Monday, November 11, 2013

"SAINTS", Not Merely "Christians"

Thankfully, I have been blessed by God to have known and served under some of the greatest leaders in the Church Of God In Christ. Long ago I would hear the late Bishop Dr. T.T. Rose formerly of Illinois Central Jurisdiction COGIC say, 

The Late Bishop Dr. T.T.  Rose
Springfield, IL. 
"I would rather be called a Saint any day than a 'Christian'." when I asked why? He would respond by saying "Saints, live right. They are the one's that God has called. You are subject to find a Christian doing anything...I don't want to be called a Christian, I want to be called a Saint!"

On Thursday night 11/7/2013 at the 106th Annual Holy Convocation of the Church Of God In Christ, Bishop Darrell Hines (see teaser video below) picked up on that same sentiment and theme and began to explain what Dr. Rose knew and was convinced of some nearly 70 years ago and I thought I should repeat this for all those younger individuals who don't know or have not been taught why we call one another "SAINTS" in COGIC as opposed to calling one another fellow "Christians" as is commonly done in many if not most Christian churches.

Slight Western History

In 1897 when the Church Of God In Christ was first formed, through its first reorganization in 1907 when it became a Spirit Filled and Pentecostal church, the believers that followed the teachings of Bishop C. H. Mason, were quick to call themselves Saints. 


In fact, no other "Christian" organization, outside of the Catholic Church uses the term "Saints" to represent members of the church and the Catholics seem to only apply the term to those who they claim had extraordinary deeds or abilities demonstrating their "closeness" to Christ, and they are usually only given that term after they are physically dead and have left this earth and leave behind evidence of a "miracle".  The process of being made a Saint in the Catholic Church is called "venerating". 

Here is a Catholic explanation of this process:
"The Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 AD) declared that "we adore and respect God our Lord; and those who have been genuine servants of our common Lord we honor and venerate because they have the power to make us friends with God the King of all." ~Religion Facts Blog
So that is, in a nutshell, what some people consider how Sainthood is established. They are basically dead people who are "alive" in the presence of Christ who have the ability to "pull strings". Although this flies in the face of the scripture which says that there is only ONE mediator between God and man and that is Jesus. (1 Tim. 2:5) some still cling to tradition no matter what the word of God says. 

Drawing the argument more close, we find that in the Baptist church, being called a "Christian" was a preferred method as a Christian was to indicate one who follows Christ. So for a believer to be called anything else sounded silly. To most traditional Baptist believers, especially around the time that Pentecostalism was born, being called a "Saint" as a member in the church an identification of one to be resisted and not a good sign as we will see. 

Common Historical "Anti-Saint" Sentiment

Although now, in most every church, including the traditional Baptist church, people call themselves Saints, as stated, that was not so from the beginning. The sentiment that church goers and members were Saints was fought against in almost every non-Pentecostal venue, especially early on. 

The anti-Saint sentiment was so strong that many individuals laughed at the thought that people would even dare call themselves "Saints". (a Catholic hold-over) To say that you were a "Saint" meant that you thought you were more holy than everyone else. To say that you were "among the Saints" was language telling everyone that you were one of those "silly", "deceived" "tongue talking" and "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good folk"...you were a "holy roller", and given to more "emotionalism than intellectualism" In most cases, saints were criticized and called all kinds of ugly names. Their style of worship was not received. The hand clapping, foot stomping, talk back style of songs and singing was not desired especially among them that were proud bearers of their hymnals and traditionally "dry" and uninspired services. 

To be a Saint meant that you were also loud and would pray without ceasing. This led to a phrase, "an empty wagon makes a lot of noise" (ooh my, how things have changed, it seems now EVERYONE wants to have church like the SAINTS and even make the noise of the SAINTS, but there is still a difference between clean and unclean and that doesn't begin with how one praises, it begins with how one lives)....

So to be a "Saint" meant that you were not only identified with Christ, but that you would suffer because of that identification. 

2 Timothy 3:12 ~ Yea, and all that will live godly in 
Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution

COGIC & Pentecostal "Saints" vs. "Christians"

All of what I have mentioned contrasts to what COGIC taught under Bishop C.H. Mason. In Bishop Mason's teaching, being a Saint was a right here and now thing. Rather than a progression to being something, Bishop Mason took the word of God for what it said. Let me try to explain:

Acts 11:28 ~ And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

First, the word "Christian" was a pejorative term given to believers by Gentiles. The term was actually a derogatory terms used to indicate a slave who was a follower of Christ. Jameison-Fausset Brown bible Commentary says the following about the development and use of the term "Christian": 
16. a Christian—the name given in contempt first at Antioch. Ac 11:26; 26:28; the only three places where the term occurs. At first believers had no distinctive name, but were called among themselves "brethren," Ac 6:3; "disciples," Ac 6:1; "those of the way," Ac 9:2; "saints," Ro 1:7; by the Jews (who denied that Jesus was the Christ, and so would never originate the name Christian), in contempt, "Nazarenes." At Antioch, where first idolatrous Gentiles (Cornelius, Ac 10:1, 2, was not an idolater, but a proselyte) were converted, and wide missionary work began, they could be no longer looked on as a Jewish sect, and so the Gentiles designated them by the new name "Christians." The rise of the new name marked a new epoch in the Church's life, a new stage of its development, namely, its missions to the Gentiles. The idle and witty people of Antioch, we know from heathen writers, were famous for inventing nicknames. The date of this Epistle must have been when this had become the generally recognized designation among Gentiles (it is never applied by Christians to each other, as it was in after ages—an undesigned proof that the New Testament was composed when it professes), and when the name exposed one to reproach and suffering, though not seemingly as yet to systematic persecution.
The word "Christian" would be accepted by the church as a mark of identity among the heathen, but the key to understanding here is that God himself did not call the believer a "Christian". Now, I am not broaching the conversation of question, "Should we call one another Christians?" (One can debate that in the comments, I really don't mind) but the point is that this is not done by the commandment of God, but by allowance of men. 

Holy, Holy, Holy!

Bishop had good reason to suggest that present day folk should be and are called Saints. Why? Interestingly, as Bishop Hines preaches in his message, the same word translated as "Saint" came from the same word group as the word "Holy"

1 Peter 1:15 ~ But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

SAINT In the Greek is the word "Hagios" or "Hagioi" or "Hagion" (ἅγιος, ία, ον) which is a word that is part of a word group primarily meaning to be set apart, sacred, or as it pertained to a person, in the likeness  or nature of God. It also meant to be "different" from the world because of the relationship to God. If a "thing" such as a temple, was dedicated to God, it was different because it was a "sacred" place. A place pleasing to God. If a "person" was dedicated to God, he or she was different from the world because they were "like" God and not the world. 

So to the label of SAINT was reserved for those whom he had called and those who followed the Lord and lived according to HIS edicts. For example, the scripture states:

Romans 1:7 ~To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 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:
  
The SAINT was a person who was "In Christ", "Sanctified" and were called of God to be HOLY and righteous before HIS presence.

Some of the confusion is because of scriptural lack of understanding over the phrase "to be" and other like terms. Let me say it like this, the aorist tense in the Greek confuses many of us. We see the phrase "to be" and think it is reserved for a future time. Therefore we put off the implication of what is being said until a future date, but that is not what is being communicated. The aorist Greek tense demands that one understands what is being said not only in the future, but also for now and in the right now...therefore, we "ARE" right now, what is being communicated and will be in the future, wheat we are right now, as long as we endure.

A Name, What Someone Or Something Is called

Bishop Hines got onto this topic by speaking about what something is called or how something is identified. It is important to know what something is as it is defined by what it is named. Calling something the wrong name only breeds confusion. Yes, he spoke clearly, a MAN is not a WOMAN, by any other name. A WOMAN is not a MAN either, therefore displaying the utter confusion of homosexuality which was drove home the point that there is a distinction contained within the name or label of something whatever that something is.  

Most specifically, and in this case, even more importantly, the one who has made the call knows what it is that he is calling...In the case of the believer, it is God who has made the call and he has called us to be HOLY. Being HOLY is to be called a SAINT...However, as the Bishop says, we must PRESENT and PRODUCE what God has called us to be, present and produce. 

Heb. 12:13 ~ Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Looking at this from a full perspective such as this, suggests that believer SHOULD call themselves SAINTS "IF" they are representing what they are being called. There is no distinction of identity of one who is called a "follower of Christ". "Following" Christ does not suggest that one has a distinctly circumspect life or manner of living. In other words, anyone can follow Christ, but not just anyone can be called a SAINT. Only the HOLY are SAINTS. Only them that live sacrificially and who are called out according to HIS purpose can be or should be called a SAINT. However, even if everyone follows Christ, their following does not make them, him or her a SAINT if they chose to follow and still hold on to their sins and evil, which many can do without guilt or shame.

The key here is that God does not call anyone to anything that they don't, in him, have the ability to be or live up to and that the world may view the church a certain way, but we must be faithful to what God sees when he looks at and views us.  

Conclusion:

Knowing the argument and the basis for the conversation tends to open one's eyes to the fact that those "old folk" KNEW what they were talking about. This is what Bishop T.T. Rose would say that he would rather be called a SAINT than a Christian. 

Guess what Bishop? I would too!!!

Blessed!

Video:
Bishop Darrell Hines, "When SAINTS Contend"

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