, as well as to Jesus, through two passages. The first is found in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

"Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread."

    Then the second text that shows how the Lord's Supper reminds us of life in the local church, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 

"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes."

Monday, May 22, 2023

How To Apply Identity In Christ To Daily Christian Living - Romans 6:12-23.


    In the last several posts, we have explored what defines the true identity of the Christian as detailed in Romans 6,7, and 8. So far we have done a detailed study of Romans 6:1-11. Today we plan to continue our study through the end of Romans 6. 

    We began by answering the question as to whether we are "sinners", "saints", or somehow both. In the initial posts of this series I gave a response to that question, which readers may review here and here 

    We also delved into understanding how Christians have a new identity in Jesus Christ and yet can still choose to sin in this life. Readers may review the two posts I devoted to the two realities of the new Christian identity and the propensity to still sin here and here 

    Then, in the last post, we introduced the Biblical teaching on "union with Christ", and how that roots Christian identity here

    In today's post I want to move forward in considering how Paul moves us from the principles to the applications of our new identity in Christ. First, let me begin with what he writes in Romans 6:8-12    

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts."

God tells us who we are and then commands us what we need to do in light of who we are

    Theologians have noted that in the New Testament letters, such as Romans, the author will lay out statements of fact concerning the Christian life or Christ Himself - what they call "Gospel indicatives". Then, once setting forth these statements of fact, these "principles", the author will then issue commands that are feasible to do in light of the principles - called by theologians "Gospel imperatives".  
    When we speak of "Gospel indicatives", we are talking about "who I am and Whose I am". When we refer to "Gospel imperatives", we are addressing "how then shall we live in light of the Gospel indicatives?" To state it one more way. Gospel indicatives indicate the "truth", "doctrine" or "realities" of my new found position in Christ. Gospel imperatives deal with the application of such realities through imperatives or commands for daily Christian living. 

Christian Sanctification is all about Adjusting to a New Way of Life

    In life, a person experiences having to adjust to new ways of living, such as: marriage, parenting, new job, a move & health. The Christian-life involves the greatest spiritual adjustment. Why? One’s new identity in Christ ought to include the continual adjustment of a person’s priorities and practices. 

    Since we have defined "Gospel Indicatives" and "Gospel Imperatives", we have a grid for applying the insights we've gained thus far about Christian identity to daily life in Christian growth (i.e. sanctification). Thus, what components are involved in consistently adjusting one’s new-found way of life to align more with Jesus Christ, His Spirit and His Word?

Realities of Christian Identity. Rom. 6:9-11,15-19, 20-23. (These realities are “gospel indicatives”)

    The Gospel indicatives we find in Romans 6 spell out for us who we are and whose we are. 

1. Romans 6:3b "all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?"

2. Romans 6:4 "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

3. Romans 6:5 "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection."

4. Romans 6:6a "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him"

5. Romans 6:8 "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him"

6. Romans 6:11 "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

7. Romans 6:23b ..."but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

    When it comes to one's identity or union in Christ, the idea of change and adjustment to that newfound identity lies at the core of Christian sanctification. There ought to be a difference in one how thinks, acts and talks because of who they are and Whose they are in Christ. 
The job of the Gospel indicatives is to remind and reinforce to the Christian the reality of who they are in Christ.

    To illustrate, in the area where I live, people are adjusting to warmer temperatures and the beautiful weather that characterizes Spring. Gone are the coats, boots, and snow shovels. In their place I notice people wearing light jackets or short-sleeved shirts. Weeks ago, one would not had seen many people on the sidewalks or at the near-by city-park. But now, when driving home from the church where I pastor, I'll notice numerous people walking their dogs, pushing strollers and enjoying the warmer temperatures. Why? The people understand that things have changed, and thus they adjust how they dress and act accordingly. Now keep this illustration in mind, since we will refer to it shortly in understanding the second thought associated with effective growth in Christian sanctification or adjustment to the new found way of life in Christ...

Responsibilities of Christian identity. Rom. 6:12,13,19. (These responsibilities are “gospel imperatives”)

    So, what is it that Christians are commanded to do or not do in Romans 6? Again, without the Gospel indicatives, the Gospel imperatives become burdensome. However, with the understanding of who one is in Christ, the Gospel imperatives or responsibilities become a delight to carry out. As 1 John 5:3 reminds us: 

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." Note the following "Gospel imperatives" in Romans 6.

1. Romans 6:12 "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts"

2. Romans 6:13a "and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin..".

3. Romans 6:13b ...."but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead".... .

4. Romans 6:14a "For sin shall not be master over you".... .

5. Romans 6:19b ...."so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification."

    To return back to the illustration above, would it not be odd to see someone dressed in full winter gear on a warm, Spring-time day? Or worse yet, imagine trying to build a snowman in July or operating a snowblower along a sandy beach. We would not dream of doing such things. Yet, many Christians, when told to abstain from certain things, will attempt to carry out the prohibitions of the Gospel imperatives without first considering the change that has occurred in their lives. 

    Or to use the same illustration differently: do people on a warm spring-time day need convinced to "go outside and enjoy the sunny weather"? Or how about this: "go for a walk or open the windows and enjoy the smell of the fresh flowers and budding trees." 

    Why are such commands easy to carry out? Because the people carrying them out understand that the status of their situation is that of people living in what is now warmer, nicer weather. The behavior and actions match with the reality of the status in which one finds themselves. 

    When it comes to effectively adjusting oneself to the new way of life in Jesus Christ, such adjustment can only be enjoyed and truly possible when one understands the reality of their identity in the Lord. 

Closing thoughts

In today's post we explored what is necessary to be more effective in Christian growth in sanctification as spelled-out in Romans 6:9-23. We discovered the following two components...

1. Realities of Christian Identity. Rom. 6:9-11,15-19, 20-23. (These realities are “gospel indicatives”)

2. Responsibilities of Christian identity. Rom. 6:12,13,19. (These responsibilities are “gospel imperatives”)

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Union with Jesus Christ, What It Is, And How It Roots Christian Identity - Romans 6:8-11



    In today's post I want to explore the most common truth we find about Christian identity in the New Testament epistles - union with Christ. This is in keeping with the last series of posts which have aimed to explore the subject of Christian identity through Romans 6,7, and 8. For reader's desiring to review the last couple of posts in the series, click on the following links.

What it means to be united to Jesus Christ

    The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology defines "union with Christ" as having to do with identification with Christ. It notes on page 588:

"...the theological concept of identification with Christ relates a Christian to the person and work of Christ by Divine reckoning, by the human experience of faith, and by the spiritual union of the believer with Christ effected by the baptism of the Holy Spirit."

    Theologian Michael Horton on page 587 of his volume:"The Christian Faith" describes this union of the believer and Jesus Christ in both salvation and sanctification as follows:

"Nevertheless, our subjective inclusion in Christ occurs when the Spirit calls us effectually to Christ and gives us the faith to cling to him for all of his riches."

    To understand this union more concretely, Jesus compares union with Him as a branch to a vine and the vine to the branches (John 15:1-7). The "vine and branches" metaphor employed by Jesus gives us a grand introduction to this truth. In Ephesians 5:22-33, the union of Christ and His people is likened unto the union shared between a husband and the wife. Other metaphors are used throughout the New Testament to describe the Christian's union with Jesus Christ, including the body (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12); bread (1 Corinthians 10); a field (1 Corinthians 3:9) among others.
    This idea of "union with Christ" is vital, since Christ connects not only our justification and sanctification together, but also connects His Person and current work to us by the ministry of the Holy Spirit that both initially and progressively continue such a connection (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-13). In the New Testament, wherever we find phrases such as "in Christ" or "with Christ", we can have certainty that the author is talking about "union with Christ". To say "in Christ" means "in association with Christ" or "in participation with Christ". Paul most often talks of this truth. We also find it in Peter's letters, chiefly in 2 Peter 1:4

"For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."

Tying our new Christian identity into the doctrine of union with Christ
    I wrote in the last post about the top five ways a Christ-follower is described in the New Testament. This whole matter of "Christian identity", whether "disciple", "saint", "elect", "believer", or "Christian", is rooted in the larger theological truth of one's "union" with Jesus Christ. 

    This reality of no longer "united to the first Adam" and transferred into "the Second Adam", Christ, by faith, is traced out in Romans 5:11-21. Romans chapters 6-8 spells out the implications which follow from the sinner's transferral from "Adam" to "Christ". Notice what we find, beginning in Romans 6:3-7

"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin."

    You'll notice in the above quote I put into bold those phrases that allude to the believer's union with Christ. As stated already, to be "in Christ"or "with Christ" refers to "association" or "participation" in the life of that person. 

    We can note that the term translated “united” derives from a Greek word found only once in the Greek New Testament. Elsewhere in other Greek literature outside the New Testament, certain ancient medical literature uses the term to describe the knitting of bones together in a mother’s womb. Or, in referencing forestry, particular Greek authors used this term "united" to describe a dense forest of trees growing together. 

    In other words, to have "union" with Jesus Christ speaks of a spiritual, organic union. To put it another way, the experiences and life of one Person (Adam for sinners; Jesus for saints) becomes mapped onto those with whom they are shared. The Apostle John notes in 1 John 4:19

"By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world."

    As Paul expounds upon what all is involved with our Christian identity "united" to Jesus Christ, we read in Romans 6:8-11

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

    Did you notice how life and death are wrapped up in this personal identity of the Christian life? Although the Christian life in this world still deals with the corruption of sin, that secondary reality cannot subtract from who the Christian is in Jesus Christ.

Closing thoughts
    Let me close with how powerful this union with Christ is in rooting the new Christian identity. Paul writes in Colossians 2:13-14

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

Saturday, May 13, 2023

A Mother's Journey To The Cross


    There are many wonderful examples of mothers in the Bible. What I find striking about the portrayal of certain mothers is how often their life points to the glory of the Lord. For example, the wonderful prayer of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 illustrates the thankfulness a godly mother has for the Lord's provision of a child. In the opening chapters of Proverbs, Solomon urges his son not to forget his mother's teaching (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20). The Book of Proverbs ends with wise sayings taught to King Lemuel by his mother (Proverbs 31:1). One of Jesus' earliest miracles featured the healing of Peter's mother-in-law (Luke 4:38). In Acts 12:12, a prayer meeting was held at the home of the mother of the author of the Gospel of Mark, John Mark. If one consults an Bible concordance, there is found some 300 or so references to motherhood in the Bible. 

    The one mother I want us to focus upon today is one most familiar, Mary, the appointed mother of Jesus. The first time we hear mention of Mary is in Matthew 1:16, where Matthew writes of her “of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ”. In Luke 1:30-31, we read the words of the Holy Spirit through Luke's writing 

"The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.'"  

    Mary’s life was used to bring forth the Author of Life in His humanity. Her life would be one centered around the cross. Furthermore, as you read about Mary, you find how quickly she recedes into the background in comparison to the centrality of Jesus in the entire sweep of the New Testament. Mary is briefly mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Book of Acts, and indirectly in Revelation 12:1-2. 

    What I want to do in this post is review some of the texts that mention Mary’s relationship to our Lord, and draw forth principles that deal with living a life centered around the cross.

1. Praise the Savior of the cross. Luke 1:46-55

    The first thing we can note about Mary is how she praised the Savior of the cross. In this first passage of Scripture, Mary paid a visit to her relative Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with a little boy we would come to know as "John the Baptist". Studies show that by six months, a baby is exhibiting all the behaviors of one outside the womb. Baby John could respond to voices by this point. It is interesting how God’s timing is such that Mary’s arrival would match with where John was developmentally. 

    As we shall see momentarily, Mary's praise of the Savior is due to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s working is mysterious isn’t it? Luke talks about the Holy Spirit 19x in Luke and 58x in Acts, making him a premier Biblical author on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. 
    Why did the baby leap in Elizabeth's womb upon hearing Mary's voice? This response was a sign of the dawning of God’s kingdom work. Psalm 8:2 reminds us

“from the mouth of infants and nursing babies you’ve ordained strength”. 

    Jesus Himself would later teach in Matthew 11:25 

“you’ve hidden these things from the intelligent and wise and revealed them to infants”.

    Once Elizabeth told Mary what was going on in her womb, Mary broke out in a Holy Spirit inspired song known as "The Magnificat". This song of Mary is so named because of the first word that appears in the Latin Vulgate's rendering of it (the word "magnificat" means "to magnify, to enlarge, to make much of"). We read of this song in Luke 1:46-55. As I reproduce it below, I'll insert headings in parenthesis to give a sense of how Mary was praising the Savior of the cross.

Luke 1:46-48 PERSON OF THE SAVIOR) And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 (POWER OF THE SAVIOR) “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 “And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. 51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53 “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. 54 (PROMISE OF THE SAVIOR) “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, 55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

    Mary praised the Savior. She praised the One in her womb, who no doubt shared in the same Divine nature as the Father in Heaven, the primary focus of her praises. Although the Son, together with the Father and Holy Spirit are the One Savior God (Isaiah 43:10-11), we are reminded that the Father sent the Son to endure the cross (John 3:16; Acts 2:23-24). Remarkably, the Son of God came to share in Mary's humanity to be born the babe in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ our Lord (Matthew 1:23; John 1:14). So, we see Mary praising her Savior. 

2. Pains of the cross. Luke 2:34-35

    It is in this second point we find Mary introduced to what will become the pains of the cross. We pick up the text in Luke 2:34-35 

"And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

    I had a memory this week of when I was scarcely 4 or 5. I was a very sick boy. I had a seizure at that time, and all I recall was that I was in my mother’s 78 Malibu. I know this because the car had a red interior and I was told later that this car was newly purchased by my parents at the time. 

    Later in that same memory, I can recall a waiting room, being in a fetal position, wracked with pain, lying beside my parents. One word captures that recollection - terror. My parents said they prayed for me, and gave me up to the Lord. The doctors said it was likely I would have brain damage, since the seizure was such as to be even fatal. God, in His mercy, preserved me.

    My parents always said that children were on loan from God. The pain of having to turn over a child to God, to have Him take that little one whatever direction he has ordained, was no doubt a great test of their faith. I don’t doubt Mary felt a far greater twinge in her soul at Simeon's in his blessing over the infant Christ.

    The Christian life is described as somehow sharing in the "sufferings of Christ". These "sufferings" speak of what Jesus is currently undergoing in His present ministry of the right hand of the Father. He died once for all for sins. However, the current ministry of Jesus involves sharing in whatever sufferings Christians experience in their daily struggles to live for Him. I'm reminded of what He told Saul of Tarsus (whom later would be called "Paul") in His calling of Saul to salvation. He did not say "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my Church?". Rather, Jesus said "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me" (Acts 9:4). These "struggles" are often classed with the pattern of pain on the cross, since the Christian is called to live a life shaped by it. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you."

3. Prize the cross. Luke 2:45-52

    We have witnessed how Mary praised the Savior of the cross and felt the pains of the cross. We now observe how she would come to prize the cross. Note what we read in Luke 2:45-52 

"When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem looking for Him. 46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. 48 When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” 49 And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. 51 And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

    When our oldest son was dropped off for the first time at preschool over twenty years ago, it was at the time one of the post painful experiences of our lives. He was dressed in his little bib-overalls and had a little Clifford the Big Red Dog backpack. We sat out in the parking lot until he first day was done. 

    For the first four years of his life, we had seen him achieve the milestones of infancy, toddlerhood, and then preschool. We knew that it would not be the last time we would have to learn to "let go". In having raised two of our children into adulthood, and the latter two into teenage years, I can promise you, "letting go" has not come easier. 

    Such milestones are etched in our minds. Some moments we cherish, some bring tears. We read in Genesis 37:11 of how Jacob kept the matter of his son Joseph’s dream in his heart. He pondered it. He could not comprehend what it all meant. Would it bring pain? Joy? At the time he did not know. No doubt,  Mary sensed her boy’s words were freighted with much weight, of which she could not bear at that point.

    As a Christian, I must ask myself "do I prize the cross?" The cross is a paradox of unparalleled pain and joy. The pain of separation from the cares of this world and putting to death the flesh are necessary for Christian growth. The joys of knowing Jesus at a deeper level outweighs the agonies. Paul writes in Colossians 3:15-16 

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

4. Press toward the cross. John 19:25-27

    We now arrive at one of the post heart wrenching scenes in all the Bible. John writes of Mary standing at the foot of the cross in John 19:24-27 

"So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be”; this was to fulfill the Scripture: “They divided My outer garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.” 25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household."

    Chuck Smith, a commentator, notes of this scene: 

“Possibly no other human agonized as much over Jesus’rejection and suffering as His mother did. This was not only because of the natural love of a mother, but also because His rejection was her rejection. Wonderfully, His vindication was hers also.”

    What is happening in this scene? Jesus here is fulfilling the Law (Exodus 20:12; Eph 6:1-3). He also was fulfilling his earthly life as a loyal son in all his household, seeing to the care of his mother to John. Only at the cross can the demands of the law and the demands of love be fulfilled. We could observe far more here, but let me hasten on to the final thought.

5. Power of the cross. Acts 1:11

    The cross, as it would turn out, meant the completion of Christ’s atoning work. It also pointed beyond itself to the empty tomb and His ascension, which would begin His current work in Heaven. The cross and empty tomb, Calvary and Easter, each support one other. 

    We have observed how Mary praised the Savior of the cross, felt the pains of the cross, prized the cross, and pressed toward the cross. It is in this final verse, which also gives us the final time we read directly of Mary in the Bible (Revelation 12:1-2, mentioned earlier, speaks of her indirectly), that we find her awaiting with the 120 in the upperoom for the promised Holy Spirit. 

    What can we say of Jesus' work of salvation? The cross of Calvary is the wondrous root, and the resurrection that glorious flower which release the sweet aroma of His presence. The root of Calvary, the cross, came to be the basis for Christ’s finished work. The resurrection, the flower, came to be the proof of the Father’s acceptance of His atoning work. We saw in this post how Mary treasured in her heart all that Jesus said as a twelve year old boy. How much she comprehended – we’re not sure. 
    Her actions in the upper room tell us at least she believed upon her Son with that Easter faith, awaiting His promise of Pentecost. She was anticipating the day she would once again see the One she once bore, and who now was bearing her. She had witnessed Him die on a cruel cross just over a month prior. Now she had the thrill of knowing He had risen from the dead, had made subsequent post-resurrection appearances, and was ascended into Heaven. 

    She drew strength from the power of the resurrection of the one she had once bore, and which now would carry her the remainder of her days. Mary's life reminds us of a life centered around the cross. Her life points to Him - and rightly so.

Friday, May 12, 2023

P2 The New Christian Identity, The Reality Of Lingering Sin, And Introducing Union With Christ - Romans 6:1-7


   Over the last few posts, I've discussed the issue of the Christian's new identity. The first of these posts raised the question about whether we are "sinners saved by grace" or "saints who sin occasionally". To review that initial post, readers may click here . We then did a follow-up post to unpack further how it can be that in having a newly regenerated, transformed nature from salvation, the saint of God can still sin in this life. To review that second post, readers may click here . Then in the last post, the third of the series, we began to offer comments on Romans 6:1-7, talking about the new Christian identity and the lingering effects of indwelling sin here 

    What we want to do today is continue on from our last post, exploring the important truth of our union with Christ. We will look at how this truth factors into the Christian's core identity, and offer further comments on that secondary reality we spoke of last post, namely the Christian's choice to still commit sin.

Meet the two trees that illustrate the Christian's two realities of a new identity and still lingering sin

    Years ago, when we served at a church in Florida, we lived near a small lake. The perimeter of this lake featured a small residential road, dotted with palm trees and other sorts of flora. It was common to see oak trees or large pine trees side-by-side with the tall palm trees that stood straight and swayed in the warm Florida breeze.

    There was one particular tree that I can remember that was an older tree. This tree had wide boughs and branches that were crooked. You could tell the tree was older than most of the others around the lake due to the bark. What was curious about this older tree was that it had a palm tree growing out of the middle of its trunk. When I looked at this tree, it was hard to tell where the old oak tree and the palm tree began and ended with one another. The oak tree had started its life sooner, with the palm tree somehow becoming a part of this older tree at a later time.

    The two trees were contrasts of one another. The oak tree, as mentioned, had crooked, sprawling branches; whereas the palm tree was straight. As expected, the palm tree's growth had to battle its oak tree host. Still, the oak was an oak, having its own sort of life, a life that was slowly ebbing away. Meanwhile, the younger palm tree had a different way of life, vibrant and hopeful as it shot its way toward the Florida sun.

    When I look at the Christian identity in Jesus Christ, we're like that palm tree. We become implanted in an older, crooked, shell of humanity (see James 1:21). The new nature, the heart of Christian identity, grows amidst the left-overs of the former old life. 

    Although the old nature is dead, yet its effects linger on. It presses in upon the new nature which was implanted and begun by the Holy Spirit in saving faith. The older tree in our analogy is a secondary feature, with the palm tree springing forth as the primary reality of the Christian's identity. They are two unequal, yet warring realities.

The Christian's new identity centers upon their union with Jesus Christ

    What I want to do now is focus attention upon the primary reality of the Christian life - their new identity. In my studies of the New Testament, one finds the following facts about what Christian people are referred to in the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, or John's Apocalypse. I'll list five of the leading descriptions of Christ-followers.

1. Christians were first called  
    "disciples". This title is found only in  
    the Gospels and Acts, yet it is by far 
    the most common designation, 
    registering over 250 places.  

2. Christians are called "saints" over 50      times. 

3. Christians are referred to as "elect"or      "chosen ones" some 15 times. 

4. Christians are termed "believers" on        9 occasions. 

5. Christians are deemed "Christians" in      3 places. 

    These five leading descriptors address the Christian life from different angles. 

    The "disciple" is at root a follower of Jesus Christ. He or she sets out to follow Jesus so closely as to mimic Jesus in thought, word, or deed. To say one is a "Christian" is to say one is a "disciple". In salvation, I accept Jesus as my Savior and my Lord. He is Lord or Master not only by right, but also by fact. The disciple's entire life is growing in their awareness, understanding, and competency in living their life for the glory of the Master Who redeemed them. 

    The term "saint" addresses how God has set apart a sinner, called him or her unto himself in saving faith, and changed their underlying human nature from being at war with God to walking with God as a "holy one" - i.e. "a saint". 

    When we speak of someone as "chosen" or "elect", this reminds us that before we ever choose God, He chose us for the sake of His Son before time began, prior to our birth, to be holy and blameless in His sight. 

    As for the designation "believer", this reminds us that God's choosing and electing does not cancel out the obligation nor call to the sinner to believe and repent of their sins in Jesus Christ. 

    The name "Christian" derived from those who opposed the earlier followers of Christ, reminding us that becoming one entails suffering for Jesus' sake. 

A brief comment on "union with Christ".

    For sake of space, I'll devote the next post to unpacking what is meant by "union with Christ". This reality of "union with Christ" is the most common teaching about Christian identity we find in the New Testament. The clearest passage that summarizes this truth is what Paul writes in Galatians 2:20  

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

    In the next post, I'll spend more time on this vital truth that is at the heart of the Christian's new identity in Jesus Christ

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

P1 The New Christian Identity And The Reality Of Lingering Sin - Romans 6:1-7


    In this series of posts we are understanding two truths about the Christian life in this world. 

1. First, the Christian has a new identity,
    and thus a new nature in Jesus              Christ. 

2. Second, though having a new 
    identity, the Christian still retains the      lingering effects of corruption.

Romans 6,7 and 8 helps us understand how these two truths are to be explained. If I were to summarize these three chapters, the following could be said.

1. Romans 6 - New Christian identity and no excuse to sin.

2. Romans 7 - Old vss New identity and      the conflict of sin.

3. Romans 8 - New Christian identity          and defeating sins.

    As an old preacher I heard once noted, until I understand the realities of Romans 6, and deal with the conflict of Romans 7, only then can I enjoy the victory promised in Romans 8. 

    Lets look what we find in Romans 6 concerning the new Christian identity and no excuse to sin. These are two realities. The new identity in Jesus Christ speaks to what I become and who I am as a Christian. The lingering corruption of sin speaks to a secondary reality of the Christian life that stems from our unredeemed flesh. We shall first note some questions to ask ourselves.

Important questions to ask of our new identity and the tendencies to still desire to sin

    Let's first begin with the second reality of the Christian life, the lingering corruption that clings to our flesh and which imposes itself upon our new nature. Paul writes about this issue of sin in the Christian life, and the need to rely upon the Holy Spirit who brought it about. We can note what he says in Galatians 5:16-17

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please."

    Anyone reading this post, especially Christian readers, ought to identity with what Paul wrote in Galatians. These two competing realities, unequal to be sure, stir about on the inside. In later posts I'll take note of this enormous conflict in Paul's extensive treatment of it in Romans 7. 

    Suffice to say, any working model of Christian sanctification has to handle how the Christian can have a new nature on the one hand, while still dealing with the uncomfortable reality of lingering sin. As we turn to Romans 6, the opening three verses pose three diagnostic questions that help us to see that thought the Christian is "a saint who sins occasionally", they never have a legitimate excuse for doing so.

1. Do I have the right to sin? No

Romans 6:1 "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be!"

    When one becomes a Christian, they are brought into a new life, united to Christ, with new rights. We have the right to live for God. The right to love God. The right to hate sin. Whenever we compare those rights to the one right don't have - the right to sin, we discover that in all reality, nothing is lost. Whenever you think about it, a "right" in the moral and spiritual sense is something granted by God. The sinner's claim on having the "right to sin" is a deception of the fallen impulses of our physical body, containing those selfish drives the Scripture calls "the flesh". The Christian has the license to live for God and does not have the right to sin.

2. Do I have to sin? No

Romans 6:2b "How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"

    This second question deals with the issue of no longer having the necessity to sin. Before Christ, the sinner could say: "I couldn't help my self" because they not only sin out of willingness, but also necessity. Necessity has to do with the overall disposition of one's moral and spiritual nature. When I speak of "nature", I mean the way in which something expresses its existence, behavior, or (if possessing an intellect) it's personality. Another way of describing one's nature would be to say "how one is wound" or, "how one is wired".

    What happens when the nature is changed to a new one in Christ? The will of the human person now has options! Fallen man's freedom of the will is limited to only doing what pleases himself. He is free to do whatever he wants and yet, no matter how religious or moral he may be, unless the Holy Spirit is acting upon and in the heart - that person will refuse God 100% of the time. At saving faith, the will is "freed" to do the one thing it refused to do - truly and freely love God.

    In post-conversion life (that is, the life that follows from having been born-again to saving faith), Christians will still sin. With that reality understood, the Christian cannot claim they "had to sin", since the necessity to sin is removed. Even though I may sin post-conversion, I don't have to. One's growth in sanctification ought to see a lessening frequency and severity of sins relative to what they would had been pre-conversion.

3. Can I have victory over sins? Yes

Romans 6:3 "Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?"

    Let us suppose one has a dead mouse in a mouse trap. If you were to put a piece of cheese up to his nose - would he grab for it? Clearly not. Why? The mouse is "dead". No amount cheese, even the finest cut, will entice a dead mouse. Paul describes the Christian's relationship to the power of sin as being "dead". By one's union in Christ - sin - in effect - is "dead to them". 

    This is Paul's way of saying that in Christ, ground is given to the Christian to have victory. Victory over particular sins requires a daily giving of oneself to God's Word, prayer, and putting on the shield of faith (see Ephesians 6:1-11). Our flesh may very well "flare-up" in such instances - since the cancellation of "power of sin", not the "presence of sin", has occured.

    We must remember that in justification - the penalty of sin is removed. In sanctification - the power of sin is removed. Only when I am in heaven with Jesus - or glorification - will the presence of sin be removed. With those distinctions noted, since my relationship with Christ is defined - that means my relationship to sin ought to change. 

    The more I grow deeper in love with Jesus, the higher will be my hatred of sin. In sanctification - I am becoming in experience whom God declared me to be by position in justification.

    In our next post, we shall continue on by exploring the meaning of how the primary reality of the Christian's new identity is rooted in their union with Jesus Christ. 

More next time....

Friday, May 5, 2023

A Follow-up: The Need To Unpack The Reality Of Sin In The Christian Life

Introduction & review: saints who sin occasionally

    In our last post, we considered the question of Christian identity. Readers who want to review the last post may click here

    We asked "is a Christ-follower a 'sinner', 'a saint', or somehow 'both'". We concluded that, on the one hand, with respect to the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited unto me in saving faith, I am no doubt a "saint", a "holy one". Over sixty times we find Christians referred to as "saints" in the New Testament. We could say that the Christ-follower's "sainthood" in this present life speaks to their root identity. The Christian is by position forgiven of their sins and by relationship an adopted son or daughter of God.

    But now, what of the sins commited post-conversion? This secondary "on the other hand" reality of Christian living causes much discussion among Christian people. 

    Clearly, the Bible nowhere affirms that Christians are sinlessly perfect in this life (compare 1 John 1:8-2:2 for example). We know that Paul admitted, for instance, in Philippians 3:12

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."

    Also too, the Apostle Peter would commit sins well into his Apostleship, as apparent in Paul's confrontation of him in Galatians 2:11-21. Even though the Christian has no excuse (since the last time I sinned I did not have to sin), it nevertheless stands that all Christians will choose to sin from time-to-time. As author Sinclair Ferguson notes in his book "The Blueprints for Sanctification", the pattern for Christian living ought to be that we sin less frequently and with less intensity. 

    It is true that Christians have a "new nature" from their conversion in saving faith (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5). So, why then do Christian people sin? As I noted in the last post, some Christians refer to themselves as "sinners saved by grace". I won't go into the history of the use of this phrase. The history of ideas, and how they trickle down into everyday use, tends to lead to their misuse. Let's just say that its original intent, and the way it is taken today, are different and has led to much confusion.  This phrase "sinner saved by grace", though well intended, nevertheless needs retired. 

    In my last post, I noted that probably a better way of stating this secondary feature of Christian living in this world is to say "we are saints who sin occasionally" (to borrow from Neil T. Anderson and other theologians who write regularly on the subject of Christian sanctification). 

The reality of sin in the Christian life

    We know that Christian people retain the corruption of sin. The difference between pre-conversion and post-conversion man is that the first situation has man sinning by necessity. Put another way, unbelievers sin because of who they are - sinners. The church 5th century church father Augustine describes it as "not being able not to sin", or stated positively "able only to sin". The human will of the natural man is morally bent, tilted, in the direction of "desiring to do the opposite of God's will", as well as feeling the need to do what is opposite of God's will. 

    When we become born-again, regenerated, new believers in Jesus Christ, our nature is transformed. When the Christian sins, they sin because "they want do", not because "they have to". To quote our friend Augustine once more, we become as believers those "who are able not to sin", or stated positively, "we can choose not to sin". 

    I ended the last post by referencing Martin Luther's phrase in his summary of the Christian life "simul iustus et peccator" (saint and sinner at the same time). As I understand this teaching of Luther, the Christian is indeed a "saint" in the primary sense of their identity with respect to the credited righteousness of Jesus Christ, received in saving faith (compare Romans 3:24-26; Galatians 3:24). As I also understand Luther's statement, the Christian chooses to commit sin and, independent of consideration of who they are in Christ, they would be a sinner (which of course is no longer their central identity, due to conversion). Luther's point seems to be that the Christian's choice to sin is a "secondary feature" of their Christian life in this world. As I heard it once stated: 

"in the new birth, we are set free in justification from the penalty of sin; in sanctification, we are being set free from the power of sin; and in glorification, or after we get to Heaven, the believer is set free from the presence of sin".

The reason for today's post: a need to unpack the reality of sin in the Christian life 

    The Apostle Paul writes these words in Romans 7:24-25

"Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."    

    With so much discussion over who a Christian is ("a saint", "a sinner", or somehow both), I wanted to take time to dive more deeply into where we can find the accurate portrayal of the polarity that exists for Christian people, namely that we are "saints" and that "we sin occasionally" - Romans 6,7,8. 
The 4 R's Of Romans 6, 7 and 8.

     I'll simply list what I call "the four "R's" of the Christian life in Romans 6,7, and 8 as a means of navigating the Christian's "sainthood" on the one hand and the painful reality of their post-conversion sinning on the other hand.

1. Realities of the Christian life.  
    Romans 6:1-11

2. Responsibilities of the Christian life.        Romans 6:12-7:6

3. Wrestlings between the new nature        and sin in the Christian life. 
    Romans 7:7-25

4. Rights of sonship for the Christian          life. Romans 8.

Closing thoughts

    As we devote time in future posts to these chapters of Romans 6,7, and 8, I'm reminded of what I heard a preacher say years ago in reference to understanding the Christian life in this section of Romans. The preacher noted:

"only when we understand the reality of Romans 6 and the conflict of Romans 7 will we be able to enjoy our inheritance laid out in Romans 8."

     It is hoped that in unpacking these three chapters, readers can gain clarity to untangling the difficulties of understanding the believer's true identity in Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Is The Christian A Sinner? A Saint? Or Somehow Both?


    Our Christian identity is fundamental to how we grasp three realities:

1. Who we are in relationship to God in 


2. How we relate to understanding 

    ourselves in Christ. 

3. How we relate to others inside or 

    outside of Christ. 

    Identity has become a hot topic of discussion in our wider culture during the last decade. In the news we will hear of such phrases as, "identity politics" or hear the question, "what do you identify as?" We live in an age that though full of information at out finger tips, yet is characterized by the vast majority of people not knowing who they are, or even "what they are". 

    These are the fruits of a set of worldviews that attempt to root identity either in the by-products of so-called neo-Darwinian evolution (i.e. naturalism) or in one's personal understanding of oneself (i.e. what author Carl Trueman has coined "individual expressivism").

    For followers of Jesus Christ, it is vital to know who we are. What is at the root of our Christian identity? How do we explain it? To answer these questions, I'll first offer an outline of Romans 6,7,8, followed by an exposition of where I land on the subject of Christian identity.  

An outline of Romans 6,7,8 with reference to Christian identity.

1. We are saints that died to sin.       

    Romans 6

*Personal new identity for Christian 

  living. 6:1-3

*Progress in Christ by Christian living.      6:4-7

*Power available for Christian living.          6:8-11

*Present yourself to God for Christian 

  living. 6:12-23

2. We are saints that wrestle with sin.   

    Romans 7

*Pre-conversion: dead in sins, 

  condemned by the Law. 7:1-13

*Post-conversion: wrestle with sin, 

  delighting in the Law. 7:14-25

3. We are saints freed to overcome sin.  Romans 8

*Free from condemnation before God.      8:1-4

*Free to desire God.  8:5-8

*Free to live for God. 8:9-11

*Free to relate to God. 8:12-16

*Free to hope in God.  8:17-25

*Free in prayer to God. 8:26-27

*Free in confidence with God. 8:28-39

An Exposition and Personal Testimony about Christian Identity

    For over 30 of my nearly forty years of being a Christ-follower, I have studied this matter of Christian identity. The question which we seek to answer is, "are we fundamentally sinners saved by grace, saints that can walk victoriously above sin, or both"? I have experienced the first two in extreme form. I have come to conclude that, in the words of that great Reformer, Martin Luther, we are "saints and sinners at the same time". Let me explain by way of personal testimony.

Ditch one: "Defeated Christian or no-Lordship Christianity".

    As a younger man I was caught up in what I would call a "defeatist view" of Christian identity or an extreme form of the first view. I believed in the so-called "carnal-Christian view" or "no Lordship Christianity", namely that Jesus became my Savior and then only later would He become my Lord. 

    Such a position would practically result in two classifications of Christians - those who are carnal and those who are Spirit-filled. In as much as a Christian can act carnally (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-4), yet to say a genuine believer can go for long periods of time with no fruit nor evidence of conversion (hence be "totally carnal") conflicts with Scripture (see Matthew 7:15-20; James 2:15-17).  In this first extreme, I felt I couldn't help but sin, and that I was prone to sin, and thus expect a pattern of defeat in my Christian life. 

Ditch two: "Constant victory or no-depression view of Christianity"

    The other ditch I went to was what we could call a "total victory view". The variant I was taught espoused that we should never get depressed and that we ought to expect to rise above sin most of our lives. 

    As in the first view, this view takes what is a true principle and magnified it at the expense of other doctrines. Yes, as Christians, we have been given a new nature (that is, a new way of expressing what we are in our actions). Further, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit Who enables us to live for God and frees us from the compulsion of feeling like we can't help ourselves when it comes to sin (Romans 8:1-5). 

    However, Christians still have to deal with the world, the flesh, and the devil ( Ephesians 6:1-11). Furthermore, Paul himself testifies how Titus was sent by God to him in a season of depression (see 2 Corinthians 7:5-6). I knew this to be a ditch because it was one step removed from the error of perfectionism, which teaches it is possible to not knowlingly sin ever again in this life. Ironically, I found this second view resulted in producing two classes of Christians, just as the first. 

The New Testament reveals we are saints and sinners at the same time

    It was only until I began to study the over one-hundred passages in the New Testament that speak of our identity "in Christ", coupled with statements Paul makes about himself in Romans 6,7,8 and elsewhere that I came to believe the following of our Christian identity (hence the third option or "both" view, in contrast with the first two ditches that I just explained). 

First, we are saints of God. 

    A saint is not someone who dies and is later deemed such by a church or other group. Rather, "saint" refers to "a holy one", that is, someone who has the Holy Spirit on the inside of them as a result of receiving Christ as Savior and Lord in saving faith (Romans 10:9-10). The Christian's sainthood is rooted in what God did in choosing and then calling them to saving faith in Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:13). 

    Our nature, our "way of expressing what we are", is changed from an old nature that always wants to sin and not follow Jesus to a new nature that wants to live for God and follow Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Although the last time I sinned as a Christian was of my own choosing, yet I realize that I don't have to sin out of necessity as I did prior to conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

    In having received the new nature at saving faith, God credits me with Christ's righteousness and adopts me, meaning that by nature and position I am a "saint" (Romans 4:1-6; Galatians 4:1-6). I can obtain victory while realizing that I won't be immune from the onslaught of our fallen world and the still residing desires of my fallen flesh (Romans 7:13-25; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Secondly, we are also "sinners saved by grace" (perhaps better, "saints who sin occassionally", as noted by Neil T. Anderson). 

    Though saints, we can and do choose to sin. The phrase "sinners-saved-by-grace" is not entirely unbiblical. I have heard the Christian's still lingering corruption of sin described as being a "recovering sinner". Paul describes himself in present tense terms as "the chief of sinners" in 1 Timothy 1:15. Furthermore, the Apostle Peter was confronted to the face by Paul in Galatians 2 and was nearly convinced of the Galatian heresy - though himself being a true believer, acting out of the flesh. 

    When I describe who I am in relationship to my still progressing efforts in practical righteousness, it is there that I say with Paul in Romans 7:24-25 "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin." 

Lastly, we are saints and sinners at the same time. 

    In bringing together the first and second points, the overwhelming message of the New Testament places the root of my Christian identity in who I am as a result of Christ's imputed righteous (i.e. "credited righteousness") at saving faith. 

    By position I am a saint of God, a child of God, declared righteous in Him. In and of myself, apart from Christ's imputed righteousness and my adoption as a son, I have left-over remnants of sin and this flesh. Like a rusty car with a new motor, I can pass any car on the highway, while in the meantime the car handles like an old car because the outsides are not yet made new. 

Closing thoughts:

    Let me close this exposition on Christian identity with a quote from Martin Luther that summarizes well everything I've written above and a link to a video clip from R.C. Sproul that expresses what Luther meant when he said "saint and sinner at the same time".

    "A Christian is at the same time a sinner and a saint; he is at once bad and good. For in our own person we are in sin, and in our own name we are sinners. But Christ brings us another name in which there is forgiveness of sin, so that for His sake our sin is forgiven and done away. Both then are true. There are sins…and yet there are no sins…. thou standest there for God not in thy name but in Christ’s name; thou dost adorn thyself with grace and righteousness although in thine own eyes and in thine own person, thou art a miserable sinner."