By Ron Bartanen
Have you ever heard a Christian say, “I’m no saint”? Many say this out of humility, recognizing their own spiritual shortcomings. And yet, that is what every Christian is. In the eyes of the world, the word “saint” implies near-perfection and special accessibility to God. Some would confer sainthood only upon supposedly super-holy people who have died, and who have attained the status of mediator with God. The conferring of sainthood, however, is not in the hands of men, but in the hands of God. The word speaks of one who has been sanctified or made holy through the working of God in Jesus Christ. In other words, it is not an honor awarded one who has reached a certain high level of perfection, but a position obtained through the grace of God in Christ. Paul thus addressed the body of Christians in Philippi: “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi….” (Phil. 1:1).
As it is used in Scripture, the word “saints” (Gr.: hagion) refers to all who have been called out of the world-system to be sanctified or separated to God in a state of holiness. It was not through human achievement, but through the grace of God in Christ. As Paul addressed the believers in Corinth, “But of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus, Who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD” (1 Cor. 1:30-31). A Christian is one who has been sanctified (set apart) by the Lord for a sacred use—to serve and honor the Lord. As a saint, he/she is not a near-perfect individual who has died and been declared a saint by some ecclesiastical powers. Saints are very much alive, set apart by God to live the set-apart life. A saint is one who is to seek to live up to his calling as a saint. As saints, we are instructed to “follow after holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
Saints are sinners inasmuch as none in the flesh live the perfect, sinless life. However, as God has conferred upon us sainthood, He sees us no longer as aliens to His kingdom, but as those saved and sanctified through the blood of Christ. In penitent faith and baptism we have renounced the hidden things of darkness in this age, and begun the walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:1). While, as saints, we have the status of saints, we are called upon to set as our goal to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (f2 Corinthians 7:1). He instructs us, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Paul’s desire and prayer in behalf of the Christians at Thessalonica was, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely: and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 5:23). We are, indeed, called to be saints alive!
- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://arthurcoc.com/