Seeking sainthood in the Catholic Church? If you’re from outside Western Europe, things are looking up. A Harvard University study suggests both an uptick in saint-making and a larger portion of new saints coming from outside Western Europe, thanks to increasing competition for worshipers around the world from Protestant religions. Sainthood is quite an exclusive club for American Catholics. Pope Francis’s plans to canonize a Spanish missionary next week will be only the 11th canonization of anyone with close ties to America. During his trip to the United States later this month, the pope will canonize Junipero Serra, who spread Catholicism in modern-day California. Declaring Serra a saint — meaning the Catholic Church recognizes that a person has made it to heaven and can intercede for those on earth. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/09/14/so-you-want-to-be-declared-a-saint-by-pope-francis-see-your-odds-here/
Proverbs 15:8 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”
Romans 6:20 ”For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those thing is death”
Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we now bear FRUIT FOR GOD. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear FRUIT FOR DEATH.”
Luke 16:15 That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God.
Being set apart by God for God is not the same thing as being “moral”. Morality is not “sanctification” because those who are not yet justified before God by Christ’s death are not yet sanctified, not by the blood and not by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible teaches a distinction between “dead works” (works done with unacceptable motives, like gaining assurance) and “fruit unto God” (works that are pleasing to God without being “necessary”)
Our justification is not by our works, not even by our works after faith and justification. If we are already justified, then it’s too late for us to be justified by works. If we think we will lose our justification if we don’t work, then we do not yet understand what God’s justification is.
When Roman Catholics (and most Protestants) do not yet understand what God’s justification is, that is the result of God not having yet justified most professing Christians. According to John 10, the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice and do not follow strangers, and this includes legalist and Arminian Protestants as well the pope who claims to be “the vicar of Christ”. If we think that our works will give us the evidence that we are saints, then we have not yet believed the gospel, which is the good news about being joined to Christ’s death and NOT ABOUT OUR WORKS.
Romans 3: 27 “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By one of works? No, on the contrary, by a law of faith. 28 For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
Even after we are justified saints, we are not yet glorified, not yet raised from the first death and given immortality. But neither is the rest of salvation conditioned on our morality and works. Our future resurrection from death is not about God enabling us to do what is required, but about God doing for us what we cannot and never will do.
Most professing Christians condition salvation on what God does in the sinner. Even many Augustinians define grace as God doing in us what God requires in us, instead of defining the gospel by Christ’s death as satisfaction of God’s law.
Is Assurance Necessary for Us to Be Moral, or is morality necessary for Us to have Assurance, or do we have a Situationist Gospel in which the Answer Depends on Who’s Listening?
With its emphasis on “knowledge” and “calling”, II Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by making our calling and election sure. Those who know Christ are commanded to become become fruitful, but not in order to find out if they know Christ (or are known by Christ.
But many assume an assurance of calling based on our morality. To do that, they attempt to isolate one verse and ignore the context of II Peter 1, which begins in the very first verse with the idea that faith is given because of Christ’s righteousness. They makes their “works of faith” the assurance.
Their assurance of Christ’s atonement is only as good as their confidence in their own works. Their “faith” turns out to be assurance in God causing them to be moral, not assurance in Christ’s death because of the sins of the elect imputed.
By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”?
Legalists warn against thinking you are justified if you are not “sanctified” (following moral rules) . But they are trying to be saints without first being justified by Christ’s death alone. They have not yet submitted to the gospel which teaches a righteousness not our own, a righteousness found in Christ’s death. Instead the legalists give their idol god the glory for creating in them a righteousness of their own.
We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But even many professing “Reformed” folks think of faith as the “condition” that saves them. Yes, they disagree (somewhat) about the source of faith, but they both are way more concerned about the condition faith leaves you in than they are in the object of faith.
We get “results”, they boast. We are seriously and sincerely moral. This false gospel makes everything conditional, not on Christ’s death, but on us—-if the Holy Spirit enables you do enough things right, then God promises not to break you off.
The true gospel explains that the justification of the ungodly does not happen apart from the imputation of Christ’s death and that faith is created by hearing the gospel. The true gospel tells us that it is the righteousness ALONE (Christ’s death bearing sins, apart from any works of faith created in us ) which satisfies the requirement of God’s law. (Romans 8:4)
The moralist does not test her works by the gospel doctrine of righteousness. Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.
Hebrews 6:1– “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”
Hebrews 9:14–”How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
The problem with using works “done after you are in the family” to get assurance that you are a saint is that works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. The light of the true gospel of free grace exposes our “good works” as “dead works”. And “dead works” are sins.
John 3:19– “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Certainly God commands us all to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh, by people who are not yet justified. To doubt that you are justified or will be justified because of morality or immortality is to take the focus away from Christ’s one-time-done death for elect sinners.