Over the passing of time, words have a tendency to change meaning. Take the word “gay.” I recall the day when this word denoted a person who was “happy, merry and light-spirited.” Today, the word has a totally different connotation. Another is the word “charity.” Time was when the word described love in its highest form. Now it carries with it the idea of assisting or helping someone.
Let’s consider a biblical word that time has changed -- the word “saint.” What comes to mind when we hear that word? A super Christian? St. Peter or one of the other heroes of the early church? Mother Teresa? A person whom we could never aspire to be? That’s the way most use the word today, but when biblical writers employed the word “saint,” they were referring to all Christians.
Consider one of Paul’s statements that indicates this is the case: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (I Corinthians 1:2, NASB) Note who saints are: all Christians everywhere who have been set aside by Christ as his own. A saint is anyone who claims the name of Christ, not just “super saints” or heroes of the faith.
This means that if we have placed our faith in Jesus and are a member of his family, we are a saint! “You can’t be serious,” you say. “Who? Me?” Yes. We! Admittedly some of us act more saintly than others, but there are some things that all us saints should share in common.
We are to live a holy life. Saints are people who have been “sanctified (set apart by) Christ” to live a holy life. Saints are called to be “holy (different) ones,” called by God to live differently than their pagan neighbors. I.e., saints are to live like God expects, not like their non-Christian neighbors around them. Do we?
Saints are called to set a proper example. Closely related to this call to pursue a life of holiness is the call for us to be a proper example. The world expects us Christians to possess what we profess and is turned off when we don’t. One author of days gone by has stated that unbelievers are looking for an excuse to not become a Christian and many Christians provide them all the excuse they need. Does our life drive people away from or attract people to Christ?
Saints are called to surrender absolutely to Christ. Paul infers that Christians are “baptized in (into) the name of Christ.” (I Cor. 1:13) Going back and examining the way the ancients used the phrase “in (into) the name of” reveals that the Christian makes a full surrender of himself to Christ and is his possession! Soldiers entering the Roman legions swore loyalty to Rome “in the name of Caesar.” They became his possession and were obligated to obey his every command. Saints/Christians are baptized “in the name of Christ.” We belong exclusively to God. We make an absolute surrender to God and become his possession. Early Christians understood this. Do we?
The mom of a young child was on the phone with her mom. During the conversation, the youngster wrote on a door with a highlighter, tried get it off with soap, took a pair of scissors and cut “hair” off the Christmas tree. His mom asked if he did so because she was on phone. His unabashed reply, “Yes. I can do really sneaky things when people are on the phone.”
God has granted us the option of doing all kinds of sneaky, sinful things, but as a saint we are called to live differently. We are called to live the way God wants. Are we?
W. Jonathan Payne is a retired pastor in The Wesleyan Church who lives in Greenwood. He may be reached at email@example.com or at 341-6794.