The sermon this past Sunday from our Identity Theft series examined the believers new identity in Christ as a saint. The word literally means “holy one”. Shared a few quotes from a couple good books I am using in my study and wanted to pass them along here. I also recommend these two books for those who want to read further on the Christians true identity (links below).
Saint is one of the most widely misunderstood words in our Christian vocabulary. At some point in church history, people began to call the original apostles saints, contrary to the plain meaning of the word as used in the New Testament. So now we hear of Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint Andrew, and the like. In the Roman Catholic tradition, people of unusual achievement are sometimes designated as saints. Among evangelicals we often think of saints as exceptionally godly and holy people.
The truth is, though, every believer is a saint. That’s why Paul’s greetings in his epistles often include something such as, “To the saints who are in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1, see also Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:2). In fact, sainthood is not a spiritual attainment, or even a recognition of such attainment. It is rather a state or status into which God brings every believer. All Christians are saints.
It is a very unfortunate and unhelpful thing that we so often misunderstand this short, simple word. To use a word that applies to all Christians in a way that suggests there is a special, elite class of Christians is doubly wrong: it steals from the church important truths that God intended to communicate through the idea of sainthood, and it promotes jealousy and division within the body of Christ by suggesting a hierarchy that does not exist.
—Jerry Bridges, Who Am I? Identity in Christ (Cruciform Press, 2012), 66.
Yet he (Paul) wrote to them (the early churches at Rome, Philippi, Ephesus, etc.) as saints. Here’s why. A saint isn’t someone you become. It’s who you are the moment you come to faith. God sets you apart, clothes you in the righteousness of Christ, and prepares good works for you to do. Every justified sinner is called a saint. Your identity is grounded in God’s work in you, not your work for God. It’s the name of all who cry out to God for mercy through Jesus Christ.
Living as a saint who struggles with sin is profoundly different from living as a sinner who’s desperately trying to be a saint.