Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Simul Iustus Et Peccator - Saint/Sinner Juxtaposition

Simul Iustus Et Peccator means simultaneously saint and sinner.

Throughout my own daily struggles as well as observing the struggles of others who profess to be Christians, I am realizing to a greater and greater degree how hard the struggle over simul iustus et peccator really is. The Saint/Sinner conflict is very much real. Rightly understanding this juxtaposition is very important to understanding the tension of life as a Christian in a fallen world.

This conflict makes it hard to hear so as to be moved to a better understanding of God’s grace to us in Christ Jesus. It hinders us from hearing the clarity of both the Law and the Gospel applied to us so as to move us into the life of the freedom of God’s grace.

This is a universal problem. This is the struggle that all of us Saint/Sinners encounter continually. St. Paul describes this from his own experience as a war within himself. It is a battle that only God can win for us. In fact, He already has, but His victory has to be applied to us in such a way as to make His victory what we realize in our hearts, spirits, and minds, in our total soul/being.

Acknowledgment of the Saint/Sinner juxtaposition is not an excuse for sin, but rather is an explanation for the ongoing struggle that the saints experience in their lives.

We are sinners from our conception because of the separation that Adam chose for us all. There is no escaping this. As long as humans are born into the world this will continue. But God has intervened by being born as the God/Man, Christ Jesus. He took our sin-death and rose from it so that through Baptism we would be regenerated as members of His holiness, made to be communicants of His very body.

The Gospel is the power through which He accomplishes this for us. When the Gospel enters us and enlivens our heart and soul through faith in His mercy and grace in Christ, we are declared to be saints, God’s holies. We are converted from sinner to saint.

But the Old Adam remains in our flesh. The spirit has been freed, but our sinful nature that has been flushed from our spirit still inheres in our flesh. It will remain until our bodies die, or until they are transformed at Christ’s return. Until then, our sinful nature is still at work in our members (our bodily existence).

The Law stands before us and reminds us of this. The Old Adam loves the Law, so long as he is the one wielding it. Then he can use it as he chooses. He loves to tell others that they need to change their abusive ways. But he does not like it when it comes back to himself.

The saint has no use for the Law, except to see God’s holiness and glory. The saint hears the Law and turns away to Christ, confessing sinfulness and the need for forgiveness and healing.

But the sinful nature does not want forgiveness. The sinful nature wants to pretend that it only needs help rectifying one’s wrongs, as if doing better was the goal.

The devil loves this. Then Satan comes forward and shows the saint his sinful nature and continual failing to live in perfect accord with the Law and says: “Ha. You see! You’re not really a saint after all! You’re really just a God damned sinner!”

And according to one’s own actions, one can only despair. For even one’s own conscience makes the same undeniable accusation. This is why the divine service begins with us confessing this very thing.

Seeking to obey the Law cannot make us righteous and cannot lift the burden from us. When we seek to live by the Law, we place ourselves back under the Law.

But when we walk in spirit, our spirit, having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit in our baptism, turns entirely from the Law to Christ and sees His righteousness poured out through His body in the preaching and through His blood in the Holy Supper. In the Supper we actually partake of His body so that we know that we are united with Him in His body and that in His blood His righteousness is given to us as our sins are forgiven us so that we rise up as saints, purely by His grace.

St. Peter explains that through Baptism we are given the good conscience before God so that we may live in His Holy Communion. This is our answer to the Old Adam and to the accusations of the devil and our flesh.

We cannot find peace through attempts at obeying the Law. Such attempts always bind us again to the requirements of the Law. But walking in spirit our spirit hears the continual calling and urging of the Holy Spirit who speaks to our spirit and even calls out on our behalf, Abba! Pater! (Both Hebrew and Greek words for Father).

In this way the Lord gives us the freedom to live in His love. And yes, we see how the Lord has loved us and continues to love us and we then love one another as He has loved us. But we don’t approach this as a goal. We don’t seek this as something to obey. Rather, this is now our identity. We love as the outflow of God’s love at work in us.

But our sinful nature rebels. Our spirit truly desires to love, but the Old Adam rises up in hatred and vengeance. The Old Adam does not forgive his abusers. He wants them to pay. So he drags out the commandments to show that they are guilty. Then he tries to show himself as one who tries to obey. But the Law never loses its capacity to show sin and so the person is again under the Law.

But the Holy Spirit is faithful. He searches the saint’s heart and speaks to the spirit and turns the person again and again to the Gospel, the promise that in Christ we are declared righteous and free. And so the saint eagerly looks to the next offering of the Lord’s body and blood and receives the renewal in God’s grace with a thankful heart. Then love again prevails and the peace of God guards the heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

This is why understanding the Saint/Sinner juxtaposition is the answer to living in love. For when we preach the Law, we realize that we need to hear it first for ourselves, so that we are eager to hear the Gospel. Then, when we preach the Law to others, the Gospel will be our motive with them, too.

Christ is our obedience. He is our righteousness. He is our Life. He is our Love. In Him we are justified and sanctified and converted.

When we seek to make ourselves or others better through the preaching of obedience to the Law, we turn away from the Gospel. But when we preach the Law to ourselves and others as that which shows us God’s holiness which can be ours only through the Gospel, this changes how we perceive and deal with both ourselves and others. It sets us free to live in God’s love and to love by His love.

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