Monday, November 2, 2015

FAQ for All Saints - 2, Aren't "the saints" a special category of Christians?

Are The Saints a special category of believers?

We do not find a category of especially successful saints in the New Testament, having some peculiar place and privilege.  All the saints are the sanctified in Christ, righteous by the mercy of God, and all the recipients of the same mercy.  The whole church is called “the saints”; all who are saved are set apart as holy unto God by virtue of faith in Christ.

Indeed, we may be mistaken in our own estimate as to who has been a better Christian than another.  Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the workers in the vineyard.  Some worked all day, some only worked the last hour or so.  The farmer gave them all a penny.
10: But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11: And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12: Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13: But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14: Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15: Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16: So the last shall be first, and the first last….

We do not know who will be considered the first and last at the Judgement, when Christ rewards us according to how we have lived for Him and the gospel.  But we do know that whoever the saints are on that day, be they names we recognise or not, they will be there only because God has seen fit to be merciful to those whom He has called to His vineyard.

At the same time, as the apostle says, we are to give honour to whom honour is due.  If we have brothers and sisters who have lived - as best we know - exemplary lives, then we ought to recognize them and appreciate them.  It may be fine for a church to observe days when certain of the saints are remembered.  If she does, she should certainly remember the Apostles, which remembrance we find in The Book of Common PrayerBut we do not esteem them beyond what the gospel teaches us about all those in Christ.

NB: See the chapter "Nice People or New Men" in C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity for some interesting insights about our ability to recognize who are the better Christians and who are not.

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