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."
There's a yearly reminder of our connectedness as Christians to the church. It's called "All Saints Day" and is 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, 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). Those who will give up the useless work of trying to please God by "good deeds" and, instead, trust Christ alone become the very righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). If God calls even those erring believers in Corinth "saints" (and He does, 1Corinthians 1:2), why argue?
Anyone who trusts in Christ alone for salvation is a saint in the sight of God. Now that we have that cleared up, 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 Greece, turned into a Christian Church, was dedicated to all saints. Sounds like the prayer book has the right idea.
The Bible doesn’t teach us to pray to the saints (Matt. 6:6), through the saints (1 Tim. 2:5) or for saints who have already gone to heaven. Instead, we remember the saints and to allow the testimony 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. These saints of the past remind 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."
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? Consider your connection with the rest of the saints by reading through the words of “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" performed 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: