We are all sinners saved by grace!”  I’ve heard that statement stated so many times by preachers from various Christian denominations.  Each time I heard it there was a sense of comfort that enveloped me in that I was keenly aware of my propensity to sin and apparent accessibility to temptation.  It was easy for me to excuse my sinful nature at being just that – a nature I was born with and had no control over.

Of course, the same preachers would exhort the hearers to overcome their nature of sin through faith in the shed Blood of Jesus Christ that set them free from the dominion of sin; however, some preachers would further exhort the hearers to lighten-up on themselves and remember that they are only human and Christ is on the right hand of the Father to intercede for them and Jesus understands our human frailties.

Both types of preachers invariably referred to 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) that states, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”   I would listen intently to the preachers and be encouraged that I was no longer the same person I was before accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I was NEW!  However, before the message was completed, while gratefully praising Christ for His selfless sacrifice to save me from my sins – and sinful nature – I was reminded once again by the resounding statement, “Remember, we are all sinners, saved by grace – Praise the Lord!”

By now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, all the preachers were saying is that we were lost in our sins and Christ has saved us by His grace!”  Words are powerful – Proverbs 18:21 (KJV) “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” 

While words are symbolic to all of us, they are also real, meaningful, and foundational.  All of us are living “up-to” or “down-to” the words that were spoken over us as we came into this world and developed as human beings.  We are connected to God the Father through the WORD – Jesus Christ.  The earth upon which we live was created by the Word of God.  The air we breathe that sustains our life was created by the Word of God.  Yes, words are powerful!

I haven’t heard many preachers say, “We WERE all sinners but are now saved by grace!”  In fact, I’ve heard preachers say we will all continue to sin and that is just a consequence of being a human being.  That statement is confusing to me – always has been and always will be.  You see, if we are expected to overcome our nature of sin through faith in the shed Blood of Jesus Christ, how is it that we are “expected” to continue to sin when we are new creatures in Christ?

In 1967 a movie titled “Cool Hand Luke” came out.  It was a character study of a non-conformist, anti-hero loner who stubbornly resisted authority and the Establishment.  Paul Newman played Luke who was sentenced to a Southern Chain Gang for crimes committed while under the influence of alcohol.  After his second escape from the compound, and subsequent recapture, Luke is treated by the behavior modification techniques of the guards.

After a full day’s work in the southern sun, Luke is instructed to dig a hole (about the size of a grave) in the yard in full sight of all the other prisoners.  After several hours another guard came by and asked Luke why he was placing dirt in his yard.  When Luke responded with, “I don’t know, Boss”, the guard struck him with a walking stick and commanded him to put the dirt back in the hole.

After Luke had time to place the dirt back in the hole, another guard came by and asked Luke why he was placing the dirt back in his hole.  Of course, Luke responded again with, “I don’t know, Boss”, and the guard would struck him with his walking stick and commanded him to get the dirt out of his hole!  This was done repeatedly until Luke “broke”; but, it didn’t “break” Luke at all.  He makes another escape and…

We keep hearing differing messages by various preachers concerning the premise/fact that we are/were sinners.  What does the Bible say? 1 John 3:1-10 (KJV) “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 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. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”

Can this be correct?  Does this really mean that whoever abides in Christ does NOT sin (“sinneth not”) and that whoever does sin does NOT know Christ (“whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him”?  To give a simple answer to this question – Yes!!

You might be thinking, “But Pastor, I sin – I’ve had to ask Christ to forgive me since I’ve come to Him, and I will most probably have to ask Him again in the future.  In fact, I might have to ask Him to forgive me of what I’m thinking of you right now!”

When I am in a discussion with others that profess that they ARE “sinners saved by grace,” I ask them to explain their statement in light of 1 John 3:8“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.”  Of course this causes no small stir.  I usually receive the common response, “Are you saying I am of the devil?” or “Are you telling me that you haven’t sinned since you’ve come to Christ?”

The “key” to understanding the meaning of what John has written is to look at the original Greek word written for “committeth” = poieō – (poy-eh’-o); to make or do (in a very wide application, more or less direct):—to abide, + agree… Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

The Greek word “poieō” is a derivative of the Greek word prassō – (pras’-so) that means to “practice”, that is, perform repeatedly or habitually.

So, John was saying that those who are truly abiding in Christ neither sin habitually/repeatedly nor abide in a sinful lifestyle.  Before coming to Christ sin was our life (lifestyle) and we did by nature that which was sinful and contrary to all God is and stands for.  However, after we came to Christ through spiritual birth, we were given a new nature (that which is after the nature of Christ) and we now have the power (authority, ability) to overcome our sinful nature by submitting our will to the Will of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord Who lives in us!

This is what Paul is teaching in his letter to the Romans – Romans 7:14-25 (KJV) “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” 

If God created all things by His Word, it would require His Word to create us into “new” creatures.  That is exactly what Christ’s Presence in us has done.  We can/could not do this on our own.  The overcoming of my sinful nature is not up to me alone – Christ is working His will in me AS I submit my will to Him.  I love the way The Message states the same verses of Scripture:

Romans 7:14–25 (TMSG) “I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

We are not sinners saved by grace!  We WERE sinners who ARE saved by God’s grace and are now called saints by God.  Saints practice righteousness and are habitually/repeatedly seeking God’s Kingdom and His Righteousness.  We are aware of our sinful nature (flesh) and do not make excuses for it, nor do we make provision to fulfill its desires.  We now have a choice.

Romans 8:1 (KJV) “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” 

We now can live above sin and please God through Christ Jesus, our Lord.  We’ll visit this fact next blog.  Meanwhile, meditate on this – You are a Saint Saved by Grace!  Alleluia!!!