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The Attributes of a Saint

By: David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, January 12, 2011, p. 8

The word Saint appears only four times in the Old Testament and once in the new. It appears much more often in its plural form throughout the Bible.

Saint is from the Hebrew קדשׁ, qâdôsh, and signifies an angel, or someone who is sacred, holy or otherwise set apart from others by their relationship with God.1

The adjective qadosh (holy) denominates that which is intrinsically sacred or which has been admitted to the sphere of the sacred by divine rite or cultic act. It connotes that which is distinct from the common or profane. God is intrinsically holy, providing for them the standard of obedience whereby that holiness may be maintained. Because God is holy, he is free from the moral imperfections and frailties common to man and can be counted on to be faithful to his promises. This aspect of God’s character forms the basis of Habakkuk’s hope that his people would not perish.2 The word occurs in several dialects of Akkadian with the basic meanings “to be clean, pure, consecrated.” In the Canaanite texts from Ugarit, the basic meaning of the word group is “holy,” and it is always used in a cultic sense.3

A saint does not have to be, and is not expected to be “perfect” while here on Earth. Indeed, Heschel points out that God doesn’t even call himself “perfect.” “The notion of God as a perfect Being is not of Biblical origin. It is not the product of prophetic religion, but of Greek philosophy; a postulate of reason rather than a direct, compelling, initial answer of man to His reality. In the Decalogue, God does not speak of His perfection, but of His having made free men out of slaves. Signifying a state of being without defect and lack, perfection is a term of praise which we may utter in pouring forth our emotion; yet, for man to utter it as a name for his essence would mean to evaluate and to endorse Him. Biblical language is free of such pretension; it dared to call perfect (tamim) only ‘His work’ (Duet 32:4), “His way” (II Sam. 22:31), and the Torah (Ps. 19:7) We have never been told: ‘Hear, O Israel, God is perfect!’”4

There are five primary attributes of a saint; Endurance, Obedience, Humility, Patience and Faith.

Endurance

At times life can get very difficult for those who have chosen to follow the Lord. Like refining gold with heat, and diamonds with pressure, nothing of any substantive value can come about without a great deal of stress. God uses stress and trials in order to perfect his saints. But he will never test one more than he or she can bear.

It is the enduring saint who suffers through the hardships that becomes toughened and more able to withstand adversity in the future. “The heart is enriched by its sorrows. Restored men, so often looked upon with suspicion, ought to be the wisest of Christian teachers: wise to guide the sheep, and strong to carry the lambs.”5

20th Century pastor, Oswald Chambers said, “No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. No saint dare interfere with the discipline of suffering in another saint.”6 The saint is also to be careful about trying to alleviate too much suffering from his fellow saints because He may be interfering with God’s perfecting process. “It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s order for others. You see a certain person suffering, and you say—He shall not suffer, and I will see that he does not. You put your hand straight in front of God’s permissive will to prevent it, and God says ‘What is that to thee?’ When you have to give advice to another, God will advise through you with the direct understanding of His spirit; your part is to be so rightly related to God that His discernment comes through you all the time for the blessing of another soul”7

Obedience

The English word, obedience is derived from the Latin, oboedire, the root words of which are ob - towards; and oedire - "to hear" meaning: "to hear or listen towards." Dr. Gene Scott, Ph. D. has defined it as "to run to the voice of the sayer." The popular English usage is "to follow, heed, comply with commands or injunctions within a sphere of jurisdiction."

Obedience is one of the greatest attributes a saint can posses, but it is at times the most difficult. Aaron, Job, Moses and Jacob all suffered their trials, but by in large remained obedient. Christ was obedient to his Father's will and the Apostle Paul obedient to Christ.

God has a specific purpose for each and every person in his creation. What He has assigned for one person is not necessarily going to be the same for another. Each has his or her own part to play in the unfolding of God's creation and obedience is what God seeks from those creatures who were granted free will to either do His will, or not. The Saint unselfishly continues to run toward the voice of God and do His will, no matter how trivial, sublime, difficult or mundane that task will be or where it places him or her.

God seems to plant His saints in the most useless places. “We say—God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. “God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.”8

Obediently serving God means to do His will here in His creation and it is not always serving him directly. “The ecclesiastical idea of a servant of God is not Jesus Christ’s idea. His idea is that we serve Him by being the servants of other men. Jesus Christ out-socialists the socialists. He says that in His Kingdom he that is greatest shall be the servant of all. The real test of the saint is not preaching the gospel, but washing disciples’ feet, that is, doing the things that do not count in the actual estimate of men but count everything the estimate of God. Paul delighted to spend himself out for God’s interest in other people, and he did not care what it cost.”9

We are partners with God in this physical realm and he looks to our willing obedience to accomplish His will for the benefit of all. Unfortunately, man’s own pride sometimes gets in the way of that obedience in following His plan and design. “The universe is done. The greater masterpiece still undone, still in the process of being created, is history. For accomplishing His grand design, God needs the help of man. Man is and has the instrument of God, which he may or may not use in consonance with the grand design. Life is clay, and righteousness the mold in which God wants history to be shaped. But human beings, instead of fashioning the clay, deform the shape.10

Humility

Humility, or being humble is a very attractive and positive attribute of a saint. “Christ set forth this doctrine most graphically by telling of two men who went up to the same temple, at the same hour, for the same purpose. One was a conceited self-idolater, appraising himself very highly, the other was a self-abased and earnest suppliant, who could find no better term for himself than ‘sinner,’ - no other terms so deeply probed his consciousness or expressed the tone and spirit of his life. The sequel showed that in God’s view the ‘righteous’ man was the ‘sinner,’ and the ‘sinner’ the righteous’ man. [The latter] were the only men would could really hear Christ; the [former] were so impenetrably fortressed in their own conceit that no call could be loud enough to be audible above the thunder of their self-applause. Their sin was self-involution and self-satisfaction. They were their own Alpha and Omega. There was no way of moving them but by calling other men away from them. They must be isolated until they felt their position, and raised the signal of distress.”11

A. W. Tozer notes a saint’s will should not be his own, but God’s; “the mental stuff of the Christian can be and should be modified and conditioned by the Spirit of Christ which indwells his nature. God wills that we think His thoughts after him. The Spirit-filled, prayerful Christian actually possesses the mind of Christ, so that his reactions to the external world are the same as Christ’s. He thinks about people and things just as Christ does. All life becomes to him the raw nectar which the Spirit within him turns into the honey of paradise.”12

Patience

When a saint is connected with God, no matter how tough the trials, there is patience in knowing God’s will is being done and there is nothing that can be done about it. Patience is obtained when one understands that there are things outside of his or her control that no amount of energy expended will change. Being patient means waiting quietly as God works out His plan and reaping the benefits and blessings at the end.

Faith

Faith is an action based upon a belief, sustained by confidence. The saint runs to the Lord for shelter, leans on Him for support and rolls his burdens unto Him. The more the saint relies on God and sees His will being done, the more Faith grows. Faith is not automatic, nor is it obtained through osmosis. Faith is an act that is cultured and nurtured as any friendship and develops and grows over time. Here in the physical realm we learn to trust those whom we call our friends over a period of time where we see that they can be trusted. Likewise, the saint trusts God and that trust grows over a lifetime of culturing a personal relationship with Him through the Savior.

The attributes of a saint are always in various stages of development for all who are so-designated. In his/her purest form, the saint truly is an “angel” —or messenger—of God because the connection is such that he/she has completely submitted to God’s will while sojourning here in this physical realm.

 

Notes

1. Strong’s #6918

2. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ©1980 Moody Bible Institute, Vol. II, p.788

3. op. cit. p. 787

4. The Prophets, ©1962 Abraham Heschel, 2001 Perennial Classics ed. p. 352

5. Ecce Dues, ©1867 Robert Brothers, p. 314

6 My Utmost for His Highest; The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers, ©1935 Dodd, Mead & Co., p. 223

7. op cit., p. 320

8. op cit., p. 223

9. op cit., p. 56

10. The Prophets, p. 253

11. Ecce Dues, p. 105

12. A Treasury of A.W. Tozer ©1980 Baker Book House, p. 143

 

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