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CALLED TO BE SAINTS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, June 29, 2008

“Sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (I Corinthians 1:2).


Last week we celebrated Dr. Kreighton Chan’s fiftieth birthday. I told you how he got saved. Someone brought him to church. He heard me preach a sermon called “God’s Blockades on the Road to Hell.” Dr. Chan was only twenty years old. He had never heard an evangelistic sermon before he came to church that Sunday. I preached on Hell, on Christ’s atonement, on salvation in Christ. Dr. Chan said the sermon “blew me away.” He went to the inquiry room. He trusted Christ. He was instantly converted the first time he heard a Gospel sermon. As Joseph Hart said,

The moment a sinner believes,
   And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
   Redemption in full through His blood.
(“The Moment a Sinner Believes” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

In that moment of time Kreighton Chan was “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” He was made clean and pure in the sight of God by the Blood of Jesus. He came to Christ and was “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

“Well,” you may say, “that’s all there is to it. You just come to Jesus and that’s it.” No, that is just the beginning! But it is a most important beginning. If you are not “in Christ Jesus” we have nothing else to say to you! That’s the reason we keep pounding away on this subject week after week. You must be “in Christ Jesus.”

Now I want you to notice two things about this verse of Scripture, and both of them are illustrated perfectly in the life of our deacon, Dr. Chan.

I. First, you must be in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul directs this letter “unto the church of God which is at Corinth.” I think this refers to the whole body of people in that church, everyone who was coming to it. But later in I Corinthians Paul said,

“Some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (I Corinthians 15:34).

It seems obvious to me that there were people who had attached themselves to the church at Corinth who did not have “knowledge of God” – people who were attending that church who were not converted. One of these was a man living in fornication with his stepmother (I Corinthians 5:1). The Apostle said to the Corinthian church,

“Put away from among yourselves that wicked person”
      (I Corinthians 5:13).

So, it seems obvious that there were people who had attached themselves, connected themselves, to this church who were unconverted. In modern terms we would say that they “joined the church” in an unconverted state. Undoubtedly some of them were raised in the church, and were unconverted church kids.

And so the Apostle goes from the general term “the church of God which is at Corinth” to the specific term, “to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus.” We can say that he makes it very clear that he is speaking to the true church within the larger body, some of whom were not true converts. The real church is made up only of those who are “in Christ Jesus.” Dr. Criswell said, “The church consists only of those who have been ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus,’ i.e. set apart for him in conversion” (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., The Criswell Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1979, note on I Corinthians 1:2).

The divisions and confusion of the church at Corinth came from the fact that many people had joined that church without being converted, without being “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” When Dr. Chan came to our church there were many people like that. But Dr. Chan did not join in with one group or another. Instead, he came directly to Christ.

“In Christ Jesus” is a phrase that occurs again and again in Paul’s epistles. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” means “in union with Christ” or “in connection with Christ.” Our whole Christian life becomes real only when we are in vital, living connection with Christ Jesus, united to Him by the Spirit of God.

When a person comes directly to Christ, he receives what has been called “initial sanctification.” That means the instant he comes to Christ he is considered sanctified, holy in the sight of God, because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to him. As Joseph Hart put it,

The moment a sinner believes,
   And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
   Redemption in full through His blood.

He could have said,

The moment a sinner believes,
   And trusts in his crucified God,
Holiness then he receives,
   Made righteous in Christ by His blood.
(Adapted by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.)

In the next stanza Hart said,

The faith that unites to the Lamb,
   And brings such salvation as this,
Is more than mere notion or name;
   The work of God’s Spirit it is.

It is more than a mere notion. It is more than learning to say “the right words.” It is more than just calling yourself a Christian. It is the work of God’s Spirit that convinces you of sin and draws you to Christ. When you are convinced of sin and drawn to Christ, in that very moment you are

“sanctified in Christ Jesus” (I Corinthians 1:2).

That’s what happened to Kreighton Chan the very first time he heard me preach the Gospel! He was “sanctified in Christ Jesus”! “Sanctified” means “holy.” The moment Kreighton Chan came to Christ he was sanctified, made holy – at once through His Blood!

As much as I love and respect John and Charles Wesley, I cannot agree with them that sanctification is a second work of grace – that first you are saved, and then at a later time you receive a second work of grace that makes you holy. I just don’t see it in the Bible. Initial holiness, or sanctification, comes the “moment a sinner believes” on Christ Jesus!

And isn’t that exactly what happened to Kreighton Chan on May 27, 1979? Of course it is! He came to church that night a lost sinner. God used my sermon to “blow him away.” He went to the inquiry room and instantly yielded to Jesus Christ. In that very moment, he was “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Thank God sanctification begins at the very moment of conversion!

But, you know, most people don’t want to be sanctified. They don’t want to be holy. They want to stay in darkness. They want to stay just the way they are. But one girl said, “I was so disgusted with myself.” Moments after being disgusted with her sinful self, she was united with Christ! She was “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” made holy in the sight of God the moment she was “in Christ Jesus.”

Are you holding back because you are not disgusted with yourself? Are you holding back because you are not sickened and displeased with your own heart and life? May God’s Spirit pierce your heart, convict you of sin, and unite you to Christ! Then, like Dr. Chan, you also will be “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

The only real conversion is one that actually draws you to Christ, when the Holy Spirit places you “in Christ Jesus.” Everything else is just religiosity, mouthing a few words, stumbling into church, like those sinful, lost people who joined the church of God at Corinth. They were still lost. They still had not “the knowledge of God”! They still did not have salvation and initial sanctification “in Christ Jesus”!

Some of my relatives came to the United States illegally from Canada as the Great Depression drove them from their farm. They became U.S. citizens in the 1930s. But what if an illegal alien said, “I am an American citizen now.” Would that make it true? Would his words make him a U.S. citizen? Of course not! You have to go through the experience of naturalization to become a real citizen. And it is the same with Christianity. If you say,” I am a Christian now” you are only fooling yourself! The moment you are naturalized you are in, and not before. You are “in” as a United States citizen when you are naturalized. And it is the same when you become a Christian. You are not a Christian by saying you are one. You are not even a U.S. citizen because you live here. No! That’s like a fellow who says he’s a Christian because he comes to church. You only become a Christian by being naturalized as one. And that happens when you are converted, and not before. You are only a real Christian when you are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” That happened to Dr. Chan as a twenty-year-old pre-medical student thirty years ago, the first time he heard me preach the Gospel. He was “blown away.” He said to himself, “I’m a sinner. I’m going to Hell.” And he literally rushed to the inquiry room after the service. He fled quickly to Christ, was united to Him, and was “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

You would do the same thing as Kreighton Chan if you really wanted to as much as he did. You wouldn’t worry about what others think. You wouldn’t worry about your parents finding fault with you for coming to church, or kids teasing you at school for being a Christian. You wouldn’t worry that it might interfere with your plans or career. None of that would make the slightest difference to you if you felt that you were the terrible sinner you are. You would run to Christ as quickly as possible. You would come to the inquiry room, and I would say, “Will you come to Christ?” You would say, “Yes.” Then I would say, “Kneel by this chair and come directly to Jesus.” And you would do exactly that, very quickly, without any hesitation. After all, that’s what Dr. Chan did the first time he heard the Gospel, when he was a twenty-year-old college student, on the night of May 27, 1979.

What will happen to you if you are not “in Christ Jesus”? Well, you will not be a member in this church if you don’t. You will not be included with the converted kids in certain events. You will not be baptized. You will not be able to partake of the Lord’s Supper. You will be uneasy about death. And you will never have peace, no matter how high you get in life, if you don’t come to Jesus, if you are not “in Christ Jesus.” And one day you will die, and your soul will fall down into the flames of Hell,

“where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”
      (Mark 9:44)

and you will be

“cast…into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42).

And “in hell you will lift up your eyes, being in torments” (Luke 16:23).

Why risk going through such horror, and such unspeakable torment when you could so easily come to Jesus, trust Him, and be “sanctified in Christ Jesus” – and be spared those eternal horrors and torments?

That twenty-year-old boy, Kreighton Chan, saw all this in a flash. He didn’t wait. He didn’t put it off. He didn’t try to learn more about it. No! When he saw he was a sinner, he immediately came to Christ, fell at His feet, and was “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” And it is my prayer that you will do the same thing he did twenty-nine years ago, the first time he ever heard me preach the Gospel. That’s the first point of this sermon. And that’s the first point in the Christian life – you must be in Christ Jesus, vitally united with Him, or you are lost.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

But there is a second point in this sermon, which I can only touch briefly.

II. Second, you must be called to be a saint.

In the Bible the word “saint” simply refers to a good Christian. The Roman Catholics say that only a few very special people qualify to be saints. But that is not what the New Testament teaches. The New Testament teaches that every real Christian is called to be a saint. Read the text again aloud,

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…”
      (I Corinthians 1:2).

This tells us another tremendous thing about those who are “in Christ Jesus.” It tells us that every one like that, every person “in Christ Jesus,” is “called to be saints.” Now that includes you, if you are converted! The ultimate calling on your life is not just to go to Heaven. It does not just say you are called to go to Heaven, although you are. But the text says you are called to be something here on this earth,

“called to be saints” (I Corinthians 1:2).

That is, you are called to be holy people in this present wicked world.

Twice in the Bible you are called to be a very special “peculiar” people who are called “saints.” That term is in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy, in the Old Testament, we are told,

“The Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself” (Deuteronomy 14:2).

In the New Testament, in Titus 2:14, we are told that Christ gave Himself on the Cross,

“That he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

The Greek word translated “peculiar” means “being beyond the usual” (Strong #4041). “A peculiar people” doesn’t mean we should be odd or strange, but that we should live “beyond the usual.” It means our lives as Christians are to be different from the lives of other people. It means we won’t be satisfied to just drag along through life until we die, but that God has a special call on our lives that will lead us out of a wasted, hum-drum life into a life that is lived “beyond what is usual.” We are called to live beyond and above the lives of our relatives and friends who know not Christ. Look at Sergio. He was kicked out into the street when he was sixteen. His father told him, “I can’t help you any more.” He became a street urchin, a hustler, just another kid on the streets of Mexico City, wasting his life. But when he was “sanctified in Christ Jesus” at his conversion, he was also among those “called to be saints” (I Corinthians 1:2). Sergio was called to be a saint. That was also true of Dr. Chan. He was “called to be a saint” from the moment of his conversion.

You can look at these two men, Dr. Chan and Sergio, and you can tell there is something very different about them when compared to the average lost “church kid,” who comes shuffling in with no zeal for souls, and no zeal in prayer, no vital interest in promoting the church. The difference is very simple. The same God who drew Dr. Chan and Sergio to be “sanctified in Christ Jesus,” also “called” them “to be saints.” You, too, must be “called to be saints.”

Only a few people are called to be pastors or missionaries. But every one who is “sanctified in Christ Jesus” is “called to be” a saint.

And so, I say to you this morning, young people, God is calling you to be sanctified in Christ, to come to Christ, and be clothed in His righteousness, and washed clean by His Blood. And all of you who are called to be sanctified in Christ, are also called to be saints! You are called to be like Dr. Chan. You must stop thinking of him as an “unusual” person. He is not. He is what every true Christian should be, and he is also what every true Christian can be.

Throw yourself on Christ and He will save you and sanctify you by His Blood. Follow Christ and you will find that He has called you to be a saint. That is what our church needs most, a band of soldiers for Christ, young men and women who, like Dr. Chan, sacrifice their time, their money and their very lives to serve their King and Master Jesus Christ.

“Sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints”
       (I Corinthians 1:2).

You may not be a medical doctor like Dr. Chan, but you who are "in Christ Jesus" can be saints and soldiers for Christ our King! You can consecrate your time for Christ. You can consecrate your money and your very lives to the service of Christ! And that is what you are “called” to do if you are "in Christ Jesus." And that is what God wants you to do – every one of you who is "in Christ Jesus." 

Not every one of you will be called as a pastor or a missionary, but every one of you who is “sanctified in Christ Jesus” is “called to be” a saint. Hear the call of God! Go forth to serve the King of Kings from now on – and do so for the rest of your life, as Dr. Chan has done!

Let us stand and sing the last song on the song sheet. Sing out with vigor and vitality.

All for Jesus, all for Jesus!
   All my being’s ransomed powers:
All my thoughts and words and doings,
   All my days and all my hours.
All for Jesus! All for Jesus!
   All my days and all my hours;
All for Jesus! All for Jesus!
   All my days and all my hours.
(“All For Jesus” by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I Corinthians 1:1-3.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Give of Your Best to the Master” (by Howard B. Grose, 1851-1939).


THE OUTLINE OF

CALLED TO BE SAINTS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (I Corinthians 1:2).

I. First, you must be in Christ Jesus, I Corinthians 15:34; 5:13;
Mark 9:44; Matthew 13:42; Luke 16:23; John 3:36.

II. Second, you must be called to be a saint, Deuteronomy 14:2;
Titus 2:14.