Summary: As Christians, we are saints who are just sinners saved by the grace of God.
"Saints and Sinners" (1 Cor.1:1-9)
Rev. A. LaMar Torrence
Pastor of the Cross of Life Lutheran Church
For a little while, I want to talk on the subject Saints and Sinners. I want to dialogue on the dichotomy of the saved and the sanctified, the holy and the justified. We want to explore this relationship between saints and sinners. Paul in all except two of his epistles address the congregations with the salutation “called to be saints”. The term saint in common use is limited to certain classes of holy people. It is applied to the inspired evangelists like Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is ascribed to apostles and the early church martyrs like Paul, Saint Anthony, Saint Justin, and St. Mary. It is a term attributed to the great doctors and missionaries canonized by the holy Catholic Church like St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Benedict. It is a term that is not taken likely. To say someone was or is like a saint is to classify that person in an exclusive class of holiness or to make that person super or ultra human beyond the dark realms of sin. It is to place of halo above their head and angel wings on their back. The application of sainthood to a person or group of persons is nothing that is taken likely.
That’s why it is puzzlement that Paul uses this term to address those at the church of Corinth. Those of us, who are familiar with our biblical history, know that the Corinthian Church was not a church that behaved like saints of God. For even Paul, himself said that they were still of a fleshly nature. We know that the Corinthian church caused Paul to write sixteen chapters of Greek text correcting the mistakes and the wrongs that these so-called Christians at were committing. We also, know that this was a church in the midst of Satan’s strong hold. The city of Corinth was considered the ‘pleasure city’ of the Roman Empire. It was rich and lavish, wealthy and wicked. It was a den of iniquity, a kingdom of degradation and a place of debauchery. The Corinthian church was a church placed at the gates of hells. Christ was its head and the cornerstone of its foundations; yet, it was a strange church. It was mixture of Roman citizens, Heathen Greeks, and oppressed slaves. There were fractions and divisions, cliques and groups - Everybody in their own corner trying to do their own thing - Everybody with their own program and their own agenda. Council members didn’t like the pastor and treasurers wouldn’t give up any money. Young adults were tired of the old folks. The old folks complained about the rebellious behavior of ‘young-ins’. Worship was more centered on melodies and beats rather than godly praise and adoration. Instead of spreading the Gospel of Christ, they talked about the latest gossip of the day. They prided themselves in having spiritual gifts yet showed no interest in giving tithes back to God. They knew how to talk about the word but rarely came out to bible study. They were people fighting over titles and positions - getting jealous because pastor never visit their house or called their name from the pulpit. The church at Corinth was a strange church but nevertheless Paul says that they were called to be saints.
They were sinners but they were still regarded as saints.
Well then what is a saint? What makes these hell raising, so-called Christians at (cross of Life), I mean Corinth saints? What’s so special about them?
Well first we must understand what a saint exactly is. A saint is someone who simply has answered God’s call to Christ and is now headed in the right direction. A saint is a disciple of Christ. A saint is a sister or brother who has decided to follow Jesus and allow God to work his will in their lives. A saint is a sinner saved by grace. He’s not perfect but he is a saint. He struggles with two natures flesh and spirit; mind and body. He is a mixture of beings. -- Two selves wrestling in one. He is not yet an Angel and He’s not a beast for the word says we are lower than the celestial inhabitants and just a little higher than the jungle creatures. The saint is a mixture of two natures - A high nature and a low nature. He struggles daily with his identity and purpose. And yet, in spite of his battle between spirit and sin, he is still considered a saint.
After considering what a saint is we must ask the question, “Who is a saint?” There’s a term in Christian theology called sanctification, which in simple terms - means to be set apart, consecrated for a divine purpose. In concrete terms, it is the progressive work by which we become partakers of God’s holiness. It is the work by which we grow in grace. It is the active process by which we become more and more like Jesus. This means then that every believer is a saint. Every Christian is saved and sanctified. This is the reason why we are called children of God and not adults of God. We are still being perfected. We are diamonds in the rough. God has to work on us and polish us everyday of our lives. We are like gold that has to be tried in the fire. We are called to be saints. We may not all the worldly clarifications for such an office of sainthood. We are not devoid of sin and temptation. We are not ascetics, nuns, or monks living in solitary totally focused on God. In fact some of us come from simple and humble backgrounds while other may hale from more notorious and scandalous experiences. We may just be a tax accountant like Matthew or a caretaker like Martha but we are called to be saints. We may still cuss like Peter, and have some doubts like Thomas but God still calls us to be his saints. We may have been around the town like Mary Magdalene or be naïve, young, and intimidated like Timothy but nevertheless, we are God’s saints.