Hey Mike. I know the biblical answer to this question, but I am seeking advice on how to handle a statement that was made in a Wed. night bible study. The teacher, i had just met the guy, made the statement that he does not like the phrase "I am a sinner saved by grace." His reason was that as a child of God he is not a sinner because to be adopted into God's family he must be in right standing with God (justified) to be God's child. If he had simply said that he prefers to be called a child of God as opposed to a sinner saved by grace, I would understand, but I believe that his frustration with the afore mentioned phrase is deeper than that.
My question, therefore, is twofold: 1. should i confront this teacher privately to discuss his stance? 2. Is this mencing of theological words and phrases a serious enough of a deal to even bother about it? I think that it is, especially considering the fact that a new believer was in the class.
Post by Mike Miller on Mar 22, 2018 10:03:56 GMT -5
Let's start with part 2. It's hard to know for sure if this is just a mincing of words, so to speak, without exploring further. I will say, however, that I've heard similar sentiments, and I understand where they come from, but I do think there is some error here. This teacher's error stems from a misunderstanding of justification (though for many, the error behind such a statement lies in a misunderstanding of sanctification). When the Bible teaches that we are justified through faith, it is not talking about a moral justification, but rather what we call "forensic justification." In other words, we do not become morally upright at our conversion. Instead, we are declared not guilty because the righteousness of Jesus has been imputed to us. In other words, our justification is a legal (forensic) standing before the Judge. We are guilty sinners who are judged by the righteousness of Christ and not our own. Therefore, we are still not morally pure, which is why are involved in what is called sanctification--the work of the Holy Spirit within us making us more and more like Jesus throughout our Christian walk.
I wonder if this teacher has a Catholic background. If so, that might explain some confusion, since the Catholic Church teaches a moral, or subjective, justification whereby sin is replaced by "habits of grace" (kind of a confusion about the difference between justification and sanctification). A person steeped in Catholic doctrine who learns of justification by grace through faith might initially have a hard time grasping forensic justification and imputed righteousness. He might just conclude that a person has right standing with God because the person is now morally pure.
The truth is really not that complicated, though. I would simply ask, "Do we still sin?" I cannot imagine this teacher denying that he sins (but if he does then he is in even more serious error than I initially thought). So then, if we sin, the question is why. Why do we still sin? Because we are sinners. We are not simply labeled sinners because we commit sins, but we commit sins because we are sinners by nature. When we are born again, we receive a new nature, but we are still in the flesh, so we wrestle, empowered by the Holy Spirit to overcome sin. That is why to say that we are not sinners anymore is simply not correct.
Now for part 1: I'd say a conversation would be in order. I would start by asking questions to clarify what he believes. It could be that you misunderstood or that he did not communicate his thoughts well. Or it might be that you can help shed some light on the meaning of justification for him. Either way, a kind chat about the matter would not hurt. I always appreciate when people come to me directly when they believe I have said something that is wrong. Most of the time, I simply misspoke or the person mis-heard. But I've also been wrong. Just make sure that your conversation is friendly and respectful (and knowing you, I have no doubt that it will be).
I hear the statement, “I am just a sinner saved by grace.” The word “just” is what bothers me. We ate the people of God, heirs of God, his bride, his body, his building, and the sheep of his pasture. We are not “just” sinners saved by grace.