Who is a sinner?

1 Timothy 1:15 ESV
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.


I heard a conversation recently that this Scripture reminded me of tonight.

It was a question about “What is a sinner?” This question was asked on the program “Ask the Pastor”.

The discussion revolved around the table until at one point, it turned into a discussion about being a saint versus being a sinner. At the end, only one of the pastors held firm to the assertion that we must be careful to not separate ourselves from the idea of being a sinner, because of the pride that it could allow us to slip into – while the rest of the panel held to “once we are saints, we may sin, but we are no longer sinners” and literally gave each other high fives for their answers. I could see the humbleness and reverence of God in the one man’s face and his almost shock in the behavior that accompanied the others’ answers. I tried not to see their actions at the moment as prideful, but it didn’t sit right with me, even though I moved on and didn’t focus on it at the time.

I had long forgotten about that moment until I read this scripture tonight. Paul, an apostle, here in his letter to Timothy, in this, a letter to a young pastor where he would be carefully choosing and weighing every word for how it might be received by its intended audience – he calls himself a sinner. And he doesn’t just call himself a sinner, but he makes the claim that he is the foremost sinner.

This is the example that Paul gives in his guidance for this new pastor – An example of a humble and contrite sinner saved by grace. He doesn’t warn him to never call himself a sinner and to only consider himself a bold and renewed saint. No, he gives the clear explanation of himself as a sinner. And he says it in the present tense, not in the past tense. And yes, this is clearly after he had proven himself as a Holy Spirit filled apostle of Jesus Christ, who was chosen and called.

So being a saint and being a sinner are not mutually exclusive. This is because being a saint is about accepting Jesus Christ into our hearts through faith. This is a change within our spirit, that part inside us that guides and controls us. Being a sinner is part of our flesh, it is part of our “human/flesh nature”. It is a result of the desires of our bodies.

So if we are only driven by our bodies and are not yet renewed in our spirits, we are sinners.

If we are renewed in our spirits, but are also still in our earthly bodies, we are both saints (in spirit) and sinners (in flesh).

Once we are out of these bodies and with the Lord in spirit (to be absent of the flesh is to be with the Lord) – we are then purely saints.

And once we are saints free from these bodies, we will receive new bodies free from the sin that corrupts these current bodies.

The only way for this to happen, is for us to accept and receive this renewed Holy Spirit while we have an opportunity while living in the flesh bodies we have now. We do this by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, by calling on His name for forgiveness and salvation. It isn’t our works, it isn’t our attending church, it isn’t any of the religious practices that earns our salvation.

The things we do after receiving our salvation are no longer done for ourselves (because our salvation is complete), but they are done for the benefit of others. Because if we believe and have received, we will love others and want to share this gift with them as well. If we do not love others, we should examine ourselves and be sure of our salvation, because if we don’t have love, we don’t have Christ.

So let’s call on the name of Christ for forgiveness and salvation.
Let’s be assured of our salvation by our faithful service.
Let’s have grateful faith that we are saints because His promises are true.
Let’s remember that we are still sinners in this flesh – remembering the humble and contrite heart of repentance that God desires.
Let’s remember that the Christ in us is stronger than the disease of sin in our flesh, and He can overcome the sinful desires of our flesh when we lean to Him as our strength.
Let’s remember that our renewed lives are about being an equipped and ready vessel for Him to use to serve and touch the lives of others around us.

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