Three Kinds of Sinners
—Hardened, drifting, struggling
The Bible is not soft on sin, nor should those of us who teach the Bible be soft on sin. However not all sinners are the same, and not all need to be treated in the same way. This lesson distinguishes three kinds of sinners, God's attitude toward each of these, and how we should regard and deal with each of these.
The tax collector prayed, "God, be merciful to me a sinner" and he was heard (Luke 18:13). Yet, because he was a sinner, how could his prayer be heard? "We know that God does not hear sinners" (John 9:31).
Well, obviously there a different kinds of sinners —sinners with different attitudes. The tax collector was a penitent sinner seeking forgiveness, and that is not the kind of sinner whom God does not hear. The other man, the Pharisee who prayed, is one example of the kind of sinner God does not hear (Luke 18:9-14).
In this lesson we distinguish three kinds of sinners...
1 Hardened Sinners
The first kind of sinner is the one dedicated to evil, the one who knowingly rejects God. We must be wary of sinners like that, and avoid them.
- "...excluded from the life of God... because of the hardness of their heart..." (Ephesians 4:17-19).
- "in the case of those who have once been enlightened... made partakers of the Holy Spirit... and have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God..." (Hebrews 6:4-6).
- "...liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron..." (1Timothy 4:2).
- "...rejected God's purpose for themselves..." (Luke 7:30).
- "...like a dog that returns to its vomit, and a sow that is washed to her wallowing in the mire..." (2Pet 2:20-22).
2 Drifting Sinners
The second kind of sinner does not really intend to do evil. Nor, however, are sinners like this intent on doing God's will. They are in a spiritual stupor, just drifting unawares. We must awaken and warn sinners like that, and try to stop their drift to destruction.
- "...it is the time for you to awaken from sleep..." (Romans 13:11).
- "Awake sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Ephesians 5:14).
- "...many among you are weak and sickly, and a number sleep..." (1Corinthians 11:30).
- "Wide is the gate, and broad the way, that leads to destruction, and many enter by it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
- Felix: "Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you" (Acts 24:25).
- "Have mercy on some who are doubting. Save others, snatching them out of the fire..." (Jude 1:22-23).
3 Struggling Sinners
Those of us who don't fall into the first two types, are sinners of the third kind. We are like the tax collector. We want to do God's will and be righteous, and we are always struggling to overcome our sins. Christ intercedes for us and gently helps us, as we help one another.
- "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience..." (Hebrews 10:21-22).
- "Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
- Struggle and victory: "...no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 7:23-25, Romans 8:1).
- Simon: "...repent... pray... forgiven" (Acts 8:22, cf 1John 1:5-10).
- Armour of God: "...put on the full armor of God..." (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Preached at Ochanomizu Church of Christ Tokyo (English Room) Sep 2008