So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:21–25 (ESV)
Do you feel like there is a war inside of you? You see some parts of your life where Jesus has really changed you. You have become what many people would call a “good person.” At the same time, you know there is still a very ugly side of you. There is a part of you that would really like to forget about obeying God’s commands. Part of you would like to run wild in sin. Part of you would love to give that certain person a piece of your mind. Many times that part of you wins and your inner ugliness is exposed for others to see. Or perhaps you struggle with private sin that no one else knows about, and you live in shame. Do you wonder how you can be a Christian but still struggle with sin so much?
Lately I have had a phrase on my mind. Oddly, it is a Latin phrase. No, I don’t usually think in Latin. I probably only know about five phrases in Latin. I remember this one because it gives the answer to the last question I asked above. It describes a concept that is critical to understand as you live the Christian life. The phrase is simul justus et peccator. It means “simultaneously saint and sinner.”
You see, Christians are saints and sinners at the same time. It’s true. You are a saint. This doesn’t mean that you are an extra holy person. It doesn’t mean that you are a better Christian than someone else. Actually, your sainthood has nothing to do with you. To make yourself a saint you would have to obey all of God’s commands perfectly. You haven’t and you won’t. Instead, Jesus made you a saint. He took the punishment you deserve for your sins as He died on the cross. That means God no longer holds your sin against you. God forgives you. Jesus also did something else. He perfectly followed all of God’s commands, and He gave you His perfection. And so, Christian, you are a saint. When God looks at you, He views you as a sinless saint.
At this point, you are probably thinking, “But I’m not sinless. I sin all the time. What is going on?” You are asking this question because you understand that being a Christian comes with a life change. As a Christian, God has given you a new nature which wants nothing more than to serve and please Him. A non-believer doesn’t care about obeying God, but a Christian’s new nature hungers to obey his Savior.
However, you don’t always hunger to obey Jesus. You want to do your own thing. That is because you are still a sinner. You now have a new nature, but your old nature hasn’t moved out yet, and it is fighting to keep its home. You feel a war going on inside of you because there is one.
In the Christian life, we battle to live out what we already are. We are already saints, and as the Holy Spirit works in our lives through His Word, we will live more like saints. In fact, because God views us as saints, we can now truly obey God. We can serve Him out of love instead of just to avoid punishment.
As Christians, we should desperately desire to live for God. We should try to be more and more like Jesus, but we will never be perfect in this life. Simul justus et peccator is encouraging because it reminds us that it is normal for a Christian to struggle with sin.
“Simultaneously saint and sinner” helps us to keep our eyes on Jesus in the midst of the war, because He has already won the war for us. Christian, even though you still sin, you can be confident that you are a saint. In Christ, God views you as perfect. One day, God will welcome you into heaven, and your old nature will finally be evicted. Saint, you will live perfectly in the presence of God forever.