“Well, I think I live a decent life, but I’m sure no saint.” Really?
Do you know what “saint” means? Have you ever examined this word in the Bible? Truth is we have allowed the church of Rome (and the nonreligious world) to co-opt the word.
Dead or Alive?
According to Rome, the first requirement to be recognized as a saint is to be dead! That’s right, in fact, dead for at least five years. Does that match God’s definition?
Paul wrote “to the saints who are at Ephesus,” “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi,” and “to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” (Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2). Paul surely wasn’t writing to dead saints in heaven. We can be saints now – in this world, in this life.
Not a Title
The term “saint” is almost always plural in Scripture, as in the examples above. I can only find one case in the entire Bible where a specific individual is called a saint. Aaron was “the Lord’s saint” (Ps. 106:16). Even there, it is not Saint Aaron. Titles such as “Saint Peter” and “Saint Mary” are human titles which pervert the biblical truth about being a saint.
Here are three related words in Scripture:
The action: sanctify
The process: sanctification
The result: saint
These three words are related to each other in both Greek and English. The one big difference in English is with the third term. When the Greek word “hagios” is used as a noun, the English usually says “saint.” When the same “hagios” is used as an adjective, English usually says “holy.” So, in English we miss the relationship between these two words. It’s interesting that Spanish more clearly follows the Greek. Whether noun or adjective, Spanish says “santo.”
Only God is santo/holy by nature. God is “holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8) – as we also sing. Not only does God not sin, “God can’t be tempted by evil” (Jas. 1:13). As for us humans, we all are tempted and we all sin. None of us are holy – none of us are saints – unless God makes us saints! How is that? By God’s mercy, grace, and love. The process is called “sanctification.” The action is “to sanctify.” Paul pointed this out when he wrote “to the church of God which is at Corinth – those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints” (1 Cor. 1:2).
So, a person is a saint when they have been sanctified. “Sanctify” means to set apart for God, to consecrate, to purify, to make sacred, to make holy. By definition, a thing that is sanctified is holy; a person who is sanctified is holy (adjective) and a saint (noun). How is this accomplished for humans today?
“We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” (Heb. 10:10).
“Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered” (Heb. 13:12).
After naming various kinds of “major” sins, Paul says, “Some of you were such, but you were washed. But you were sanctified. But you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). “Washed… sanctified… justified” – and from other verses we could add “redeemed… forgiven… cleansed… purified… saved.” “Sanctified” and “sanctification” are just one of many ways that Scripture speaks of our salvation – each word having a slightly different way of looking at salvation. The emphasis in sanctification is to be made holy, to be purified, to be set apart for the service of God.
Continuing the Process
If you are a Christian, it is because through God’s mercy you have been sanctified by Jesus’ blood. By definition, if you have been sanctified, you have been made holy; you are a saint. But like so many issues in Scripture, there are two sides to the coin. It is not just that God makes us holy (saints), but…
“Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2). We cannot save ourselves. But neither can we leave it all up to God. Scripture points this out in so many ways, but let’s limit it today to the term saint/holy. Keep in mind, in English, the noun is “saint,” the adjective is “holy.” These two English words come from the same Greek word.
“Just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy; for I am holy'” (1 Pet. 1:15-16). “Be holy.” Without the blood of Jesus, no matter what we do, we cannot become holy. But once we have been made holy (a saint), we are commanded to be holy, be a saint.
“What kind of people ought you to be in holy living and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11). Christians have been made holy by Jesus’ blood, but we also are called to practice holy living.
“I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Rom. 12:1). “Present your bodies… holy.”
“Beloved, let’s cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). “Cleanse ourselves… perfecting holiness.”
“Receive her in the Lord, in a way worthy of the saints” (Rom. 16:2). In my own words: “You are a saint; live like it.”
Are You a Saint?
If you believe in sanctification through Jesus’ blood…
If you have turned your back on all your unholy sin…
If you love Jesus above all family and friends…
If you have confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…
If you have received Jesus as both Savior and Lord…
If you have been united with Jesus’ death in the watery grave…
Then He has sanctified you; you are a saint.
Live like it!