Are You A Saint?

Sometimes you may hear someone excuse bad behavior by saying something like, “Hey, I’m no saint!” The person may even be a Christian but, in his or her own mind, not a saint.

         What is a saint? The first definition in Webster’s reads, “one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent for holiness.” But is that what the Bible means when it speaks of a saint? Let’s see.

         In the book of Acts Luke uses the word to refer to believers in general (9:13,32,41; 26:10). Saints were not some elite, holier class who had performed miracles. They were simply Christian men and women.

         Paul addressed “all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints” (Romans 1:7). The church in Corinth is referred to as, “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours,” (1 Corinthians 1:2). The words “sanctified” and “saints” in the Greek are hagiazô and hagios respectively. A saint is simple one who has been sanctified, made holy, by God.

         The words “saint” or “saints” are used 61 times in the New Testament. Never does it speak of those who have been “canonized” by any man or group of men or deemed especially worthy of veneration. Always it speaks of those who have been “made holy” by God.

         If you are a Christian, you are a saint. Saints are those whom God has made holy by the blood of Jesus. As such they are commanded to live lives that reflect what God has done for them.

         The apostle Peter, a saint like us, no more, no less wrote, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

Brad Fry

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Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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What Do You Know?

When someone says, “I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did when I was younger”, what does that mean? Those who hear and misunderstand this idea may conclude that the speaker lacks convictions or that he is a moderate, sits on a fence or otherwise doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to take a position. But, at least in my case, nothing could be further from the truth.

         I am convinced that when God gave us the Bible, he gave us all he intended for us to know with absolute certainty. What he didn’t address or the blanks in our understanding he didn’t fill in are not eternally important. A Christian errs when, after filling in those blanks with his personal opinions, he imposes those opinions upon others, makes them tests of faithfulness and fellowship and, as did Diotrephes, “refuses to welcome the brothers” and “puts them out of the church” (3 John 9,10), at least the one that exists in his own mind and imagination.

         As Christians we must be content with the fact that there are some things that are outside our realm of understanding and outside our right to deliver a verdict. As Moses taught Israel of old “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). But there are other things that are not “secret things”. They are “the things that are revealed”. They are the things for which we can produce book, chapter and verse for the position we hold and teach. They are the things of which we can say, “I know this is true because the Book says so.”

         The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that “the sacred writings…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). The “sacred writings”, the Bible—it alone possesses that ability. Everything else is a matter of opinion.

Brad Fry

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Legalism—What It Is & What It Isn’t

A few years ago I was attending a banquet at a well known Christian university. During dinner conversation a young man who was pursuing his doctorate said that one of the problems in the church today was that there was so much legalism. So I asked him to clarify what he understood legalism to be. He said, “You know, this idea that everything has to be just right.” I replied, “No, that’s not legalism. Legalism is trusting in your own performance that you are right. Insisting on careful obedience to the Scripture is not legalism. Careful obedience to the Scripture is that to which Christians are called.” The Bible says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16). “Holy in all your conduct” sounds pretty comprehensive to me. So if a man strives to be holy in all his conduct, does that make him a legalist? If a congregation strives to follow the apostles’ pattern (2 Timothy 1:13) does that make it a legalistic congregation? Obviously not, according to the Bible.  

         All that being said, the Bible does address the dangers of true legalism. True legalism is best described by our Lord. In Luke 18:9-14, Luke records, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted’”. From this passage we can see these traits of the true legalist:

  • He trusts in himself that he is righteous. This is contrasted by the tax collector who implored God for mercy.
  • He treats others with contempt. Instead of seeing others as needing the mercy of God he despises them.
  • He maximizes his “good” as he minimizes his faults. His self-righteous list of what is most important and Jesus’ list of what is most important (Matthew 23:23-24) are not the same.
  • He exalts himself. He prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men”. Of course he is just like other men—he is a sinner (Romans 3:23). The distinction is that the tax collector is painfully aware of his sin while the Pharisee is arrogantly oblivious to his sin.

Don’t let anyone persuade you that if you believe a Christian must practice careful obedience to the Scriptures that such makes you a legalist. It does not. This charge is brought again and again by those who believe and teach the false doctrine of justification by faith only, which is clearly contradictory to the Bible (James 2:24).

         But as you make it your aim to “be holy in all your conduct” make sure you avoid true legalism. Do you think you’re not good enough to go to heaven? You’re right. You’re not. Nor am I. Jesus saves. No one else. Make sure you are merciful in your dealings with other people. If we do that, God will be merciful to us (James 2:13). Focus on your own sin and address it. This will keep you gentle as you deal with others in sin. And be humble. It is God who saved you. It is God who saves you. It is God who keeps you saved.

 Brad Fry

Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Grace Greater Than All Our Sin”

The mother of one of my best friends growing up loved to tell a particular story about him. One day as he was going out to play she warned him not to get his pants dirty. He was wearing a new pair of white jeans. Quickly forgetting his mother’s words he proceeded to get into a game of football. When the dust had settled fear gripped his body. He looked down and both knees were grungy green and brown. Days and weeks passed and his mother had not seen those white jeans since day one. Finally when she was cleaning out his room she pulled a crumple of clothes out from under his bed. Amongst the pile was the pair of jeans, wrinkled, dirty…and with the knees cut out of them with a pair of scissors. She always laughed when she told that story.

         I wonder if you and I amuse God at our attempts of fixing the messes we make in and of our lives. We’ve all got our dirty laundry: our secrets, our fears and our failures. And most of us have tried, metaphorically speaking, taking a pair of scissors to “fix things”. But our lying, denying, blame-shifting and destroying the evidence won’t make the problem go away. Because the stain is deep, dark and embedded, not on our clothes but on our souls.

         The Bible says in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” And in Acts 22:16 “And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” The song says, “Dark is the stain that we cannot hide, What can avail to wash it away? Look! There is flowing a crimson tide, Whiter than snow you may be today.” The sin on our souls can only be washed away by the blood of Jesus when we do what he tells us to. All other attempts are scissors on grass stains.

Brad Fry

Published in: on January 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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