Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan. Previous article in this series: October 1, 2005, p. 14.
Grace Life believer…you are a saint!
This is true because God in heaven and in His Word, the Bible, says so. He says in the Bible that all believers are saints. In fact, God says it a lot there.
I wonder why we seem loath to say it here, on earth? Here, as in, in the halls of Covenant Christian High School? As you gather for the Faith singles Bible Study? Or as we talk around a cup of tea in my kitchen? Why don’t I call myself saint? Why don’t we call each other saint?
Seems to me this would be for quite a blessing. For the declaration about our sainthood among ourselves is a declaration of truth, and is not truth always for the blessing of us?
Now, you might not want to go around introducing yourself as Saint Mitch or Saint Sally. Might seem a bit proud. But then again it might keep you from temptation and folks from inviting you to the local beer-bash or brothel if right from the start you declared your sainthood. Might just be an encouragement for your friend John when you write him now Dear Saint John, or Dear brother John, Holy One in Jesus Christ. Might be a godly goad to holiness for ministers to include “saints” in their call to worship, like “Beloved saints in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Certainly the greater publication of our sainthood would be for the praise of God and His Word. For you would be confessing your faith in the astounding God, and your trust and conviction that He has done an astounding workand called you and many out of darkness into His marvelous light to be…saints. Thus confessed, the God who makes saints, whose redemption includes sanctification (just a different spelling of saintification), and whose Christ is made unto us sanctification (I Cor. 1:30), would get the praise. Good and emboldening grace would be compelling you freely to confess who you are, saint of God, and, in the same breath to confess who God is: the living, holy, saving, saint-making God!
Whatever Doctrine Unsaints You…
Now the devil is all out for cursing and blasphemy and unsaintliness.
The devil wants, therefore, that you deny the truth of your sainthood—whether it is your future sinless glorious sainthood, or your present sainthood. And this, the devil’s desire that you deny your sainthood, is so that you will be very unsaintly now, and forever unsaintly in hell.
One peculiar way he does this is to try to persuade you to believe that you, a believing child of God, are totally depraved. If he can do that, and perhaps even by some strange twist of Scripture or of Catechism, he will have begun tounsaint you for sure. For there is a certain principle of principles that is undying. That is this: principles work through. And if you are principled, even adamant about your being totally depraved, then this will work through in your life, and you indeed will act upon and like your convictions. Evolutionists teach that grandma was an ape and that all of the grandchildren have her original apishness. That is why the evolution-believing grandchildren actlike apes. Similarly, those who are convinced they are totally depraved will act the part and be anything but saints—even, perhaps, all the while confessing that they are saints!
Because you are a saint, let it be known! you are not, decidedly not, totally depraved. Totally depraved people are Adamites, dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). They have a carnal mind that is enmity against God (Rom. 8:7), a hateful heart that is the source of the enmity (Jer. 17:9), and a body made wretched in the willing service of the enmity (Rom. 3:10-18). But since we are made saints we are sanctified in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 1:2), made alive in Christ who lives in us (Gal. 2:20), and dead to sin and willing servants of righteousness because of the wonderful grace-union with Christ’s own death and resurrection (Rom. 6).
From the death and bondage of sin (the condition of the natural man, total depravity) we elect sinners are delivered unto sainthood. This deliverance occurs by the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of us. This regeneration is a veritable resurrection from the dead for the child of God, and is therefore highly celebrated in Scripture as the principal fruit of Christ’s own resurrection, and the preliminary glory of the believers’ bodily resurrection and renewal in the Day of days. It is also highly celebrated in the Reformed creeds. Celebrated, therefore, by Reformed believers, is the truth of the Word, the truth of the doctrines of the church, and the truth in our lives that according to unfathomable love Christ has by His blood bought and by His Spiritregenerated, He has redeemed and renewed, saved and delivered from sin’s guilt and also sin’s power to make the sons of Adam its own totally depraved, corrupt bondservants (cf. Lord’s Days 3, 11; The Belgic Confession, art. 24, Canons of Dordt, III and IV, 3, 12).
Whatever Sin Unsaints You…
The celebration of our being born again saints, and of our being delivered from the guilt and the bondage of sin, manifests itself precisely in our being and desiring to be and to show we are the very saints we have been made. Saints celebrate their deliverance and renewal with holy and glad thankful living and consecration unto God. That is our celebration.
Not to say it always works out that way. Not to say you do not ever act rather unsaintly, even foolishly, and drive, maybe, like Jehu, or are not ever driven more by passions than by principles. You do. You are. Not to say I never write or speak or kick like one totally depraved. I do. There we go, even sometimes (too often!) enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season, and driving off into the dark past or into a dark alley and away from the celebration of our new life in Christ, and from singing the songs and living according to the godliness to which we have been born again.
Why, of course, we know. We have, even as saints, just a small beginning of sainthood, and of the new obedience. There is still the flesh—just as depraved as ever! We have an “old man”—just as Adamic as ever! And we are still possessed of great inherent abilities (disabilities!) and a willingness (vile!) to do all kinds of things that are unbecoming of the child and saint of God.
It is when we yield to this flesh and begin acting according as our old man insists, that is, when we act totally depraved, and especially when we act and act and act that way, that the devil tries a trick. It is especially when we act totally depraved and go on in this base activity (and let us admit: we are good at being bad!) that the devil and we enter into conversation. The devil whispers to us that this sinning we are doing is actually not so bad, and that this saint business is for the birds or for puritans or for other fun-killing characters. Maybe for a while he argues this way: that we professing Christians needboth—the pleasures of sin, and the salvation of the gospel, to be happy, fulfilled, and free. Maybe later he even tries to convince us that we are actually not a saint at all. And that God Himself has disowned us, or perhaps never did own us….
All the while, of course, this Christless conversation is a mischief and for misery. Devil-talk always is. Lending our ear to Lucifer cannot profit. We will hurt. We become all confused. And restless. Sainthood temporarily, even for a long tempus, loses its meaning for us, and its power is checked. For the Spirit is being grieved (Eph. 4:30) by us. We are out of sorts. Saints sinning is senseless. And we are, in the midst of our conversation with and showing sympathy for the devil, senseless sinning saints. On this course, guided by the ghoul of ghouls, we will surely go forward further into sin and self-justification and sin and self-justification and sin. Our friends will show concern about our drinking, but we will not listen. Parents will agonize as they try to reach out to us, and to reason with us, when we resist and when our rights and our feelings are all that matter. We will not care.
The Mark of the Saints…
Thanks be to God He does! With divine care He enters where friends could not. He speaks and is heard when parents were not. With His Word. With His grace. And to deliver and preserve us from Satan’s unsainting powers!
Ever experience that, beloved reader?!
Oh, sweet grace!
Oh, sweet, sin-checking sanctifying grace!
Grace “checks” us when we sin by winning us back to the conversation that becomes us, and is lovely to us. That conversation is Christ. That conversation to which grace irresistibly bends our ear is the conversation to which we are called as saints. It is our privileged calling upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord ( I Cor. 1:2). This is the conversation of the saints. This is the prayer of the saints. This is their devotion. This is their way, their truth, their life, and that, precisely and entirely because of the Name upon which they call. And this means we simply cannot stand it and ourselves when we sin, and when we, in so doing, slither around by any and every word that proceeds from the mouth of Satan. We would call upon the name Jesus! We would hear God speak His Word Jesus! And by grace we do! In the hour of the power of sin—Lord, save me! Lord, deliver me from the mess I have made! In the hour of the grace received: Thanks Lord! Thanks for remembering me for Jesus’ sake! I resolve now to be, without compromise, and even though it will mean a cross to bear…saint!
Calling upon Jesus is, in biblical fact, the markof our sainthood, and of God’s grace at work, almightily, in us. To call upon the name of Jesus is to trust in Him, to worship God by Him, and to declare that He alone, and His righteousness, is the ground of our salvation. It is to enter into the presence and fellowship of God by Him. It is to glory in Him and His cross. It is the mark of our private devotion. It is the boast of our public confession. Christ Jesus our all! I call upon His name! I glory in that name given to save…me! I adore Jehovah God through Him and for His sake.
This “calling upon the name of Jesus” makes, as only grace itself can make, for the life of a true saint. God answers such calls. He sanctifies our education. He works for our godly working. He purifies our play. He hears our calls, and heads our relationships. He is our felt comfort in our trouble, His name our refuge. He becomes our joy above joys, His name our salvation….
Grace Life believer! Be not deceived—either by doctrines that will unsaint you, or the sin that surely can.
Be not deceived either by “forms” of saintliness that are the glittering garb of ghouls.
For many are the world’s “saints.” These have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, even the name Jesus. Their godliness is, therefore, altogether human godliness (!), which is precisely ungodliness, and their (pretended) righteousness is of the filthy-rag variety. Theirs is a godliness and an unrighteousness of those, in fact, in the church or not, who do not call upon the name of the Lord and take hold on Him (Is. 64:6, 7).
That for which such “saints” are canonized and lauded is therefore utterly detestable to the holy God. Look at them: Moslem, Jew, Christian (in name), secular humanist, champion of the poor, green peace activist, nobel prize winner, first to swim the Atlantic underwater…all written in Man’s hall of shame, but none, if there be never grace to them, and that, flowing from the eternal fount (election, that is! cf. Canons 1.6, 9), written in the Lamb’s book of life…. And these all, in the name of Man, despise the Son, the Lamb, and the Savior, and refuse to kiss Him, to adore, and to trust (Ps. 2:12).
Shameful satanic sainthood!
But your sainthood.
Lovely most precious thing, dear reader!
Because of the lovely most precious One, the Savior Saint Jesus.
He is the Holy One of God your Savior!
Then be saint.
And keep calling upon His name.
With grace in your hearts.