Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon Odd Saints ]

Lonnie Branam

Ths message is a reproduction of message delivered by Otis Gatewood, a Missionary now deceased. It was presented in 1954 on the Herald of Truth Radio Broadcast, produced by the Highland Church of Christ, Abilene, Texas. I felt this message to be relevant for this day and time, should be preserved as long as possible, and deserved to be on the Internet. I hope you will enjoy this unusual sermon.
-------Lonnie Branam

I have Just returned from Germany after having preached there for seven years. I was the first preacher supported by an American church to enter Germany following the war. Our experiences there have been varied, challenging and interesting. In August, 1947, a young German by the name of Dieter Alten, who had served in Hitler's army, started attending our services in Frankfurt. In a short time he had obeyed the gospel.
He spent two years in David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tennessee studying to prepare, himself to preach the gospel of Christ, He made straight A's while there and was chosen the best speaker in the college. Four years ago he returned to Germany and has been doing a good work since that time preaching the gospel In Mannheim. A few months ago I heard him preach a sermon I would like to pass on to you today. The title of that sermon was, “Odd Saints.” Dieter had been reared in a land where many had been cannonized and honored as saints after they were dead. But in the Church of Christ he found those who claimed to be saints even while they were still alive. He thought this was rather odd. . The Bible tells us that all Christians are Saints. 1 Cor. 1:2 says, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth. to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” But the queerest thing Brother Alten found about those odd saints in Frankfurt is that they said they were sinners and yet they claim to be saints. He had always had the conception that saints wore those who lived without sin. But the apostles ‘called the Christians at Corinth saints and yet he condemned them because of strife, contention, adultery and other sins. The word “saint” means one who has been made pure or sanctified. 1 Peter 1:22 says that we are purified by obedience to the truth. Isa. 1:18 says, “And though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be like crimson, they shall be as wool.” We all must confess that we are sinners even though we are Christians, for IJohn 1: 8, 9 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is net in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Those who are thus daily cleansed from their sins by the blood of Christ are described in the Bible as “saints.
This young man learned that there were a number of other paradoxical characteristics about those saints that made them very odd to him. These saints taught that they could not be saved by their own good works, but according to Phil. 2:12 we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Rom. 3:20 says that by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified before God, No man can therefore say as a result of his moral goodness that God is obligated to save him. For that reason Romans 11:6 says, "And if by grace, then it is no more works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” Yet,if our faith does not put us to work doing the thing God has said we cannot be saved. For that reason James 2:24 says, “ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,” One paradoxical characteristic of the saints of God is that we are dead to sin and yet we are alive to God. The apostle Paul said that he died daily, but he says, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Another paradox is that saints fear the Lord, yet love Him. Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Heb. 12:28 says that we should serve God with reverence and godly fear. and yet the Bible tells us that we love God because he first loved us - When one comes into the worship services of the saints of God, he finds no images and no altar. We bear the image of God and Christ in our hearts, and each one believes that his own heart is God's altar. The worship is simple and consists only of songs, prayers, offerings, the Lord's Supper, and a study of the word of God. And yet even though the worship is simple, it is profound because each saint speaks directly with God without going through some other saint, preacher, or priest. God stops to listen to each prayer that one of his saints utters. Brother Alten observed that there were no special holy days among these odd saints. Christmas and Easter were not observed as in other churches. And yet every Sunday, 52 times in the year, was observed as a special holiday . in memory of the resurrection of the Lord. Songs about the birth of Christ are sung just as appropriately in June or August as in December. When Christ instituted the Lord's Supper he said, “This do in memory of me.” Thee is no authority in the word of God for a special day only, once a year to celebrate the birth of Christ.
When he heard us preaching for the first time, Brother Alten was especially impressed with the fact that we were pleading for the unity of all Christians. Hundreds of denominations are in existence today, but in the New Testament we read of only one church. The apostle Paul condemned the division at Corinth where the Christians were wearing different names that honored men rather than Christ Dieter had seen so much hatred and intolerance on the part of the two leading churches in Germany. In fact a thirty years war was fought between the two, and thousands of people were killed in the struggle. He was glad to find someone who pled for unity and peace, and yet he observed immediately that these new saints that he found were separate and apart from sin and condemned the false doctrines and commandments of men. The Bible teaches unity and yet Christ said, “Think not that I come to bring peace to the world. I come not to bring peace but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household”(Matt.10:34). No compromise can be found between righteousness and sin and false doctrine and truth, and the Bible teaches that saints should be separate in this respect, but 1 Cor. 1:10 says, “I beseech you brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you e be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
This German youth noticed that there was no no human head of the church and no one person to whom all gave honour and respect. No church councils were ever held, no delegates. ever came to any conventions; and no creeds were adopted orbserved, There was no super-organization. Every congregation was autonomus with no organization existing between them, and yet each church believed the same thing and worshiped in the same way. He thought that was rather queer, and yet when we taught him that we were united and one through observing what the Lord said instead of what men said, he understood for the first time how simple and easy it is to understand what God has said. Christ is the head of the church, and God is our father, so why should we refuse their authority and substitute the wisdom of men. We were only a small group when Alten first heard us preaching. We were despised and popular among the two powerful state churches They made fun of our efforts to speak the German language and referred to us as, “That American Sect.” And yet we were loved and respected for our works sake. Such contrasts go with true New Testament Christianity. Christ was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He finally was betrayed and nailed to a cross. Many even to this day despise him and would destroy his influence if it were in their power. And yet he is loved and honored by millions. The early Christians were persecuted and driven to the four corners of the earth, and yet we find in Acts 2:47 that the church had favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those that were saved. Brother Alten had been reared under the teaching that certain ones were the clergy in the church and others were the laity. The clergy were paid to do the work of the church; the members were satisfied for them to do so, and so very few members of the church were active in church work. But when he became a simple Christian he learned that all Christians are equal before the Lord and that God does not give honor to a man just because he wears a black robe. Every Christian is esponsible for the spreading of the gospel of Christ. Christ said that those who were baptized were to teach others, and yet there is freedom and no man or council forces members of the church to work. They work because of love and not because they are forced to do so or are being paid for the work. These odd saints obeyed every law of the land under which they worked. They paid their taxes and prayed for the rulers of all lands, and yet no politics were preached in the church and no one was told how he should vote. The teaching was not nationalistic so that a person had to be a member of a certain nation or political party. All political systems of the world were ignored in the pulpit and the Word of the Lord was preached. The Bible, teaches that we should submit to all the ordinances of man for the Lord's sake, yet we find that Peter and John re-fused to obey the rulers of the land when they forbade them to preach Christ. Brother Alten heard the teaching that we should love our enemies and that it is sinful and wrong to kill and destroy those who hate us, or who are members of another church or nation. These odd saints hated sin, but loved the sinner. Sin in every form was condemned and exposed. In fact, the Bible says that we should abhor that which is evil. Christ condemned sin of every kind and in this respect he is described as a roaring lion. Yet Christ loved the sinner and in this respect he is described as a lamb. God is the good shepherd of those who will follow him, but he is a God of consuming fire to those who reject his will. He offers heaven and eternity to those who love and serve him, but warns beforehand that those who do not serve him will be sent away into a bottomless hell. That is a strange God isn't it, but it is the God of those Odd Saints that Dieter Alten found in Frankfurt immediately after the war. He noticed that most of those Odd Saints that he became acquainted with were poor people. In fact some of them were so poor that they did not have enough money to ride the street car to worship services. Most of them lived in old bombed out buildings and many were so poor that they could not afford electricity or heat in their living quarters. They therefore went to bed as soon as it got dark not only becse they had no lights, but also in order to keep warm in the winter months. He then thought of how Christ went and preached the gospel to the poor, and how that Christ, even though he was rich yet for our sakes he became so poor that he did not even have a place to lay his head. And yet those saints who were poor in earthly hoods were rich in faith and in good works. After this young German observed these and other queer characteristics about these people that he described as Odd Saints, he cane to one of the preachers one day and said that he wanted s to join the church. The preacher explained to him that was impossible. The young man thought then that we were odder than ever. But we explained to him that the church which Christ established is the body of Christ, therefore has many members, but no one can join the body. This body of Chris t is also the family of God. We enter God's family, not by joining it, but as we enter our earthly families, by being born into it. Christ said in John 3:5 that we must be born again of water and spirit. Our spirits are changed or made new by faith and repentance. Then we are baptized in water and that is the completion of that spiritual birth that puts us into the family of God. This German young man thought that was an odd way to become a m mber; in fact a way that he had never heard about before. But then he remembered that IPeter 2:9 says that the saints of God are a peculiar people. Yes, here were indeed a peculiar and odd people. Not peculiar or odd because of some special clothes they wore, ome special way they fixed their hair, or because they had different customs and manners. Their oddness was not outwardly but inwardly. But this inward peculiarity was so appealing and attractive that he decided also to become one of those odd saints. He obeyed the gospel, and according to Acts 2:47 the Lord added him to His church. He did not join an American or German church, but he was added to God's famiIy, to God's peculiar people. Dear friend,wouldn't you also like to be one of these odd saints? Then believe and repent of your sins, confess your faith, and be buried with the Lord in baptism. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remision of sins, and you shall receive the gif t of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all those that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Don't you Want to be one these “Odd Saints”?

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