Saintly, But Faintly

When last did you see a saint? 

The question is not, Did you ever see a saint? 

You certainly did see a saint or two, yea, undoubtedly, a host of them in your life time. There are, you know, seven thousand of them that have not bowed the knee to the antichrist. And, if you are one of them yourself, you will not have difficulty recognizing them now and then. 

We ought to be more accustomed to the word “saint” than we are. And we ought to be more conscious of the fact that there are saints upon the earth today. There are legions of them in heaven, but there are likewise, even in this end of the ages, a host of them upon the earth. Paul could write to the church at Ephesus and begin his epistle, “To the saints which are at Ephesus,” and he could close his letter with the words, “All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” Indeed, “of Caesar’s household.” And these were then here on this earth at that time. They are here also in the churches today.

Coming from the Latin and French as it does the word saint does not speak too clearly to us. But realizing that it means “holy one,” we are quite ready to shy away from it even more fully than before. Yet, let us look at the matter with the instruction that Holy Writ gives us and become acquainted with the word so that we dare to use it and use it right. A saint is one who is cut off from sin, separated from it and from the desire to commit it. (God’s holiness is more than that. He certainly is cut off from all sin as the Light in Whom is no darkness at all. But His holiness is first of all that He is cut off from all the creatures as the Transcendent One, the One Who alone can say, “I am God.”) Holiness for men and angels, we say, is to be cut off from sin and in that way to be a peculiar people, a distinct and different people in the world of sinners. 

Now, you think, do you, that it is going to be even harder to find one today? You may have a point. For to be saintly means to live the life of a saint, manifesting it in thought, word and deed. And what we so often see is that some are saintly, but only faintly. Before we go into this matter, however, let us notice what the Word of God has to say on the subject. There is such a powerful text in I John 3:9 that we must begin with it and will perhaps find it sufficient. This beautiful text declares, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” And the plain meaning is that when we are born again with the life of God out of heaven, we have a life in us that cannot sin anymore than God can sin. Then we are saints. Yes, we still sin according to the old nature. The old man is still there, and he will be with us till death. He can do nothing but sin. When we sin it is that old man of sin using all of our faculties and members in the way of our flesh. It is not the new man who does that evil. He cannot sin. He is the saint. The old man is the sinner. That is why Paul cries out of his wretchedness upon finding these two within him, so that he does what he would not and fails to do what he wants to do. Romans 7:14-25

We see a saint when we see the reborn, believing child of God living according to that principle of the new life. We see him in what he does and in what he refuses to do, in what he says and refrains from saying, in where he goes and in where he will not be found, in what he seeks and from what he flees, in what he allows and in what he disallows. It is so beautifully stated in Acts 4:13, “And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” A saint is one who manifests the life of Christ, is obedient as He was obedient, serves and glorifies God as He served and glorified God, walks in love to God as He walked in love to God. 

And, as we said, to be saintly is to live the life of a saint. It means to have that life of Christ manifested in our walk of life. It is for that reason that we write of being saintly, but only faintly. In the hustle and bustle of our highly competitive life, in the midst of all the pressures and temptations of our life of affluence, in the midst of all the undeniable development of sin in the world (to which our flesh belongs and of which it is a part) the saintly glow becomes so faint that one begins to wonder how soon a little band will echo the words of Elijah, “We only are left, and they seek to kill us.” 

While more and more is being labeled Christian, less and less actually reflects Him in thought, word and deed. While church buildings become more beautiful and comfortable, the sermons become shorter and more antichristian. While the world draws farther and farther away from the church, many in the church clamor for stronger and stronger measures to get into the world. A saintly walk is presented as requiring the sinner’s talk; and the Word of God has to be said (and sung) in the sinner’s language. And a saintly example is described as stepping down to the sinner’s level. 

And, though we have a calling to let our light shine, though we are by virtue of the new birth strangers in a strange land, though because of sovereign, eternal, unchangeable election from before the foundation of world our citizenship is in heaven, that saintly glow is so faint, and we resemble the world in so many unnecessary and sinful ways. Many, like righteous (saintly) Lot, vex their righteous souls, and stay right there where the sinners and their evil practices are harbored without as much as rebuke. We drift. We waver. We conform. We excuse. And we look the other way. 

Did you ever sit in a train or plane and look about you and wonder which of these fellow passengers were children of God? Some plainly are not. At least as far as outward behavior is concerned there is nothing at all to indicate that they have a spark of spiritual life in them. Of them you would not even say, “Saintly, but only faintly.” You would say, Wordly, and plainly worldly. But often the saints themselves do not stand out today as a peculiar people. Why? Has the world become better, and is that world striving to be more like the church? Or has the saint sought to imitate the sinner? 

Take one quick look at youth today and answer the question sincerely and soberly. No, of course, salvation is not in the length of hair or of skirts and the amount of material in dresses and bathing suits. Neither is sainthood to be found in these. But did you not read the words of a saint who was led by the very Spirit of God to make proper judgment upon the behavior and actions of the church, when he wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1, 2

No, it is not long hair and a beard that distinguishes the saint from the sinner. But what is this unkempt, dirty, disheveled, uncombed and wild hair among covenant seed? In the world—to which they must notbe conformed—it is the symbol of the revolt and rebellion against almost everything that has been order and law in ages gone by. Should the children of saints, and those who themselves even profess to be saints, speak by their hair the words of defiance against law and order that is to be found among the sinners that populate this world? Should not in the church, the sphere of the saints, attempts be made to get as far away from anything like that as they possibly can? Surely we are extremely charitable to speak of being saintly, but only faintly when that outward appearance is mixed with the works of the saints in Sabbath worship, prayer and the singing of God’s praises. Understand that we are not judging by length or amount of hair. Scripture does not exhort us to seek sainthood in that way. We want nothing of salvation by works, either. But when we go out of our way to look exactly like the world, are we really striving to manifest ourselves as children of God? Who started this whole business? And whom then are we imitating? Let the young men who want to look like young women go all the way then and wash and comb their hair as faithfully as they, if that is what they are trying to conform to and see as such a worthwhile example to follow. If the grand and great grandfathers of centuries ago are the heroes after whom they would pattern their lives, then take note of the neatness and trimness of the beard and the well-pressed clothing and neatness of apparel that went with it. We have something entirely different today; and make no mistake about it. For with this unkempt hair among many young men (and sometimes young women) even in the church sphere goes likewise so often this rebellion against neat and clean clothing and open defiance and deeds of rebellion. After whom are you really fashioning your life and what do you say by your appearance? 

The same is true, of course, about the length of skirts, the accenting and exposing of that which the world has accented and exposed for suggestive and enticing purposes, to further its rebellion against all virtue and chasteness, and to be in harmony with their free love and sexual promiscuity. But should the saints conform and say to the world? “We are one with you. You have a good thing going, and we thank you for having started it.” Should we sing their vile and suggestive songs, speak their godless language; read their immoral books, subscribe to their lascivious magazines? 

Should we as parents introduce these things into our homes and churches? Should we by feasting and drinking, by worldly ambitions and ever-increasing efforts to conquer this world for our flesh, teach our children that this life is it? Should we by a “worship” of God that is nothing much more than one or two one-hour church attendance sessions (interspersed with several minutes of sleep during the sermons) send them to the world to find an example after which to pattern their lives? Let our homes be saintly, and not only faintly but brightly so. And let us not defend our children when they violate the Word of God that tells them not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. The lastplace where the hippy, yippy look belongs is in the church. 

What then? Are we advocating uniforms and the wearing of black? Not at all! God has given His church all the colors of the rainbow, even as He has given us all the notes in the musical scale, and the major as well as the minor mode. Once again, sainthood does not consist in color and uniform. He also gave us beards and hair and well-proportioned bodies. But do not forget that He also gave us razors and scissors and cloth in sufficient lengths to discourage enticements. And He gave us His Word which always points out a people that are strangers, a spiritually distinct people that manifests sainthood by walk and word, by dress and demeanor that reveals that they have been with Jesus and are His disciples. Here you have it, in the original of Ephesians 5:1, “Be ye imitators of God as dear Children.” And be sure that Christ would have gotten as far away as possible from any symbol of lawlessness and disorder, of contempt for rule and submission to the ordained authorities. A heart that loves God is not going to shout by its hair, delight in revolt against God, and in those who advocate it. And a saint, who was one plainly and not faintly, wrote to the church in I Thessalonians 5:21, 22, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” In His fear let all know your {abhorrence of all those who militate and that which militates against the holy God Whose you are.