Saints or Aints
In some churches in the southern United States, one might hear older congregants talk of the saints and the aints. In using this language, they are drawing a distinction between those who outwardly walk in holiness and those who seem to have little regard for the Lord’s standards.
In their eyes, saints are those who have daily devotions, attend church 3-5 times each week, keep their hair cut or uncut in a certain way, do not attend Rated-R movies, and “do not drink, smoke, dance or chew, and will not date the girls who do.” Consequently, because they have kept their short list of commands, the imagine this gives them the right to judge those who have been divorced, those still cursing, those subscribing to HBO, those keeping a beer in the fridge, those tapping their foot to the “rock beat,” and those who have a hidden tattoo printed on their arm. In their own eyes, they along with Jesus Christ, Billy Graham, Bob Jones, and Mother Theresa are saints. Everyone else is an aint. They aint living right. They aint being holy. They aint pleasing to God, and unless they repent and do right, they aint going to heaven.
We are Aints
Well, after 47 years of being raised in a pious household, after 30 years of considering myself a born-again Christian, and after 18 years of being an ordained minister and getting to know my flock, I have come to the conclusion that me and every Bible-believing Christian I have ever met is an aint.
Oh, there are many of us who have learned to externally guard our tongue, turn our eyes, walk differently, worship regularly, stay married, and wake up every morning to an open Bible and devotional book. Yes, there have been many of us who have learned to externally walk contrary to the pagans in our neighborhoods. However, inwardly we all continue to greatly struggle with sin. It matters not where we are in the Christian journey, we all still struggle with anger, contentment, pure thoughts, worry, insubordination, and pride — all things which in and of themselves ought to damn us to hell. And even when we experience some measure of external success and our sins of commission are limited, sins of omission still abound. Yes, in all the churches in which I have worshiped and served, there is still none righteous, no not one. All pews are filled with men, women, boys, and girls battling the world, the flesh, and the devil, and loosing in some way or another, and so too are the pulpits. We are all aints.
And yet, the bible calls us — sinful worshippers — saints.
We are Saints
Paul viewed himself as a saint, and he did not have to die and be canonized in order to realize this title on his business card. He was a murderer. He was one always struggling with his thorn in the flesh and his wretched old nature. Yet he was not embarrassed to call himself a saint. (Eph. 3:8)
Paul calls sinful Christian living in Palestine saints. (Acts 9:13, 32, 41; 26:10; Rom. 15:25-31; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1, 12; 13:13)
Jews, Gentiles, men, and women living in Rome, Philippi, Ephesus, and Colossi were also given the saintly title. (Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 16:2, 15; Phil. 1:1; 4:21; Philemon 1:5, 7; Eph. 1:1, 15, 18; 2:19; 3:18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18; Col. 1:2, 4, 1, 26; 1 Tim. 5:10)
And even fickle and very weak Christians worshiping in Corinth and Galatia were granted this title. (1 Cor. 1:2; 6:1-2; 14:33; 16:1, 15; 2 Cor. 1:1)
Paul was not the only one. The author of Hebrews, whoever he was, used identical terminology in Hebrews 6:10 and 13:24. So too did the Apostle John in his apocalyptic vision. Struggling and tempted believers on earth were all called saints. (Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 20:9)
So how do we put this together?
We are “saints” who “aint” what we would be now or what we will be in glory
As Christians, we have been declared just, perfect, blameless, holy, sanctified, and saintly. This is who we are due to our union and identity with Jesus Christ. All Christ’s obedience ours. All Christ’s law keeping is found on our account. We cannot get more perfect, holy, obedient, just, blameless, righteous or saintly. It is impossible.
And yet we are maturing, developing, manifesting, and making progress in displaying righteousness. We are showing our new nature more and more. Like Jesus, we are growing in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52) Like those in Philippi, we are working out the free gift of salvation unconditionally granted to us. We know we are being molded after God’s image. We know Christ is finishing that which he has begun. And we are convinced that in his good timing, according to his good pleasure, we will be only holy just like Jesus. Therefore, as we seek to worship him rightly, we are to loathe sin and its consequences. We are to tremble at the thought of honoring Lucifer more than our always adoring Lord, and we are hungry to by hearers and doers of God’s good will. (Phil. 2:12) This is what Paul meant when he encouraged his former congregants in Ephesus to grow in maturity. (Eph. 4:13) This is what Peter meant when he told his friends to add virtue to their faith. (2 Peter 1:5) It is also what our Westminster Fathers had in mind when they encouraged their parishioners to pursue man’s chief end — the glorifying and enjoying of God by obeying the wonderful counsel found in his Word. (WSC 1-2)
But this we know – while we are saints positionally sanctified (Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Heb. 10:10), we are also aints being progressively sanctified. (Heb. 10:14) But as we make progress in our worship, we continue to rejoice. We keep smiling for we know one day we will be what we wish we were right now. In glory, we will be rid of our evil flesh, our evil world, and the evil devil, and we will be only holy and saintly like Jesus.
Yes we are saints positionally sanctified.
Yes we are saints and aints being progressively sanctified.
Yes we will only be saints when we are perfectly sanctified in glory.