An oxymoron is a combination of contradictory words, like “cruel kindness.”  So why is an “obedient saint” a Christian oxymoron?  The following essay will provide the theological answer to this question.

Definition of a Christian Saint

Some of the apostle Paul’s letters are addressed to “saints.”  A Greek lexicon defines the word saints as meaning “human beings consecrated to God, holy, pure, reverent” (Bauer, W., Danker, F. W., Arndt, W. F., and Gingrich, F. W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, 10.1.a.b.a).

The adjective “Christian” qualifying the word “saints,” therefore, designates those human beings who have simply believed that Jesus Christ of Nazareth died on the cross, and was subsequently resurrected, to provide them personally with forgiveness of their sins.

Thus, all Christian saints are holy to God because they have simply believed in Jesus’ death and resurrection for forgiveness of their sins.  Theologically, such a person has eternal life, will not come into the judgment of hell, and has passed from spiritual death into eternal life—permanently and irreversibly (cf. John 5:24).

A Saint and His/Her Obedience to God

However, Christian saints commit sins when they, themselves, try to obey God (Rom. 7:7-11 reports the apostle Paul’s experience in this matter).

The reason a saint sins is because he/she is constantly encouraged by Christian pastors and teachers to obey God.  Responding to those sometimes intense and always sincere admonitions, the believer resolves to personally please God by obeying His law.  Such a resolution automatically makes sin that dwells permanently in every believer’s body until physical death (or his/her rapture) the controlling power in the believer’s life.  And sin’s control makes the believer commit sins.

The problem of sin in the believer makes the word combination “obedient saint” an oxymoron because a saint is incapable of being obedient to God in and of himself/herself.

God’s Solution for The Saint’s Sin Problem

God’s solution to the problem is at once simple and elegant.  God promises He, Himself, will cause obedience from His saint (Ezek. 36:27).  To avail oneself of God’s solution, all the saint has to do is believe God’s promise.

The way God circumvents the sin problem in His saint is to have His Son, Jesus Christ (Who is always perfectly obedient to the Father) live spiritually in His saint and control His saint’s bodily members by the Holy Spirit so that those saints manifest Jesus’ obedient life.  For this, God alone gets the glory for His grace.

On the other hand, if the saint himself/herself were to accomplish obedience to God, the saint’s heart would become proud and he/she would forget God (cf. Deut. 8:14).  And remember, God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

Avoiding the Christian Oxymoron

How might a saint avoid being tagged with the oxymoronic label, “Obedient Saint?”  Simple!  Believe God’s promise of Christ’s obedient life being manifest by His Spirit, and thereby becoming known as a “Believing Saint.”




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