Simul Justus Et Peccator

Introduction:  The title of this sermon came from Martin Luther, and it literally means that the Christian is “simultaneously righteous (or just) and a sinner.” The believer, Luther declared, harbors a contradiction as long as he lives.[1] The true Christian, he said, is CARO ET SPIRITUS, PECCATOR ET JUSTUS, MORTUS ET LIBERATUS, REUS ET NON REUS.[2] Luther is not the only one to take note of these paradoxes of Christianity. The great Christian philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) wrote to the same effect. “A Christian,” he says, “is one that believes things his reason cannot comprehend, and hopes for things which neither he nor any man alive ever saw; he believes three to be one, and one to be three, a father not to be older than his son, and a son to be equal with his father; he believes himself to be precious in God’s sight, and yet loathes himself in his own; he dares not to justify himself in those things wherein he can find no fault with himself, and yet believes that God accepts him in those services wherein he is able to find many faults; he is so ashamed that he dares not open his mouth before God, and yet he comes with boldness to God, and asks him anything he needs; he hath within him both flesh and spirit, yet he is not a double-minded man; he is often led captive by the law of sin, yet, it never gets dominion over him; he cannot sin, yet can do nothing without sin; he is so humble as to acknowledge himself to deserve nothing but evil; and yet he believes that God means him all good.”[3]

In our analysis of this passage, it is essential that we recognize the contrast that the apostle draws. In Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:9 and Ephesians 4:22, Paul’s language contrasts the old man (or old self) with the new man (or new self). What is the relation between these two selves? Many have taught that the believer is a combination of the two—á la Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Sometimes the old self is in control and sometimes the new self is in control—thus the constant struggle. John Murray has aptly written: “The contrast between the old man and the new man has frequently been interpreted as the contrast between that which is new in the believer and that which is old … Hence, the antithesis, which exists in the believer between holiness and sin… is the antithesis between the new man and the old man in him. The believer is both old man and new man; when he does well he is acting in terms of the new man, which he is; when he sins he is acting in terms of the old man, which he also still is. This interpretation does not find support in Paul’s teaching.”[4]

I.          The Old Self:  We pointed out last week that this is a reference to the unregenerate person, IN ADAM. It is what we are outside of Christ, dominated by sin. This is what we are by nature, children of wrath enslaved by sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). When Paul says that our old self was crucified with Christ, he means that the person we were in Adam was dealt a deathblow. “Given the meaning of ‘crucified,’ Romans 6:6 states with unmistakable clarity that we who are in Christ, who are one with Him in His death, are no longer the old selves we once were.”[5]

John Murray, whose treatment of this passage is the best I have ever read, writes: “When Paul says, ‘our old man has been crucified’, we have to take into account the terms, the background, and the context of this statement. The term ‘crucified’ is that of being crucified with Christ, and therefore indicates that the old man has been put to death just as decisively as Christ died upon the accursed tree. To suppose that the old man has been crucified and still lives or has been raised again from this death is to contradict the obvious force of the import of crucifixion. And to interject the idea that crucifixion is a slow death and therefore to be conceived of as a process by which the old man is progressively mortified until he is finally put to death is to go flatly counter to Paul’s terms. He says ‘our old man has been crucified’, and not ‘our old man is in the process of being crucified’. The context, likewise, does not admit of any interpretation other than that which is indicated by the express terms of the passage in question. The statement ‘our old man has been crucified’ is parallel to and epexegetical of other expressions, such as, ‘we died to sin’, ‘we have been planted together in the likeness of his death’, ‘we died with Christ’ (Romans 6: 2, 5, 8), and is therefore intended to denote what is as definitive and decisive as these other expressions. Finally, the complementary truth of the resurrection of Christ and that of believers in him rules out the supposition to the effect that the old man is conceived of as still living. ‘Christ being raised from the dead dies no more, death no longer rules over him’ (Romans 6:9).”[6]

II.         The Body of Sin:  In Christ we have not only justification from the guilt of sin, but also deliverance from the dominion of sin. What is “the body of sin?” This phrase can be understood in a number of ways. However, one popular notion is unacceptable. Paul’s language does not refer to the anthropological dualism (the body is innately evil) that was widespread in Greek culture of the day. Rather, as one interpretation advocates, he is stressing the obvious fact that the body is that part of the person that is susceptible and easily dominated by sin. This expression, as Cranfield has noted, “places more stress on the aspect of the sinful man as an individual, the self as an organized whole.”[7] To say that the body of sin has been “destroyed” (KJV) is very misleading. KATARGĒTHĒ means to render inoperative, make ineffective. (The same word occurs in Romans 3:3 and is usually translated “nullified.”) Paul’s point is that the crucifixion of our old man with Christ has rendered the body of sin impotent, i.e., its power and influence are taken away. Stott notes that this same Greek word occurs again in reference to the devil in Hebrews 2:14. It means not to become extinct, but to be defeated; not to be annihilated, but to be deprived of power. Our old nature is no more extinct than the devil; but God’s will is that the dominion of both should be broken.[8] Another very appealing interpretation understands “body of sin” as implying solidarity. This corporate view of the phrase has much in its favor. F. F. Bruce wrote, “This ‘body of sin’ is more than an individual affair, it is rather that old solidarity of sin and death which all share ‘in Adam’, but which has been broken by the death of Christ with a view to the creation of the new solidarity of righteousness and life of which believers are made part ‘in Christ’.”[9]

More recently, Tom Holland has argued, a corporate perspective makes better sense of the ongoing argument that Paul is advancing in his letter to the Romans. It is the inevitable consequence of an argument that begins in chapter 5 in which the central theme is the solidarity of man with his head, whether Adam or Christ. This corporate thinking is evident in the corporate baptism into Christ in 6:1ff. The corporate understanding of ‘the body of Sin’ is the necessary link preparing for the corporate understanding of chapter 7, which has in recent years become a widely accepted principle for interpreting the chapter. There is other evidence that is relevant beside the exegesis that has been offered. The reference in Romans 6:19 to the members being yielded to unrighteousness makes better sense when it is seen as a reference to corporate membership, i.e. relating to the discipline of those who are failing to make a break with the service of Sin. It is therefore not about the individual controlling his members but an appeal to the church to discipline its members. Also, in 6:6 Paul refers to ‘putting off the old man’. Once again this has traditionally been seen as a reference to the sinful self that dominated the life of the believer in the pre-converted state. However, the same terminology is used in Ephesians 2:15 where Paul says ‘to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace’. He then goes on to say in 4:22-23, ‘put off your old self (ANTHROPOS—man), which is corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and put on the new self (ANTHROPOS—man), created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’[10]

III.        The New Self:  Believers have been transferred from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ.” They have been liberated from the bondage and mastery of sin … but they must still battle the presence of sin living as they do in this present evil age (I Cor. 15:20-28). They await the final resurrection and glorification. But, as Schreiner points out, they are guaranteed victory over death because they are incorporated into the second Adam. So too, believers will not experience perfect deliverance from sin in this age, so that they never sin at all. What has been shattered is not the presence of sin, but the mastery of sin over believers. Paul uses a number of expressions to show that he is speaking of sin’s dominion being broken instead of perfect sinlessness. As sons and daughters of Adam we are slaves to sin, but now we are free from its tyranny.[11]

Stephen Charnock, one of the Puritan giants, put it this way, “The new creature is a likeness to Christ, therefore called the new man; as the natural man is like to Adam, therefore called the old man. The new man and old man are titles of Christ and Adam, and transferred upon others by a figure, METONYMIA CAUSAE PRO EFFECTU. These are the heads and roots of the two distinct bodies of men in the world. All are in the old Adam by nature, and so partake of the nature of the new man. As we did partake of Adam’s nature by our natural birth, so we partake of the nature of Christ by our spiritual; by the one we have the ‘image of the earthly,’ by the other the new creature hath the ‘image of the heavenly,’ I Cor. xv. 48, 49; the one derives sin, the other righteousness; they both imprint their image according to the quality of their extraction. Christ is full of purity, righteousness, charity, patience, humility, truth, and in a word, all the parts of holiness; then the form and image of Christ in the new creature can be no other than a lively representation of those divine qualities, a soul glittering with goodness, humility, &c., which the apostle comprehends in two words, ‘righteousness and true holiness.’ Therefore, if there be not a likeness to Christ in the frame and qualities of our souls, we are not born of him. No man will say an ox, or a sheep, or a dog descends from Adam, because they have not the likeness, shape, and qualities of Adam; neither can any man without such a likeness to Christ in faith, humility, patience, love, obedience, and minding the glory of God, number himself in the spiritual seed of Christ. He retains the nature poisoned by the serpent, creeping upon the earth, feeding upon the dust, not the nature formed by the eternal Spirit.”[12]

Conclusion:  Luther was indeed correct. Christians are SIMUL JUSTUS ET PECCATOR.[13] But the Christian is not a slave to sin. There is no delight in sin. The Christian delight is in Christ—in believing and trusting Christ. Luther discovered this when he read and studied the epistle to the Romans. His conscience was purged from the guilt of sin through seeing the cross of Christ, and by faith alone in Christ his heart was set at liberty to run the way of God’s commandments, not in a servile fear, but in a spirit of filial love and holy delight. Luther knew that justification and sanctification belong together. He knew that sin and the heartfelt desire to be freed from the power of sin. Yet Luther knew the truth of indwelling sin. He had no satisfaction in himself—only in Christ is there satisfaction. JUSTUS ET PECCATOR. Christians are sinners and saints! Luther knew this. We have no confidence or satisfaction in ourselves, but we have complete confidence and satisfaction in Christ. The problem that confronts us today, especially in our evangelical churches, is that evangelicals have, by in large, lost interest in theology and have become preoccupied with psychological/therapeutic notions of personal well-being and wholeness.

John Hannah perceptively observes: “We exist within a set of cultural values that has repudiated many of the assumptions of modernity, such as the importance of the rationally, the propriety of the orderly, and the possibility of objective truth. We live in a world where personality has more street value than character, where psychological wholeness is more valued than spiritual authenticity. We find ourselves in a world where pleasures are embraced without moral norms or a sense of social responsibility. Christian truth is attacked not so much for its particular assertions as for its fundamental claim that there is such a thing as binding, objective truth. The quest for truth has been replaced by the preoccupation with pleasure and entertainment. Thus, we live in a world of the therapeutic and the psychological, where people are engaged in an endless pursuit of self-fulfillment and entitlement. Sin has become little more than the infringement of personal rights and privileges; there is little thought of defining it by the standard of the holiness of God. It is in this kind of world that we must ask ourselves about the place of theology. With so much interest in the management of life, what is the benefit of studying such a seemingly esoteric thing as timeless, transcendent, historical truth?

The question is complicated by the fact that modern evangelicalism is in a state of crisis. The very community that historically has been deeply interested in transcendent, timeless truth seems intent upon focusing on the merely private, personal, and temporal. If I may be so blunt, the church has lost its soul. The quest for contemporary relevance has led it down the path of increasing irrelevancy and marginalization. The evangelical church is on the brink of becoming another of the many social, do-good agencies whose purpose has to do with the helping of people to more fully enjoy this life while neglecting the implications of eternity. While our culture has shown a marked inclination to secularism, the church seems to have followed suit. It is time for us to listen to the Scriptures for our message, not to the beckoning cry of a pleasure-inebriated culture. The need of the hour is not for revival; it is for something even more fundamental. It is time for a reformation in the church. Revival has to do with the extension of the gospel; the greatest need in the contemporary church is to rediscover the gospel, its glory, and its power. It is time to return to the fundamentals of the faith and be refreshed in its truths, to gain anew a love and respect for the Holy Scriptures. Revival without reformation is religious fervor at best; revival out of reformation is the only hope of the church.”[14]



[1] Luther explains. “A Christian is at once a sinner and a saint; he is wicked and pious at the same time. For so far as our persons are concerned, we are in sins and are sinners in our own name. But Christ brings us another name, in which there is the forgiveness of sins that for His sake sins are remitted and pardoned. So both statements are true: There are sins, for the old Adam is not entirely dead as yet; yet the sins are not there. The reason is this: For Christ’s sake, God does not want to see them. I have my eyes on them. I feel and see them well enough. But there is Christ, commanding that I be told I should repent, that is, confess myself a sinner and believe the forgiveness of sins in His name. For repentance, remorse, and knowledge of sin, though necessary, is not enough; faith in the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ must be added. But where there is such a faith, God no longer sees any sins; for then you stand before God, not in your name but in Christ’s name. He adorns you with grace and righteousness, although in your own eyes and personally you are a poor sinner, full of weakness and unbelief.” What Luther Says I, compiled by E. M. Plass (Concordia, 1959), p. 522.

[2] This translates that Christians are “Flesh and spirit, sinner and righteous, dead and freed from death, guilty and not guilty.” Luther is echoing Augustine’s line EX QUADEAM PARTE JUSTUS, EX QUADEAM PARTE PECCATOR (We are in part justified, in part sinner as well). Augustine’s language, however, is subject to serious distortion. This is not as if he were implying that our justification is not complete or subject to increase. The Reformers categorically taught that justification was forensic and not subject to increase or decrease. As I have documented throughout this series, Norman Shepherd and his followers in the Federal Vision do teach that justification is conditional on faithful obedience and can be lost.


[3] As citied by W. G. T. Shedd, Sermons to the Spiritual Man (rpt. Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), p. 304.


[4] J. Murray, Principles of Conduct (Eerdmans, 1981), p. 217.


[5] A. A. Hoekema, “The Reformed Perspective” in Five Views on Sanctification (Zondervan, 1987), p. 304.

[6] Murray op. cit. p. 212.


[7] C. E. B. Cranfield, International Critical Commentary: The Epistle to the Romans I (T & T Clark, 1975), p. 309.


[8] J. R. W. Stott, Men Made New: An Exposition of Romans 5-8 (Baker, 1966), p. 44.


[9] F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (Tyndale, 1967), p. 38.


[10] Tom Holland Contours of Pauline Theology (Mentor, 2004), p. 95.


[11] T. R. Schreiner, Romans: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Baker, 1998), p. 317.


[12] The Works of Stephen Charnock III (rpt. Banner of Truth, 1986), p. 126.


[13] In his recent book The Evangelical Moment: The Promise of An American Religion (Baker, 2005), Wesleyan historian Kenneth J. Collins reveals how little he understands the central features of the Reformation by dismissing Sola Scriptura, heaping distain on Warfield’s understanding of Biblical inerrancy and abusing Luther’s SIMUL JUSTUS ET PECCATOR as “fancy Latin for open defiance of God.” Cf. David Neff’s Review and Interview at,


[14] John Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine (NavPress, 2002) p. 19.


Martin Luther’s Here I Stand (Audio CD)

In the late afternoon of April 18, 1521, in the city of Worms, Germany, Martin Luther, a 37 year-old Catholic monk was called to defend himself before Charles the Fifth, the Holy Roman Emperor. The speech he delivered that day, Here I Stand, marked the beginning of the Reformation, a critical turning point in Christian history, that decisively altered the spiritual map of the world. In this recording, Max McLean introduces the events leading up to the Diet of Worms; Martin Luthers prayer the night before he delivered his speech; Luthers stirring defense; the Catholic churchs rebuttal; and, Luthers final heartfelt response.


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