The Interdependence of All Saints
Hebrews 11:39-40
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:…

The apostle had been speaking of the saints of the Old Testament. He had been building the triumphal arch of Old Testament history. The names of the world's spiritual conquerors are written there, But at the close of this triumphal commemoration you cannot fail to notice the unexpected turn of the text. The conclusion towards which this whole chapter of faith's heroism seems to move would be an ascription of our indebtedness to these valiant servants of the Lord who " have made it a world for us." Without them, the writer of this sacred history would naturally have said, Without them we are not made perfect. But instead he said, "That apart from us they should not be made perfect." We hardly transcend the text, we do but follow the inspired Word out to its larger revelation, when we say, Each Christian generation is necessary to all before; the last saint belongs in some measure to the first; the better thing of each age is for all who have lived and died; not only is it true that we inherit the lives of the saints, but they are to inherit ours; we are for them as well as they for us; neither they nor we are to be made perfect apart; the last century of human history shall crown all the centuries; the consummation of the world is the perfection together of all the saints. This is hardly our customary thought of the saints. We think of them as passed beyond all participation in this world's history, withdrawn from its trials and having no concern henceforth in its warfare and victories; made perfect in their own pure hearts, and their lives elsewhere no more bound up with this world's destiny. We remember with grateful love what they had been to us in the years gone by; we remind one another in our public places of our common inheritance in the lives of good men; we build monuments to the memory of the brave who died for their country; we draw inspiration for youth front the illumined historic page, and the spirit of the martyrs blends still with all sacrifice of love. But while we remember these worthy and sainted ones, we should not forget that we too are to be for them, as they have been for us. If you contemplate, for example, any sacred character from the Old Testament, you will observe that such character is never held apart either from the men of God who went before it, or from the servants of the Lord who are to follow after it. Each of these characters is put in the Bible into relation with all before and all after it — as a link in a chain; all personages that carry on God's gracious revelation, are as links in one continuous chain — and both ends of this unbroken chain of sacred history, running through the ages, with its many links of lives interlocked in one purpose of redemption, are bound to the throne of God, the beginning of it by the first Divine act of creation, and the final end of all in the glory of the Son of Man at the right hand of the majesty on high. The interdependence of all saints, the living and the dead, and those who are to be, appears in certain events in the life of Christ, and may be inferred also from certain inspired hints in the apostolic writings. It is clear from the narrative of the transfiguration, that Moses and Elias had not been cut off by death from personal interest and anticipation in the progress of God's kingdom on earth. What was done here upon a place called Golgotha, was to be done for them also there in that place called Paradise. And it is deeply significant and suggestive that the apostle Peter who was one of the two to witness this revealed intimacy of the saints of the old and the new, and to see upon the Holy Mount this close contiguity of two worlds, is the same apostle who has dropped in his epistle quite incidentally, and as a matter of course, that word concerning Christ's preaching to the spirits in prison, and again concerning the preaching to those that are dead. The Lord's life here, and the life of the dead there, were and are correlated; the history of the two spheres, the realm of the dead, and the kingdom of God on earth, were and are in some way ,connected and parallel histories; the two lands are contiguous, and one Lord passes back and forth across their boundary-line, to-day in the body, to-morrow in the spirit, and the third day risen again, and seen by the disciples; and He has the same administration of perfect justice and grace in both worlds. There is hardly anything more contrary to Scripture than is our common exaggeration of the importance of death. Do we not remember how Jesus seemed always to be putting death into the background as a very secondary and even incidental thing in the history of a soul which has attained the true, the eternal life? He minimized death when He called it a sleep. We magnify it when we call it destiny. The apostles, catching Jesus' diviner tone, called sin death, and love life. Death in the apostolic speech was turned into a metaphor; it served to illustrate something far greater and more important than itself. Conversion to them was the great change; to die may be the greatest event which can happen to a man; but to die is one of the least important things which a man does; to repent of sin, to surrender to God, to live unto Christ — this is the great thing for a man to do. We think of death as a vast gulf between friends; as a great barrier between hearts that would go on loving and being loved for ever; as a wall of adamant suddenly reared by a Divine decree between mother and child, husband and wife; and with the years the great silence widens between men and women who were friends. But when one who had been taught of Jesus had occasion to refer to death, he thinks not of chasm or adamantine wall, but of the veil of the temple — the mere veil between the holy, and the holiest place. "And this hope," he said, "enters within the veil." Does it not revive us like a breath of the Spirit to know this truth of All Saints' day, that we all shall be made perfect together, and none apart; that in God's plan our lives and theirs, whom for a little while we do not see, have been interwoven, and still run on interweaving their threads and colours; that still we are living for them, and they for us in the one kingdom of our Lord; that they in their rest, or in their new activities, are resting, or are ministering, not apart from us, as we in our toils and in our dreams still are living and still are loving not without them; that whatever in higher spheres is transpiring in their lives has also its worth yet to be revealed for us, as our thought and love may have growing worth for them; that whether in some silence in Divine light round about them they are becoming holy and radiant with perfect love in their own pure hearts, or whether along some way of God they are now made strong to run with some glad tidings, or whether with the Lord Christ they be permitted with their dear hands to give some added grace and human, homelike touch to the places in His many mansions which He has gone to prepare for us — still, still, they think, they fly, they rest, they love, not apart from us, and in them and their large happiness the great God thinks also of us; that without us they may not be made perfect in that final unspeakable perfection of all the saints in the last day. And we too — herein is a comfort which we must not suffer any man to take from us — we also are living for them; as the early Church before its Latin corruption did not hesitate in its childlike faith to express in its prayers for the sainted dead this most Christian sense of the mutuality of the believers' lives both here and there. We also are living for our fathers, for our friends who have passed before us, for all the saints, if indeed we are living truly and unselfishly; if we are ripening for their companionships, and becoming strong and pure for celestial thoughts and deeds in the ages of ages. Another lesson from this truth of All Saints' day lies close at hand. I shall have spoken in vain if you do not perceive once more the truth that to be a Christian and to be saved is not merely to become perfect for one's self, and to carry off a crown of glory at the judgment day. It is rather to come to the end of self, and to begin to be a member of a blessed society of spirits. No man is to be saved apart from all the saints. God's law of salvation is a social law, the law of a redeemed society. The social life of the Church, therefore, the social unity of the Church, is not an adjunct or accessory of the Divine constitution of the Church; it is an element of the Divine idea of the Church; it belongs to its essential Christianity. And hence it follows that churches are not revived, and do not grow, if this Divine idea of the covenant of believers and the household of faith, is lost sight of, or practically ignored. Once more, let the lesson come home to us from what I have been trying to say, that individually we cannot grow in grace apart from all saints. There is a beautiful Scripture, the most important clause of which we are too apt to hurry over as we read it: "That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth." The condition of knowledge of the love of Christ is that we find it and share it with all saints. Yet this is just what many of us sometimes are not willing to do. We would know the love of Christ with our favourite saints. With all saints, said Paul. It was Paul, to whom were given personal revelation above measure, who felt the need of learning the love of Christ with all the saints, those unknown saints, those humble saints, those poor saints, untaught, unlearned, are to be your fellow-helpers to the truth. There are faces among them — I have seen some such — in whose light we may learn more of the secret of the Lord than from any books. Oh, when will we understand that our Christ is the universal Christ?

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

WEB: These all, having had testimony given to them through their faith, didn't receive the promise,

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