I have been studying the Ante-Nicene father’s writings. (Anti-Nicene refers to the writings of men before the council of Nicea in 325 AD.) I have come to have such a respect for these men and the ideas that they have put on paper. That doesn’t mean that I accept everything they have concluded or written; I do not. A lot of the writings are far from the inspired writings of the Apostles. But these men definitely put their hearts and souls into writings that are seriously dedicated to God’s purposes. As fallible as they are, I realized the respect that I felt for them. And I realized that their writings could be considered sacred writings. They are valuable writings because of the insights we glean for how our faith was practiced and what was believed in the centuries after Christ.
At first thought, I challenged that this could be true. After all, only the Bible has the status of “holy writings.” Then I looked into it further and realized that it is true; these are holy writings also.
The Consecration Conundrum
Look up the term “sacred writings”, and you will find it defined as inspired writings, religious texts that are considered divinely inspired.i Thatâ€™s what the term has come to mean. But that is not necessarily what it meant originally. If you look up the word “sacred”, you will find that it means “holy”, consecrated to God, worthy of being regarded with reverence.ii Consecrated is an interesting word because it means “to make sacred”. Here we have what appears to be circular reasoning. Something is sacred because it is consecrated; something is consecrated because it’s sacred. Why do you need to consecrate something to make it sacred when it is already sacred?
Consecration and canonization, for that matter, are really about men deciding what is holy or not. In the Reformation the reformers led us to challenge what men have decided by comparing it with what the apostles and other first century disciples taught us as contained in the books of the Bible. It’s time to follow their lead and challenge this traditional view of the term “sacred writings”.
A Simpler and More Practical Definition
Since sacred comes from the Latin word for holy, letâ€™s just use that term, “holy”. Holy really means the same as sacred so there’s no real loss here. But surprisingly the word â€œholyâ€ is defined a little differently than “sacred” today. It is defined as “set apart to the service of God.”iii This is an infinitely more practical and realistic definition. It also is more closely in-line with the biblical meaning of the word. Holy just means “set apart for God’s purposes.” The key determining factor as to whether something is holy is whether the object or service is dedicated to and follows God’s purposes.
Saints, Canonized By Men, or Made By God?
The old Catholic churches have been “canonizing” Saints for centuries. What power do we as men have to canonize or make anything sacred? The Father in heaven is the Lord God Almighty, sovereign ruler of heaven and earth. He chooses what is holy, what is set apart for his purposes. And according to the apostle Paul, every one of us who receives Jesus as Lord is sanctified, made to be saints. In original Christianity all believers are saints.
And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. 1Co 6:11
At the very beginning of the epistle to the Corinthians, an epistle where numerous errors were found in the practices of the believers, they were called Saints.
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 1:2
There are numerous references in the epistles to establish that any believer is a saint. This is just one example of how God makes things holy. There is no canonization required. There is no consecration required.
Back to the Writings
If we accept that holy means separated unto God’s service then anything that we do that is dedicated to Godâ€™s service is holy. The ride to church is holy. Meeting in a small group with other believers in fellowship is holy. Our prayers are holy. The marriage bed is holy. Our food we eat in thanksgiving to God is holy. This article is holy. And the writings of the early church fathers are holy.
Now before you think that I mean that any of these things are infallible or in errant, let me reassure you I don’t. People have fights on the way to church. People argue in small groups at times. People pray for the wrong things. And certainly there are errors in the writings of men. Holy doesn’t mean perfect.
Holiness isn’t something that men grant. God in his infinite grace and mercy has made us holy! The things that we do in his name are holy. The gifts that we give are holy. This communication is holy because it is dedicated to God service.
There is a huge difference between “holy writings” or â€œsacred Scriptures” and “the word of God”. The word of God is God’s words, his plans, his system, his reasoning. Depending on your point of view at least some of the Bible contains the word of God. The word of God is infallible, inerrant, and totally different from anything that we as men could put together. Some say the Bible is the Word of God. Some say that part of the Bible is the Word of God, the Bible “contains” the word of God. This article is not an article on what the word of God is; that will have to come at a later time. This article is just an article to look at what it means for some thing or some one or some deed to be holy or sacred.
It is inspiring to realize how much holiness is in our lives, and to truly realize what is holy. Holiness abounds everywhere saints live for God. Holiness is in the songs we sing to God, the grace we say at meals, the gifts we give as Christians to the poor.
And holiness is found in the writings of the early church fathers. They are holy writings, sacred scriptures. There is so much joy to be found in reading their thoughts and the accounts of Christian life in the first centuries after Christ.
God Bless You.
ii. WEBSTER’S NEW CENTURY DICTIONARY, Gramercy books, New York, 2001, p556
iii. WEBSTER’S NEW COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY, G. and C. Merriam Co., Springfield, Massachusetts, 1976, p546
(c) 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.