Friday, March 21, 2014

To all the saints in Christ Jesus

Why does Paul address his letter to ‘all the saints in Christ Jesus’?  Considering he just finished calling himself a slave, it seems quite a jump to then refer to his audience as saints.

The greek word used here is ‘hagiois’, which means ‘holy ones’.  Its root word is ‘hagios’.  Doing a search for other uses of this root it is interesting to see how it is used.  In Rom 1:2 Paul writes “the holy scriptures”, in Rom 5:5 Paul writes “the Holy Sprit”, in Rom 7:12 he writes “the law is holy” and in Rom 12:1 he writes “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”.

It seems to me that when Paul calls the members of the Philippian church saints he is really saying that they are holy.  Just as the scriptures and the law are holy and just as the very Spirit of God is holy, so too Christians are holy.

But on what basis does Paul say this.  What evidence does he have to say this?  Is it because of how well the church in Philippi is doing?  If you have read the entire letter, you know that there weren’t many problems with this church.  Compared to Paul’s other letters, this letter reveals that this church is probably the closest of all the churches to Paul’s ideal church.

Having a quick look at the other letters of Paul, we discover that this can’t be the case since he uses the term ‘saints’ frequently in those letters too.  In fact the name ‘saint’ is Paul’s favourite word to use when describing believers.  He uses it 39 times in his letters.

So why does Paul use the term?  And is it a term that I should identify with?

The answer is in verse 11,  “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”

So the righteousness that is the basis for me being holy comes through Jesus.

Again in Philippians 3:9 Paul states, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”.

What an amazing truth, it is not on any basis of what I have done, but it is based on the righteousness of Christ that I am called a saint.

Being an engineer though, I like to understand more fully how these things work.  Let’s look at some more scriptures.

In Jeremiah 23:5-6, the prophet writes the following:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

It is that last part that I want to highlight.  Jeremiah is referring to the future days of the new covenant that was inaugurated by Jesus.  And under that new covenant he says we will refer to God as “The LORD is our righteousness”

Next let’s travel to the Jordon river and jump forward to the baptism of Christ.  In Matthew 3, we have Jesus coming to John to be baptised and initially John refuses, saying that Jesus should be baptizing him.  How does Jesus respond?  He says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Why was Christ baptised?  Remember the baptism of John was a baptism of repentance and Christ didn’t need to repent of anything.

According to his own words Christ was baptised so that he might fulfill all righteousness.  Said another way he was baptised so that he might identify fully with the people whom he had come to save and to obey the law completely on their behalf.

Jesus addresses this again in Matthew 5:17 where he says something similar.  He says "do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Jesus lived a life of 33 years in complete obedience to the law of God, without sin.  He fulfilled the law.  So completely that when he died, he died as the perfect lamb of God.  Jesus’ work on the cross was only possible because Jesus had first lived a perfect, sinless existence.

And what does that have to do with me?  Everything!

2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Romans 5:19 - For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Because of Christ’s fulfilling of the law on my behalf, when I put my faith in Christ two things take place.  One, my sin's are put on Christ, who takes my punishment, and two, Christ’s righteousness is put on me.

This is why I can call myself a saint.  Because I have the righteousness of Christ applied to me.  My sin debt has been paid, my slate has been wiped clean, but equally amazing is that my slate has been filled by Christ’s righteous works and I truly am holy.  God sees me though the lens of Christ’s righteousness.

This is the incredible work of Christ on my behalf, and to him be all glory and honour and praise!

1 comment:

Sid Wood said...

Andrew, Good to read your blog again. For some reason it had disappeared from my RSS list, but is now re-established. Good stuff.