I am sometimes asked, “As Christians, should we view ourselves as saints
or sinners?” My answer is, both. We are simultaneously saints and sinners.
The apostle Paul often referred to believers as saints (Ephesians 1:1;
Philippians 1:1), and we really are. We are saints not only in our standing
before God but in our essential persons as well.
We really are new creations in Christ. A real, fundamental change has
occurred in the depths of our beings. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell
within us, and we have been freed from the dominion of sin. But despite
this we still sin every day, many times a day. And in that sense we are
We should always view ourselves both in terms of what we are in Christ,
that is, saints, and what we are in ourselves, namely, sinners. To help
us understand this twofold view of ourselves, consider Jesus as an analogy.
In His own person He was sinless, but as our representative He assumed
our guilt. However, He never had any of the personal feelings associated
with guilt. He was fully conscious of His own sinlessness even when bearing
our sins and the curse of our sins in our place. In like manner, while
we should always rejoice in the righteousness we have in Christ, we should
never cease to feel deeply our own sinfulness and consequent unworthiness.
In other words, just as Christ could maintain a separate sense of his
personal sinlessness and His official bearing of our sin, so we must distinguish
between the righteousness we have in Him and the sinfulness we see in ourselves.
[Excerpt from The Discipline
of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, (c) 1994,
2006 Jerry Bridges, NavPress, Colorado Springs, Colorado.]