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Patrick: saint or sinner?

posted 14 Mar 2014, 09:32 by Stephen Childs
St. Patrick statue at Aghagower, image by afborchert
This Sunday sees the Castlebar St. Patrick's Day parade, and we'll be handing out some leaflets to get you thinking about Patrick, the man behind the festival. We normally call him Saint Patrick, but when Patrick described himself, it was usually as a sinner. In his Confession he introduces himself as: "Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many" and in his Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus he calls himself "a sinner and indeed untaught". Which was he? Sinner or saint. The answer is: both. You see Patrick knew his Bible and so he knew two things:

Everyone is a sinner
We tend to compare ourselves to the people around us, but the Bible says that God sets the standard of goodness, and that none of us can reach it (Romans 3:23). We break the good laws he's given us, and we fail to love him with all of our being, as Jesus confirmed that we ought to (Mark 12:28-31). Patrick knew this to be true about himself, and never forgot it, even though others call him saint and bishop.

Everyone who trusts Jesus is a saint

We often think of saints as being special people, those who achieve extraordinary spiritual things. But the Bible says that everyone who trusts in what Jesus has done rather than in their own goodness is a "saint" because God considers them holy. Again and again in the New Testament, ordinary Christians are called saints. Which raises a question: how can sinners become saints?

How can sinners become saints?
Patrick spoke of the change that happened in his own life, saying: "The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelieving heart, so that I should recall my sins." He recognised that only those who admit that they are not good, and then trust in Jesus Christ alone would be saved. He had come to understand Jesus' challenge to turn away from our own way, and back to God (Mark 1:15). He recognised that while sin only earns the reward of death, God gives the wonderful gift of eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23). It is possible for sinners to be certain about life after death, when they have been forgiven by God.

The question for each of us is not, "Are we sinners?", since we all are. The question is, "Have we become saints by trusting in Jesus?" Patrick did; you can too. To find out more about how, come and visit us any Sunday morning, contact us for a free bible, or check out "What is Christianity?" online.

Image of the St. Patrick statue at Aghagower, Co. Mayo is adapted from an original by Andreas Franz Borchert under the CC 2.0 licenceQuotes from Patrick's writings taken from the translation by John Skinner in The Confession of St. Patrick (1998) ISBN 0-385-49163-8 as found on wikiquote and