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Archive for November 6th, 2014

If you look at this clip art upside, see what it reads!

About the Saints:  The Biblical writers use the word “saints” 82 times, as Paul does when he addresses an epistle, “…to the saints that are in…”  It is clear from Paul’s epistolary introductions that the saints are those who have been baptized into Christ, and thus brought over into kingdom of God, by faith through grace:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.(1 Corinthians 6; emphasis added)

 

The Word of  God is clear: washed (that is Baptism), sanctified and justified are all one action per Christ Jesus’ command and promise (see St. Matthew 28): “…in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” These are the ones made holy, that is saints.  It is equally clear we needed washing, “…and such were some of you”, but the list of sins in 1 Corinthians 6 is by no means exhaustive.  Indeed, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3: 23).  To what purpose?  “…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans  3: 24)  Saints do not achieve by good works to be saved, but receive “His grace as a gift” through Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection and are saved. Saints confess their sin, daily. Out of His salvation come the good works to help and serve our neighbor. Indeed,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2)

 This doctrine of the saints devolved into a treasury of merits of the saints as Christians began to invoke them in prayer for their spirituality.  There is not one  instance in the Bible of anyone living invoking a saint.  This is still part of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, and maybe even the Mormons, but the Evangelical Lutheran Church did not throw out the saints.  It is clear that there are saints who were remembered for their faith and their stance in the faith for the life of the world. The Lutheran Confessions, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, taught and restored the Biblical and clear understanding of the saints:

Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. 

The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men,  Matt. 25:2123.

The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace  truly super abounds over sin, Rom. 5:20.

The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 

The first listing of all the saints is recorded in Hebrews 11.  This is the great crescendo of The Letter to the Hebrews in which the preacher puts before us for our encouragement those in the Old Testament  who lived by faith in the One Who was to come.  “By faith” is the refrain throughout the chapter. Out of faith in the Lord they could accomplish the impossible which they could never have done on their own.  As it says above in the Apology, this is for our encouragement.  In fact, “encouragement” is the preacher’s goal in Hebrews because his fellow Christians were losing heart.  Everyone listed in Hebrews 11 was a sinner and by faith, a saint.  “Sinner and saint” and the line between the two was not a fixed line: this part of me saint, this part sinner, but ever being sanctified, make holy by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  One of the  Marines recruiting  mottos is: “Never given always earned.”  For the saints, it is: Never earned, ever given.  And another motto:  Ever given, always  learned.

Martin Luther, in his commentary on Romans, described the paradoxical nature of the saints.

“For inasmuch as the saints are always aware of their sin and seek righteousness from God in accord with His mercy, for this very reason they are always also regarded as righteous by God.  Thus in their own sight and in truth they are unrighteous, but before God they are righteous because He reckons them so because of their confession of sin.  They are actually sinners, but they are righteous by the imputation of a merciful God.  They are unknowingly righteous and knowingly unrighteous; they are sinners in fact but righteous in hope.  And this is what he is saying here: ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.’ (Ps. 32:1)” Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans, in Luther’s Works, vol. 25, p. 258. (Emphasis added)

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