Frequently I hear fellow Christians saying, “we are all sinners” or “forgiven sinners.” I am having problems accepting this. These sound like oxymorons to me. I do not mean to sound boastful or arrogant, but how can I, as a Christian, identify myself by a sin which no longer belongs to me? Yes we were unrighteous, yes we were dead in sin. But, by the blood of Jesus, we are made righteous, we are justified, we are made alive in Christ. Jesus paid the price for our sin. As if I owned a car then sold it, it is no longer mine to claim.
Do Christians sin? Yes. But does one sin expel us from the light back into the darkness? I believe Christ’s blood cleansed, and continually cleanses us. Take a bricklayer. He places bricks as a profession and way of life. If he picks up a shovel, this doesn’t make him a gravedigger. Of course, as far as professions go, a person can have multiple identities. Christians on the other hand, cannot. Wasn’t this one point John was making? Christians do not base their life on sin? We are either in sin, or in Christ. The only indication of a “middle ground” could be those lukewarm churches, and these are vomited out of Christ’s mouth, which doesn’t sound very promising. I know nothing I do can make me deserving of God’s Kingdom, I must be humble. But sinners do not inherit the kingdom. Jesus was sent for them. Now that he has come, those who call on his name cease to be sinners. The lost are found. We do not remain lost and found at the same time do we? Am I totally off base here?
Sorry this is so long, but I did leave off scriptural references. Indeed, to fully explain I would just paste the entire New Testament perhaps.
It is not incorrect for a Christian to say we are forgiven sinners. To use your analogy of selling a car, even after someone else has paid for it I am still a former owner of the car. Someone might even say of it, “I saw Tim’s old car downtown today.” It is true that we may no longer be identified as owning the sin, but we can use the identity of having owned it to show others that we were in their place once. If we should not identify ourselves as sinners, then Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, is in the wrong. He identified himself as one. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Note that he doesn’t say he WAS chief sinner, but that he IS.
I agree fully with the second part of your analysis. John says (1 John 1:7), “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another [we and God], and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, continually cleanses us from all sin.” Paul says that after we are immersed (i.e. had our sins forgiven) we are raised from the water to walk in a new life, rather than continuing in our old life of sin (Romans 6). Therefore, while we may sin, we are no longer sinners, in the sense that we no longer practice sin.
Does Paul contradict himself? I think not. He considers himself to be the chief of sinners because of what has happened in his life. But he can walk in the light, rather than as a sinner, because of who has happened in his life.