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Fulton County Gospel News

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I Am Not A SAINT!

By Lee Moses

Sometimes, one reproved of sin will respond by saying, “I’m not a SAINT!” And so, the reasoning goes, whatever sin in which he is involved should be excused because he is “not a saint.” He should be held to a lower standard than that lofty standard of “saint.” However, this reflects a misunderstanding of the term “saint.” And it is a term very commonly misunderstood. Let us examine the meaning of the term “saint”; and thus, what it means to say, “I’m not a SAINT!”

What a Saint is Not
One Who Has Never Sinned

This is likely the most common way the term “saint” is misapplied. But to call one a “saint” does not mean that person has never sinned. Aaron was called “the saint of the LORD” (Psalm 106:16). Yet Aaron had fully cooperated in the making and worship of idols, which fully incurred the wrath of God (Exodus 32). He had sinned at other times as well (Numbers 12:1-11; 20:10-12, 24). Yet this did not preclude his being “the saint of the LORD.”

The term “saint” is found numerous times throughout the New Testament referring to members of the churches—the members of the church in Jerusalem were saints (Acts 9:13; 26:10), yet they were not perfect. They failed to recognize Saul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul) as a follower of Christ (Acts 9:26), and had numerous other issues among themselves. Even the members of the church at Corinth were “called saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2); yet they were divided by their contentions (1:10-12), they were carnal (3:3), they had failed to withdraw fellowship from an especially deviant fornicator (5:1-13), they were taking one another to civil court (6:1-8), and were guilty of numerous other sins.

That the term “saint” applies to human beings other than Jesus Christ tells us something—it tells us that saints sin. Although Jesus never sinned, other human beings do:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

For in many things we all stumble . . . (James 3:2, ASV).

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (v. 10).

If the term “saints” meant “human beings who have never sinned,” it would be a meaningless classification, because only Jesus could match that classification. But this is not what it means.

One Given Exalted Status by the Church

The Roman Catholic Church has a longstanding (but Biblically unauthorized) tradition of canonizing saints. When an extraordinary event happens, the Romanists like to describe the event as a “miracle” (against 1 Cor. 13:8-10; Acts 8:18). They then attribute the miracle’s cause to a renowned deceased member of their religion, or to an early Christian. Such a miracle is “considered proof that the person is in heaven and can intercede for us.”[1] Once the Roman pope attributes two alleged miracles to a single person, he will then canonize the person as a “saint.” “The title of saint tells us that the person lived a holy life, is in heaven, and is to be honored [effectively ‘worshipped,’ LM] by the universal Church.” [2]

Obviously, such a process is foreign to Scripture, and has no Divine sanction. Furthermore, in no sense does the term “saint” identify one honored above others in the church. According to the New Testament, all the members of all the churches of Christ are called saints. We already noted this with regard to the churches in Jerusalem and Corinth. Paul addressed the church at Rome, “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:7, emph. LM).[3] Every last member of that church was called a saint. A saint is not one given specially exalted status by the church.

What a Saint Is
A Christian

God’s people in Christ are called by various designations in the New Testament—Christians (Acts 11:26; I Peter 4:16), brethren (Acts 9:20; 14:2; Romans 1:13), disciples (Acts 6:1-2; 21:16) . . . and saints (Rom. 1:7; I Corinthians 1:2). Paul used the terms brethren and saints interchangeably: “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you” (Philippians 4:21). As pointed out in last week’s bulletin, all those whom the Lord added to His church were called saints. One cannot be a Christian without also being a saint. If you say, “I’m not a SAINT”; you also say, “I’m not a CHRISTIAN”!

A “Holy One”

Although being a saint does not mean that one has never sinned, a saint is distinct from a sinner. While all faithful Christians are saints, the term sinner is reserved for those who are presently alienated from God through sin (Rom. 5:8; James 5:20; I Pet. 4:17-18). Saints may sin occasionally, but this does not make them sinners. The word saint literally means “holy one.” Saints have been set apart from the evil of the world for service to God.

The fact that Christians are also called saints tells us that our conduct should match such a noble designation. Paul instructed the Roman Christians, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also” (Rom. 16:1-2; emphasis LM). Paul effectively said, “You are saints—act like saints,” not doubting that they would. Similar, he wrote to Ephesus, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints (Ephesians 5:3; emphasis LM). Again, “You are saints—act like saints!”

Conclusion

We all ought to be saints—Christians, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Saying, “I’m not a SAINT” simply will not excuse one’s sin. There is no excuse for sin—but, thankfully, there is pardon (Isaiah 55:7; Titus 2:14). However, that pardon is only extended to those who are willing to become saints of God.



[1] http://www.catholic.org/saints/faq.php
[2] Ibid.

[3] Literally, this says, “. . . called saints”—“to be” is not in the actual text. This indicates that “saint” was a term by which they could all be identified.

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