Last Wednesday was All Saints’ Day, though many congregations may transfer their observance to tomorrow, as Pilgrim is doing. The day originally commemorated all departed saints who did not have their own days, but the day can also include all those living who by the blood of Christ are holy, which is what the word “saint” means.
The Bible does not give a process of canonization for those who are departed to go through in order to be listed as saints, nor does the Bible teach that any of those who departed in the faith go to some place other than heaven in order to be purged of their sins, so that we do not know whether they are yet holy or in heaven.
Rather, the Bible teaches that, because of the God-man Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of His blood on the cross for the sins of the whole world, all those who are sorry for their sins and trust in God to forgive their sins for Jesus’s sake are already in this life regarded by God as righteous in Christ, even though we see them still sin.
Quite strikingly, the Divinely-inspired author of the book of Hebrews writes that by Christ’s single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). By way of a common root word in the New Testament’s original Greek, the “perfecting” recalls Jesus’s statement from the cross that all was “finished” (John 19:30) and was already done in the past with a lasting result. The “being sanctified” (or “made holy”) is happening in the present and arguably has God as its primary unexpressed agent.
In this lifetime we do not achieve 100% sanctification because our sinful natures are not completely removed until our deaths or the Lord’s final coming, whichever comes first. Yet, we may be able to observe decreases and increases in our level of such “sanctification” as we fail to or cooperate with God, setting apart time for Him and making use of His Word and Sacraments (Baptism, Absolution, and Communion) so that He can work in us.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.