What Is A Saint?


Three boys are in the schoolyard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, “My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50.00. The second boy says, “That’s nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100.00. The third boys says, “I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon. And, it takes eight people to collect all the money!”

What do we call a person who loves and believes in Jesus Christ? Today, we often refer to them as Christians. In the New Testament they struggled as well to be able to identify themselves and each other. In the gospels the writers called them “disciples.” Disciple means student or one who learns. It was not uncommon for the religious leaders to have a group of students around them called “disciples.” Paul was known as a disciple of Gamaliel. John the Baptist had disciples, as did Jesus. In the Book of Acts, Luke lets us know that for many years believers where referred to as “The Way.” A clear reference back to Jesus’ words, (John 14:6-7) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. It is at Antioch that the believers are first called “Christians.” (Acts 11:26)

However, one term has been used for the “God fearing” person throughout Old and New Testaments, SAINTS. A saint was a person who believed in one God. The term meant a “godly one” or a “holy one.” We have almost lost the term today because we view a saint as a sinless or perfect person. In the Catholic tradition when a person meets certain criteria they are made a “saint.” They are viewed a being perfect and closer to God. Saint as found in scripture wasn’t so much an accomplishment (something that I have done) as it was a gift given to us.

Salvation is threefold and consists of Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. Justification is the past tense of salvation, Sanctification is the present tense of salvation, and Glorification is the future tense of salvation.
Justification is a positional reality for all who have become Christians.
Justification establishes Christians with the righteousness of Christ. A African man worked for a missionary in Liberia who caught him stealing clothes from her house. The man asked her forgiveness and promised he would never steal from her again. The woman forgave him and allowed him to continue to work for her. About a month later she caught him stealing from her again. When she accused the man of stealing from her, he accused her of hypocrisy as he said, “What kind of a Christian are you? If you forgave me before, then why do you now remember that which no longer exists?” This clever excuse highlights a truth of forgiveness. Loving forgiveness does not look for past faults. Justification initiates us as new creations in Christ. Sanctification is the practical activity of all Christians. Sanctification continues to cleanse Christians in their daily living. Glorification finalizes Christians in the perfection and power of Christ. Sanctification separates us into conformity with Christ. And Glorification is the future expectation (hope) of all Christians. Glorification completes us as co-heirs with Jesus Christ.

We shy away from words like saint when we find it is connected to words like holiness. Perhaps because we misunderstand holiness? We think it means that we live a perfect life and we feel flawed. Holiness means that one belongs wholly to God. To be holy means that we are being set apart as God’s own possession. When this begins internally, with the heart, the transformation becomes something that affects the total person. In other words we become like the one who owns us!

Believers are called “saints” (Rom 1:7) and “saints in Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:1) because they belong to the One who provided their sanctification. After a series of meetings had finished, the evangelist Billy Sunday was helping the workmen take down the tent. A young man who had been in the meeting the night before came up to Mr Sunday and asked him earnestly, “What must I do to be saved?” Sunday said, “You’re too late,” and kept on working. “Don’t say that,” exclaimed the young man, “for I desire salvation; I would do anything or go anywhere to obtain it.” “I can’t help it,” Sunday replied. “You’re too late; for your salvation was completed many years ago by Jesus Christ, and it’s a finished work. All you can do is simply accept it. You have done nothing and can do nothing to merit salvation. It is free to all who will receive it.”

The saints are also those to whom the privilege of revelation (Col 1:26; Jude 3) and the task of ministry (Eph 4:12) are committed. What did Jesus accomplish when He cleaned the Temple out of the money changers? There was no doubt that He was in the right, for He wasn’t arrested. However, the money changers were back in business the very next day. It showed us that Jesus has a passion for righteousness and holiness.
Was clearing the Temple more for His sake or ours?

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Here we are in the first century Church and they are arguing and fighting. Yet, Paul continues to call them saints! And reminds them that they will one day judge the world. In fact scripture reminds us that we will be greater than the angels.

After the prayer of confession and the assurance of pardon the worship leader says, “In Christ’s name, you are forgiven” and the congregation responds, “In Christ’s name, you are forgiven.” One of the mothers of the church shared her embarrassment with me when she discovered her 5 year old son at the local super market going from shopper to shopper proclaiming, “In Christ’s name, you are forgiven.” The children seem to always get it right. That is exactly where Christ’s forgiveness should be proclaimed. If Jesus were among us today that is probably where he would be, not at church but at the market. Perhaps the church would do better if rather than being embarrassed by our children, we learned from them.

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