This week's hymn choice is somewhat different than most that I have included here in the past. I would guess that many of you have never heard it before and its theme probably is a little different than that of most hymns shared here. First we should clarify who really are saints. The term saint originates from the Greek word meaning "holy" or "set apart." In Acts 9:13, Simon says, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints [set-apart people] at Jerusalem." Here, saints refers to all the Christians at Jerusalem, not just to a special group of Christians. The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers Never is the word used for a special group of believers who serve God better than others. Scripture is clear that all Christians are saints. If you have a living relationship with God through His mercy and grace, expressed in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are a saint This hymn was written by Bishop William Walsham How (1823-1897) as a processional hymn. Originally it was written for All Saints' Day and had the heading "A Cloud of Witnesses," a reference to Hebrews 12:1: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us . . ." The original text had eleven stanzas but today it is usually edited to six or fewer stanzas in most hymnals. In the first verses of How's hymn we see the purpose of the hymn. We sing to and praise God for all those saints over the years who have finished their course here and have entered into the rest of the Lord. Like the Lord they can say, "It is finished." And like the Apostle Paul they can say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day." (2 Tim 4:7-8) Only in Christ and by his power could they have had the strength for the battle. The Victor's Crown awaits all who remain faithful. I am so very thankful for many believers who have influenced my life over the decades and are now part of the saints in heaven. We who still live and "feebly struggle" here on earth are told to be like courageous soldiers holding firm and loyal to the true faith to the end. We, like all the departed saints, must often fight bravely in a world that is hostile to Christ and His truth. But the victory will one day be ours, even if It doesn't always look that way now. Christ has already won the victory. And soon a more glorious day will break forth, and God's saints will all one day be together with Him. As the hymn shares, then the saints will be clothed in bright array and the heavenly liturgy, beautifully captured in verse five, sees the saints in worshipful praise as the King of Glory, Jesus Christ, passes by in triumphal procession. What a glorious vision. What a hope and future for all saints. Personally, I am so thankful for all those believers - pastors, teachers, friends and family members - who have influenced my walk with the Lord over the years. These saints have been a blessing to me. And some glorious day we will join together in praising the Lord in our new home. Are you a saint? Will you be there? Alleluia! Alleluia!
1 For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who Thee by faith before the world confessed;
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
2 Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
3 O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
4 And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
5 But when there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on His way.
6 From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
in praise of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
You can listen to it here. FOR ALL