As we are blessed to begin a new year it is a propitious time to examine our lives and seek to increase our devotion to God and serving Him. With this in mind I want to call your attention to some things the apostle Paul said in the Roman letter relative to sainthood.
In his greeting to the Romans, Paul says they were “called to be saints”. Also in his letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians he addresses believers as saints. All believers are saints. Sainthood is not something a person achieves, attains, earns, or merits. It is a blessing of God’s grace. W.E. Vine in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says: “This sainthood is not an attainment, it is a state into which God in grace calls men.” Further he says: “In the plural, as used of believers, it designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of saintliness.”
The word “saint” means “holy” or “sacred”. Saints are to be “holy ones” or “holy persons”. God wants us to live holy lives. He wants us to forsake sin and live up to our calling as saints. He wants us to be Christlike, to manifest the “image of Christ”.
Obviously living up to our calling is a continuous process throughout our lives as believers, and for some it is not easy, especially those who have been converted from a very immoral or intensely worldly way of life. Repentance is difficult. With some the changeover is not so dramatic or drastic. Nevertheless, we all are sinners, and at times don’t act saintly. Thank God He sees us through His Son Jesus Christ.
We can even jeopardize our calling and slip back into the ways of unbelief and the world. We can live lukewarm lives which will cause us to be spewed out of the Lord’s mouth (Revelation 3:16). So we need to know how to devote ourselves to living holy lives. After the apostle spends considerable time in the Roman letter writing about how we are saved, what we are saved from, and what salvation has done for us, he gives us the basis for holy living in Romans 12:1-2, and then goes on to elaborate of what it consists.
Essentially being saintly, living holy lives revolves around the worship of God. This worship of God is not the common concept or definition as personified in what we have called “the worship service” of Sunday morning manifested in the well-known “five acts”. It is something more expansive and requiring more dedication. It is a rejection of the notion that believers’ lives are part sacred and part secular, and that the former is satisfied by the perfunctory performance of dutiful works. Instead it is something more involving, and with a different mindset.
In the New King James Version Romans 12:1 reads: “ I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The wording in this verse is interesting, and I think particularly important. When Paul says we are to yield our bodies to God I think he means our lives, referring to our lifestyle.
He says this is our “reasonable service.” The Revised Standard Version says this is our “spiritual worship” as does the New International Version. Phillips Modern English reads “as an act of “intelligent worship.” The New English Bible calls it “worship” and Today’s English Version reads: “This is the true worship that you should offer.”
I understand that the word “reasonable” is the same word from which we get our word “logic”. So the apostle is telling us that living a lifestyle of worship is the logical thing for a believer to do. He indicates why, because of “the mercies of God.” Because of what God had done for us we should live for Him. We were headed for eternal destruction, but God bought us at Calvary. “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). We were redeemed because of the pure grace of God.
Also, I understand the word “service” means “to perform sacred service” and was used to refer to the functions of the Levite priests of the Old Testament. So the apostle is telling us that it is not only logical that our lives are indicative of holiness, but this is worship of God. Thus we need to realize that worship of God is an attitude, an awareness of God in everything we do. It’s living according to God’s principles and will. It’s living to honor and please Him.
God sees us in our everyday lives. He knows if we are good or bad. When we are faithful, responsible persons, manifesting His Spirit, that is honoring and pleasing worship of God. When we are unfaithful or irresponsible, sinning, we aren’t logically worshipping God as we should with our lives.
In my opinion the highest form of worship of God is neither infrequent, emotional mountain top experiences, nor perfect attendance at assemblies accompanied by alleged correct methodology used in perfunctorily complying with rituals of that assembling, but living committed, consecrated, dedicated holy lives on a daily basis. The former is relatively easy and really doesn’t take that much of our effort and time. The latter is a real challenge and takes a lot of effort and all of our time. God in more pleased with a consistent, steady, worshipful course about our lives than He is with being an every now and then worshipper, or just a Sunday morning worshipper.
This doesn’t set well with man because he doesn’t like to put his life at the disposal of another or others. He wants to control his own life, do his own thing. The Sunday morning worship concept, the sacred and secular partition of life concept, are manifestations of a believer who wants to put his life at God’s disposal only at certain times. He wants to be able to give it and take it back at his convenience. He’s playing the church game.
Worship of God as a lifestyle means that we are on the altar all the time, wherever we are. We are the Temple of God in all circumstances and geographical surroundings, not just when we are in church. It is a constant, continuous sacrifice of our desires for the will of God.
In Romans 12:2 Paul tells us it is not being molded to the world but is a metamorphosis brought about by the surrendering of our minds to the will of God. Thus God’s Spirit controls our minds and our lives. Such worship of God glorifies Him, honors Him, and shows others how His power has made a difference in our lives.
If we are serious in our faith and about doing God’s will, and sincere about living holy lives, let’s be more receptive to God’s Spirit in this new year. Let us be as willing as possible for His Spirit to transform our lives into saints that truly manifest the image of God.
J. James Albert