Friday, June 19, 2009

A sinner by any other name.

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person --- though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in the while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5: 1-12.

In a lot of blogs, I see the claim that while a Christian is saved, the Christian is still a sinner. Or a saint and a sinner. Or will still struggle with the effects of sin, while still being redeemed through the work of Jesus on the cross. Maybe they're a forgiven sinner, or something like that.

But is someone who is saved still supposed to lay claim to the title of sinner? In the Bible paragraph I just quoted, Paul makes a reference of Christ dying for us while we were still sinners. Usually, when someone is phrased "still [fill in the blank,]" it means that the person is no longer that [fill in the blank] at the time of the discussion.

For example: "I had a red car when I was still married."

"I had a lot of friends when I was still happy."

"Jesus died for me while I was still weak."

"Jesus died for me when I was still an enemy of God." -- and this example I find key. I would say that any Christian would claim that s/he is no longer the enemy of God, as s/he has been saved through what Jesus did. The unsaved are still enemies of God. Yet the Christian would claim to still be a sinner in some fashion? Based on the Bible paragraph, Paul comes across as inferring that the Christians are no longer enemies of God. He's also inferring that Christians are no longer weak. So in using the same language style, isn't he also inferring that Christians are no longer sinners?

On a different note, I read in a blog that someone used Romans 5: 8-9 to support the claim that God loves us and God proved this love by -- through Christ -- punishing Himself for everyone's sin so that no one would have to be punished. The applicable passages are in bold.

A couple problems I have with that idea. First, given all twelve verses, Paul is setting up a definite difference between God and Christ. The God one has peace with is different than the Jesus who provides that peace. The God views people as enemies is the God that Jesus reconciles those enemies to. The God that Paul boasts of boasting of through the Lord Jesus Christ. The God who has the wrath is the God whose wrath averted through the Jesus who is saving people. The only possible way the two are combined is in verse eight with God proving His love while Christ dies while people are still sinners. But based on the other verses, it makes more sense to conflate the idea of God's love with God providing His one and only Son.

Second, where in this verse does it say Christ is punished in the place of sinners? It says that Christ died for people while they were still sinners, and his blood justifies people so that they are saved from the wrath of God. It doesn't say how the blood saves, and it makes no clear claims of Jesus being punished for anything. Nor does it even make the death part be the end, since a later verse says that Christians will be saved "much more surely" by the life of Jesus.

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