WHO IS A SINNER?
Now we need to ask the question: Who is a sinner? I know that some of the brothers and sisters here have been believers for over twenty years. Some have even worked for the Lord for over fifteen years. My question can be considered as one of the ABCs of the Bible. Who is a sinner? I believe that many would answer that a sinner is someone who sins. If you check Webster’s dictionary, I am afraid that you would get the answer that a sinner is one who sins. But once you read the Bible, you will have to reject this definition, because it is not that the ones who sin are sinners, but that the sinners are the ones who commit sins. What does this mean? Many among us have read the book of Romans. I have heard many say that Paul, in proving that everyone in the world is a sinner, mentioned in chapter three that all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God (v. 23). God seeks the righteous and finds none; He seeks those who understand and who seek after Him and finds none; all have lied and have turned aside (vv. 10-13). Hence, it seems that Paul is saying that everyone in the world is a sinner. But be careful. Do not be too quick to say this. Does Romans 3 mention the sinner at all? If anyone can find the word sinner in Romans 3, I will thank him for it. Where is the sinner mentioned in this chapter? Please note that the sinner is never mentioned here. Some have said that because Romans 3 talks about man sinning, it proves that man is a sinner. But Romans 3 does not mention the sinner. It is Romans 5 that talks about the sinner. Therefore, we must make the distinction: Romans 3 is on the problem of sins, and Romans 5 is on the problem of the sinner. All that Romans 3 tells us is that all have sinned. It is only in Romans 5 that we are told who the sinners are.
Everyone who was born in Adam is a sinner. This is what Romans 5:19 tells us. If you open up J.N. Darby’s New Translation, you will find that he used the words have been constituted sinners. We are all sinners by constitution. When you write a resume, there are two things that you must put in. One is your birthplace, and the other is your profession. According to God, we are sinners by birth, and we are those who sin by profession. Because we are sinners by birth, we are always sinners, whether we sin or not.
Once I was conducting a Bible study with the brothers in Canton. I told them that there are two kinds of sinners in the world—the sinning sinners and the moral sinners. But whether you are a sinning sinner or a moral sinner, you are still a sinner. God says that all who are born in Adam are sinners. It does not matter what kind of person you are; as long as you are born in Adam, you are a sinner. If you sin, you are a sinning sinner. And if you have not sinned, or to be more accurate, if you have sinned less, you are a moral sinner, or a sinner who sins little. If you are a noble person, you are a noble sinner. If you consider yourself holy, you are a holy sinner. In any case, you are still a sinner. Today the biggest mistake among men is to consider a man a sinner only because he has sinned; if he has not sinned, he is not considered a sinner. But there is no such thing. Whether you sin or not, as long as you are a man, you are a sinner. As long as you are born in Adam, you are a sinner. A man does not become a sinner because he sins; rather, he sins because he is a sinner.
Therefore, my friends, remember God’s Word. We are sinners; we do not become sinners. We do not need to become sinners. Once I was talking to a brother. There was a thermal flask in front of him, and he said, "Here is a thermal flask. If it prays, ‘I want to be a thermal flask,’ what will happen?" I said, "It already is one. It does not have to be one." Likewise with us, once we are something, we do not have to become it.
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)