Country singers, Tom T. Hall and George Jones, made famous a song that says "Well, me and Jesus, we got our own thing going." It's a catchy tune, but the underlying message sounds pretty close to something like: "Don't question me. Don't examine my life. Just affirm me the way I am and stay off my case." Now, to be honest, part of me that likes that. Granted, it’s the sinful, self-absorbed part of me. So, I have to get my thinking straight by remembering God doesn't call His children to live stand-alone, little lives unto ourselves. Rather, each follower of Christ is a part of something big and ancient called "the church." If Jesus has something going on, it's with His church. He calls her His "bride" whom He loves (Rev. 21:9, 22:17). No right-thinking Christian says "Well, me and Jesus, we got our own thing going."
In addition to weekly worship gatherings, "All Saints' Day" annually reminds us of our connectedness as Christians. It's commemorated every November 1st. Perhaps, you were taught to think of saints as statues in a church building. But the Bible teaches something completely different. Who is a saint? You are. That is, if you’re a follower of Jesus. God calls a "saint" anyone who trusts in Christ alone for salvation. See Acts 9:13, 26:10, Romans 8:27, and 1Corinthians 1:2.
Sainthood isn't given by a group of religious leaders. It's granted by God Himself to any common, salt-of-the-earth person who simply trusts Christ (1Corinthians 1:2). Words matter. And sowing confusion about good, biblical words like "saint" is not from God. The gospel message is that God the Son came to earth, lived a perfectly obedient life, died on the cross to pay for our sins (Romans 5:1), and rose again proving His atoning work was complete (Romans 4:22-25). Saints are those who give up the anti-faith alternative of trying to please God by their good deeds and, instead, trust Christ alone. Scripture says that the person of faith actually becomes the very righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)!
Through the channel of human faith (the means of salvation) we become united to Christ (the source of salvation) and we are saved from God's judgment as well as from the futile way of life that we naturally follow (1Peter 3:18). In other words, we are granted sainthood! Skeptical? Think about this: if God calls the worldly, sinning believers in Corinth "saints"—and He does in 1Corinthians 1:2—couldn't He call you a saint as well? Friend, anyone who trusts in Christ alone for salvation is a saint in God's sight.
So, how should we think of All Saints Day? Well, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer says that the holiday stands for “the unity of Christians of all ages, countries, and races in Christ, and the perfection of that unity in heaven." It dates the holiday back to about A.D. 610 when the Pantheon in Rome, turned into a Christian Church, was dedicated to all saints. Sounds like the prayer book has the right idea.
The Bible doesn’t tell us to pray to the saints (Matt. 6:6) or through the saints (1 Tim. 2:5). Instead, we think of our connectedness to past saints and find inspiration in their stories of God's faithfulness. Hebrews 11 gives many examples of the great cloud of witnesses whose lives tell of God's unfailing love and grace. These saints speak from the past, and are whispering at this moment...
"God is faithful."
"The Lord is good. Trust Him."
"His grace was sufficient for me in my trials and is sufficient for you today."
There’s a hymn that’s traditionally sung around this holiday called "For All the Saints." It encourages believers to look back through the years of Christian history and think of the millions now enjoying rest and salvation in the presence of God. It’s also meant to provide encouragement to believers here and now to press on, looking forward to the glorious day…
“...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.
How about you? Do you tend to view yourself as an isolated Christian? Think about your connection with all of God's saints by reading through the hymn “For All the Saints.” If you've never heard this great song of the faith, click on the link to listen as you reflect on the lyrics. ("For All the Saints" is performed here by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge.)
"For All the Saints"
(Lyrics: 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.
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.
For the Apostles' glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o'er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
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.
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.
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
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: