AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH June 5, 2011
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND
BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF AUSTRALIA, as founded 1901,
ON BIBLICAL LINES …
Serving the Lord Jesus Christ, Immutable Truth, Beautiful in Holiness
SAINTS ARE NOT MADE BY MAN
BUT CREATED BY GOD
AND ALL HIS PEOPLE ARE SAINTS
What is a saint ? A holy person. What sort of relationship does a saint have with God ? It is a Christian relationship, at the outset made possible by Christ Jesus, and through His Gospel call, and its reception in heart through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This means that God and the person in view are reconciled, the latter redeemed, the ransom paid (Matthew 20:28), the accounts settled, the justification by faith complete as in Romans 5:1, Titus 3, and this without any works at all on the part of the saint (Romans 3, Titus 2-3, Ephesians 2).
Is this a formalistic process merely ? Impossible, as Isaiah 1 and 29 show; for one thing God utterly detests, we there read, is anything smacking of the formal as distinct from the functional. Does this mean He despises forms ? No at all: if your accountant is dishonest, and you grow weary of his books, then this does not mean you are against accounting, but its abuse by all its paraphernalia, useful in general, but now made a mockery by the dishonesty which enables it to hide rather than show the realities.
There is nothing unduly deep about these things. Power lusts, not only in the religious, but the political and the commercial can distort almost anything; but not before God.
What is the Christian program for saints, believers by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who have received His salvation according to His word, by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 24, Acts 2, Titus 3) ? It is for their entire sanctification (I Thessalonians 5:23). It is statedly so in spirit, soul and body. What hinders ? Satan, sin and this world's dynamic, wisdoms and ways.
Where is this stated ? It is found in I John 2:16, where pride of life, lusts in life and enticements of this world are cited; in I Peter 5:7-8, where an aggressive and interventionist devil is cited for his evil and destructive work, and again, in Romans 7, where the flesh is seen once more in its lingering desire for autonomy, seduction in sin, so leaving only the power of the Holy Spirit in application of the redemption and bringing of the presence of Christ to the heart, in terms of covenant, to counter. When however God is at work, that is sufficient (I Corinthians 3:5, 4:3-6), despite the contrary action of "the god of this world."
.This leads to what John calls victory by faith in Christ Jesus, over this world (I John 5:4), as over the sovereign sway of directive sin (Romans 6), despite many a trial (I Peter 4); for the Christian is kept by the power of God to salvation, ready to be revealed in the return of Christ to rule (I Peter 1, Romans 8:23) at the resurrection (I Corinthians 15). This inheritance is already sealed and assured (Ephesians 1:5-14).
THE BIBLICAL ANSWER
The saints then ? Let us pass along a few epistles and see it directly.
In Romans 1:1-4, we see that in a generic style of letter to those at Rome, we have the group who are 'called to be saints' in view.
In I Corinthians 1:1-2, we find that the people in view are "those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours."
It is clear that the extension is geographic. The type in view are the sanctified in Christ Jesus, those called to be saints.
How far this may be from perfect is shown in Corinthians 12-14, where errors are corrected with teaching from apostolic gifts, in scriptural format ( I Corinthians 2:9-13), where it is enabled through the precise powers of the Holy Spirit in both substance, to be shown, and in verbal imprint, to be enabled.
In II Corinthians 1:2-3, we find the generic letter is to the church of God in Corinth, with all the saints in Achaia.
in Ephesians 1:1, it is addressed to the "saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus." It is not to spiritual spooks, as in II Corinthians 11, or wolves, as in Acts 20:29, advents to come; nor is it to spiritual wolves in the clothing of spiritual sheep (Matthew 7:15), moving to be disjoined at last, as only fakes at first (Matthew 7:21). It is necessary to KNOW God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, in order to have eternal life (John 17:1-3).
As to the action of the Holy Spirit in convicting of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16), when not resisted as those to stone Stephen were shown to resist (Acts 7:51), and that not occasionally but characteristically: this does indeed bring into reconciliation with God those called to be saints, since this is His stated desire for all men, both in heaven and in earth (Colossians 1:19ff.). A good tree brings forth good fruit, and where the seed has taken hold in ready soil, this is what occurs, though in the same Chapter 7 of Matthew, Christ warns against superficial or autonomous judgments which many may be inclined to make concerning others!
In Philippians 1:1, the epistle is addressed to "all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi with the overseers and deacons." To this body, undifferentiated, it is announced that to them it is granted, not only to believe but to suffer (Philippians 1:29). It is to all, whether office bearers or not. Thus he concludes (4:21),
"Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar's household."
In Colossians 1:1, the epistle is to "the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse."
Like the others, it is generic, undifferentiating for the Church, but specifying, since for example Judas appeared for one, to be a saint, but was a devil (John 6:70). Thus it makes the point that it is no matter of mere form, but one of reality. Thus one may hope that the Church is just such, but if there be any others, then these being anomalous are excluded by the "in Christ" which is attached. To them, THIS specific would not apply, though it be fundamental (I Corinthians 3:10ff.). This is seen in II Corinthians 5:17, namely, that if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation, and is accordingly one of those reconciled by the action of Christ in this world, securing a people to Himself (II Corinthians 5:19).
Again, in I Thessalonians, the epistle is addressed quite simply to
"the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ."
As such, it has certain features.
gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power,
and in the Holy Spirit
and in much assurance,
as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
And you became followers of us and of the Lord,
having received the word in much affliction,
with joy in the Holy Spirit,
so that you became examples to all in Achaia who believe."
They welcomed the word of God,
"not as the word of men,
but as it is in truth, the word of God,
which also effectively works in you who believe...
For you, brethren became imitators of the churches of God..."
This is the sort of thing a church is cited for, what it essentially is, a group of people by faith brought to Christ who in them has wrought, so that become believers, attached to the word of God, which they receive, not as the word of man but distinctively (I Corinthians 2:9ff.), as it is, God's speech to man.
As it progresses, it is apparent that this is to one and to all, to all who were at the first enthralled and led, and convicted and shown. It is this body to whom he speaks, seeking their entire sanctification, with assurance that this very thing, God will do (I Thess. 5:23-24).
Thus it is the saints, those in Christ, those receiving the word of God as it is, those in whom God has wrought, made parallel to the church and its officers, with the proviso (in Christ) appropriate. Is it then to a specially select few ? Far from it, for it is to the Church, those who as all Christians are and must be, in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17ff.). For the case is for one as to all, that except you by faith eat His flesh as symbolic of the paschal lamb and the reality to which it pointed (cf. Hebrews 8:1-6,9:6ff.), and drink His blood, there is no life in you.
Yet if you do take the bread of life, not to gnaw, but to heart in its significance of atonement, for faith always must in dealing with things invisible, however much they have been visible in their time, as in His as Messiah, then you abide in Him and HE IN YOU. The one who once so eats and drinks has eternal life (John 6:54, cf. John 4:14), and is to be raised up on the last day. Accordingly, eating His flesh and drinking His blood means abiding in Him and He in you. Secured by Him through faith, you are assured forever; and continuing in Him, you abide. This is one route for all, the flesh being given for the world.
The mode that starts, that assures, that continues, it is all one. Without it, nothing. With it, all (Romans 8:32). Nor did He mean that He committed surreptitious suicide at the Last Supper, in breaking the bread, for indeed as was apparent, a little wit was needed, as with His statement that He was the door, and the vine. He did not grow leaves. He had no hinges. He is not masticatory He replaces the paschal lamb (I Corinthians 5:7), becoming the Passover, but this sacrificially, the eating being now not cannibalism but reception by faith, for it is all such (Eph. 2).
All those not dishonest or Judaic, not wolves, not false apostles, not devious, all who by faith have received him are undifferentially addressed, repetitively, inclusively, in terms of church, or the church in a given place, or in terms of this and all others of the kind, as saints. To make a new sub-category is to add to the word of God, condemned outright in Proverbs 8:8, as in Revelation 22:18-19. To those THINGS no one must add.
It is also to digress from the word of God, making a thing substantive, substantial and universal to Christians, to Churches where the Gospel and the faith are so received, those actual and not merely formal, into something else, transforming the Bible itself, a mere introduction, and creating something not even in accord with it.
This usurps the Gospel and distorts its applicability and the terms of reference. It makes man a judge and the residual people of God to have a new name, non-saints, as distinct from saints, or holy people; and implies that the early churches, instead of being as claimed by Paul, examples, are mere disasters of misapplication, awaiting a fresh wave of enlightenment to squash Paul's amplitude, and give to the churches a power, overall, through someone or other, or something or other, or both, to make classes according to the term which had no class, but Christ. Such authority (Matthew 23:8-10) is rejected by Christ, who claims it of Himself alone, whether for terminology, or mastery.
Sanctity is for all; the whole of it is for all. Departure from it is anomalous, and brings in questions, not of degree of sanctity for interest, but nature of the case itself. God is merciful to the weak, to the smoking flax, to the bruised reed, but not indulgent. He lifts, but does not leave (Hebrews 13, Ephesians 1); He translates to the heavenly kingdom (Colossians 1:13), and while attending diligently as the good Shepherd, God Himself (Ezekiel 34, fulfilled for God Himself in John 10), to the diseases of His sheep, He keeps them to eternity for all that. He does not leave them in their filth; He lifts them through His love to His abiding, sitting in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), and all this freely by grace, both as to the gift and its manner of giving (Romans 5:17). It is a GIFT BY grace!
Inclusion in His Church, in eternal life, in His inheritance does NOT depend on anything which we work (Ephesians 2, Titus 3), for it is HE who has done the relevant work. But the work involves not only pardon but power, since He is alive (Ephesians 3:16), and through His Spirit He is able to keep what is committed to Him against judgment day (II Timothy 1:12), assuring believers in Him of eternal life (I John 5:11ff.).
Such are the saints. Other 'saints' merely attest a 'church' out of order, with imaginary powers superseding the apostolic, defying the criteria given, inventing what has no standing before God, buffeting the believer with differential status, excluding from the general nature of the case and so demeaning the work of Christ and the blessed character of the relationship between Him and all believers (I Peter 1:5ff.). In so doing, it makes a leeway for 'christians' to be, do and act differentially from the norm, which could prove fatal to many who therefore trifle with the truth.
It always remains true that few find the narrow way, that if any person be in Christ Jesus, that one is a new creation, reconciled to God, the result of the fact that
"God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to
Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them," as in II Corinthians
5:19; as does this, that
if any man be
subjected to sin, he is the servant of sin, but
Therefore "if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed."
This with Paul's admonition concerning being wholly sanctified, open to all, proper for all, an exhortation for all, an expectation that faith is to embrace, is not special but normative.
Where then are these fantastic 'saints' which the church creates, when God has already created them FOR the fellowship of the Church, yes all of every church, everyone who is in Christ. THESE Paul calls saints. Who are those who say otherwise ?
Of a certainty, they are outrageously contrary to the apostle, and have some new secret message of their own, but there is but one Gospel for all (Galatians 1), and there are additions neither ceremonial nor separatistic, for special categories, unless you consider those caught in this or that spiritual disease, pathology, such as carnal Christians, who will conform or confess themselves but brass plates on the door, with nothing within.
IF the Son makes you free, you will be really free. Who are these ? In the relevant John 8, there were those in bondage, not true Abraham's seed at all, and there were those who were, on the other hand, enemies of God. One believed in Him or one did not. Thus, we find in the related context, the confrontational enemies of God who did not have place for His word in their hearts. They invented their own ways (Matthew 23), using their own traditions and making thereby to be void the very word of God (Mark 7:7ff.).
What of the rest ? Let us be very clear. The other category in John 8 is composed of those who believe in Christ. There is no division except the fundamental one. If anyone be caught in this or that disease (consider Peter's meteoric FALL as in John 18:14ff.), then repentance and restoration come from the hand of Christ (cf. I Cor. 15:1ff., John 21). They err, but they do not become something else. The one who enters by the door of Christ will not only be saved, but go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9), having eternal life and being guarded from all 'snatching' by whomever or whatever. HE is a knowledgeable and almighty Pastor!
That is the pastoral practice. Disease comes and goes, and failure comes and goes as with even Hezekiah for a short time! (Isaiah 37ff.); but eternal life for the believer goes right on, the Lord Himself counsellor, teacher and dispenser of gifts under Himself as Head (I John 2:27, I Corinthians 12), and the majesty and the mastery are His and His alone. There is one Head. ALL we are but brethren (Matthew 23:8-10), and all of us who are in Christ through conversion by His Spirit according to His word, all are but under the Head which is Christ, for there is no other Master, to invent, to decree, to add.
Add a master ? Such addition is condemned in advance (Revelation 22), in terms of the things given. You are free to add, but if so, to add vast realms of condemnation to your assurance, by which you falsely so act. You may even make a new Gospel, other than that already preached by Paul, but statedly cursedness is then your lot, yes, says Paul, and it would be the same whether it were himself or even an angel who promoted it!
Thus there are major issues. This pseudo-saint innovation
adds to the word of God; it
divides Christian from Christian, making layers in kind; it
multiplies confusion, so that many naming Christ do not REALLY feel it is needed to BE saints, holy and godly persons, in the expectations of faith and love; and it
subtracts from Peter's promise to all of the same precious faith, that these, the Lord's people, have supplied all things necessary for godliness (I Peter 1:3-4).
The word of God is not inventible by man, but dispensable, granted by God (I Corinthians 2:9ff., I Thessalonians 2:13), and the grant concerns Jesus Christ, extended to His apostles before Him (John 14:26), and terminated, as for the Old Testament, by His say so (Revelation 22). Therefore there is no other Gospel but the one which Paul had preached DURING His life-time (Galatians 1), and additions concerning the good news are bad news! are false, fraudulent, whether they be of grades of salvation (Romans 8:32, Ephesians 1:11), or other bits of news about what God does for this world, rather than applications from the Bible. Moreover, the Old Testament is as given by Israel, as custodian (Romans 9:1ff.), and the New Testament as defined by the Church which so acted to confirm specifically (cf. SMR Appendix C, D).
Make up new stuff, and you become like a stuffed bird in a museum, a thing past life, a resultant of death. It is not a good place to be; but to be a saint, this IS a good place to be, called by God to be such, wrought in by God to generate, in what is called regeneration, so that as new creations, sanctification is for you, and not to some co-adjutor Christian, some stand-in, some example, some alternate, some activist. You are in Christ or not; and if in Christ, you will know it (Romans 8:16), and if in disease, it will be met, as by the Shepherd; and if you are not, your works will show it. There is no higher category than this, to be a believer who is in Christ, who abides in His word; and indeed, if you do this and His word abides in you, consider your case (John 15:7, Romans 8:32). Is infinity too little for His graces and their address toward you!