Nov. 1 on the church calendar is known as "All Saints Day." Most of us are more familiar with the celebration of all hallow eve (known today as Halloween), but we have forgotten the true significance of these events.
When we think of saints, we think of great men and women of the past, St. Augustine, St. Francis Assisi, and the list continues with the names of great men and women of the church. In the early Roman church the process of becoming a saint was arduous. I will not go through the process, but one of the requirements includes at least one verifiable miracle.
Theologically this view also held that only saints were guaranteed entrance into heaven — certainly very bad news for the average person. As a result, the church of began to lose members at a rapid pace. Most realizing that they would never qualify to be a saint gave up on the church. To stem this flow away from the church, the church developed the concept of purgatory. The concept was simple: if you don’t make heaven in this life, you are not yet lost and have a chance to redeem yourself (or be redeemed by another) in the next life.
In the New Testament, everyone who accepts Christ is referred to as a saint. Certainly we understand there are those who are giants of faith. Most assuredly we agree that there are those whose service to Christ makes them stand out among men. However we must remember that at the foot of the cross everyone stands on equal ground.
The Biblical concept that addresses our topic of discussion is the term "justification." Billy Graham said "Justification means ‘Just as if I’ve never sinned.’" That’s a pretty good definition of the word. Justification means "God declares us righteous." It is a legal transaction that takes place.
How can Holy God declare sinful men righteous — that is "just as if they never sinned?" He does so on the basis of the willing sacrifice of Jesus on behalf of all who will believe on his name. Let us never forget that the concept of sin involves our offenses against God that many times reveals itself in our offenses against men.
If I purchase a car, the purchase price is due the seller. I cannot go down to the local dealership and say, "I’m going to purchase this car, but I want to make payments only to the person of my choice." Well, I could say that, but then I would leave the dealership a pedestrian, not a new car owner! Any payment I make must be to satisfy the debt owed the manufacturer. The same is true spiritually. Those who think they can earn heaven by being good, kind and nice to people are attempting the impossible: they are attempting to satisfy a real debt against the Cosmic Creditor by paying dues to the wrong account.
Since the debt we owe is against God, he and he alone has the right to demand both payment and proper settlement. For those of us who believe the Biblical record, the holy God did just that by becoming man and assuming our debt. Jesus Christ paid the debt in full. When I accept that wonderful gift he offers two wonderful transactions take place. First all my failures are legally transferred to Christ. Second, all of Christ’s righteousness is transferred to my account! Amazing! That is why the Bible refers to all believers as saints.
My prayer on this All Saints Day is that if you have not accepted Christ as your Savior, you do so and become a member of the saints; become a member of God’s forever family.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016 or email@example.com. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org