Saints In Glory, Saints Victorious
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For centuries in the Christian Church, November 1ST, has been designated as All Saints Day. The observance of All Saints Day began as the church saw the value of remembering Christians who had died in the faith and were at eternal rest with the Lord.
The day remembers the well-known saints such as Saint Peter, Saint John, Saint Paul and the saints whose names are known only by their loved ones and friends. We for instance remember three of our own members who died within the past 12 months.
That word “saint” has a nice sound to it. Often times, however, the world and even the church gets the definition of a saint all wrong. Today we turn to God’s Word to truly understand what it means to be a saint.
The word “saint” comes from the Latin word “sanctus.” To call someone a saint is to call them a “holy person.” This is where the confusion often starts, with word “holy.” The world and often the church mistakenly defines a saint as someone who lives a holy or good life, someone whose good works totally wash away any tiny sins they may commit.
This is not how God’s Word defines a “holy person.” In the New Testament, a “holy person” means “a person set aside by God for God.” We call the Bible “Holy” because it is his Word, it belongs to him for the purpose of revealing his plan of salvation.
In the same way, Holy Baptism belongs to God. It is water made holy by his command for the purpose of setting aside people whose sins are washed away. So, a saint is not a person without sin but a person “set apart by God” to be his people.
All Saints Day is a day when we give thanks to the Lord for those saints who he “set aside” to be his own and are now at rest with him. They were not without sin. They had fallen from God’s glory, but through the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of faith they were declared righteous.
Consider two saints who were sinners yet who are now free from their sin. Jesus Christ paid the cost of their sins. They are forgiven sinners. They are declared righteous. Think for a moment about Saint Peter and Saint John.
Peter was the one who boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah the Son of the living God. But then he said to Jesus, “You must not think about suffering and dying.” Peter and John wanted to selfishly keep Jesus to themselves on the Mount of Transfiguration rather than go on to Jerusalem to face possible death.
Neither John nor Peter were able to watch and pray while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. John and his brother James asked Jesus for special places of honor in his kingdom and Jesus had to tell them to tell them the first shall be last. Peter promised that he would never deny Jesus and then he did exactly that.
These two are not saints because they were holy men who did not sin. They are saints because Jesus came into the world to take away their sin. They are among the great multitude standing before the Lamb of God. They are clothed with white robes washed in Christ’s blood and given to them as a gift from God’s grace.
Peter and John are Saints Victorious. Their victory is not that they conquered sin and death but that Jesus Christ did it for them. Our family members and friends who have died with the gift of faith in Jesus Christ are with them. They are all saints standing in the glory of the Father whose love for them made them his children.
We give thanks to the Lord that he showed mercy and grace to the saints who are with him today in heaven. We give thanks that he used these faithful people in the church as witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ. We are thankful for the example of repentant living these saints have left us.
What a great sight for us to see through the eyes of Saint John, a multitude of saints gathered around the throne of God. What a great song for us to hear as the saints sing “Salvation belongs to our God.”
This vision was meant to comfort John as he sat in exile on the island of Patmos. John was reassured that by God’s grace he too would be with the saints victorious. This vision is meant to comfort you as well.
It is meant to comfort you while you are still in the great tribulation, while you are fighting against the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh. Here on earth you are not without sin, but you are a saint.
“Salvation belongs to God.” You are not given the task saving yourself. You cannot claim to be a saint because of any merit or worthiness in you. You don’t have a robe in your closet that is unstained by your sin but you are a saint.
You are a saint because God has set you apart from your sins. Your sins are forgiven because the Lamb sacrifice his life for you. Salvation belongs to God and to him alone. Out of his great love he calls you a saint, you are a beloved child of the heavenly Father.
Imperfect and Faltering
As a saint here on earth you are imperfect and faltering saints. Saint John wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared.” Your flesh is weak and you sin daily. Your conscience condemns you. You are as the saints in heaven once were.
For your comfort and strength you have the example of the saints who have gone before you. They confessed their sins and asked for forgiveness. They kept quitting their sinful life, repenting, and clinging to the means that God gave them to be assured that their sins were forgiven.
The came over and over again to the Word of God. In that Word they were told that they were saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works. The saints treasured their baptism because the Lord told them that through that gift of water they were connected with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
They hungered for the Lord’s Supper because Jesus said, “Given for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” God gave these things to them and promised that through them he would deliver the forgiveness of their sins and declare them righteous for the sake of Christ.
They struggled to believe, they had doubts, but they kept returning to throwing themselves on God’s mercy. They looked not at their failures but on the perfect life of Jesus. They did not claim that their hardships should be rewarded but they clung to the suffering and death of Jesus.
Imperfect and faltering as you are follow the saints who repented and believed. Come to his Word, trust in his sacraments for they all give you Christ Jesus who alone saves you and makes you saints, a person set apart by God to be his beloved children.
Celebrate All Saints Day. Rremember that for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, you are already saints in the eyes of God. You are different in only one way from those that we remember today, you are still part of the church militant.
You are no less saved, no less redeemed, no less a child of the Heavenly Father, no less a brother or sister of Christ.
By God’s grace you believe, you hope, you trust, you wait. While no one can count the multitude of saints gathered around the throne of grace, the God of mercy and grace has counted you among that great multitude. Your robe has been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria