Article of the Month

September 2010

THE LIVES OF SAINTS

 

 

Christians aren’t used to being called saints.  This is unfortunate.  It is a noble word, and it is a word by which God INTENDED all sincere Christians to be called.  Sometimes it is translated “holy ones.”  This is accurate; and Christians are SUPPOSED TO BE holy in their lives and words and thoughts.

 

Of course, “holy” means different things to different people.  It is a much-abused word.  To some it refers to a nearly unattainable condition; to others it seems to be a word of ridicule aimed at those who are thought to be stand-off-ish – too good to deal with the average man.  But Biblically, to be a “saint” or to be “holy” simply means to be a person who has voluntarily dedicated himself to doing God’s will to the best of his ability – in other words, a sincere Christian.

 

Thus, the Apostles refer to all Christians as “saints.”  Just one such example is found in II Corinthians 1:1:  “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia.”

 

How did we get so far from this simple and general application of the word?  Somehow over the early years of the church, as apostate Christianity developed, the Roman Church found it expedient to single out certain people to be “saints.”  The veneration of these individuals became a part of the worship liturgy.  Eventually, it was taught that prayer to these “saints” was appropriate.  “Relics” from their lives adorned Roman churches – and do to this day in many places.  These relics, themselves, became items of false worship.  Hence, the word “saints” began to be applied only to a select few exalted by the Papacy and not to all Christians.  What a shameful obscuration of Biblical truth!

 

The Ordinary Lives of Christians

 

There are qualities in the lives of Christians which should indicate to others that these people, indeed, MIGHT be Christians.  But Christianity is a religion of FAITH, not of the obvious.  Thus, the lives of Christians in many respects might seem quite ordinary.

 

Paul, in I Corinthians 10:13, states that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man.”  Thus, the ordinary life of the true Christian is quite indistinguishable from the life of his neighbor.

 

On the other hand, the Christian’s life will be marked by thoughtfulness toward others.  Paul says in Galatians 6:10, “As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all, especially unto them who are the household of faith.”  Christians, as others, have limited time and resources.  Paul here acknowledges that we would like to help everyone.  But, there is a special privilege to do good to others who walk the road as disciples.  Remember, however, atheists also are often magnanimous people.  Thus the Christian is not clearly discerned by his good deeds – although a lack thereof would indicate a poor Christian, indeed!

 

Christians are, likewise, not to be distinguished by peculiar dress, groom, or unusual mannerisms.  The Apostle Peter lectures on this in I Peter 3:3, 4.  Indeed, REASONABLENESS in the sight of one’s community is the standard.  In Philippians 4:5, the word “moderation” is from the Greek word which means reasonableness.  Paul exhorts, “Let your moderation be known unto all men.”  As fervent, as convicted, and as determined as a Christian might be in his belief, it is incumbent upon him to act reasonably among others.  Christians are not terrorists, accusers, crusaders, plotters, rabble-rousers, campaigners, exhibitionists, or hermits.  They are functional and respectable parts of their community.

 

Self-Dissatisfaction

 

As “holy” as a Christian might want to be in his demeanor, thoughts, and words, he should not be judged by others or even by self by his success in these attempts.  It is inevitable that a Christian will appear quite “human” in his foibles and weaknesses – even though he actively fights those tendencies.  Paul summed it all up in his words in Romans 7:15-25, which state in part:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do!”

 

 —Peacemakers

 

A quality which should dominate disciples of Jesus as they strive to grow in him, is an attitude of attempting to live peaceably with all with whom they come in contact.  (Hebrews 12:14; Romans 12:18)  This will result in what might seem to some observers as hypocritical.  The true Christian will never resort to “peace at any price,” but he will, indeed, compromise his actions so that he is more likely to bring a comfortable intermingling with all classes of mankind.  This is so very clearly and well expressed by Paul in I Corinthians 9:19-23, particularly as summarized in verse 22 where he states, “I am made all things to all men.”  The world has a similar expression:  “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

 

Another manifestation of this “peace-making” quality of saints is RESPECT for the human community in which all saints live.  Paul sums up this responsibility in part with his words in Romans 13:7; “Render, therefore, to all their dues:  tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear (reverence); honor to whom honor.”  Saints have no time, energy, or interest in quibbling over worldly ways and rules.  They are interested in spiritual growth IN THEMSELVES, not in judging or correcting the society around them.  The time for correcting that will be in the soon-to-come kingdom.  Thus, NOW, a saint watches himself, “giving no offence in anything that the ministry be not blamed.”  (II Corinthians 6:3)

 

The Life of Spiritual Fruitage —

 

The most important part of a Christian’s pursuit is the development of his inner self.  As Paul states it in Romans 12:2, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  This gradual transformation of the thought processes of each saint MAY result in visible differences for his friends and neighbors to see, but it is not the visible transformation that counts.  Indeed, friends and neighbors might be less-than-pleased with the changes they witness.  Because a saint is working on a spiritual rather than a fleshly transformation, he may be less acceptable in the sight of the world since its pursuits, as being practiced by his non-saint family and friends, are not of vital interest to him.  The “fruit of the spirit” growing in a Christian consists of admirable traits (even in the world’s eyes), but these traits often conflict with the way the world operates.  Paul summarizes them in Galatians 5:22-26.  They are: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”  Paul points out (verses 19-22) that the putting on of this fruitage also involves the putting off  of the “works of the flesh which include things such as “fornication …idolatry …hatred …wrath …strife …envying…drunkenness, revel lings, and such like.”  There obviously ARE ways in which true Christians will not be “all things to all men!”

 

The Separateness of Saints—

 

 This brings us to the other side of the coin.  We have seen how saints will just look like “good people” – good citizens, reasonable neighbors, and helpful friends.  But saints are going through a process of SANCTIFICATION – being SET ASIDE from the interests of their flesh toward the interests of their development as disciples.  Seeing this course of separating self from the gratifications of the flesh will cause many to hate the saints, wonder about them, scorn them, misrepresent them, and avoid being seen with them.  It is in this context that the Bible predicts that the saints will be social outcasts.

 

Jesus says (John 15:19) that “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world…therefore the world hateth you.”  He explains the reason for this in John 3:20:  “Everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” 

 

Yet, in all of this, saints are to be outstanding examples among the worldly.  The Apostle Peter says:  “Whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers, they may be ashamed who falsely accuse your good lifestyle in Christ.  It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing.”  (II Peter 3:16, 17)

 

This is reflected in the standards for choosing leaders in the church.  (I Timothy 3:1-7)  Paul says these should “have a good report of them which are without” – outside of the congregation of saints.  This dichotomy of being respected by the world and hated by it at the same time is one of those peculiarities in the lives of saints.

 

This peculiarity is shown in the life of the prophet, Daniel.  In Daniel 6, the “presidents and princes” of Babylon knew that Daniel had no faults in being a good citizen, but they hated his relationship with God.  So they conspired against him based solely on his religious conviction.  As they put it, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”  So, they ensnared him by passing bogus laws so that they could feed him to the lions.  We all know the rest of the story!  This has frequently been the histories of prophets and saints.

 

The Apostle Paul all of his life was respected as the epitome of a learned and law-keeping Jew.  Because he conformed to the standards of the Jews of his day, he was greatly respected and exalted in his own society.  Yet, once he became a Christian, all of his formerly-held virtues were soon forgotten by the Jews, and he was hated because he thought differently.  Not being able to, or even wanting to understand his transformation, they simply thought he had lost his mind.  Acts 26:24 gives one such astounding dismissal of this great man:  “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning hath made thee mad!”  The same sentiments are even today hurled at saints who dare to differ from the prevailing teachings.

 

Congregating

 

 Jesus said, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered.”  It is the habit of saints to be drawn to the “food” provided by God and, thus, shared with other saints.  (Luke 17:37; Matthew 24:45)  In this matter, saints also are misunderstood.  Many will wonder why saints might travel distances for fellowship with other students of The Word.  After all, aren’t there churches everywhere?  “Couldn’t you just go to one of the local churches?”  The fact is, saints want to congregate with lights and not with anything they consider darkness.  Nor do they wish to be isolated from those of like precious faith.  A few testimonials to this are found in II Corinthians 6:14-18; II Peter 1:1; I John 1:3-7; and Hebrews 10:23-26.

 

 —In Summary

 

 Saints are fully-committed Christian people.  Their entire mind-heart focus is dedication to the acceptance, understanding, and service of Jesus.  Self-gratification (the undue concern with their fleshly interests and status) is of no interest to them.  Saints, because of their standards, should prove to be wonderful neighbors, friends, and family.  Their honesty and reliability should make them stand out as superior citizens.  Nonetheless their focus on betterment of their “new” minds and on righteousness will likely make them somewhat disliked by those whose focus is on worldly interests or pleasure seeking.  Saints will be loved and hated at the same time!

In the end, once this “body of Christ” is complete, it will, from its heavenly-resurrection location, “bless all the families of the earth” as was promised to Abraham.  Then the peculiarities of their earthly lives and pursuits will be appreciated.  According to the Apostle Paul, “The earnest desire of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God (the saints).”  (Romans 8:19)  The world does not know nor understand this yet, but their innermost desires await the completion of this mystical “body of Christ.”

 Meanwhile, the saints are living extra-ordinary but ordinary lives.  One of them might be your neighbor.