Sinner in the Hand of Angry Saints

from Jul 27, 2013 Category: Articles

One of the weaknesses that may come from communicating via social media is that we not only speak in short hand, but react in short hand. That is, our answers haven’t the time or characters to be nuanced, and so neither is the thought that goes into them. Our minds are less a well-ordered shelf of careful books, more a stack of broad-brushed memes.

I have sensed this of late due to the responses I have received in making affirmations along two related but different paths. Persuaded I need to enter more deeply into this reality, I have been posting about my own sin. Here is a tweet from Independence Day—I hold this truth to be self evident, that I, like all men, think myself the equal of God. And so I declare my dependence on His grace. I received much the same push back I receive every time I refer to myself as a sinner. Seems that’s a no-no. Now it may well be that the word “sinner” is only used in the New Testament to describe those outside the faith. Such does not mean, however, that it cannot legitimately also be used this way—Sinner, n, 1. One who sins. It may be important that we remember that we are redeemed, forgiven, but it is likewise important to remember that we need to be redeemed and forgiven. It may be important to remember all that we are in Christ, but it is important as well to remember what we are in ourselves.

In like manner I have found myself dangling over a pit of indignation every time I say something positive about the law of God. I recently tweeted this—The Christian life is not choosing grace over law. It is instead exhibiting grace by law. Apparently there is an app that sets off alarms in the homes and minds of some folks any time the law is spoken of in a positive manner. I have been scolded, chastened, insulted, everything short of being called a sinner or a law-breaker for speaking well of the law. You know, like David, Jesus, James and Paul did. Of course our obedience won’t earn God’s favor. Of course we have nothing to offer. Of course circumcision will avail nothing. But friends, we are in trouble with God because we have broken His law. We don’t do what He wants us to do. And when we are redeemed, one of the things we are redeemed to is obedience. Obedience to what you ask? His law. We can dicker over whether He commands us to do this or that. But surely we should be able to agree that whatever He commands, that we must do.

It is a great thing to rejoice in our standing as saints before the throne of God. It is a joyful thing to know that God’s peace with us is not dependent on nor grounded in our obedience to His law. It is, however, a bad thing to forget that though we are in Christ, sin has not yet been completely eradicated from our lives. It is a bad thing to forget that sin is a failure to do what God commands, or to do what He forbids. Let us, as He forgets our sin, forget its curse. But let us confess its presence. And let’s not, due to our truncated means of discourse, embrace a truncated theology.

Sinner in the Hand of Angry Saints was originally published at