Simul Justus Et Preccator and the Command to Love

By Pastor Brady Wolcott

Mark 12:30. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Sometimes we think that we are making spiritual progress.  Step by step, day by day getting better and better, holier and holier.  The problem with this idea is that eventually day by day you come to believe that you need less and less grace.  “Because I am holier now than I was 10 years ago, it would make sense that I need less grace than I did 10 years ago.” Our good works are seen as “paying off the debt I owe to God.”

Today is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers believed that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as getting less and less sinful. They had a saying: simul justus et peccator.  This simply means that I am simultaneously 100% justified and %100 sinful.  Sometimes in church we’ll say something similar- “You are more wicked than you ever imagined, and yet more loved than you ever dreamed.”  This idea means that the Christian life is less about progress and more about position. 

The truth is you and I should not think of ourselves as getting better and better for two reasons: 1) we will be 100% sinful for the rest of our lives.  The more we know Christ and grace and see the Holiness of God, rather than making me better and better, the opposite occurs and I see more and more of my sin and darkness. As Isaiah said in God’s presence, “Woe is me for I am undone!” 2) The flip side- I am 100% righteous so it is impossible for me to get better and better. I’m already BEST because Jesus has sanctified me by His blood.

Our fighter verse reminds us that the greatest commandment is to love God and others. Remembering simul justus et preccator is what helps me to love the way God’s greatest commandment requires of me. I am 100% sinner, and yet God loved me.  I have received the very kind of agape love from God that I am being asked to give to others.  I am also 100% justified.  Therefore my love doesn’t have to come with strings attached because I have nothing to gain that Christ hasn’t already credited to my account. Simul justus et preccator prevents the superiority (100% wicked) and inferiority (yet 100% justified) that create selfishness and stand in the way of true love.

May both these simultaneous positions keep us relying on our great Savior.