2nd July 2018

Letter from the Pastor

"to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints"

1 Cor. 1v2

I doubt if the name John Bradburne is known to many of you, but if you had been reading the news a month or so ago very carefully, you could have picked up that he is about to become the first British ‘saint’ for 400 years.
He was martyred in what was then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where he served as a missionary to lepers there. When Robert Mugabe rose up to shake off colonial rule, John Bradburne was offered the chance to escape and leave the country in its hour of turmoil, but he bravely and honourably refused to desert those whom he served. He was taken by Mugabe’s men, cruelly tortured and then executed at the side of the road, where his body was just left to the elements.
Clearly John Bradburne was a man devoted to his cause, who paid the ultimate price for what he believed, and so he has been put forward so that he will be known, in future, as Saint John Bradburne, should the powers that be in the Vatican approve.
As I read this, it came to mind, how just last year, in October, we commemorated the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation in Europe. The beginning of the Reformation is generally accepted as being the dramatic moment when, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. That began his open opposition to the unbiblical doctrines of the Church of Rome. One such doctrine is that of the position of the priesthood and saints in the church: Luther, going back to the simple teaching of the Scriptures, stood for the truth that priesthood and sainthood are not the domain of just a select few, but in fact all believers in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ are priests and that all true Christians are saints!
I wonder if you have ever thought about the meaning of the word saint; the word literally means ‘holy one’. Thus, by the grace of the Lord, all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’s atoning work for poor, lost sinners upon the cross of Calvary and His subsequent resurrection from the dead on the third day; all who place their trust in Him, are saints. They have become holy ones because they have been washed from their sins, robed in the perfect, holy righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and then received of the Holy Spirit. They are, by what God has done through His dear Son, made holy. They are now Christ’s holy people – His holy church. They are holy ones; they are saints!
To make any distinction, teaching that sainthood is only due to special, remarkably religious persons, is fully against what the Bible, God’s Word, plainly teaches. The verse above is one such example of the use of the word in the Bible, where saints are clearly and simply identified as those who are ‘sanctified in Jesus Christ’.
But not only is the distinction against the Word of God, but it is also harmful to the church. This wrong perception makes for unhelpful differing and distinguishing levels of professing Christians within the body of Christ on earth: some are seen as better than others; the saints, who therefore are more worthy of receiving of God’s love and blessing, unlike the common rank and file members of the church.
But the Bible, in the Gospel of God’s loving grace, makes it abundantly clear that all are sinners; none by nature are saints nor by nature can become saints. We are all fully deserving of God’s wrath and holy anger for our sins. But through the kind work of the Lord Jesus Christ, living for sinners, dying in our place, we can find salvation – saving from our sins. And the even ground where all and any meet to receive of this loving mercy, is at the feet of the cross of Jesus – the plain, level ground, low at the feet of the Saviour, who died upon that cruel cross. This excludes all and any distinction: none are seen as more deserving that any other. In fact all are seen as fully undeserving of God’s loving grace in the Gospel which brings them to true, spiritual sainthood.
Are you a saint? All are sinners by birth – Adam’s seed; born with original sin, with a nature which is ever leaning unto sin. But through God’s wondrous love, a way has been made for sinners to become saints – God’s own holy ones. I pray that we may all know His grace ‘sainting’ us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul – your Pastor

A Hymn for the Saints

1. Look, ye saints! the sight is glorious:
See the Man of sorrows now;
From the fight returned victorious,
Every knee to Him shall bow;
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crowns become the Victor’s brow.

2. Crown the Saviour! angels, crown Him;
Rich the trophies Jesus brings;
In the seat of power enthrone Him,
While the vault of heaven rings;
Crown Him, crown Him,
Crown the Saviour King of kings.

3. Sinners in derision crowned Him,
Mocking thus the Saviour’s claim;
Saints and angels crowd around Him,
Own His title, praise His name;
Crown Him, crown Him,
Spread abroad the Victor’s fame.

4. Hark, those bursts of acclamation!
Hark, those loud triumphant chords!
Jesus takes the highest station;
O what joy the sight affords!
Crown Him, crown Him,
Kings of kings and Lord of lords!

Thomas Kelly (1769-1855)

Pastor Paul Ackerley