OriginalChristianity.Net

Not Traditional, Original

Saints: Who Are They?

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes only certain people as saints, and as a rule, only after they are dead. Eastern Orthodox recognize anyone in heaven as a saint, whether recognized on earth or not. Anglicans recognize a similar belief to the Eastern Orthodox, but most protestant denominations recognize anyone who is truly a Christian as a saint. The questions are: Who are the saints? What does it mean to be a saint? I don’t know of anyone who has left a church over this issue, nevertheless it is one of the many doctrines where one church teaches one thing and another teaches the opposite.

Biblical Basis

There are no verses that say that someone must have a number of miracles attributed to them, or any other actions like that in order to be a saint.

In the Bible the books of Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and Ephesians all start that they are written to the “saints”, and defines a saint as one who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus. Romans 1:7 reads, “to all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.“

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours:1Co 1:1-2

Here we have an explanation of the word as “saints” is explained to be those that are sanctified in Christ Jesus. The word “saint” comes from the Greek word “hagios” which means holy. Sanctification means to made holy, which is what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.iÂ

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus:Eph 1:1(WEB)

Holiness refers more to what God has done for us than what we have done. Romans 15:16 says Paul recognized his mission in these words, “that I should be a servant of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be made acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

Halos on pictures give the impression that saints are people with some special aura. Rather, saints are people dedicated to God.

The words sanctified and saint have the same root. In other words, a saint is made a saint when a person becomes sanctified or dedicated to the purposes of God. Sanctification literally means set apart for a special purpose, in this case, God’s purposes. Being holy doesn’t mean being a “goody two shoes”, abstaining from candy, relaxing, or even sex or alcohol, although there are certainly godly directives on how to live our lives in these and every area of life. Being holy means doing those things that God thinks are important and following those guidelines that God directs.

So how do we live this holiness, this sanctification? Paul writes that the marriage bed is undefiled, but that we should flee fornication, so we only have sexual relations within marriage. He writes that we shouldn’t get drunk with wine which is excessive, but be filled with the holy spirit. So we only drink moderately, if at all. He writes that we should be loving, tenderhearted, forgiving, and kind. We don’t steal, lie, cheat, gossip, or be bitter. He writes that we should be moderate in everything. Following all these guidelines is part of our holiness, part of being saints.

Look at this section in Ephesians 4 which talks about the lifestyle we are set apart to live:

25. Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
26. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27. neither give place to the devil.
28 . Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need.
29. Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.
30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption.
31. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice:
32. and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.

Theses verses, and many like them describe the life we are set apart to live. The fact that we fall short sometimes of these guiding verses does not change that we are saints because we are called to live this life.

Flaws

Gianna Beretta Molla was canonized recently by the Catholic church. Dying in childbirth, the church decided her life was a “hymn to life”. She loved life, fashion, opera, and was a medical doctor.

Holiness, simplicity, fidelity to marriage and family life were cited as reasons for granting her sainthood. But the significant event was that despite knowing the potential for death in giving birth she chose to give birth.

Congratulations to Gianna for her courage and love. She is depicted as a person who gave her life to Christ even to the point of dying when she believed the Lord would have her do that rather than give up the life in her womb.
But Gianna doesn’t need to be canonized. She was a saint when she gave her life to Christ. And there are many such women saints alive today.

The flaw in saying that only some dead people who can be investigated to show good works can be called saints is that it detracts from the Gospel message. It sets up a class system, those who are good enough to be called saints, and those who are not. I heard some Catholics celebrating that Gianna had been canonized that because she was a “regular person” as opposed to a pope or even a priest. There was hope for “regular people.” Since Gianna as a regular person was given this recognition maybe they could make it to sainthood.

This practice of canonization violates basic teachings from Paul’s epistles that we have been sanctified, that we have been made holy, made saints. More that a hope that at some future time we might become saints, Christ has called you, and when you accepted him, you were made a saint.

What is a Saint

We are made saints when we accept Him as Lord and are sanctified in Christ Jesus. Lets look at the first chapter of Ephesians which gives a lot of insight about what it means to be a saint:

Look at the powerful language in the first chapter of Ephesians:

1. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus:
(In that first verse he describes the believer as saints.)
2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
As saints we have access to the grace and peace of God.
3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ;
(As saints we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.)
4. even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without blemish before him in love;
(By accepting Christ and following him we live an incredible life. Because of what Christ has accomplished we are holy, blemish free in his sight. How incredible.)
5. having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire,
(In accepting Christ we become God’s children.)
6. to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely bestowed favor on us in the Beloved,
(As God’s children we saints are beneficiaries of God’s freely given favor.)
7. in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
(God’s favor includes redemption from all sin, being forgiven, which is great grace in our lives.)
8. which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
(As saints God abounds to us wisdom and good sense. Wisdom is knowing what to do in a given situation. Prudence is likewise having a good head on our shoulders.)
9. making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him
10. to an administration of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth, in him;
11. in whom also we were assigned an inheritance, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his will;
(We have a spiritual inheritance.)
12. to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ:
13. in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation,–in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
(When we believe, when we are made saints, we are sealed with a holy spirit that is a token, a proof of the inheritance that is future for all of us, that we will be partakers of eternity with Christ, joint-heirs with Christ in an incredible future that lasts for eternity.)
14. who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.
(What we have now is little compared to the redemption that is to come when Jesus returns.)
15. For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which you have toward all the saints,
16. don’t cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers,
17. that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;
(Paul prays for us to have a great knowledge and understanding of what we have as saints.)
18. having the eyes of your hearts{TR reads “understanding” instead of “hearts”} enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
(Paul prays that we can fully understand our hope, that Christ will meet us in the air, that we shall be with him forever, that our bodies will be changed, that we will know even as we are known, that it will be glorious.)
19. and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might
(He prays that we understand the power we have now as saints.)
20. which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,
(That power that we have access to is the same that raised Jesus from the dead.)
21. far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.
(That power that we have is the same that put Jesus at the right hand of God.)
22. He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things for the assembly,
Our Lord is ruler of All.
23. which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (As the body of Christ, we saints are part of Christ Jesus, we are his body. The vision of it is incredible.)

Summary and Conclusion

A doctrine that says that we aren’t saints takes us away from this vision we have just read in Ephesians chapter one.
If you have accepted Christ as Lord, if you believe that God has risen him from the dead, you are a saint. Believe it, and act like it. Experience the fullness of the Christian life.

Nevertheless, this is an issue that Christians can’t agree on. Many believe that only miracle working special people are saints while others believe that saints are believers; imperfect, but set aside for God’s purposes.

i. 1 Cor 1:30 reads, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption:”

(c) copyright Mark W. Smith, All rights reserved.

April 28th, 2009 Posted by | Roman Catholicism | no comments

Sacraments, Conveyers of Grace or Not

In Christianity, the belief in the necessity of the sacraments to attain salvation and God’s grace is called sacramentalism. A sacrament is a ritual that bestows God’s grace. The sacraments developed over hundreds of years starting with baptism and holy communion. Eventually seven sacraments were declared to include confirmation, confession, marriage, ordination, extreme unction.

The Roman Catholic Church started this belief and practices the seven mentioned above. The older mainline denominations such as Lutheranism and Episcopalianism teach baptism and holy communion are sacraments. Evangelical churches among others teach that baptism and holy communion are “ordinances,” not sacraments. Foot washing is a rite in some churches, but there is some debate as to whether is a sacrament in churches that have sacraments. Some Baptists claim it is a third ordinance.

Some Pentecostals and other fundamental teachers still use the word “sacrament”, however, they define the word as synonymous with ordinance. The original meaning, as determined by the Catholic church, is that a sacrament is “a ritual that confers divine grace.” The difference is that for the one it is the act that confers the grace of God, and for the other it is an act of obedience for baptism and a memorial for communion, but the act itself confers no grace. The difference is shown, for example, in the issue over whether one must be ritually baptized to be saved. This article deals with sacraments and sacramentalism as defined by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and other mainline traditions.

While this does not appear to be a major issue on theological battle grounds, it is one of the many doctrines people are taught one thing in one church and the opposite in another. So while this is probably one of the least egregious divisions among Churches, it is one of the many issues where someone who visits different churches will find 0, 2, 3, 7 or some other number of sacraments. It’s confusing.

Biblical Basis

Sacramentalists state the biblical basis for sacraments is in the bible. However they also acknowledge that the word sacrament is not in the Bible. Sacrament is a Latin word. The origins of our Christian Scriptures, however, are in the Greek language. Hence the word for sacrament we find in the Bible is the Greek word “mysterion”, which is tranlated into the English word “mystery.”

According to AmericanCatholic.org, “St. Paul says that it is his life’s work to announce and bring to completion this “mystery hidden from ages and from generations past” (Colossians 1:26). “To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…” (Ephesians 3:8-10).”i The article continues to document that it is this reference to the word “mystery” that carries the roots of the sacraments, specifically that “For the first 11 centuries of Christian history the word sacrament was frequently used in this more general sense, referring to the mysterious plan of God. Little by little specific aspects of this mysterious plan—for example, eucharist, baptism, anointing of the sick—began to be singled out and called sacraments.”

Thus the doctrine of the sacraments is based on the Apostles Paul’s reference to the mystery hidden in ages past. The problem with this catholic doctrine is that Paul explains the mystery himself in Ephesians 3:1-7 and it does not refer to sacraments. It refers to the secret that the gentiles would be fellow-heirs of the promise of Christ. Look at Ephesians 3: 1-7 which is the context for the reference above.

For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Eph 3:1-7

The context that this catholic reference uses to cite as the source of the sacraments explains that the mystery really was that gentiles would be receivers of the promises of God. This was a big deal.

And they of the circumcision that believed were amazed, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. Act 10:45

Up until Christ Israel was God’s chosen people and the rest of us were second rate people. The record of Cornelius in Acts 10 cites that Peter had to have the concept “what God calls clean do not to call unclean” repeated to him over and over. It required the message reiterated to impress on Peter the significance of the message. So, amazingly, Peter goes to a gentile’s house and they receive the holy spirit. Then the Apostles in Jerusalem call Peter in for questioning over fraternizing with Gentiles. This is a huge deal. The inclusion of Gentiles in the promise of Christ is the mystery referred to in these verses.

There is no reference to this in the Old Testament. This was a secret.

The sacraments are not the mystery referred to in Ephesians. This means there is no biblical basis for the concept of sacraments in scripture. This means that baptism, marriage, anointing the sick, laying on of hands and other actions are in the bible, but not as the concept of sacraments. They are not acts which confer the grace of God

Additionally, claiming that the “mysterious plan” of God unfolded over the centuries means that there is additional revelation after the books of the Bible, i.e., that the meaning and ordinances of the sacraments are additional revelations that are not in the bible. If revelation ended with the apostles, how does it work that there are these additional revelations over the centuries?.

Flaws

The doctrines defining the concept of sacraments were developed over hundreds of years. Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) refers to sacraments when discussing communion and baptism in his First Apology. It wasn’t until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 that the seven sacraments were recognized. It was not until the Council of Trent in 1547 that it was defined as being a matter of faith for Catholics that there are seven sacraments.

St Ambrose, for example, who lived in the fourth century, saw both baptism and foot-washing as sacraments, while St Augustine thought of the creed, the Our Father, baptism and the Eucharist as sacraments, and St Peter Damien (eleventh century) thought that the anointing of kings, the dedication of churches, funerals and the monastic habit were all sacraments. Sacraments were seen as tangible signs of something holy, and so included what we today would refer to as ‘sacramentals’ — the blessing of a house or a person, for example. It was only in the middle ages that the term ‘sacrament’ was narrowed down to the more precise meaning that is taught today.

While the actions of baptism, communion, laying on of hands and others are established in the bible, sacraments are a concept that evolved over time outside of the bible. Those that believe in Solo Scriptura ought to conclude the sacraments are not additional truths revealed to the church over time. Also, since the bible does not ascribe power to the acts of baptism and communion, then the basic definition of sacraments as used by Sacramentalists is outside the realm of the bible

To illustrate this principle of sacramentalists that the sacrament confers the power of grace on the subject we can look at baptism and communion as examples.

Citing Acts 2:38 sacramentalists claim that baptism is an act that confers the power of remission of sins.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Likewise in Matthew 26:27-28 Sacramentalists claim the Eucharist also has this power of forgiveness,

“Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

However, as the Bible says that it is the blood of Christ that washes us of sin, then we recognize that communion is a memorial instituted for us to remember that the blood of Christ washes us from all sin. This is the message contained in the verses above. Likewise, when we accept Christ as Lord is when we are redeemed, washed by the blood of the Lord. Requiring baptism as an action to receive redemption violates the verse that says that by grace we are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast. Baptism doesn’t confer salvation as the Sacramentalists claim.

Summary

While the acts of baptism, marriage, holy comunion, annointing the sick and so forth are in the books of the bible, the concepts of them being “sacraments” are not. There is no special grace bestowed because someone gets married, for example. It would be illogical that some morally corrupt persons could get a minister to marry them and they would receive some grace. Certainly any praying, any words of wisdom, any words of blessing over these people might hopefully help in their lives to fulfill the commitment they made in their vows, but there is no intrinsic grace given just because a priest or a minister pronounces them man and wife.

So many of the concepts around this issue are confusing like whether they are sacraments or ordinances, how many sacraments there are, and how can there be additional revelations about sacraments through the ages when supposedly the bible is the complete revelation.

i. http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0893.asp

(c) copyright 2009 Mark W Smith All rights reserved.

April 28th, 2009 Posted by | Divisions, Roman Catholicism | no comments

Lenten Fasting – Is it the one that the Father has chosen?

Lent started this week, and with it countless Catholics began the fasting requirements dictated by the Roman Catholic Church. “What are you giving up for lent” is often asked this time of year among Catholics. On no less than that national model of religious programming, Mike And Mike in the Morning, a significant portion of the show was dedicated to Mike Greenberg leading a decision making session on what Mike Golic should give up for Lent. While being respectful of Golic’s religion there was some tongue in cheek at some of the suggestions offered by fans and staff. What was decided eventually was that Mike Golic would give up wearing polo shirts. Along the way was the discussion of giving up everythings from sweets to not being mean to his co-host. Another analyst on the show, Tim Legler, announced he was giving up being so hard on the refs in his youngster’s basketball league where he coaches.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sports fan, enjoy the show on a regular basis, and everything was done in good taste. But it exemplifies the tone of fasting during Lent by participants. Here are a couple of well to do sports analysts and their sacrifices are to wear a different kind of shirt for one and to not abuse the refs for the other.

Is this the fast God has chosen? In ancient times many religious Jews gave up eating, sat on sackcloth and ashes, and otherwise deprived themselves in the name of God. The Book of Isaiah is very critical on this practice. Look at the record as the Israelites ask God why he has not honored their fasting:

“They say, Why have we fasted, and You do not see? Why have we afflicted our soul, and You take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and crush all your laborers.
Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness; you shall not fast as you do today, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast and a day pleasing to Jehovah?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed ones go free, and that you break every yoke?
Is it not to break your bread to the hungry, and that you should bring home the wandering poor? When will you see the naked and cover him; and you will not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break out as the dawn, and your health shall spring out quickly; and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of Jehovah shall gather you.
Then you shall call, and Jehovah shall answer; you shall cry, and He shall say, Here I am. If you take the yoke away from among you, the pointing of the finger, and speaking vanity;” Isaiah 58:4-8 MKJV

The fast God chooses is to feed the hungry, bring home the wandering poor, clothe the naked, to break the bonds of wickedness on men, to do the work of the Lord. Giving up meats, candy, kinds of clothing or other practices are not the fast God has chosen.

Incidentally, while I do not agree with all the abstinence that the Roman Catholic Church promotes they do encourage the right kind of fasting. Look the requirement of the church:

The Roman Catholic Churches requirements for Lenten fasting include abstaing from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. Additionally, it “means partaking of only one full meal. Some food (not equaling another full meal) is permitted at breakfast and around midday or in the evening—depending on when a person chooses to eat the main or full meal.”1 Beyond that, “The Code of Canon Law and our bishops remind us of other works and means of doing penance: prayer, acts of self-denial, almsgiving and works of personal charity. Attending Mass daily or several times a week, praying the rosary, making the way of the cross, attending the parish evening prayer service, teaching the illiterate to read, reading to the blind, helping at a soup kitchen, visiting the sick and shut-ins and giving an overworked mother a break by baby-sitting—all of these can be even more meaningful and demanding than simply abstaining from meat on Friday.”2

Once you get past all the abstaining from meats and other forms of self-denial you get to the kinds of fasting Isaiah talks about with the examples of “teaching the illiterate to read, reading to the blind, helping at a soup kitchen, visiting the sick and shut-ins and giving an overworked mother a break by baby-sitting—all of these can be even more meaningful and demanding than simply abstaining from meat on Friday.”

If you want to really fast the way the Father wants, then the thing to do is these latter items. That is not to say that giving up candy and those other items won’t be good for your self-control, and may be something you should be doing anyway. They are just not fasting the Lord’s way.

1. http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Lent/faqle9902.asp
2 ibid

Mark W Smith © 2009

March 1st, 2009 Posted by | Roman Catholicism | no comments