All Saints Day - November 1

Alex Crain, Alex Crain is editor of Christianity.com

All Saints Day - November 1

Classic American country-western singer, Tom T. Hall, once crooned: "Me and Jesus got our own thing goin'." While such self-absorbed thinking may have worked for a now passe honky-tonk hit, it is definitely not the defining characteristic of true believers. Search the Scriptures and nowhere do you find the notion of radical individualism commended. Being willing to stand alone against error is one thing, but long-term 'Lone Ranger' thinking and living flies in the face of God's basic plan for His children. As a loving Father, He wants His family to be relationally connected in local churches that are universally united in Christ around the true gospel.

Blind spots, flaws and allhow amazing is it that God calls saints those who embrace His way of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone (eph. 1:1, 15)? Incredibly, He not only calls us saints and counts us righteous in Christ (2 cor. 5:21), but also uses us in every generation to build His very kingdom. Every such follower of Christ is a part of something very big and... ancient. All Saints Day serves as an annual reminder of that.

According to one source, the tradition dates back to "about A.D. 610, when the Pantheon, turned into a Christian Church, was dedicated to all saints. Its great idea is the Unity of Christians of all ages, countries, and races in Christ, and the perfection of that unity in heaven" (1662 Book of Common Prayer).

All Saints Day also reminds us to be thankful to God for His grace. It is only by His grace that anyone is able to get the gospel right. We pray to God, the giver of grace.  We do not pray to the saints (matt. 6:6), through the saints (1 tim. 2:5) or for saints who have gone to glory (seeing that they're already in heaven and don't need our prayers). Rather, we remember the saints and to allow the memory of their faith spur us on to deeper worship and greater service to the Lord.

hebrews 11 gives us examples of the great cloud of witnesses who are called so, not because they are watching us, but because they testify of God's grace to them. The testimony of past saints reminds us: "God is faithful." "The Lord is good, trust always in Him." "God's grace was sufficient for me and it will be for you too." 

A hymn traditionally sung during this season is "For All the Saints." It encourages believers to look across the past 2000 years of Christian history and envision the millions who now enjoy their rest in the presence of the Lord. It is also an encouragement to thousands of believers on earth to press on, looking forward to the coming glorious day.

Take a moment to reflect on these final stanzas, which convey the unified hope of all saints in heaven and earth:

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!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

If you've never heard this great hymn of the faith, here are two very different recordings of "For All the Saints," one by majesty brass (track 4), the other by indelible grace (track 14).

 

Alex Crain is the editor of christianity.com and biblestudytools.com. He is a contributing editor for crosswalk.com and jesus.org. He has served pastorally at various churches in the areas of teaching, outreach, small groups and worship ministries. Alex currently serves as the pastor of worship at harvest christian fellowship in Mechanicsville, VA, teaching theology and filling the pulpit there as often as possible. He has also taught Bible at veritas classical christian school in Richmond, VA. Alex and Aileen Crain have been married since 1995 and are grateful for two children.

Alex blogs at Christianity.com. Follow him on Twitter @alex_crain

 

Complete Lyrics of "For All the Saints"

(words: William How; music: Ralph Vaughan Williams)

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

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!

For the Apostles' glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o'er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O 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!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

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!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!


 

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