Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE SAINTS”

Philippians 1.1

You know, of course, that no church is perfect. Every church has her flaws and blemishes. That said, Calvary Road Baptist Church is a marvelous congregation of people, and I love you very much. I think I appreciate Paul’s letter to the Philippian church so much because I identify with the love affair he had with that congregation. The difference being, whereas Paul had to love the Philippians from afar, I am privileged to love you folks close at hand. Understand, you folks are nothing like the Philippian church. You have your own personality and idiosyncrasies, just as they had theirs. You have your own strengths and weaknesses, just as they had theirs. However, there are some things that you and the Philippians have in common. There was a great deal of joy in that church, and you folks are generally a happy and a smiling people. I like that.

As for those things the Philippians had that we at Calvary Road Baptist Church do not yet have, one characteristic sticks out in my mind. Unity. We are a congregation that was torn apart by strife almost twenty years ago, in the form of a church split. We are discovering greater unity, though the Philippians were a church that was rather more unified than we are. However, they still had some internal matters that needed tending to. I predict and pray that as we learn how Paul coped with the small amount of disunity he was aware of in the Philippian congregation, we will apply what we learn to our own situation and become a more solidly unified body of believers, better prepared to serve the Lord.

My text is Philippians 1.1. When you locate that verse, stand and read along silently, as we try to grasp what God would have for us in this portion of His Word: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” If Paul’s letter to the Philippians has a great deal to say about unity, and it does, as we shall see, then you should expect that Philippians also has something to say about relationships. I say this because relationships are really what unity in a church is based on. There are four relationships to be observed in Philippians 1.1. Try to put yourself into the sandals of a Philippian church member. You are saved, scripturally baptized, and a vital part of this spiritual organism called the church of Jesus Christ at Philippi. Imagine that you are gathered with the other members of the body in the home of Lydia, where you have always met since the church was founded by Paul. Now, also, imagine Epraphroditus standing in front of us, having just returned from Rome, reading the letter he brought to us from our beloved Paul. What relationships in your life are touched on in the opening sentence of the letter? What relationships form the foundation upon which Paul’s call for greater and more disciplined unity are based? There are four:

First, there is the relationship to Paul. The letter begins, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ.” Though mentioned in the salutation, Timothy is not really the co-author with Paul, but his helper in the ministry and one of the men Paul had originally left in Philippi after his own departure to Thessalonica. Nevertheless, notice how Paul describes himself and Timothy. Those two men are the servants of Jesus Christ, literally, the slaves of Jesus Christ. How does one such as Paul serve Jesus Christ? Paul serves Jesus Christ by ministering to those who are Christ’s. Therefore, you, as a church member, are one who has been served by Paul and by Timothy. You are one who has been taught and exampled, and shepherded and guided and encouraged, and even rebuked by these two. That said, the relationship is one of service. The gospel ministry is a ministry of service. This does not deny that Paul provided for them some strong and aggressive leadership, but it was leadership exercised for the purpose of creating opportunities to serve them. He did not take advantage of them. He served them.

Second, there is the relationship to God. Paul’s words continue, “To all the saints . . . .” His reference to “all” should not detract from our understanding that Philippians is a letter to a church. This is not a letter to Christians at large. There is no such thing as a Christian at large. In God’s Word, we find Christians engaged by and involved in congregations. Paul simply wanted the Philippians to know that his remarks are addressed to each and every one of them in the congregation, even bishops and deacons. I will say more about bishops and deacons on another occasion, Lord willing. Recognizing that his concerns are directed to every member of the Philippian church, notice the term Paul uses to describe those people. He called them “saints.” We frequently call ourselves Christians, even though that word is found only three times in the Bible.[1] A better word would be “believers,” especially Bible believers in this day in which we live. However, the best word of all to describe genuinely saved people, except for the fact that the word has been perverted and twisted by Roman Catholics for centuries, is this word “saint.” The word “saint” translates the Greek word for “holy,” and except for God refers to the dedication of a person or a thing to God.[2] Applied to God, the word holy is altogether different. One of the most important attributes of God is that He is holy, referring to His purity and His pristine nature. God has always been holy, even before He created anything. Therefore, God’s holiness is unrelated to any relationship any person or thing has with Him. It is because of God’s attribute of holiness than sinful men cannot approach Him. As well, it is because of God’s holiness that sinful men cannot presume God hears their prayers. A holy God cannot, because of His Own pristine nature, commune in a meaningful way with anyone who is defiled by sin. Ah, but what about the “saint” of God? That person, though he is not sinless in and of himself, does have the standing before God of a sinless person.

You see, the “saint” of God benefits from the holiness and the saving work of Another, which brings me to the third relationship seen in this verse. The Philippians were “saints” of God because they were “in Christ Jesus.” In his letter to the Ephesians, it is readily seen how heavily Paul relied upon the concept of being “in Christ,” “in Him,” and “in the beloved,” throughout that letter. Taking advantage of a Greek concept when writing his portions of the Greek New Testament, Paul was inspired of the Holy Spirit to describe a person’s relationship to Jesus Christ in terms of spheres of influence. Imagine a sphere. Inside the sphere is the realm in which the Lord Jesus Christ presently rules. Outside is where He does not presently demonstrate and exercise His rule. If you have come to Jesus Christ by faith, you are said by Paul to be “in Christ,” which is to say, inside that sphere of His. Everyone who is saved is “in Christ” and everyone who is not saved is not “in Christ.” If you are not “in Christ” you are lost and yet in your sins. The lake of fire is the eternal destiny that awaits you. Therefore, the Philippians have a relationship with Paul and Timothy. Because they are servants of Jesus Christ, they perform their service to Jesus Christ by serving the Philippians. Second, the Philippians have a relationship with God. They are “saints,” holy ones, people set aside for God’s glory and exclusive use. Third, they are “in Christ Jesus.” In addition, it is the fact that they are “in Christ Jesus” which accounts for them being “saints” of God and being ministered to by Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, and his co-laborer Timothy.

A final relationship is not often paid attention to these days. It is a relationship that is overlooked to the detriment of Bible Christianity. Notice, Paul is writing “To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi.” Being “in Christ Jesus” tells us what those people’s spiritual geography was. Being “at Philippi” tells us what their physical geography was. Why do you suppose Paul called attention to this relationship? He called attention to it because it was an important relationship in those people’s lives. They were not Romans, though the unconverted citizens in that Roman colony city would have so identified themselves. They were not Bereans. They were not Ephesians. They were not Colossaeans. They were Philippians. And what about Lydia? She was originally from the city of Thyatira. God could have saved that woman anywhere in the world He wanted to, but He providentially took her to Philippi for her encounter with the gospel and faith in Christ. There she was saved and there she stayed. Folks, consider this: Four relationships are referred to in this first verse of Philippians. Though each of these relationships is important, they are not equally important. The relationships with God and the Lord Jesus Christ are, of course, vital to spiritual life. Without a relationship with God and the Lord Jesus Christ, you have no spiritual life and you go to Hell when you die. The other two relationships are not unimportant just because they are less important. Your relationship with the one who ministers to you, your relationship to your pastor, is vital to your well-being. Your relationship with those in your Philippi is also very important. You see, it is here that God wants you live out your Christian life seeking to bring the lost to Christ.

What does this mean to you and me in 2012? We need to take care of our Jerusalem, and then send men to take care of Judea and Samaria and the world, men specifically called and equipped to do that. It means that you and I have a relationship with each other and with this community in which we live. Decide right now to stay put and so live your life that souls will be won and the cause of Christ will be advanced here.

Almost twenty years ago, I read that the Roman Catholic Church was contemplating the sainthood of a long dead Native American woman who never became a Roman Catholic. The story was that she wanted to become a Catholic, but never got the chance. Imagine this idol-worshipping pagan woman being considered for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. If I understand my canon law, the Vatican proceeded in this manner: The long deceased woman’s case was turned over to Roman Catholic investigators who searched the records for some evidence that she worked a couple of miracles (can’t be a saint unless you work miracles), and after years and years they will elevate her to some status that is not quite sainthood (called beatification), and then she will be made a saint after the passage of more time. As if this hocus pocus is not bad enough, you have guys like J. I. Packer, Billy Graham, the late Chuck Colson, Jack Hayford, and the Promise Keepers crowd seeming to endorse Catholicism as a legitimate Christian denomination. Excuse me, but Roman Catholicism is an idol-worshiping religion. Idol worshipers hate the God of the Bible according to the God of the Bible.[3] On top of that, the Roman Catholic Church claims the right to save souls, as well as the right to make people into saints. Imagine! Spending decades to make someone a saint of God hundreds of years after she died and went to her eternal destination. Folks, none of that stuff is legitimate. As well, no one who compromises with that idolatrous nonsense is legitimate, either. If someone does not have the spiritual discernment to see that flagrant and gross idolatry is not Bible Christianity, then he does not know what Bible Christianity is. Makes you wonder about him.

Consider this saint business. What the Roman Catholic Church claims it takes them decades to accomplish, the making of someone into a saint of God, does not make anyone a saint of God at all. It only makes for a dead person who is used by the Roman Catholic Church to fund the building of a new cathedral in the town or region the so-called saint once upon a time lived in. The Roman Catholic Church cannot make anyone a saint. As a matter of fact, Calvary Road Baptist Church cannot make anyone a saint. The only way a sinner can become a saint is by . . . . well, let me explain it to you.

CONSIDER, FIRST, THE DEFILEMENT OF THE LOST

If you are lost, you have a serious problem. You are unclean in the sight of God. Not physically dirty, but spiritually and morally filthy. Listen to what Job said in Job 15.14-16:

14     What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

15     Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.

16     How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?

In a later passage Job said, “How then can a man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” Job recognized something the prophet Isaiah also recognized: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away,” Isaiah 64.6. Did you catch that? Your uncleanness, your filthiness, like the wind, has taken you away. In other words, you are a slave to your own defilement. It controls you. It dominates you. It blows you this way and that. This is something the prophet Jeremiah also recognized. In Jeremiah 17.9, we read these words: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Your own heart is so contaminated by sin, so defiled by moral uncleanness, that it is blown this way and that, like the wind blows leaves. Would you like to know how you got to be the way you are? You were born that way. Romans 5.12 clearly declares that the entire human race has inherited sinful defilement from the first man, Adam. Just as physical characteristics are passed on from father to child through DNA, so spiritual characteristics are also passed on from father to child. From the first sinner, Adam, you inherited your sinfulness, your spiritual defilement, your moral filthiness.

Consider, now, the consequence of being this way. There are two consequences: First, being spiritually defiled makes you God’s enemy. Reflecting on his past life as a most sincere and religious person, the Apostle Paul acknowledged that his own spiritual defilement as a lost man meant that he and the God he thought he was serving as a religious man were in reality enemies, Romans 5.10. Being an enemy of God is the immediate consequence of being defiled in your lost condition. You are an enemy of God.

Next, there is an eventual consequence of being defiled in your lost condition. Hebrews 12.4 shows us that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Because of your lack of holiness, because you are defiled by your sin, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10.31. This is because when a lost man falls into the hands of God when he dies, he is then unceremoniously cast into Hellfire. The defilement of the lost.

CONSIDER, NEXT, THE HOLINESS OF THE SAVED

What is holiness? Holiness has to do with being clean in God’s sight. Holiness has to do with God looking upon you and being pleased with what He sees, because He sees no sin, because He sees no defilement, because He detects nothing that is a stench in His nostrils, because there is nothing repulsive to Him. Holiness has to do with you now being dedicated to Him. You may remember from just a few moments ago, Job wondered how something could be clean that has come from that which is unclean. The fact is, a saint of God, a saved person, is someone who was born a sinner but who is now holy in the sight of God.

My proofs: First, there are people who are called saints. They are not unusual people. They are not unique people. They are average and everyday run of the mill believers Paul wrote to in Rome, in Corinth, in Ephesus, and in Philippi. They did not work miracles. They were not pronounced saints by the Catholic Church. They were Christian people who, at one time, had been lost and defiled by sin. As saved people, they are now saints. Are you still unconvinced? Then consider this: In Hebrews 8.12 and 10.17, we read a description of people born sinners: “And their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” God spoke those words about saved people. Sounds like holiness to me.

Therefore, people are called “saints,” which means holy, and they are said to be people of whom God has no remembrance of sins or iniquities. This does not mean the holiness of the saved is because they have never done wrong. Remember, Paul described himself as the chief of sinners.[4] Neither does this mean that certain people saw they had a spiritual problem and they took matters into their own hands and fixed the problem. There is nothing in the Bible that suggests a man can solve his own sin problem or that says a fellow can cleanse his own defilement. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” Paul writes to Titus about this matter.[5]

Whatever occurs that transforms a defiled lost man into a holy saved man is wonderful and quite remarkable. I say this because such a man who has been saved goes to heaven when he dies, and we already know that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Therefore, such a saved man must be somehow holy.

LET US ANSWER JOB’S 4000-YEAR-OLD QUESTION. HOW CAN THAT WHICH IS UNCLEAN BE MADE CLEAN? THE ANSWER OF COURSE IS THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST.

Turn to First John 1.7 and read with me: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”  Do you see it? Do you see how that which is defiled can be made clean? It is the blood of Jesus Christ. Notice something else. Notice the word “cleanseth.” The Greek verb form means that the action of cleaning is perpetual, is continuous.[6] In other words, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses away past sins, present sins, and future sins as they are committed. The Lord Jesus Christ, Who came from heaven’s glory so that He might acquire a human body to bear our sins, with blood coursing through His veins to shed for our sins, does not cleanse away everyone’s sins. Not all who are lost in the defilement of sin are saved unto holiness. Not everyone.

Who, then, can be saved? Who, then, can be made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ? Who, then, can be made saints of God by being cleansed from the taint of sin? Only those who come to Jesus by faith. Only those who receive him, John 1.12-13. Only those who believe on him, Acts 16.31.

My friend, you need to be saint of God in order to get to heaven. You need to be a saint of God in order to be justified so you are no longer an enemy of God. However, you cannot become a saint of God by an act of some religious organization. You can only become a saint of God when your sins have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ.

I urge you to consider the condition of your eternal soul. Ponder your own precious life and what will ultimately become of you. That done, I invite you to come to Jesus Christ. Trust Him to save you from your sins. Trust Him to cleanse you in His blood. Trust Him to thereby make you into a saint of God.

What a miracle! To take a dirty and filthy sinner like you and cleanse you so that you become a saint. Such happens to them who trust Christ.



[1] Acts 11.26; 26.28; 1 Peter 4.16

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 10-11.

[3] Exodus 20.4-5

[4] 1 Timothy 1.15

[5] Titus 3.5

[6] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 785.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org