(1 Corinthians 1:1-3)
It is often easy to gloss over the first few verses of the letters in the New Testament as they generally contain things like greetings to the brethren and to whom the letters are addressed.
But it is worth looking at how these greetings are made for there are often insights we can gain from those greetings. And the opening verses of the first letter to the Corinthians is no exception.
As I read this letter before writing today there were two words that stuck out for me and they were “Sanctify” and “Saint” and it is this that we will look at today.
If you have read any of my posts you may have picked up that I do not usually use so called “religious words.” I do not use words like consecrate, ecclesiastical, exegesis, eucharist, liturgical and so on because for most people they are confusing. They have the sound and appearance of righteous wisdom to make the writer appear knowledgeable, but don't mean much to the majority of people.
Jesus spoke to the common man with a message that could be understood by all. Paul wrote in a similar way and made the comment later in this chapter saying,
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – (1 Corinthians 1:17)
And again Paul wrote at the start of chapter 2 in 1 Corinthians saying,
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. – (1 Corinthians 2:1)
The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ was never meant to be the domain of academics and learned men. It was intended for any person to be able to read, learn and understand so that they could come to Christ and receive the promises of the Father for eternal life. And we see also that when Jesus came to the earth He did not go to the learned men of the time, the priests and Pharisees and so on. Instead Jesus called fishermen, tax collectors and the simple people to be His first disciples and to spread the words of the gospel.
It is not lofty words of wisdom or eloquent words of knowledge that bring us life but faith in Jesus Christ. And indeed the use of lofty and eloquent words is a sign of pride for it clouds and hides the meaning of the truth from the common man, and this was never the intent of the gospel.
So in the context of the discussion above, the word “sanctify” is one of those religious words that sound pious and devout as it rolls off the tongue, but for most people does not mean much. It is a religious word like many of the other religious words, some mentioned above, that do not offer insight but instead cloud and hide the meaning of the scripture.
This was never the intention of Christ Jesus for it is His will that His people learn and know the truth, not have it hidden behind lofty and eloquent words.
The bible translates this Greek word in several ways. It is sometimes translated as “sanctify” sometimes as “consecrate” and sometimes as “to make holy.” In essence it means to be made holy or pure. But it is more than just to be made holy for it also has the meaning of being separated to be holy to God. There is a good scripture in Exodus 13:1-2 that best shows what this word means.
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” – (Exodus 13:1-2)
Here we see the word “consecrate” used, which is one of the meanings ascribed to the Greek word, and what we see in this verse is that the Lord said that the first born of all things were:
- To be separated from the rest (I.e. Those who were not first born)
- Given to God as His possessions.
This is a good description of what this word means, and in the Christian sense it could be best defined as: To be separated from the rest of mankind to become the children of God.
Like the word sanctify, the word “saint” is a religious word that does not have much meaning to anyone who reads it. It clouds the meaning of the gospel because people read it and ascribe some lofty meaning to it that is not what the scripture nor the writers of the scripture ever intended.
Today we see many of the apostles and devout people of old referred to as “saints.” And we see also that certain churches have a practice where they create new saints of those who supposedly have been called upon to perform miracles.
There is no biblical basis for these practices and in fact they are quite opposed to the truth of the gospel. In such practices they set up men or women as being something special and people pray to these so called saints to intercede to God on their behalf, which is false teaching. There is only one intermediary between man and God and that is Jesus Christ alone. And in Christ Jesus we are all equal. No one is better or worse than anyone else for we are all co-equal servants of Christ, brothers and sisters in the Lord.
But the bible uses this word “saint” quite often, so to whom does it refer and what does the word actually mean?
The Greek word from which “saint” is translated is a derivative of the word that is translated as “sanctify.” What it means is “one who is set apart and made holy.”
And who is it that has been set apart and made holy? Everyone who has come to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepted Him as Saviour and are walking in the ways of God.
This means YOU. You are a saint if you are following Jesus Christ as a Christian. And as evidence look at the verse in 1 Corinthians that we are studying today which says,
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: – (1 Corinthians 1:2)
Who are the saints? All who have been “sanctified” or set apart and made holy and that is ALL who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ everywhere. We are ALL saints for we are all set apart and made holy through faith, for that is the working and the will of God in Christ Jesus.
No one can be canonized to become a saint by any man or church for we are all already saints when we come to Christ Jesus and accept His teachings in the truth of the gospel.
So if I was to paraphrase the first part of the verse above to remove the religious words and put in something that makes a bit more sense, you could read it as:
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those set apart and made holy in Christ Jesus, called to be holy ones together with all those in every place who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: both their lord and ours…”
And when we put it like this, the meaning becomes clear. Paul is writing this letter to the Corinthian church but also addressing the letter to all who have come to Christ Jesus and accepted Him as Saviour. And in this address Paul shows that we are all set apart and made holy in Christ Jesus to be the children of God and being the holy ones of God by faith we are all saints.
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