Saints Alive!

Tom Burke

January 2016
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How thankful I am that God chose to reveal His Word. God’s Word gives us a true picture of mankind, of the world, and of the purpose of life. It clearly shows the way that God has made through Christ for restoration of all things. It gives us glimpses of eternity. For the Christian, it explains the many rights and privileges which belong to one who is in Christ.

Most importantly, perhaps, God’s Word tells us of the nature of God Himself. It shows Him as He is: a God who is above the heavens and earth yet involved in the daily dealings of mankind, who is absolute in His justice yet abounding in mercy. It sings of His goodness, faithfulness, and truth.

And it teaches us about God’s holiness—a holiness that shakes a sinful world—and beside which no trace of sin can avoid being instantly consumed. This is a holiness that, by our own devices, you and I could never dream of approaching. Only the holy can approach the Holy One.

As we read of God’s instructions regarding the tabernacle (and later the temple), we get a sense of this truth. Though God’s true presence could never be contained, God had this holy place designed as a “virtual” meeting-place. Not all could enter into it. Only certain of the priests were allowed entry, and even those were only permitted entry according to certain set manners and times. Perhaps you have read of the fate of some who chose to treat these divine strictures as unnecessary.

A vital part of the operation of the tabernacle involved the anointing. God gave instructions for the manufacture of an oil which, though nothing of itself, was declared to be “holy” by God. It is via the application of this oil that the earthly elements of worship could become of use to a Holy God, and the thoroughly human members of the priesthood could approach His presence. (You can read more about this oil in Exodus, chapters 29, 30, and 40, as well as in several other Old Testament records.)

What of us, then? We have no tabernacle, no temple. How are we to approach His presence, even in a “virtual” way? As descendents of Adam, conceived in sin, we are unholy. Perhaps, by exposing ourselves to evidences of holiness, might that holiness “rub off?” No. Holiness cannot be transferred in this way, though unholiness can, as is bluntly stated in Haggai.

Haggai 2:11–14
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,
If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.
Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.
Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.

What hope then remains for us? In and of ourselves, none at all. Those of Old Testament Israel had at least a form of access to God. But the law no longer holds as a means of righteousness. So truly, all men and women, by birth, can today be described as “having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

How astounding, then, in light of these facts, to read the following:

II Corinthians 1:21
Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God.

Glory, hallelujah! This verse speaks not of an Old Testament anointing, a “virtual” anointing. After all, the former anointing, as wonderful as it was, was an anointing composed of earthly materials, administered by men, and declared to be acceptable by God. But here we read of an anointing by God Himself, a real and true holiness of which the Old Testament practice was just a shadow.

How can one receive this anointing? This verse also tells us—in Christ.1

Did you know that the name “Christ” means “anointed one?” Our Lord Jesus Christ was anointed, declared to be holy, by God Himself. Thus all who are in him share in that holiness. Unlike the objects of temporary holiness we read about in Haggai, our Lord’s holiness is such that he was not afraid to touch our uncleanness. In fact, he took it on willingly. And in that touch, his holiness became ours.

Furthermore, this holiness we have received cannot wear off or lose its effectiveness (like oil). Rather, it is abiding, it is eternal (see I John 2:27).

Although His Word is certainly enough, God has also given us a real and present token to remind us of the holiness that is now ours in Christ.

II Corinthians 1:22 (New International Version, 1984 Edition)
[God] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

When one believes on Jesus Christ, what occurs is not simply a change in philosophy but a change in nature. A new life is born within, and that life is called spirit—holy spirit. This spirit serves as a constant reminder of the change that has occurred within us due to Christ. The spirit also serves as a down payment—“a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

And because of this, we are called by a new name.

I Corinthians 1:2
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.

You will note that this verse is speaking to and about those who are in Christ. It tells us that those who are in Christ are sanctified (made holy). Furthermore, it states that these individuals are “called to be saints,” or literally, “called saints.”2 And what is a saint? A saint is a holy one. There is no question about it. Have you believed on Jesus Christ? Then God Himself declares you to be a saint, a holy one. And the holiness which you now have is neither symbolic nor temporary. It is the holiness of Christ himself.

However, holiness is no guarantee that one will not continue to think thoughts which God deems unholy and engage in activities which God declares to be unholy. Why? Because, though anointed, we still possess the bodies and minds which we had before believing on Christ.

You will recall that the spirit within us serves as a deposit, a guarantee of things to come. For those in Christ, a day will come when we will receive spiritual bodies, bodies in which there is no room for anything but holiness. Until then, though holy, we can still grow in our practice of holiness.

Ephesians 4:11, 12
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

As mentioned previously, the absolute perfection of the saints is yet to come—at the return of Christ. However, it is possible to grow closer to that perfection, right now. This is one of the purposes of the ministries which God has set in the Body of Christ. In essence, they are set there in order to help us to live in a new way—not to “practice what we preach,” but to practice who we are.

All such growth, however, ultimately depends upon the individual’s desire to discover, by believing, all that it means to be a saint. God’s Word has much to teach us about this new identity. As we grow in this recognition, we find that much of what used to delight us no longer holds any attraction. Instead, we are drawn to an entirely new and different kind of life. And, because we are holy, a holy life is now possible.

I Peter 1:15, 16 (New International Version, 1984 Edition)
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

1 Most readers should be aware that when the Scriptures speak of an individual being “in Christ,” they are speaking of one who has received salvation by believing on Jesus Christ. If this is new information for some, I would encourage you to study this topic further, particularly in the epistles of Romans and Ephesians.

2 In the King James Version, italicization indicates that a word or words have been added to the English translation and are not present in the original text.