Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 21, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:20-23. Today is our final sermon on this wonderful book of Philippians. As we move from Philippians into other parts of God’s Word, I wonder how much of what I have preached has had and will have an effect on your life. Likewise, I wonder how much will end up on the editing room floor of your life.
If I was to pick a theme for our Church over the last two years, I think it would be “Let Us Be Doers of the Word.” This phrase comes from James 1:22-25.
Will you forget what it means to be a slave to Christ Jesus? Will you forget about God’s promise to complete the work he began in you? Will you forget about the call to partner in the spread of the Gospel? Will you forget that your life is to be 100% about Jesus Christ. Will you forget that dyeing is not punishment, but a reward, for to be with Christ is far better? Will you forget about the powerful unity of the Spirit that holds our church together? Will you forget about the command to not do anything out of selfish ambition? Will you forget about working out your salvation with fear and trembling because God is working in you? Will you forget about God’s command not to complain? Will you forget about the deep bond and love that is forged between fellow soldiers for Christ? Will you forget that our salvation has nothing to do with works? Will you forget the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus? Will you forget that we must press on and strain to become like our King Jesus? Will you forget that this is not our home, but that our home is in heaven? Will you forget to pray when you are worried? Will you forget to be content through the power available to us through Christ? Will you forget that God will supply all your needs? Will you forget about the blessed fruit of giving to those in need?
My prayer is that you will not, and my encouragement as we end this sermon series, your study of Philippians does not end, but it merely begins. That every year you will spend time in this beautiful book and let these truths sink deeper into your soul. With that said, let us read our text for today, pray, and see what God has to say to us this morning.
In these closing remarks of Paul we see specifically who Paul is addressing his letter to, every saint in Christ Jesus. We saw this same language in the opening of Paul’s letter.
If you go to Google and type in “What is a saint?” your search results will predominantly point you to the Catholic religion, for they have made much of this title, and they have made an absolute mess out of it. And it is because of this, I am going to have to spend today cleaning up after their mess. Now, please know I don't do this to pick a fight, but to proclaim Biblical truth, for many Catholics, not all, but many, have no clue why they do what they do. They have no clue as to the unbiblical positions that are very common within the Catholic Church, the aspect of saints being one. In addition, today because of this mess I am attempting to clean up, we will be taking a few intentional rabbit trails.
First, a saint, according to the Catholic Church is determined by man, and not by God. I found this quote interesting by Pope Alexander in 1173, "You shall not therefore presume to honour him in the future; for, even if miracles were worked through him, it is not lawful for you to venerate him as a saint without the authority of the Catholic Church.” Generally, it was at this point that the powers that be within the Catholic Church would begin determining who deserves the special designation of sainthood, and this man centered authoritarian declaration continues to this day.
The Catholic teaching stands in stark contrast to the verses we have read today, and the 68 different times in the Bible the word saint is used. It is obvious in our text that Paul, who is inspired by the Holy Spirit, sees all men and all women who are in Christ to be saints. In Paul's life, there is no such then as a Catholic saint. There is no such thing as a superior Christian. If you are in Christ, then you are a saint. As I said, this phrase is used approximately 68 different times in the New Testament, not once does it refer to some super holy Christian, in fact verse 21 is the only time that the word saint is used in its singular form. All other times it is used in its plural sense.
So what does saint mean? The word saint in Greek is, “hagios” which means to be consecrated or set apart for God. Perhaps the best verse I could find that points to this reality is 1 Corinthians 1:2.
Since the time of Pope Alexander, the process the Catholic Church has imposed to determine who is a special Christian, and who is not is somewhat shifting sand. It continues to move and change beneath the Catholics feet. Currently, as best as I can tell the process includes four stages. Stage one is called “Servant of God” which includes interviews, reading of papers, and even digging up the dead body and examining it. If the “Servant of God” passes the man made test they are then declared “Heroic in Virtue.” When that occurs material can be printed about the person and Catholics are encouraged to pray to this person, specifically for a miracle. According to the Catholic religion this is proof that God approves of the person actually becoming a saint.
At this point, I want to be as serious as possible. This is not only wrong, but it is encouraging the wrath of God. Praying, or attempting to speak to dead people is unbiblical, inappropriate, and an abomination. I realize those are strong words, but they are not mine, once again they are Gods. When reading the old testament, God makes it abundantly clear that he does not want humanity to mess around in talking with dead people. A person who attempts to talk to dead people is called a necromancer. Listen to these two verses.
Never once in the Bible does God encourage his children to ask dead people to intercede for them, as if God want to play the child's game of telephone. Not once. When prayer is mentioned in the Bible we see things like Matthew 6:9
The next step for the Catholic Church after the designation of “Heroic in Virtue” is to put the matter to another vote to determine if the person can be declared “Blessed” which is a designation that the person is really in heaven. Why is this an issue for that Catholic Church? It is an issue because of another false teaching, which is purgatory. Purgatory is a fictional place where Catholics believe they go to be punished for sins that Christ didn't actually pay for. Teh reason that this is an issue for the process of Catholic Sainthood is that they don't want to encourage people to ask a person to talk to God on their behalf if they are still in purgatory working off their debt.
Purgatory is absolutely not Biblical, and really deserves a sermon in and of itself, for it is a extremely dangerous doctrine. First of all, what does the Bible say about Christians that die? First think about the thief on the cross, if anyone deserved purgatory it was him, and what does Jesus say, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The Catholic doctrine of purgatory where you are punished for unpaid for sins does not sound like Jesus' description of Paradise.
So hopefully, I have effectively convinced each of you, that the sainthood of the Catholic Church is not Biblical, and should be refuted openly when we encounter it. For it is a highly dangerous false teaching that so many of our loved ones have bought into.
Predominantly when the word saint is used in the Bible it is speaking about living people who have placed their faith in sufficiency of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They are the called out ones, set apart consecrated to the Lord. Which leads us to this question, set apart for what purpose?
A saint is not some concrete statute buried in the back yard, so that you can sell your home. A saint is a worker, a solider, a dulous of Christ Jesus. A saint is someone who counts their life as garbage compared to knowing the surpassing worth of Christ Jesus. A saint is someone who cries out, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is a saint, and it is what God is calling each of you to be. It is the end in which you were created.