In 2017, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, so I will be focusing on some of the major themes of that monumental event in Church history throughout the year.
One concept that was highlighted on All Saints Day last year in my congregation was the emphasis that Martin Luther put on the fact that as Christians we are living both as saint and sinner. In the Latin, the term is “simul justus et peculator.”
My church used the images shown above to help us understand that duality. Looking at the image one way, and you see the word saint. Look at the same image upside down and you see the word sinner. But it is still a single image with both words present within it.
So it is the same with us. The sinner and the saint both exist within us and wrestle with one another. Thanks be the God, though, because of Christ and his death and resurrection for us, our God only sees us as saints. The sinner still exists within us on this side of heaven as we dwell in this world of original sin. But when we reach the gates of heaven, our sinfulness will be permanently removed and we will dwell in perfect harmony with God forevermore.
It was this saint-and-sinner truth that first led Luther to confess his sins again and again and punish himself over and over, But then it was the realization that our sin within is taken care of through Christ that forced Luther to speak out about the good news that God sees us only as saint because of our Savior.
Colossians 1:17 says this so perfectly: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
And this is what Martin Luther and the Reformation revealed.
So as Christians let us acknowledge the sinner, but celebrate the saint that we are in Christ.