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Saints and Sinners
Query for the Month
Next up-date: May 1st 2016 (God willing).
Previous "Queries" are available. Click here to access.
This article is available as a PDF file here. Or as a WORD doc.
Some perpetual questions ....
Do you know the difference between the "love"
that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world? Click here to find out!
Click on the link for a good book on the character of our God which you can download and share amongst your friends. It's called "Light through Darkness" and is one of the best books on this subject that I have ever read!
In the meantime, try this site.
Here's another great site on the character of God written in a way that's very easy to understand.
In this reply the old-fashioned words of the KJV have been modernised, and in some instances, the man-made punctuation has been altered for greater understanding. Some of the comments are adapted from books in my library. No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly. All the ideas expressed in this article, right or wrong, are my own.
Is there any distinction between “righteous” and “sinners” in the Bible?
Who are the “saints” and who the “sinners”?
The first clear mention of either is in the opening book of the Bible, where it is written; “And God saw that the wickedness of man [men and women] was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. Genesis 6:5.
And this was only 1,536 years after the creation – ten generations of humanity!
Then it was that “The LORD said to Noah, ‘Come you and all your house [family] into the ark; for you [only] have I seen righteous before Me in this generation’.” Genesis 7:1.
Thus God Himself made the distinction and separation between the righteous and the unrighteous – it was a simple matter of being obedient and getting in the ark or not.
It was then that these words had their first application - “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner [also]”. Proverbs 11:31. Their last application will be for the rebels in the Lake of Fire, while the righteous will abide safely in the “ark” of New Jerusalem, which will also be on the earth at that time.
Yet it is also written that at the beginning, “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day [of the creative work of God]”. Genesis 1:31.
So what caused the people to reach the pre-Flood state?
The one great gift above all the others that the Son of God gave to humanity at the creation was the right of free will – the ability to choose their own destiny. This was part of His plan to rectify the lies that Lucifer had been spreading around the universe regarding the nature of the kingdom of heaven. The people of the universe had not considered this aspect of their lives before this, but when the controversy started, it soon became a major issue. Did they have to obey God on pain of death, or could they choose not to? When the Son of God pronounced the only prohibition on the behaviour of Adam and Eve, they thought that it was a very fair one – after all, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was God’s own possession and any taking of its fruit would be stealing.
But free will was the root cause of the problem!
And the Son of God blames Himself for it when He says, “I am the LORD [your God], and there is none else, there is no God beside Me: I girded [looked after] you, though you have not known Me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create [the possibility of] evil: I the LORD do all these things”. Isaiah 45:5-7.
So why did He do it?
He loves freedom in all its aspects, and He wants His creatures to have it also so that they may choose the right because it is right and produces happiness. But it comes with an inbuilt danger. The danger was of selfishness, and this had already raised its head among the angels, and indeed, in the one closest to Him in the whole universe. But He could not continue with His replacement plan without granting that freedom again, although this time He explained the problem to Adam and Eve. But head knowledge is one thing, and acting on it is another.
We all know the story from then on. Satan the adversary, as Lucifer had become, persuaded both Eve and Adam that they could decide for themselves whether to eat of that tree or not, even though it belonged to Another and they had been commanded not to.
It was this free choice which led in ten generations to the fact that nearly every one in the world had become a rebel, and did whatever they fancied in opposition to God’s suggestions.
The story goes on:
3 And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh [with free will]: yet his [remaining] days shall be a hundred and twenty years [till he causes the Flood to come]”.
4 There were giants in the earth in those days [physically and mentally]; and also after that, when the sons of God [the loyal humans] came in to [married] the daughters of men [the rebel humans], and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown [men and women in great opposition to God’s way].
5 And [the Son of] God saw that the wickedness of man [men and women] was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. [He “repented” (that is, He was sorry) and was grieved for their misery and unhappiness.]
7 And the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents Me that I have made them”.
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
If we read this text carefully and prayerfully, we will see that from the first the Spirit of God had striven (worked hard) with the population to save them from the wrong choices, but it had now reached a point when they would destroy themselves in one hundred and twenty years. Everything was big in God’s original creation, to match His own size as much as possible, and they soon developed an ego to go with it.
But in the third generation something significant had happened – some men and women had begun to openly claim to be following God’s way. “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD [call themselves by the name of the LORD, margin]”. Genesis 4:26. So the separation which had begun with Cain and Abel deepened.
But the ways and looks of the people of the world have always had a fascination for the followers of God’s ways, and all too soon some of the men on God’s side began to make marriages with the rebel women, for they were beautiful, but the downside was that the children they produced began to practise (trained by their mothers) even more opposition to the ways of God – selfishness instead of the ways of goodness.
There was also the opposite flow when some of the daughters of God married some of the sons of men, but their offspring were not so badly affected, for their mothers taught them the truth.
This interaction of believers with unbelievers produced an astonishing reaction in the Son of God in the eyes of the people of the universe. Instead of getting angry as the rebels were prone to do when anyone stepped out of line, we are told that He was grieved in His heart for them and was sorry that He had inflicted so much pain and hurt on the people by His decision to give them free will! But He couldn’t take it back, for it is an integral part of His nature, and they had been made in His image.
So He blamed Himself for the situation, and has been doing so ever since.
Knowing that they could not continue long in this situation, He made the sorrowful prediction that they would soon not only destroy themselves (see Hosea 13:9), but also the whole civilisation they had developed, and all the other creatures that He had made, including the insects and the birds. (If He had been a vindictive Person then He could have punished the rebels, but why then take it out on the other innocent creatures as well, as the text seems to say that He did?)
But what He actually did shows a merciful side to His nature because He asked Noah and his family and friends to build a ship capable of housing all the obedient people and other creatures who would accept His help. The concept of a ship was not strange to Noah, for I have no doubt that the people of the earth had already developed vessels that could float on the many lakes and rivers of the time. What was strange was place where he was told to build it – far from any waterway – and so large!! But he followed the plans the LORD provided to the letter.
He did as he was told for he had found out that God knows best, which is one of the marks of a righteous person, one who has received the “grace” of God.
But what the people of the universe did not know, that which God alone knew, was that when Adam chose to follow his own inclination and join his wife in rebellion, something happened to his nature. The Bible describes it as becoming a “hardened heart”, which means one that persistently refuses to listen to reason (the voice of the Holy Spirit), and therefore soon finds itself in grave danger, for the end result of such refusal is to cut off the Voice completely.
The only remedy was to be changed in nature!
Fortunately, both Adam and Eve accepted the exchange of hearts that the Son of God offered (see Ezekiel 18:31), but because it was not their natural one but the gift of God, they could not pass it on to the children. So it was the hardened heart that was transmitted to all the children of Adam and Eve, and, left to their own devices, they also individually separated from the God of Life and began to die the first death at various times!
But the reason for this was not outwardly evident at first, and it took a while before any began to question as to why death existed, because only a relative few (the first three generations) had actually succumbed to it at the time of the Flood.
Thus it was written later in explanation:
For to be carnally minded [to have a heart hardened in opposition to God] is death [it IS, not just leads to]; but to be spiritually minded [in harmony with Him] is life and peace, because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are [or remain] in the flesh cannot please God.
That text sums it all up. To be “carnally minded” is to think only of this world and a present life, thinking only of our own desires and pleasures, while to be “spiritually minded” is to have our thoughts on the bigger picture and the future life and listening to the Voice of God. The text does not say that the carnal mind is at enmity with God, for then it could be remedied, but that it IS enmity, and that cannot be rectified.
So then, to please God, and to save us, our heart must be changed. We must become “saints” and cease to be “sinners.
And this is the basis for the words of Jesus:
3 Jesus answered and said to him [Nicodemus], “Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” [He needs a new start to comprehend what going on].
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?” [He was thinking physically, while Jesus was speaking spiritually.]
5 Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit [through baptism and the presence of the Spirit], he cannot [publicly] enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit [and never the twain can meet]”.
7 “Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again. 8 The wind blows where it lists [chooses], and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” [Its results can be seen, but its composition cannot be reasoned out by a creature].
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you a master [teacher] of Israel, and know not these things [for they are basic understandings]?”
11 “Verily, verily, I say to you, We [He and His disciples] speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and you receive not our witness.
12 If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”
He finished by saying that without this foundation stone, nothing else in the Bible can make much sense! At the same time He told us that there is a great difference between saint and sinner, between righteous and wicked, between loyalist and rebel, and that is the answer to our query.
The difference is internal, which is why it is written;
23 And I will sanctify My great name [character], which was profaned [downgraded] among the heathen, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, says the LORD GOD, when I shall be sanctified [upgraded] in you before their eyes.
[I will use a physical action to help explain a spiritual fact.]
24 For I will take you from among the heathen [they were in captivity in Babylon], and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land [as a symbol of freedom].
25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you [wash you down with the Spirit], and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness [your past actions], and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit [character] will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a [soft] heart of flesh.
27 And I will put [the voice of] My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes [suggestions], and you shall keep My [daily] judgments, and do them. 28 And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers [the spiritual land of freedom]; and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.
But that brings another problem!
It is still possible for those with a new heart and free choice to choose the wrong way and therefore choose to sin. (We have many examples of this in the Bible record, starting with Lucifer, and then Adam.) But what should we call them then? Are they to be known as sinners? NO!! For it is those who permanently reject God and have a “hard heart” who are sinners and rebels. When the followers of the LORD make a wrong choice, then they can be called “sinning followers”, or “faulty righteous”, or, in our time, “sinning Christians” because that is what they are in that condition. But their “soft heart” has not changed when they sinned, for it is not like the original, but a new one which has within it a portion of the divine nature.
This is why Peter began his general letter with the words:
2 Peter 1:
1 Simon Peter, a servant [by his choice] and an apostle [by God’s appointment] of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our LORD, 3 according as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that has called us to glory and virtue. 4 Whereby [by whom] are given to us exceeding great and precious promises [in the Bible]: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature [if you believe and act on them], having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust [selfishness].
5 And beside this [beside the new heart], giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [God’s love]. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our LORD Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was [offered the chance to be] purged from his old sins [the old heart].
10 Wherefore the rather, brothers [and sisters], give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall:
11 for so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is those who reject God’s offer of mercy and the exchange of hearts who are called “sinners” in the Bible. Those who accept are known as “righteous”. For a Christian to call him or herself a “sinner” is to deny that Christ has remade them, and that he or she is a “new creation”, as it is written; “Therefore if any man [or woman] be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Even though there can be “sinning Christians” and “morally good sinners”, that does not change their underlying status in God’s eyes, and this is why we cannot judge by appearances, or even actions, as to their acceptance with God and their standing in the judgment. In a parable we are told that AFTER death, “. . . between us and you there is a great gulf fixed [by our choices]: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot [the first death makes the choice permanent]; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence [for righteousness is not transferrable, except from the LORD]”. Luke 16:26.
A “sinning Christian” can be forgiven for his or her action for they are the children of God, and can start over from that point again, but a “sinner” needs a transplant.
One needs a feet-washing, the other a full bath.
[On that last night before the crucifixion], “Jesus answered and said to him [Peter], ‘What I do you know not now; but you shall know hereafter’. Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet [as a servant]’. Jesus answered him, ‘If I wash you not, you have no part with Me’. Simon Peter said to Him, ‘LORD, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head [all over like a rebaptism]’. Jesus said to him, ‘He [or she] that is washed [baptised] needs not save to wash his feet [occasionally], but [then] is clean every whit: and [then] you are clean [all over again] . . .’.”
So the answer to our query is “Yes”, there is a great difference.
However, it is possible for a righteous one to give up their imputed righteousness [the new heart] because it is an added experience, although it takes a while to do it. But if it is done, then it is permanent. (It is sometimes called, “the unpardonable sin”, because the perpetrator of it will never again want to come to God for forgiveness and re-instatement.)
So we have these words:
2 Peter 2:
20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ [and the heart exchange], they are again entangled therein [in the world], and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it is happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘The dog is turned to his own vomit again’ [Proverbs 26:11]; and, ‘The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire’.”
This Christians can do of themselves.
But the sinner cannot make himself righteous without the creative intervention of the Son of God.
In the following text it is all summed up:
19 [The question is asked] . . . “Does not the son bear the iniquity [the sins] of the father?”
[God answers:] When the son [as a possessor of a new heart] has done that which is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes, and has done them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul that sins [rebels], it shall die [the second death]. The son shall not bear the iniquity [the hardened heart] of the father [in this matter], neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. [A son must bear the results of a sin committed by a father, but does not have to retain the father’s hard heart. That is an individual thing.]
21 But if the wicked [that is, the rejecter] will turn from all his sins that he has committed [and accept a new heart], and keep all My statutes [in My power], and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die [the second death]. 22 All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned to him: in his righteousness that he has done [through his acceptance of the gift of righteousness] he shall live.
23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? says the LORD GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
24 But when the righteous turns away from [totally rejects] his [God-given] righteousness [permanently], and commits iniquity [without repentance], and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he [continue] live [spiritually]? All his righteousness that he has done [in Christ’s power] shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them shall he die [the second death].
25 Yet you say, “The way of the LORD is not equal [fair]”. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not My way equal? Are not your ways unequal?
26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and dies in them [without repenting]; for his iniquity that he has done [for his choices] shall he die [the second death].
27 Again, when the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right [in My power], he shall save his soul alive. 28 Because he considers, and turns away from all his transgressions that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die [the second death].
29 Yet says the house of Israel, “The way of the LORD is not equal [fair]”.
O house of Israel, are not My ways equal? Are not your ways unequal?
30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the LORD GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity [rebellion] shall not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make [accept] you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel?
32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies [the second death], says the LORD GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live you.
In God’s sight there is a great distinction between the righteous and the wicked. One has a new heart while the other has retained his old one.
So the difference is man-made – not God’s.
We might be surprised to learn that the most common terms for identifying the two groups of people in the Bible are “righteous” (225) and “wicked (325).” “Saint or saints” (a person being sanctified) is used 98 times and refers to one who has a new heart and devoted to the service of God. The term “sinner or sinners” is used 67 times and denotes one who is accounted guilty, an offender, one who deliberately does not conform to God’s standard.
Thus we have the righteous and the wicked!
(1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV version)
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? . . . [let's move on a little] and that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God”.
Again in 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV version, Paul says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated,
but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Next query. To be discussed from May 1st 2016.
Why is there a sanctuary (temple) in heaven? There is no blood (death) there!
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