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The Instant Track to Sainthood – Regeneration

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Category Articles
Date May 22, 2002

THE INSTANT TRACK TO SAINTHOOD – REGENERATION

The same strategy is going to be adopted for the present pope after his days are over. He will be canonised through people claiming miracles have been done when they prayed to him and he too will be pronounced a ‘saint’

by Geoff Thomas

This word ‘saint’ occurs almost fifty times in the New Testament. It is the most popular designation for a follower of Jesus Christ. Of course, men have narrowed down the reference of that term considerably. They use it for some kind of elite or a specially sanctified group within the Christian church. Men speak of ‘St. Michael’ or ‘St. David’ a form of speaking which the New Testament nowhere uses and would not condone. I think we ought to avoid that usage very studiously.

In the Roman church it is a reference to those dead members of the Roman church who have been canonised because of their alleged miracle-working powers. There is the case of the Albanian called Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu who was born in Macedonia in 1910 and died in 1997. She took on the name ‘Mother Teresa’ and the Vatican has told the world that she is being put on the fast track to becoming a saint. There are already claimants who declare that they have prayed to her soul for the healing of family members. A child has recovered and the parents claim that it must be through the power of the dead Agnes Bojaxhiu who has answered that prayer. Such a ‘miracle’, when the Roman church has officially announced it as such, upgrades the soul of Agnes so that she becomes a more than ordinary Christian. She becomes a ‘saint.’ Henceforward millions more will pray to ‘Saint Teresa.’ The same strategy is going to be adopted for the present pope after his days are over. He will be canonised through people claiming miracles have been done when they prayed to him and he too will be pronounced a ‘saint’.

That mentality is not a New Testament concept. In the Bible every single Christian, no matter how humble or ordinary, is in the sight of God a saint. The whole fellowship of the Christian congregation in Philippi, or Rome, or Ephesus, were saints, every one of them. This is the designation of every member of the church community. Even when there are manifest inconsistencies and serious backslidings, as, for example, in the church at Corinth, you will find that even there believers are referred to as ‘saints in Christ Jesus.’ So Paul is not addressing his words to a certain section of the more spiritual people in Philippi whom he acknowledges as ‘the saints’ in that church – those who have qualified for sainthood by being believers for many years, or those who have had special uplifting experiences of God – but they are all saints. Every mere Christian is before God a saint. Let the Roman church reform its ideas in the light of the Word of God.

That title ‘saint’ is given, first of all, because of the status or position of the child of God. He stands in a special relationship to God. He has been set apart, or consecrated to a holy use. God has made him his bondservant and so he is a saint. That goes right back to the Old Testament where the concept of holiness and the whole idea of sainthood was used of objects or subjects which had in themselves no moral character. For example, there was a holy land. That did not mean that the land had a moral character. It meant it was unique as an area to God with a special city which had a special building, furnishings and utensils, all of which were holy before God. They were not holy first of all because they had a character. They were holy because they had a status. They belonged to God. They were set aside for the Lord’s special use, and first and foremost that is always where a saint is in the New Testament. He is somebody who has been set aside, and called apart. He has been consecrated by grace to God for God’s own special use. A man of God is God’s possession. He does not belong to the world, or even to himself. He is no longer his own. He belongs to God to be used in the way the Lord himself thinks is most fitting and proper. So all believers are saints in the sense that they have been set aside by God for his own use.

That title ‘saint’ is given, secondly, because it does refer to a special kind of character. Every single professing believer in Philippi who has been set apart for God’s use, at the same time possesses a character quite different from the world. He is different not only in his functions but he is also different in his moral and spiritual bearing. He has been transformed by the indwelling Spirit, renewed and made into a new creation. God changes every single Christian in the depths of his being, and he beds and roots into his soul new aptitudes, insights and preoccupations. God causes the whole orientation of his life to be radically and irreversibly transformed.

That is why these Philippians or Romans or Ephesians are saints, because at a particular time the power of the Most High overshadowed them and they were never going to be the same again. Everything about them was made new. The grace of God touched them at every level of their lives and all the functions of their souls. Grace made them different people. Not education, nor culture, nor their DNA molecular structure, nor their own self-discipline, but as a result of the invincible power of the Creator God every single one of these saints in Philippi or Colossae had been changed. This extraordinary experience which can only be explained in terms of a new birth from above had renewed them from the inside out and from the depths of the hearts up to their minds and to their whole way of life. Their experience was a total metamorphosis.

It was not that they became respectable when they became saints. Lydia the trader in purple was already intensely bourgeois before she met Paul. What had happened to her was revolutionary. She was given a completely new attitude to Jesus of Nazareth. She worshipped and loved him. “To me to live is Christ,” she could say. At conversion she had become a saint, and for the rest of her life she was working out the implications of that reality. She was going to become more and more saintly, growing more and more in her joy in Jesus Christ, in her sorrow for sin, her evangelistic earnestness, her mortification of remaining sin, her knowledge of the Scriptures, and so on. Of course she achieved this by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so was being transformed by the renewal of her mind. This congregation were an assembly of saints.

GEOFF THOMAS

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