Romans Lesson 6 - Saints Alive
What does it mean to be a saint? Does it mean a person has reached perfection? Does it mean he or she is a head above the rest? Well in this message Stephen reveals to us that sainthood is not something to be earned . . . it is a gift that is given.
Part 4 Romans 1:6-7
Here’s something one of my staff sent me a few days ago.
Once upon a time there was a shepherd tending his sheep a the edge of a country road. A brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee screeched to a halt next to him. The driver, a man dressed in a designer suit, expensive shoes, flashy wristwatch and sunglasses and asks the shepherd, “Say, if I can guess how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?” The shepherd looked the man over and then looked at the sprawling field of sheep and said, “Alright.”
The young executive parked his SUV, connected his notebook and wireless modem, entered a NASA site, scanned the ground using his GPS, opened a data base, then printed his report out on a mini printer. He turned to the shepherd and said, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep in your flock.”
The shepherd answered, “That’s right – wow, you have one of my sheep.”
The young man took one of the animals and put it in the back of his Jeep. The shepherd called out and said, “Hey, before you leave, if I guess your profession, will you pay me back?”
The executive smiled and said, “Sure, go ahead and try.”
The shepherd said, “You’re a consultant.”
The man said, “That’s right, but how did you know?”
The shepherd responded, “Very simple. First you came here without being called. Second, you charged me to tell me something I already knew. Third, you really don’t understand anything about my business and . . . I’d really like to have my dog back.”
In our last discussion, we discovered that it was possible for people who look good – who sound spiritually tuned in – who have all the religious equipment, yet in the final analysis, don’t know the difference between genuine faith and deceived faith.
Or to put it in the words of that parable, they don’t really know the difference between a dog and a sheep.
What’s even more tragic is that they are traveling down the highway of life believing they have packed away the genuine article when, in reality, they’ve been deceived.
And the deception is rampant. It is so widespread that we uncovered a moment in the future, revealed in Matthew’s gospel (chapter 7) when masses of religious people will stand before Jesus Christ who had had miracle working, healing, prophetic ministries who did it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Yet, at that moment, Matthew 7:23 tells us, Jesus, the Judge will say, “I never knew you.”
In that group are pastors and Sunday school teachers, evangelists and deacons. Well known miracle workers, healers, Bible study leaders and denominational heads. People that you would never dream of ever being deceived, yet, at that moment, all of them come face to face the true reality of their deception.
No wonder Paul commanded the church to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith, lest they fail the test. No wonder Peter challenged the church to make their calling and election sure. “Brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.” (2 Peter 1:10)
And I frankly believe the desire and submission to that kind of evaluation is as much a proof of genuine faith as anything else. In fact, the world is never told to evaluate it’s faith – it is the person laying claim to Christ who is told to examine himself.
To ask yourself the hard questions, “Is there an internal affection for Christ is there any shame over the slightest sin, is there submission to the things of Christ, motivated, not by pride, or money, or applause or the promise of blessings, or for comforts sake, but simply the surrendered passion to please and obey and honor your Lord from your heart with your life.
You say, but won’t that kind of evaluation produce doubt? If done prayerfully and with the scripture as your guide and the Spirit of God your evaluator, it will not produce doubt, it will produce depth.
Your faith will not be destroyed, it will be deepened.
Paul referred to that deep genuine faith in Romans 1:5 as a faith that is obedient. Obedience and faith in this verse are seen as synonyms of the true believer. It is faith that works.
Saving faith comes independently of any works, we have said, but, saving genuine faith works.
Now, for the first time in Paul’s declaration of the gospel truth, he addresses the readers of this letter in a personal way.
Romans 1:6. “Among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7. To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.”
You can’t help but notice the repetition of a word used now three times by the Apostle Paul.
In verse 1 we have read already how Paul informs the reader that his calling is that of an apostle.
In verse 6 he says we are called of Jesus Christ
Then in verse 7 he says that we are called as saints.
You get the idea that this word calling or called (klhtois) is a key word that communicates a volume of truth.
The verb form of this word is kalew - transliterated, kalew simply means to call. It’s interesting that the word for church is another form of this same word. The word is ekklesia (kalew plus ek) which means, to call out; thus the church is an assembly of called out ones.
God is in the process of calling out those who will be saved and forming of them the body of Christ.
Paul’s description here is that they are literally called to belong to Jesus Christ.
The idea is one of possession. If you saw my four children after church standing around waiting for Dad, as they usually are and someone asked you, “Hey, whose children are those?” If they are behaving, you could say, “Those are Marsha Davey’s.” She deserves the credit. And if they are misbehaving, you should say, “You know, I don’t know who those children are.”
You could read Paul’s statement here to emphasize that possessive nature by reading it this way, “They are called Jesus Christ’s.”
Whose children are you all – you are Jesus Christ’s children.
And you happen to have His name! The name Christian.
Just as my children carry around the name Davey because they are my offspring, so you carry around the name Christian, because you are His offspring.
In a similar way, you are called a North Carolinian – hardly any of you by birth – but you happen to reside in the State of North Carolina.
You are an American – most of you by birth – because you’re citizenship happens to be in America.
And you have certain rights, privileges and responsibilities as an American. By the way, one of which is voting this coming week. I encourage you to think through the issues and then vote. Don’t you dare not vote and then complain about who we have on the bench or in Washington. At least vote. Now it isn’t my place to try and influence you one way or the other – whether you want to vote for Mr. Gore or Brother Bush, that’s entirely up to you.
You are a North Carolinian because you live in North Carolina; you are an American because you live America...
And you are a Christian because you live in Christ. And as one who lives in Christ, your citizenship then Paul wrote, is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:20
We are all fellow citizens of the saints. Ephesians 2:19
Frankly, I believe the more mindful we are of our citizenship in heaven, the greater good we are as citizens on earth. The more committed we are to our responsibilities as citizens of the heavenly city, the more responsible citizens we will be in this city.
Paul says, “we called by Christ for His personal possession – that’s who a Christian is.
One author I read recently commented on his conversion during his first year in college. He and a college buddy were exposed to the gospel one night and both, “accepted Christ.” For this author, his life would never be the same. But his friend came down from is room the next morning and said, “Wasn’t that the craziest thing we did last night/ I guess I just got carried away. You won’t tell anyone about it will you?” That friend had heard only the call of the preacher. But the other young man had heard the effectual call of Christ and it had produced in him genuine faith to believe, and a new man in Christ Jesus. He was now possessed by and for Jesus Christ.
Not only are we called to belong to Jesus Christ, but, Paul goes on to say in verse 7 to say that “true believers are beloved by God.”
The word beloved is a special word reserved only for the children of God.
While God has a general love for the whole world and while God has a sustaining love even for His enemies so that it rains upon their crops and they are warmed by the same sun His children enjoy, this phrase is unique and only used for His precious possession.
You remember the first time this word appeared in the New Testament was when Jesus Christ began his earthly ministry, the Father spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
Do you know what it means to be the beloved of God? Do you think of yourself this way. Oh that you would let this truth penetrate your heart this morning. You are God’s special possession and He deeply, eternally, faithfully, attentively, deliberately, unfailingly loves you. You are His beloved.
I can’t help but believe that Paul’s next phrase was intended to speak volumes to the believers.
Notice, v. 7 again, “To all who are beloved of God in Rome.”
That was another way of saying, “God knows exactly where you live.”
You haven’t somehow slipped out of His peripheral vision. He wasn’t paying attention and you moved somewhere and now, although He’s trying, he just can’t seem to spot you.
If there was a group of believers who might have wondered whether or not God even knew where they lived, it would have been the Romans.
At this point, they’ve not been visited by the Apostle Paul or any apostle for that matter. Their church wasn’t planted by an official delegation of believers – in fact, from everything we know they were charted by people who had returned from Jerusalem during Pentecost, when Peter preached that first sermon and 3000 believed. Acts 2:10 tells us that there were visitors in Jerusalem from Rome. Evidently they had converted to Christ and now, back in Rome had formed that early church.
And what a city to try and build a church. This was Rome, Italy. It was the place of the powerful, the home of Nero. It was also sin city, for one of it’s own historians called Rome the cesspool of iniquity. This was the place of the gladiators and gamblers; this was home to religious prostitution and superstition. This as the city where tens of thousands crowded the Coliseum to watch the chariot races.
It was San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and Washington, D.C. all rolled up into one.
How could the church ever hope to compete in Rome for the hearts of mankind.
And what an easy place to become discouraged in your pursuit of holiness. Oh, what temptation; what an easy place to fail – surely God wouldn’t care as much about us as He would His church in Jerusalem or Antioch.
Has it ever occurred to you that God never wrote a letter specifically to the believers in Jerusalem. But He did write a letter, through His servant Paul, specifically to the believers who lived in Rome.
You see, God didn’t want them to forget that He was aware of not only who they were but where they were.
Wow! A personal letter from the heart of God – and at the very beginning of the letter He calls them His beloved!
There’s one more calling – they have been called to belong to Jesus Christ; they have been called the beloved of God, now here in the last phrase of verse 7, Paul writes, “called as saints.”
The word here is agiois (hagiois). It means holy ones.
The Latin translation of hagios is sanctus which gives us our word, saint. Saints then are the holy ones.
Now would you carefully notice that any words you may have in your text that are italicized have been added by the translators to give clarity – yet often, as in this case – they actually obscure the impact of truth.
We are not:
called to be saints (KJV & NIV)
called as saints (NASB – which is closer to the original meaning, but, I believe still obscures the weight of Paul’s statement)
Paul simply wrote, “To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called saints.”
You see, there is a vast difference between being called to become a saint or simply called a saint. To be called to become a saint is a goal you try to attain. To be called a saint is a position you already have.
If God called you to become a saint, then you’d better give it your best shot.
The Roman Catholic church teaches that it must be earned and is for only a few special people. If you’d like to be a saint, well, first you have to die and be dead for at least 150 years. Then application is made by someone living to ecclesiastical authority. Meanwhile you happen to be suffering in purgatory, paying the penalty for those times when you weren’t so saintly. Finally, the church agrees to view your case and they appoint a committee known as the (avocatus diaboli) – the Devil’s Advocate. They present any known reason why you weren’t a saint. However, if evidence can be found that miracles or healings have occurred by your hand or at your grave or through some relic belonging to you, then after all the evidence is collected a trial is held and both sides presented. If all the evidence of your saintliness wins out over all the evidence of your sinfulness, the highest ecclesiastical order can pronounce you a saint. You immediately are taken out of purgatory and into the bliss of heaven where you receive the prayers of people still earth.
There’s one problem with that entire application process. None of it has any Biblical basis whatsoever.
Not one single verse. In fact, the Bible usually refers to a saint as someone who has not been dead for some 150 years.
Paul wrote “to the saints who are at Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1) He called the Christians in Philippi saints when he wrote to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi.” (Phil. 1:1) And again, “to the saints in Colossae” (Col. 1:2)
These people are very much alive!
According to the Bible, sainthood is not the goal of the believer, it is the position of every believer.
It has been our position from time past: Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4 – “He chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy [saints] and blameless before Him.”
It is also our current position which produces many benefits. One of which Paul mentions in Romans 8:27 – “He [the Spirit] makes intercession for the saints.”
If we weren’t saints, we’d have no claim to the promise of the Holy Spirit’s intercession on our behalf.
There are past, present and future promises related to the fact that we are, here and now, saints.
God never goes to a sinner and tells him to try to attain to sainthood. No, he picks us up out of the mud of sin and He says, “You are now one of my holy ones.”
How can he call us saints. He can say that, my friends, not because we have intrinsic righteousness or because we’ve done righteous things, but because we have the righteousness of Christ given to our bankrupt account. Romans 5:17, “Those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through... Jesus Christ.”
The only difference between a sinner and a saint is the Savior and His gift of righteousness.
That’s positional, Biblical truth.
Now, the word “holy”, (translated here as saint) means set apart or separate. To be God’s holy one or God’s saint, means you are set apart unto Him.
We use that same word – “holy” – in another context in our own culture. We attach the word holy to matrimony.
We call it holy matrimony. And the wedding ceremony is a ceremony that sets apart the bride and the groom unto each other.
That ceremony of holy matrimony doesn’t change their character or their personality – in fact, in a few weeks after their wedding they are going to realize just how much they’d better change.
But something did happen to them during that ceremony of holy matrimony – and it was immediate. Their character didn’t change – their personalities didn’t change – that will take the rest of their lives – but their status changed.
They walked up that aisle to the front as two independent people who could have belonged to anybody, they walked back down that aisle belonging to each other.
They walked up to the front as two single individuals; they walked out a married couple, legally and morally bound to one another.
When you became a believer you immediately became the bride of Christ; His holy one. While the Lord is going to change your heart and your character over the course of your life, your status changed immediately – you now belong to Him.
Now, this positional truth has a practical application:
I was born into the Davey family. I can remember 100times growing up as I went out to play and as I grew and got the keys to the car and headed out the door, my mother and father would often tell men, “Don’t forget what your last name is.”
They were telling me that my behavior needed to match my status.
We read the same challenge in the Bible: Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:3. “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. . .”
In other words, while you are not a saint because you are saintly, you are to live saintly because you are a saint.
You are to pursue a life of holiness because you are one of God’s holy ones.
The same thought comes through in Galatians 5:25. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
In Ephesians Paul wrote, “Lay aside the old self, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (4:22)
Listen as Peter wrote in I Peter 1:14. Don’t be conformed to the former lusts . . . but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
In other words, act your name!
You say, that’s an awfully high standard! It is. And God doesn’t lower the standard, He just empowers the saint.
One wall street article reported two weeks ago that the city of San Francisco’s Board of Education met together. They had learned that nearly 1 out of every 3 of San Francisco’s high school seniors wouldn’t be graduating on schedule because they weren’t meeting graduation requirements. So the San Francisco Board of Education promptly did what? They lowered the requirements for graduation.
Frankly, I expect the world system to dumb down to whatever level people seem to be able to meet. Certainly our culture seems to believe that among the worst of sins in all the world is a low self image that comes from failing.
The truth is, sometimes saints divorce. Sometimes saints fail their high school class. Sometimes saints do all kinds of other sins.
But the Biblical standard of living for saints doesn’t change to accommodate the sins of the saints. It doesn’t lower itself so that we feel better about our failure. In fact, the sign of a true saint is an admission of sin as sin and full confession of that sin to the Savior.
The sign of a true saint is that they are troubled by their sinful acts and sinful motives and sinful heart. They are deeply grieved whenever they do not live up to their name.
The truth is, for the saints in here today, you’re in the process of discovering that if living the life of a saint were something we could do easily or on our own, we’d never depend upon the Holy Spirit, we’d never need to exchange our weakness for Christ’s strength and we’d never need the Father’s guidance and wisdom. The word of God would be a manual we’d look at every once and a while – who would really need it?
But the opposite is true isn’t it? The person who is pursuing holiness and pursuing that attitude that sets it’s affections on things above has discovered that living like a saint isn’t just difficult – it’s impossible.
Left to ourselves we wouldn’t know the difference between a dog and a sheep!
The standards of holy motive and holy affection and holy thinking and holy living are impossible to experience unless, first we have been called by Christ to belong to Him (for without Him we can do nothing), and secondly, we rest on the fact that we are deeply loved by God (otherwise our efforts are cold and impassive) and third we recognize our status as saints – holy ones – set apart unto our God, then, we will desire nothing less than life that lives up to our name.
Called to belong to Christ!
Called beloved of God!
Called a saint - to live a holy life!
So . . . as you go out into your world, don’t forget who you belong to . . . don’t forget Who deeply loves you . . . and don’t forget what your name is, for the glory of God.
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