BLOG: Anglicanism and Saints
I was raised in a Baptist home and never attended an Anglican church until I was 24. One of the concerns I had about Anglicanism is that it seemed to have an unbiblical view of the "Saints". Lots of Anglican churches are named after a "Saint” and they have Saints Day. In fact, my apprehension grew when I started attending an Anglican church and talk to some of the people in the church. They told me that All Saints and All Souls days were when we prayed for the dead and the way they talked about saints just seemed unbiblical. Maybe you have similar concerns at Messiah; a church of the historic Anglican way. The best way to understand historic Anglican ways on this topic, and many other topics, is to read the Thirty-nine Articles and the Collects, as found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. These set forth the historic Biblical Evangelical Anglican way. Let’s begin with the collect for All Saints Day. Please note there is no collect for All Souls Day.
“O Almighty God who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that love thee; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Next, Article 22, “The Romish Doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshiping, and adoration (both of images and relics) and the invocation of saints, is a futile thing foolishly conceived and grounded on no evidence of scripture. On the contrary this teaching is repugnant to the word of God”.
So, here are two clear statements of the historic Anglican way in regards to Saints. All Saints day is not a day where we pray for the dead or merely remember the Saints. It is a day where we are called to a more holy life. The Lord makes you and me a Christian – He has knit His elect together into one communion and fellowship. There are many “visible” churches, but there is only one invisible church. It is made up of all who are in Christ Jesus by adoption and grace. This one invisible church is made up of all true Christians from all over the world. This one invisible church is also made up of all true Christians who have ever lived. By the way, I know this is hard to understand, but in a sense, the one invisible church is also made up of those people who will one day become true Christians – but that is a blog topic for another day.
The collect reminds us of these truths and teaches us to pray for the following things. First, that the Lord will grant you grace to live a virtuous and godly life. The first part of the collect teaches us that all the true Christians are Saints. So we pray for ourselves and others that we will follow those things in Christian’s lives which are godly and virtuous. Note, every Saint has sinned. In other words, every true Christian sins. So we do not seek to copy another Christian's life, but to learn from their life to live in a way which is godly and virtuous. This does not undermine the Bible, but is frank about how we learn. Secondly, we pray that the Lord will help us live a “heavenly minded” life. We are to live in light of the “long game” that the Lord is fitting us for an eternal weight of glory in the New Heavens and Earth, with Him and all His people.
Principal of Ryle Seminary