Wretched or Redeemed? Part Deux
Focusing on your sin as the primary identity of a new covenant believer is not an aspect of humility but futility. Some of the most well meaning believers I know have given their lives to pursuing humility and have thought to do so is equivalent to being aware of their sin constantly. It is in fact humble to think of yourself as the worst sinner, that is until it becomes the primary way you see yourself as a Christian. To see the fault in this emphasis on your own sin (thinking of yourself primary as a sinner) you have to understand what it means to be a Christian from God’s perspective.
A Christian From God’s Perspective
In order to have an appropriate view here we must begin where we ended in part one of this post. A Christian, from God’s perspective, is someone who is under a new covenantal relationship with him. A covenant is an agreement between two parties that each promises to fulfill. In terms more contemporary, a covenant is like a contract. In the ANE (Ancient Near East) it was essentially a bond made in blood. God made a Covenant with the nation of Israel after saving them from slavery in Egypt. For those who use covenantal language that covenant was called the Mosaic Covenant or the Law Covenant. The reason for this is the Ten Commandments were given to Israel under Moses’ leadership of Israel. He functioned as a mediator, meaning he was the person whom God spoke through to communicate to Israel. He is the one that speaks to God face to face on behalf of Israel. The Ten Commandments and the other aspects of civil, ceremonial, and moral law were conditions that the nation of Israel agreed to with God. They agreed to obey that law and God agreed to be their God, protecting them and providing for them.
Anyone remotely familiar with the OT knows that Israel did not and could not keep their end of the bargain. This resulted in the covenant being kept in the form of curses by God. If Israel disobeyed their contractual obligation to keep the whole law perfectly as they agreed to, God would judge them for being disobedient. Israel would come to their senses, seek to repent, and God would remove them from judgment only to have all of it happen all over again. That is until the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.
In Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, God, through those prophets, predicts how people will be in the New Covenant. God guarantees that his people will keep the Law (Mosaic Covenant) fully. This means they will not sin. The confidence that God’s people will keep the law completely hinges on two things. The first is that God himself will fulfill man’s Mosaic covenantal obligation by obeying the law completely on our behalf. That is why Jesus came. Because of that, God will credit to all people—who believe in Jesus’ being able to satisfy the conditions of the law covenant—the reward for obeying the covenant perfectly. Since covenants are bonds made in blood, Jesus shed his blood for all of us who did not obey God perfectly and we are given the gift of salvation (saved) from the judgment for failing to obey God perfectly. This is essentially the gospel.
The second is God gives those who believe in Jesus the same Spirit (the Holy Spirit) that made it possible for Jesus to obey God perfectly. In each believer the Spirit of the living God is helping them to live more in imitation of Jesus as times goes on. Therefore, from God’s perspective those people are no longer sinners, in the sense that their primary identity is that. Instead God sees them as saints. Which brings us back to why an emphasis on sin is not the primary practice that New Covenant believers should have.
What the NT says about God’s people
Theologically, the term that has been used to described the relationship God has with his people in the NC (New Covenant) is union with Christ. Since we are given God’s Spirit and are credited with perfectly obeying the law, we are united in Christ in a real time-eternal loving-becoming like Jesus-relationship. Because we are united with Christ, God’s Son, God sees us in almost every sense like he sees Jesus. There are obviously clear differences. That Father-Son relationship is totally different than our Father-sons and daughters relationship with God. But still, none of the NT language regarding people who believe in Jesus is anything close to being a sinner. Here are some of the ways God sees his people (you and I) in this new covenant.
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
John 10:11-16 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
Hebrews 13:20 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,
Romans 1:7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Romans 8:27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Colossian 1:11-12 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
If these are the ways that God sees you, from his perspective in the new covenant, how is it possible that the primary identity we have is that we are sinners? In part three of this post I will show two more ways that God sees us in the new covenant in Jesus Christ. As well, answer how we got to this point and how we can get out of our primary identity as sinners. Also, we will look at why “sinners saved by grace” is true but not necessarily a helpful distinction.