For years, like forty or so, I would hear people say, “I am just a poor sinner saved by grace.” That statement never rang true and accurate. I think I know what they were trying to say! Perhaps, “I was a poor, wretched sinner and God, in and by His grace, saved me.” I find in the Scripture that one is saved he becomes a new creation (creature) in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). To me 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that a saved person is no longer what he was before salvation…a sinner…but something new and different. The Greek word for “new” in 2 Corinthians 5:17 means “new in kind” NOT “new in time.” So, when one is saved, what does he become? One New Testament term used by Paul is saint. There are many other terms to describe a saved person. We become a “saint” by being saved by grace. Hence, no longer a sinner of any kind.
Two other questions to answer.
One… “if” and/or “since” I am a saint, why do I still commit sin from time to time? “Sinner” is not what one does; “Sinner” is what one is from conception to regeneration. Before salvation sinners sin because it is their nature to sin. One does not become a sinner because he sins. He sins because he is a sinner. For example, a puppy is totally “canine”… “dog” at conception. Shortly after birth the puppy whines. Afterwards he barks. The pup does not whine or bark to become a dog. He barks because he is a dog. All through the Bible the truth is that all are born sinners…that is what we are until we become saints saved by grace. So then, why do saints sin from time to time? Romans 12:1-2 gives one key. The saint has a “sinner hangover!” What one was and did before becoming a saint “carries over” in our mind into sainthood. This “hangover” is not in the “heart” nor in the “spirit;” it is in the mind. Hence, Romans 12:1-2 states that our minds need renewing.
Two…what about Paul and 1 Timothy 1:15, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief!” “…save sinners; of whom I am chief” is an excellent translation. It would be so easy if Paul had written, “I was” instead of “I am”…a present, active verb form of “to be.” There are three places in the New Testament where Paul characterized himself. 1 Corinthians 15:9 he is “the least of the apostles”…about 55-57 A.D. In Ephesians 3:8 he is “less than the least of the saints”…about 62 A.D. In 1 Timothy 1:15 he is the “chief of sinners”…about 64 A.D.
Note some of the facts here. There is passing of time from “least of the apostles” to “chief of sinners.” During this time Paul’s self perception changed. (He was not making a theological statement in 1 Timothy 1:15 but a statement of self perception.)
Note also that in 2 Corinthians 12:7 we see the “thorn in the flesh” passage. Verse 7 gives the reason for the “thorn”…namely to control Paul’s pride. Evidently it worked.
Note also that in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he saw himself as an apostle. In Ephesians 3:8 he saw himself as a saint. Did he get lost all over again in 1 Timothy 1:15?
Paul’s perception of himself is quite alright. However, today, as believer, we must see ourselves as new creations, regenerated into the family of God, a child of the King, an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ, an ambassador of the King…a SAINT…set aside with a glorious future, great purpose, and marvelous destiny. This is a long way from “A poor sinner saved by grace!’