Revealing the Hidden Saints: Unmasking the True Identity of God's Children

All Saints Sunday - 11/5/2023 |ย 1 John 3:1-3 ESV

Saints Incognito

Halloween, a holiday known for trick-or-treating and indulging in sweets, harbors a deeper truth concealed beneath its playful facade. Beyond the merriment of children collecting candies, there lies a profound revelation โ€“ the universal human desire to don masks and costumes, embracing alternate identities.ย 

This inclination towards masked anonymity can be traced to the constant scrutiny of one's true self in a world of polarized opinions. Even adults yearn for a temporary escape from this relentless gaze, akin to the anonymity sought by public figures beset by paparazzi and adoring fans.

"Saints": More than Meets the Eye

Today, as we celebrate All Saints Sunday, a cherished tradition in many Christian denominations dedicated to honoring the Christian saints who have gone before us, it is crucial to clarify the meaning of the term "saint." Universally recognized, the term finds its origins in the Greek word "hagios," denoting a "holy one."ย 

In the Holy Bible, it is reserved exclusively for those who believe in Jesus Christ, whether living or deceased. The apostle Paul, in his epistles, frequently addresses "the saints" in various cities such as Rome, Ephesus, and Thessalonica.

Diverse Perspectives on Sainthood

The widespread use of the term "saint" has led to confusion both within and outside the Christian church. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, has a well-defined process of canonization to acknowledge individuals as saints.ย 

This process involves an extensive investigation into the candidate's life and beliefs, requiring evidence of at least two posthumous miracles associated with the individual. This designation implies that the person is in heaven and can intercede with God on behalf of believers. It also suggests that one attains sainthood through a holy life and works, gaining access to heaven by the same means.

Lutherans hold a different perspective, emphasizing salvation through faith alone and attributing holiness solely to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. This transformation occurs through the Words of Christ and Holy Baptism, causing believers to be "born from above" (John 3:3-5). Such transformed individuals exist in the world but are not of the world, having been "called out of darkness into the marvelous light" of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:10).

God's Saints Unmasked

The challenge lies in identifying God's saints in the world. Their true identity remains concealed from worldly eyes, much like Halloween disguises. Saints walk among us, indistinguishable from others. They share the same existence, experiences, challenges, and even the same attire. They exist incognito in this world, akin to aliens among humans.

In our text today, the apostle John unveils the identity of these saints. He refers to them as "children of God." This designation is profoundly personal, directed not to saints but to the saints themselves.

Your True Identity

John's message is clear: he is not addressing an elite group of exceptionally virtuous individuals but those "born of God" and having fellowship with the Father and the Son through faith in Jesus Christ. These baptized believers are the saints he addresses.

This status as "children of God" carries profound implications. It signifies being a product of God's love, purchased with the blood of His only begotten Son. Even in the face of sin and rebellion, God's love prevails. The cross of Jesus demonstrates the depth of the Father's love.

The Inconspicuous Saints

This love results in a holy birth, a spiritual regeneration through water, and the Holy Spirit. Believing in Jesus as God and Savior is the Holy Spirit's seal, making one a child of God, a saint, and an heir of His heavenly kingdom (2 Corinthians 1:22).

Yet, believers remain incognito in the world. Their divine birth goes unnoticed, masked by their earthly existence. While they attend church, celebrate holidays, engage in daily activities, and interact with others, they remain indistinguishable from the rest.

The World's Blindness

The world's blindness stems from an unfamiliarity with the Triune God of the Holy Bible, the God of redemption through the Son's blood. If the world recognized this God, they would join in worship, baptism, and seek eternal hope in Christ's victory, rather than despairing over the world's fate.

Hope in Concealment

For believers, knowing their identity as children of God is a great source of hope. The world's inability to perceive their holiness doesn't diminish its significance. They know who they are, and more importantly, God knows who they are. When Christ appears, believers will be revealed in their true glory, like Him.

During Christ's return, believers will be transformed, casting off their earthly disguises and shining in His glory. Their earthly concealment will be replaced by an unmistakable radiance (Philippians 3:21).

The Quality of Purity

However, despite their worldly masks, believers possess an inherent otherworldly quality that cannot be concealed. This trait, part of their birth as children of God and their connection with Jesus, compels them to strive for purity. This purity involves guarding against the falsehood and perversions of the world.

The world's spirit, characterized by rebellion and wickedness, infects all of humanity. While believers can't eliminate all sin and impurity, they can flee from the temptations and remain in Christ through repentance, faith, and continuous engagement with His Word.

A Glorious Revelation

This purification is a challenging journey, subject to criticism from the world, which might misinterpret their intentions. Yet, the sufferings faced on this path pale in comparison to the glory that awaits, as stated by St. Paul in Romans 8:18-19.

The revelation of Jesus Christ will eventually expose believers as children of God, saints in their truest form. Their concealed identity will be unveiled, and the world will recognize them as redeemed, washed, and purified children of God.

Happy All Saints Sunday!

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Sermons from Trinity Lutheran Church in Miles City, MT