All people are sinners. Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, we have been conceived and born as sinners. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Sinful fallen nature gives birth to sinful fallen nature. We enter into this world as people who do not know God – who cannot know God. St. Paul wrote, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
No parent has ever had to teach their child how to be jealous, to lie, or to be angry. It is already there, because we are sinners. As we grow in our abilities as people, so do the ways that sin manifests itself. Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23).
The final confirmation that every person is a sinner is found in the fact that, apart from the return of Jesus Christ, every person will die. Paul told the Romans that “the wage of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This link between sin and death goes back to the beginning – back to the first sin of Adam. The apostles says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
The true issue, then, is not whether you are a sinner – you are. The real question is what kind of sinner are you? Jesus began his ministry by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39).
All people are sinners. But there are two kinds of sinners. There are sinners who repent of their sin – who confess it before God – and believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Then there are sinners who do not repent, and instead are entirely content to continue sinning. The first group of sinners are saints and sinners at the same time. In themselves they are people who continue to struggle with sin. But through baptism and faith they live as people who are “in Christ,” and so when God looks at them he sees not their sin but instead Christ who has won forgiveness for their every sin. Because they are in Christ, God views them as saints – as holy ones. On the other hand, those who do not repent are simply sinners in God’s eyes, and if they remain in that status until death they will receive the judgment of damnation.
The season of Lent is a season of repentance. It reminds us that while yes, we are sinners, our life as Christians is one in which we are repentant sinners. We confess our sins before God. And in turn, the season of Lent prepares us to remember the events of Holy Week and Easter. We remember that Jesus Christ suffered and died as the sacrifice for our sin. But then on Easter, God raised him from the dead as he vindicated the crucified Christ as Lord and defeated death. Through faith in the Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead for us, we have forgiveness and resurrection on the Last Day. Repentant sinners are the children of God who have the assurance of salvation.