I've got a question for you this morning, please think about it for a moment before you answer. Would you say that a good description of a Christian is: "A sinner saved by grace?" How many of you have heard that said about a Christian? It is true, we are sinners who have been saved by grace. But is that a "good" description of a Christian? No! That is a very poor description of a Christian. I think there is only one time in the Word of God where a Christian is called a "sinner". Does that surprise you?
James 5:19-20 (NKJV) Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
This is referring to the believer who has wandered from the truth. Other than this time, you will never find a Christian called "a sinner." The most common term used for Christians is "brethren." And the second most common term is "Saint." We are brothers in the family of God, and we are saints!
Psalms 145:10 (NKJV) All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, And Your saints shall bless You.
The term "saint" in common use is limited to certain classes of holy people. It is applied to the inspired evangelists, like Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is ascribed to apostles and the early church martyrs, like Paul, Saint Anthony, Saint Justin, and St. Mary. It is a term attributed to the great doctors and missionaries canonized by the Catholic Church, like St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Benedict. It is a term that is not taken lightly. To say someone was or is like a saint is to classify that person in an exclusive class of holiness or to make that person super or ultra human beyond the dark realms of sin. It is to place a halo above their head and angel wings on their back. The application of sainthood to a person, or group of persons, is nothing that is taken lightly.
If someone were to ask you if you were a saint, what would you tell them? You might be a little afraid to answer the question, because the term "saint" is loaded by so much that is not representative of its biblical meaning. Most people don't think of the term in its New Testament sense. We might be reluctant to say, "I'm a saint", because we live under the assumption that someone who is a saint lives on a much higher spiritual level than we do. We don't want to sound proud. People might misunderstand what we mean if we say we're a saint, especially if they have any kind of Roman Catholic background.
In Roman Catholic theology, which has tended to dominate the definition of the term "saint", a saint is a super-person. Roman Catholic theology says, "A saint is one who has exhibited unsurpassable devotion to Christ." If you take that definition of a saint, you might be reluctant to call yourself a saint. It would be hard for you to say, "My devotion to Christ has no capability of being surpassed by anyone, anytime." At least I hope it would be hard for you to say that.
The Roman Catholic Church says that people who have lived lives of unsurpassable devotion to Jesus Christ are worthy to be called saints, to be canonized, which means: "to be made the spiritual standard" or "lifted up as spiritual models." They make statues and stain glass windows of the saints. They are to be venerated (worshiped), prayed to, appealed to, praised, exalted, and honored. That makes us uncomfortable with the term "saint". The Roman Catholic Church teaches that saints are exalted in their heavenly life to a position of special clout with God. The reason we appeal to them, honor them, and extol them is so they, in receiving our honor, veneration, and prayers, will intercede with God for our needs. They become intermediaries, intercessors for us, and we want to stay in their good graces.
The Roman Catholic Church also teaches that they have a special work in interceding with God for the souls of people which are captive to the pain of purgatory. As you pray to the saint, you appeal to them to intercede with God to release the one that you love from the pain of purgatory. Roman Catholic doctrine says that Purgatory is a purifying process, where you suffer for a time to work off your sins before entering heaven. This is an attack on the finished work of Christ. He paid for your sins in full - total payment. Purgatory is not biblical, it is a straw doctrine invented by man to raise money for the church by buying loved ones out of purgatory. Candles are lit, and as long as the candles are burning, the prayer is perpetual to the saint.
These things make us very uncomfortable with being called "a saint". However, you might be interested to know that Paul's favorite word for Christians is the word "Saint." Paul, in all except two of his epistles, address the congregations with the salutation "called to be saints". Christians are called "saints" 62 times in Scripture. If you have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a saint. In the Biblical sense, the most obscure believer today is just as much a saint as the apostle Paul. You can call me, "Saint David".
Paul uses "saint" forty times in his epistles. And when he speaks of saints, he is referring to ordinary Christians.
Romans 15:25-26 (NKJV) But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.
Here he uses the term "saint" in its common use of all believers. In 1:7, he identifies all of the people in the Roman church as saints:
Romans 1:7 (NKJV) To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul wants all believers to know that they are saints.
POSITION OF SAINTS - HOLY.
Ephesians 1:1 (NKJV) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
The word that Paul uses for "saint' is the Greek word hageos. This Greek word means: "set apart ones, separated ones, or sanctified ones." Perhaps the best definition is: "holy ones." All these terms are synonyms for saints. The concept of "saint" is of being set apart, being holy.
This Greek word that is translated "saint" here is often translated "holy" in the Scripture. We know that God is holy. God is separated, He is separated from sin - that is the purest definition of God's nature. It is the only attribute of God repeated three times:
Isaiah 6:3 (NKJV) And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"
It defines God as utterly unlike us, because we are sinful. He is separated from sin. What is a saint then? It is one who has been separated from sin, unto God, for holy purposes. That is what a saint is. We are separated from sin.
Romans 6:1-2 (NKJV) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
We died to sin, and death is separation. We are separated from sin by our union with Jesus Christ.
Philippians 4:21 (NKJV) Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.
Notice that the saints are "in Christ Jesus." This is very common to Paul, it defines the Christian's identity. We are "IN" Jesus Christ, we share his life. That is why Paul says that Christ is our life:
Colossians 3:4 (NKJV) When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Our separation from sin is accomplished when we are baptized in the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit at the moment we believe. We are one with Christ:
1 Corinthians 6:17 (NKJV) But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
2 Peter 1:4 (NKJV) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
As believers, we partake of the divine nature, we share His life. Every believer is a saint. We are in Christ, separated from sin, unto God, for holy purposes. There should be no reluctance in your mind of calling yourself a "saint." Our only reluctance might come from the fact that we're not living as a saint should live - holy. The title "saint" we deserve by virtue of our being in Christ.
Paul uses this title for the most messed up believers in the New Testament:
1 Corinthians 5:1 (NKJV) It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles; that a man has his father's wife!
The Corinthians are saints? They were being very divisive, living in immorality, suing one another, and getting drunk at the Lord's supper, just to name a few of their sins. Yet Paul calls them "saints"! Was he crazy? No, they were saints! With all of their sin, some of which was worse than unbelievers, Paul still calls them "saints."
1 Corinthians 1:1-2 (NKJV) Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, CALLED TO BE SAINTS, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
"Called to be saints" is literally: "saints by calling." The word "called" is kletos, which means: "appointed to." We could translate this: "called to belong to Jesus Christ."
Why is it so important that we understand that we are saints? It's important because you are a product of your thinking. Proverbs 23:7 says (NKJV), "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." A.W. Tozer said, "All conscience behavior is preceded by and arises out of our thoughts. What we think about when we are free to think about what we will - that is what we are or will soon become."
The mind is the command center which determines our conduct based upon how we have been influenced to think. How you think is a critical issue, and from a Biblical perspective, it becomes very clear how important thinking is. We must learn to think biblically about ourselves. We must understand our identity if we're going to make progress in practical holiness. We are: in Christ, we are righteous, we are saints! Believe this! And walk by faith.
A good description of a Christian would be: "A saint kept by grace." If you think of yourself as "a sinner saved by grace", what do you expect from yourself? Not much. But if you see yourself as a "saint," then you will seek to live up to who you are. This is the biblical pattern - we are to understand who we are, so we will live like we should.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NKJV) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
This is who we are, this is our identity. We died, and our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Now, because of who we are, this is what we are supposed to do:
Colossians 3:5-10 (NKJV) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
Paul wants all believers to know that they are saints. And because we are saints, we ought to live up to who we are. We are holy! And we are to live holy lives - this is our calling.
The Position of saints is that they are holy - set apart ones. This should have an effect on how we live, it should affect our practice.
PRACTICE OF SAINTS - GLORIFYING GOD BY THEIR LIFE
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NKJV) Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (NKJV) as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
Romans 15:5-7 (NKJV) Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the Godand Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
As saints, our practice should be to walk worthy of God, thus bringing Him glory. We talk a lot about glorifying God, but do we know what that means?
What is God's glory? God's glory is intrinsic - we don't give it to Him. It is His by virtue of who He is. If neither men nor angels were ever created, God would still be a God of glory. God's intrinsic glory is the manifestation of His attributes. When we see His attributes, it causes us to give Him glory - praise and adoration. Look with me at Exodus where Moses requested to see his glory:
Exodus 33:18-23 (NKJV) And he said, "Please, show me Your glory." 19 Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." 20 But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." 21 And the LORD said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 "So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 "Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen."
In verse 19, "my name" is the embodiment of all God's attributes.
God's glory causes worship.
Exodus 34:5-8 (NKJV) Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." 8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.
God showed Moses His glory, which was His goodness, grace, mercy - His attributes.
God is a God of glory, and we are to declare it:
1 Chronicles 16:24 (NKJV) Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.
As we live our lives, we are to be declaring his glory by the way in which we live. Many people's only impression of God will come from you. What are you teaching them about God? Are you teaching them that God is a God to be trusted?
Matthew 5:16 (NKJV) "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
How do we, as saints, practically live so as to bring glory to God? If we are going to bring God glory, we must learn to trust Him. God is in control, and we just need to trust in what He is doing. When we trust in Him, it brings Him glory:
Romans 4:20-21 (NKJV) He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
Are you convinced that what God promised he is able to perform? Do you believe that Romans 8:28 is true? Do you live it out? Do you believe that Philippians 4:13 is true?
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
What does Paul mean when he says, "I can do all things through Christ"? He means that because he is in communion with Christ, the power of Christ is available to him for every need. Do you believe that you can go through any circumstance because Christ's strength is available to you? Do you trust Him? Then why do you panic and become consumed with fear when going through a difficult circumstance? What Paul is saying is, "I have the power of Christ to sustain me in life's difficult circumstances." His power is available! Will you trust Him? When you do, you bring Him glory.
Because we are holy, we are to live holy. We are saints, and we are to live like saints. Paul tells the saints to be what they are - holy. The victorious Christian life begins with a recognition of who we are in Christ.
When you look at yourself, you will see your sinfulness. But when you look away from yourself unto Jesus Christ, you will see your new identity, your perfect righteousness, your glorious position with God in the heavenly places. This is why we are constantly told in the Scripture to set our mind on Christ, on things above:
Colossians 3:2-3 (NKJV) Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The key to the victorious Christian life is occupation with Christ. Believer, we are saints, we are holy ones. Sainthood is not an office we choose, but God gives it to us. It's not based on our merit or achievement but on the grace and mercy of God. It's not based on what we have done, but what Christ has done in us. The office of sainthood is not gained but given. As long as Christ is your savior, it doesn't matter if you lived a lifestyle of fame and fortune or a life of sacrifice and suffering. It's not what we have done with our lives, but what Christ has done for our lives. He became the Lamb of God sacrificed for our transgressions. His blood became the atonement for our sins. Because he was willing to do that in which we could not and cannot do for ourselves, we can refer to ourselves as "saints". He has consecrated us set us aside for God's use.
Paul's prayer for the saints was that they would live in such a way as to bring glory to God:
Ephesians 3:14-21 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height; 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Believers, we are saints and the practice of saints should be to live in such a way as to glorify God in all we do. Perhaps if we called each other "saint" it would help exhort each of us to holy living. Wouldn't it help you to live a more holy life if we called you "Saint Tom" or "Saint Jamie" or "Saint Sarah? May God help us to live up to who we are.