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Discussion in 'Daily Devotional Forum' started by Pergamum, Dec 29, 2011.
I believe J.C. Ryle and Martyn Lloyd Jones have mentioned similar things. In the case of Mr. Lloyd Jones, I believe, he spoke about how some people would give their testimony with a prideful outlook on their pre-regenerated life.
I remember this quote. It was an eye-opener for me, and the sermon it was contained in was a great help to me. Looking at 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter seems very interested in making Christians have very high confidence that they are saved, for the reasons that it preserves us from sin, and makes for a splendid entrance into heaven. We will have our sorrows here on earth, but a Christian does much better in walking above the world when assured, than when not. Assurance or none, yes the grace of God is present, but the latter has a rough time of it.
Our former lives are a point of shame. I did the same thing for a while, even with my deep waters on assurance and whether I was really regenerated; that is, being proud of the blackness. It's not healthy or humble, and keeps you from trusting Christ.
Those of us who come from an evidently sinful background have all done this, at least I know I have.
I have seen this attitude in youth group speakers who would boast that at our age they would have been thrown out of the group they are now "preaching" in front of. In that scenario it was used as a shameful play at relevance
It has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that early on in his ministry Paul said he was "the least of the apostles", but by the time he was nearing the end of his ministry he called himself "the chief of sinners". The fact is the closer we get to the Lord, the more ugly our sin is to us. Even so, with the understanding of the depth of our sins should come the deep joy in knowing how deeply we are forgiven. To moan and groan all the time seems to say that Christ is not enough for us.
I am not sure how to reconcile these two things. The New Testament overwhelmingly speaks of God's peoples as saints and not sinners. But of course, there is that example of Paul.
I don't know that Paul's statement as "chief of sinners" ought to be understood in the present tense, as in, "I am right now the most morally bankrupt person I know." He just got finished saying, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." The implication is that he is not now those things. So, I think chief of sinners might be a cumulative reference to his former life, including persecuting the saints.
So, if this is true, I don't know of a single NT verse which speaks of Christians in the present tense as sinners. Do you?
No, and I think this is intentional. In the Old Testament, the term "sinner" is reserved for those outside God's covenant, either because they were never in it or because they have broken it. The Pslams use it that way a lot. The Gospels, too, make it a point that Jesus had dealings with "sinners," a group that the majority religious culture had deemed outside the pale.
I think that Paul was definitely speaking in the present tense, he was a sinner as we all are. However the imputed righteousness of Christ has made us blameless before God. The point of admiting the fact of your sin should not be out of guilt or pride, but out of gratitude for the gift that God has given you. You are in fact a sinner, but in the eyes of God you have been justified.
The point I was trying to make, and I think this is what Paul was saying is that in the presence of a holy God, we cannot help but see how bankrupt we are without Him. It doesn't mean that we go out and sin more, it means our sin becomes more awful to us the closer we get to Him.
The one who grovels in his sin is not really looking at a holy God, but focusing on his unrighteousness.
As believers, we are complete in Christ, and when God looks at us, He sees Christ so we are righteous in Him, but that doesn't change the fact that we we will still sin, and our sin looks more ugly the more we look at His holiness.
I think that the Spurgeon quote has been herein somewhat misapprehended.
Read it carefully: Spurgeon is not speaking of someone recalling his sinful past. He is speaking of someone in the present who glories in denominating himself the blackest of sinners, whose focus is more on self than on Christ. He's referring to a certain hyper-Calvinistic sort who can't call himself enough bad names but who is really quite self-righteous, the kind of person opposing Spurgeon in a link on the recent post about "hyper-Spurgeonism."
Yes, as Paul said of himself near the end of his ministry, we are all, in one sense, with referrence to ourselves, the chief of sinners. What true believer when soberly reflecting disdains such a reality? And yet, as has been said, he, as have all those who trust in Him, obtained mercy.
We are, as Luther said, simul peccator et iustus, at the same time a sinner and righteous. Where do we see a saint in the NT struggling with sin? Romans 7, though there may no longer be the kind of consensus that there was (to a man among the Reformers) that Romans 7 has reference to a believer.
Happy New Year to all!
I think the context of Full Assurance enlightens Spurgeon's point above. Spurgeon conceives of Full Assurance as a work, and solely a work, of Grace in the heart of the believer. The self-righteous hyper-Calvinist that Spurgeon is talking about derives his Assurance from his own personal experience of his sinful nature. In other words: the hyper-Calvinist trusts that he is saved because he believes he is a sinner. The Calvinist trusts in God for his salvation. The hyper-Calvinist is proud that he is a sinner. The Calvinist is ashamed of his sin.
When Paul calls himself the "Chief of Sinners" then I think we should accept the full face value of what Paul is saying, and not seek to imitate him at this point. I believe that Paul is trying to point out that if God can save the "Chief of Sinners" then there is no reason in the world why God cannot save you or I - who are less than the Chief of Sinners, 1 Tim 1:15,16.
Hope this helps,
Let us not forget the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us is foreign, just as much as the sin was foreign imputed to Jesus. So when we say God looks at us as saints do not forget He sees what is under the covering. I like to think of this in the analogy of adoption. God adopts us (Imputation) and now that we are His child He will gradually change us (infusion) and the flesh that has yet to be changed is rotten.
And for me, at least, I'm only highlighting those sins that show how cool I was. I'm certainly not sharing the truly darkest parts of my days. : (
I refer to the fact of my previous disbelief and atheism as well as my sin at times when I am communicating the Gospel to non-believers. I usual bring this up so I can point out my own folly without directly pointing to their rebellion. I think this is also one of Paul's intentions of "chief of sinners" as much as an indication of his unworthiness and transformation by grace. I don't think any of these uses is prideful at all. At least not pride in anything other than the work of the Holy Spirit, and I wouldn't say that an honest illustration of personal repentance instead of public judgment outside the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 5:9-12) is prideful. Pride in my previous sin would be proclaiming my lack of it now, as opposed to recognition of new sins as I mortify the old. This is the shame I seek, not the shame of referring to my own sin before or after my acceptance of Christ. I don't know that I have actually met anyone quite like the one Spurgeon describes, but I suppose such a person does exist; or perhaps I am misunderstanding what he is saying here. My glory is not in my shame of sin, but my reason for rejoicing certainly is.
It's one thing to bring up a past sin with an attitude of remorse or disdain.
It's quite another to hold it up as a badge of honor, which makes me wonder whether or not the person in question has a real understanding of repentance.
I have a sinful past, as do many of us. If anybody were to ask me about it, I would explain it. But there's nothing to be proud of about it, and there's nothing to brag about in it.
But there is something to be thankful for in that our sins are no longer counted against us. And THAT brings a smile to my face.
I'll provide the next part of the quote from the sermon, because it helps clarify his intentions.
That part is clear. Thanks Jake.
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But isn't moaning and groaning in our sin part of being humble at the same time, so we can appreciate our gift? (James 4:7-10) Is James only talking to unregenerate sinners here or is he also referring to those who already claim to know Christ?
The New Testament sure does spend a lot of time instructing us in the way of righteousness. It does that for a reason. We are sinners. It spends a lot of time telling us to pursue holiness and overcome temptation for a reason. How can you conclude that the New Testament doesn't overwhelmingly speak of God's people as sinners? That is a new one on me.
I suppose we could start another OP to prove that the NT mostly speaks of those who believe as saints (who sometimes sin) as opposed to sinners.
This is a great quote from Rev Winzer: