A woman who had become an earnest Christian visited a worldly sister at a distance whom she had not met for years. When she returned she said, “I’ve been much cheered by my visit while my sister is worldly,” she said, “I don’t know what has happened to you, but you’re a great deal easier to live with than you used to be.”
That may be a good yard stick of your sanctification, do others admire Christ or despise Him as a result of living with you? A person who is sanctified by Christ is like the water spider, which is a very peculiar insect. We are peculiar too in the environment in which we live. The water spider lives at the bottom of muddy pools and has a distinctive power of ascending to the surface of the pool and there surrounding itself with a tiny globule of air. Thus enveloped, it descends into the smudge and moves at the bottom of the pool and remains unsullied by its environment until the air is exhausted when it rises again to the surface and the process is repeated. That’s a parable from nature.
Similarly, it is possible to be a saint in Corinth or in whatever unfavorable environment you are right now. Although you must live in the world, the indwelling Christ will provide you with an enveloping shield, and this shield may be compared to that specially processed glass that neighbors use to see from the inside out, but prevents others from seeing from the outside in. You who are sanctified in Christ in Corinth are supposed to look on the outside world and affect it for Christ, but not allow the outside world to affect you.
Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding about the word “saint” that it only refers to a dead person who is honored by the living because of his or her pure and exemplary life. This never occurred to the writers of the New Testament because to them holiness was not a transcendent quality, but involved a way of life effected by Christ in man while he is living in an environment that is filthy and opposed to Christ.
Saints are not persons who are resting in retirement from the word, but those who are laboring for Christ in the world.
A devout Frenchman was right when he said,
“Beware of the religion which substitutes itself for everything. That makes monks. Seek a religion that penetrates everything, that makes Christians.”
Just as the chlorophyll of the green trees is needed, so it may be acted upon by the sun to absorb from the dirty atmosphere the carbon dioxide that poisons us, so the believer is needed to be acted upon by the Holy Spirit to purify His environment. Or to return to the parable of the water spider, saint in Christ you are needed where the mud is thickest, but don’t forget the enveloping film that is provided by your being in Christ.
In the gospels, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are called disciples. A disciple is a scholar, a learner. In the acts they are called believers which indicates a more intimate relationship than that of discipleship. A disciple may listen to and receive the teachings of a master, and yet the personal relation between the two of them may be of the slightest kind.
Bur Christ demands not only knowledge about Him, but belief in Him. The word Christian by which believers are generally known by today occurs actually only three times in the entire New Testament. Acts 11:26, 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16 and was not their fellow believers who called them that, but the enemies of the faith.
There were no Christian churches and no Christian assemblies, only churches of the faithful or of the elect or still more frequently assemblies of the saints.
Do you realize you have no place in a Christian church unless you are a saint? Are you one? Would you feel out of place if I were to stand behind the pulpit of your church and call you an assembly of saints? Probably my words would provoke or an expression of surprise. And if you were to call me a saint to my face, it would give me a distinctly uneasy feeling causing me to wonder what I had been doing to deserve such an exalted title.
You cannot think of a saint as doing business on the floor of the stock exchange or contesting for a seat on the town council, or campaigning for the presidency or even standing behind a counter to serve customers. Even less can you think of Him as a shrewd businessman buying the cheapest and selling in the dearest market. Such things have come to be incongruous in our modern minds. A saint and a successful businessman, a saint and an alert politician, a saint and a woman shopping for the best bargains for her household. It’s hard for us to associate the two. You imagine that the saint must be all together or more than half out of this world, and sometimes half out of his mind. You think of a saint as a person far above ordinary affairs with his eyes on constantly fixed on heaven, has to be sublimely indifferent to what happens below. As a being so heavenly minded has to be no earthly good.
We don’t call the members of our Christian churches saints now. One branch does not declare anyone a saint until that someone has been dead for at least 50 years. But the people Paul was addressing in sinful Corinth were alive. They had believed in Christ as a result of his preaching to them. When they believed they constituted a separate group in the world as called out ones, the church. The “ekklesia,” the saints. But they stayed in Corinth and continued to work there.
As Joseph… said on saintliness, “Its hands are often horny, its face weather beaten, and its shoulders bowed with burden carrying. Preoccupation with his daily task leaves the saint little time for posing. The real saint is so busy doing the duties setting by his Lord that the devil has no chance to lure him to thinking, ‘What a great saint am I.’”
Are you sheltered, curled up and content by your worlds warm fire? Then I say that your soul is in danger. The sons of Light, they are down with God in the mire. God in the manger. So, rouse you from your perilous ease to your sword and your shield. Your ease is that of cattle. Hark! Hark! Where the bugles are calling out to some field, out to some battle.