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Paul uses the word ‘ἅγιος’ (hagios), often translated as ‘Saints’ nearly 40 times in his letters. It means ‘holy ones’, those who have been sanctified or set apart, for service to God.
Who is he referring to?
In general terms he is writing to the Christians, the believers in Jesus Christ across the Asia Minor region – the Colossians, Ephesians and Thessalonians etc. Those in churches he has planted and a few others.
But look a little deeper to individuals in those churches. Some of the women in Philippi were having trouble getting along (Phil 4: 2 – 3) and in the Corinthian church there were cliques, believers taking other believers to court, blatant neglect of the poor and serious sexual immorality.
Paul calls all of them Saints.
Imagine you do a good deed for a friend. She thanks you and calls you a saint, but being the humble person you are, you reject the compliment saying, “Oh, if you knew what I am really like, you would know that I am not a saint’. What is wrong with this picture? - What is wrong with this conversation?
One thing. One trap and both you and your friend have fallen into it. You have both related sainthood to good deeds. Your friend has called you a saint because of what you have done for her. You have denied it because you don’t believe your life in general lives up to the holiness the word suggests. You don’t believe you are good enough to be called a saint.
Paul never falls into this trap when he writes his letters because he continually marvels at the true reality of the word – that we are saints regardless of our good or bad deeds. ‘To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours’ (1 Cor 1: 2).
The truth is that the Corinthians were saints simply because of calling. God called them to faith and they, in turn, called upon the name of Jesus and came to believe. For each person at the moment of repentance and faith, another saint was born – and it had nothing to do with his or her good or bad deeds. It had everything to do with faith and God’s free gift of Grace.
The same thing happened to you and me when we repented of our wrongdoing and believed in Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Jesus took all of our sin and gave us his righteousness and holiness. We became saints through the praying of a simple prayer.
Suggested prayer: Next time you look in the mirror call yourself a saint. By name. Thank Jesus for that truth and for what He did on the cross to achieve it. Then ask God to help you reflect that truth in the way you live your life today.
Thanks and God bless - Terry