This is the final of a four part series on Law and Gospel that as originally posted on post-emergent.com on May 25, 2006.
As a person under both the Law and the Gospel, we find ourselves as both Saint and Sinner, at the same time. This situation appears to be a paradox in that how can we be both at the same time.
What is a Saint?
Depending on who you ask, you may get an answer such as “Someone is very holy” or someone who did miracles”. With the death of Pope John Paul II, many Roman Catholic Christians believed that the late Pope should be put on “fast track” for sainthood. What they fail to realize, along with many Christians outside of the Roman Church, is what if the Pope died in Christ, he is already a saint in heaven. Since there is only heaven and hell, he cannot be purgatory as the current Pope has said. A problem is any of these definitions is that they all rely on the merits of the individual. As we have learned, no one can merit any righteousness through their own actions.
A proper definition of a saint is someone who in
St. Paul addresses his letter to the “saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). These Christians are just like us. A saint isn’t what a person does, but who a person is. Martin Luther defined saint as a forgiven sinner. This is the Gospel
What is a Sinner?
It’s easy to find sinners. We are very good at finding the sinner in other people. When we understand the Law, then we see what we are: SINNERS!
Simultaneously Saint and Sinner
As Christians, we are both saint and sinners at the same time. This is a paradox unique to Christianity. We are declared righteous by God through Christ while at the same time asking God to forgive our sins.
In St. Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, he starts by blessing them with grace and peace. Then St. Paul questions their faithfulness, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). Yet, St. Paul continues to call the Galatians “brothers” (Galatians 1:11)
Even St. Paul, in Romans 7, show how he continues to sin even through he wants to be holy. This is the struggle that all Christians must deal with. The good news is that we are not alone in the struggle. God is with us. He provides his Holy Spirit and protects us. When we sin, we know that we can go to the cross of Christ for forgiveness of our sins.