Hello Church Devotion Aug.21, 2013

S is for Saint

Saint Louis, Saint Peter, Saint Charles, and Saint Joseph are all cities in the State of Missouri. While we may know where these municipalities are located, do we understand the first word in their names?

Saint – The word “Saint” has been used by the Church in several ways. In Scripture it refers to believers on earth (e.g., Rom 1:7; Acts 9:32) and in heaven (e.g., Mat 27:52).

In current ecclesiastical language, “Saints” refers to the faithful departed who have been recognized by the Church as deserving the title. In the Roman Catholic Church, this is done by canonization. Lutherans have no rite of canonization and ordinarily do not grant the title “saint” to anyone except those who were canonized before the Reformation.

The word “Saint” has its roots in the biblical concept of Holiness. Saints are those who have been made holy (made saintly) by God through the work of Christ.

Martin Luther wrote this to clarify the title of “Saints”. “Just as we should not deny that we are baptized and Christians, so we should not deny or doubt that we are holy. It would be well to impress this deeply on people and to accustom them not to be shocked at it or hesitate to accept it. Thus I and others were so steeped in our monasticism and unbelief that we were frightened if a man considered himself, or was called, a saint on earth. For our thoughts about saints were directed only toward the deceased saints or the blessed in heaven, even through Scripture constantly uses this term with reference to the living on earth.

Thus St. Paul, in nearly all his writings, bids men greet all the saints. Again, he says: “All the saints salute you” (2 Cor.13:12). And 1 Tim. 5:10 he speaks of the widows who have washed the feet of the saints. Here he plainly calls all Christians by their name: saints. So, when Christendom began, the custom of calling one another saints continued for a long time. This should still be the practice.

For when Christians call themselves holy after Christ, this is not arrogance; it is honoring and praising God. For thereby we do not praise the malodorous holiness of our own works but His Baptism, Word, Grace, and Spirit, which we do not have of ourselves; He gave them to us”.

1. When the question, "Who are the saints" is asked, the Lutheran Confessions answered, "All believers in Jesus Christ, both those living on earth and those living in heaven." Both heavenly and earthly saints are confessed.

In the now classic statement on "the Church" in the Augsburg Confession, the Lutherans confessed their belief that also earthly believers are saints. "Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered" (Augsburg Confession, VII.1). Who these "congregation of saints" are is further clarified in Article VIII, "Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers . . ." (AC VIII.1). In the first statement, the saints are defined as those in which the Gospel and Sacraments are rightly taught and administered; this is an obvious reference to earthly saints. In the second statement in Article VIII, the saints are explicitly called "true believers" (See also the Apology of the Augsburg Confession VII-VIII.28).

The clear emphasis in this statement is upon earthly saints, which is nothing other than the Christian Church. Furthermore, Luther (the author) includes himself in this group not because of his personal piety, but merely because he is a Christian.'

The Lutherans also regarded Christians in heaven as saints and were even willing to honor those that the Roman Church regarded as saints, but in a qualified way. As the Apology puts it, "Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved" (Apology 21.4). The threefold honor is to thank God for the mercy and gifts He manifested in the saints, to be encouraged by the forgiveness they received through Christ when they fell (e.g., Peter's denials), to imitate their faith and virtues. If we were to use the saints in this way, we would truly honor them, says the Apology.

2. How Did the Saints Become Saints?

The Lutheran Confessions and Luther himself, answer the question, "How did the saints become saints?" by saying, "through the Holy Spirit, who through the Word of God, the Gospel, imputes to us believers the holiness of Jesus Christ, won for us on the cross, freely granted to us by God, and received by faith."

According to the Confessions, the Christian becomes holy in the same way he becomes righteous: by God's grace for Christ's sake through faith. By His grace God reckons the holiness of Jesus Christ to the account of the believer. The holiness of a Christian therefore is not his own holiness, but the holiness of Jesus, won for all on the cross. Our holiness is a gift, given to us for the sake of Jesus who died for us; our holiness is not the result of our merits or good works.

If by His death Jesus Christ has taken away all your sins, then are you not holy? For to be holy means to be without sin. Therefore, when God no longer counts our sin against us, we are holy indeed! This is the way our Confessions proceed.

This holiness of Christ, won for us on the cross, is communicated to us through Word of God and received through faith.

All Christians, though true saints by faith in the holiness of Jesus Christ, are still sinners. They are perfect saints by faith, and imperfect saints according to their personal lives. This is why the Church ever prays, "Forgive us our tresspasses."

So, we are saints of God, made holy in Christ. We are St. Bernice, St. Lamar, St. Mark, and St. Diane… We are saints, not by our actions, but by the action of almighty God. We are holy, because our God is holy.

1. What does Saint mean to you?

2. Why are we so afraid to use this term/title?

3. What about the link between holy and saint? How does that play out in our Christian lives?

4. What are the 3 fold honors that the heavenly Saints are to be remembered?

One of our favorite hymns is #677 – For all the Saints… Can you tell from the hymn that you are included in that number as a “Saint”?

1 For all the saints who from their labors rest,

Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,

Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

2 Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;

Thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;

Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

3 Oh, may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,

Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old

And win with them the victor’s crown of gold!

Alleluia! Alleluia!

4 Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine!

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;

Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

5 And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long,

Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,

And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

6 The golden evening brightens in the west;

Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest;

Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

7 But, lo, there breaks a yet more glorious day:

The saints triumphant rise in bright array;

The King of Glory passes on His way.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

8 From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,

Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,

Singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:

Alleluia! Alleluia!

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Prayer: Lord, You alone are holy. You alone are the Lord. Continue Your work in my life, God. Sanctify me in Your truth. By Your Spirit, create in me a clean and holy heart, O Lord. Remind me that I am Your child, by Your action in adopting me through grace. As Your child, I am made holy… a saint. By my action, I am a sinner and not fit for anything but the garbage heap. Lord, take away my sinful desires and replace them so that I may follow Your ways and Your will. I thank You, Lord, that You have loved me and cared for me so much, that You died to make me Yours. By your holiness, I am made holy. Help me to live up to Your calling as I trust in Your complete work on the cross for my salvation and eternity. In the name of Jesus and His work on the cross, I pray. Amen.