Wednesday, 22 April 2009

judged as a sinner and called as a saint

I am reading, again, Romans. This is one of my favourite books and most of the Bibles I have had open at Romans of their own accord. I have preached on it times without number and conducted several series of Bible studies based on it and yet I still discover things I have never noticed. This is the wonder of the book.

Today I noticed two statements which seem to be contradictory. In Romans 3:7 Paul seems to be saying quite clearly that he is still 'judged as a sinner'. The image is the law court and Paul, and the whole human race as individuals, are on trial. The accusation is that we have broken God's law and if found guilty the sentence will be death. He goes on to show how universal this accusation is and that the evidence against us is overwhelming. It looks like an open and shut case until suddenly the judge declares 'Not Guilty'. That is 'God, him say, me OK" as we saw in the last blog. This is the wonder of Christ's death which enables God to 'overlook' literally to 'see over' "sins previously committed": Rom 3:25.

All who have ever read Romans, including the first recipients, are included in the 'judged as sinners' and yet when Paul writes to them he says that they have been 'called as saints'; Rom 1:7. We can begin to understand what he means if we remind ourselves that earlier in the book Paul describes himself as 'called as an apostle'; Rom 1:1. Although Paul was 'judged as a sinner', and he will remember that verdict as long as he lives, he was chosen with a unique destiny in mind. He was to be a personal emissary of Jesus Christ himself, an apostle. The full quotation is even more amazing; Paul, a bond-slave of Jesus Christ, called as an apostle.

He was not just called 'to be' an apostle as most of our versions translate it but 'as an apostle'. When did he become an apostle? When God called him or when God sent him? Did he become an apostle because he was sent, or was he sent because he was an apostle? From the moment of his meeting with Christ he was a marked man. Apostle was his calling and it became his character; it was in his blood from the first moments of his encounter with Christ and God engineered the circumstances to release him into his calling.

So if we are called as saints, and the word means 'holy one', do we become a saint because we become holy, or do we become holy because we are saints?

God put a seed into Paul that could grow into nothing else other than 'apostleship'. It might be hindered but it could never become anything else. So in genuine regeneration God puts a seed of a new, and holy, nature into those he has called, and although it may be hindered, it can never grow into anything else other than a 'saint'. It is our nature, our calling, and our destiny; And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Rom 8:28-29 NKJV. We judged as sinners but called as saints.


battleaxe said...
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Fred said...

Hi Ron,

You wrote that in Romans 3:7 Paul seems to be saying quite clearly thathe is still 'judged as a sinner'. The verse taken on it's own would imply that, but I think within the context of the whole letter it does n't necessarily implicently have to refer to Paul. It was not unusual for him to speak in an allegorical manner. He seems to be describing how someone might argue that since our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness we might as well do evil because it commends God's righteousness.

It seems unimaginable someone could conclude such thing. Nevertheless there must have been people thinking like that, for Paul is incensed that he has observed that some are slanderously claiming that he is even preaching this himself. I might add that the translaters of the NIV were also of this opinion, because they added to Romans 3:7 " Someone might argue."

We see the same in Romans 7 where for instance in verse 19 Paul says " For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do.....this I keep on doing." Again the verse on it's own can be taken as Paul talking about his present condition. However, in the context of the letter it becomes clear he is talking about various struggles that go on in a person before he is rescued by Christ Jesus. It is unlikely that in Romans 7 he is describing his present condition as a Christian, for in other letters he clearly tells people to imitate him and the Lord.

I would suggest that Romans 3:7 should also be read keeping in mind that Paul more then once resorts to the same kinfd of rhetoric as in Romans 7.

Your thoughts,


Ron Bailey said...

I know that when Paul says 'I' he doesn't always mean 'me personally'. In this context I think the 'I' is all of us.

The wonder is that although 'I am judged' as a sinner I am not 'sentenced' as a sinner. This is the glory of justification by faith.

At the end of his life Paul referred to himself as 'the chief of sinners'. 1 Tim 1:15. This surely must mean 'judicially' so. Paul was not a 'sinner' by nature but he still knows that it has all been 'of grace' and that the verdict was against him until God cried 'Righteous'.