A Jagged Contention: Two Kinds of Sinners

In the doctrine of the antinomians there was this statement: “If somebody were an adulterer, provided only that he believed, he would have a gracious God.” But what kind of church will it be, I ask, in which so awful a statement is heard? A distinction is necessary, and it should be taught that adulterers or sinners are of two kinds: some who become aware of their adultery or sin to such an extent that they shudder with their whole heart and begin to repent earnestly, and not only feel sorry for what they have done but also sincerely desire and endeavor never again to commit anything like it. These are not smug in their sin; they are thoroughly frightened, and they dread God’s wrath. If they take hold of the Word of the Gospel and trust in the mercy of God for Christ’s sake, they are saved and have forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ.

Even though the others, whether adulterers of sinners, are unable to excuse their sin, they nevertheless feel no sorrow about it. On the contrary, they are glad that they have achieved their desire. They look for opportunities to commit sins and smugly indulge in them. Because these people do not have the Holy Spirit, they cannot believe; and he who preaches to such people bout faith deceives them.

– Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 3-Lectures on Genesis, chapters 15-20, pgs. 223-224.


Question:

Where do we see the failure to distinguish between these two kinds of sinners in the church today? What dangers arise when such a distinction is not made?

2 thoughts on “A Jagged Contention: Two Kinds of Sinners

  1. “Where do we see the failure to distinguish between these two kinds of sinners in the church today?”

    We see this failure in couples who live together, are having sexual relations, and are not married.

    What dangers arise when such a distinction is not made?

    There is a danger for the couple, but there is also a danger for the church. The danger for the church is that it is seen as overlooking certain common or popular sins for pragmatic reasons, while focusing on the sins that are less common and therefore do not threaten the consciences of the majority.

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  2. “All,” and the Bible means all,” have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” as Scripture affirms. Sins of the flesh often prevail in the life of a believer, even with the Holy Spirit working within them. The outward visible sins like adultery need not even be active. Christ said even the “thought of adultery” is sin, and once the thought becomes actions, we become the slave of sin. Guarding the heart and mind is a full time job, and we will predictably fail many times. Christ knows our frailty, and He extends grace, but also uses correction and discipline to strengthen us and aid us in overcoming sinful thoughts and acts. We do well by not ignoring His corrections in our lives. His discipline is for our benefit. We should remember there is a difference between regret and repentance. A daily life of reading the word of God, steadfast prayer, and thoughtful, not careless thinking, will aid us to overcome the besetting sins in our lives which often defeat us. 1John1:9 should be memorized. Drawing near to the Holy Spirit, admitting our sins, and not rationalizing them or making excuses will lead to greater wisdom in confronting our flesh….and indeed we will be in this battle until we draw our last breath.

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