It has always made me wonder when I read a certain word in the New Testament. About God, I understand the meaning of the word. About you and me, especially me, I don’t. That word is “saint.”
In Philippians, 1:1, Paul opens his letter to the church at Philippi with the words, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi.” In his letter to the Colossians, he says, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.” In Ephesians 1:1, he writes, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”
The very thought that I am a saint makes me feel uncomfortable because I know me. I know the broken, messed up version of myself, some of which others see and some that I alone see. In either case, I don’t deserve the title “saint,” but there it is in plain sight as Paul writes to the churches. He calls God’s people saints.
The word “saint” is hagios in Greek and it means “different, otherness or holy.” It also means “set apart”. God is hagios, something we understand, but us? Here is the reason that Paul refers to us as saints. Listen to his words in 1 Corinthians 2. “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours.”
There are two things that stand out here. First, when we come to salvation in Christ and make Him Lord of our lives, he sanctifies us. He cleanses us, wiping away our sins of the past and making us new creatures. And then, He calls us to be holy, to be set apart, to be like Him in our character and our life. So there is the reality of His divine work in our life and then there is the call, on the basis of that gift of cleansing and renewal, to become like Him. Remember that hagios means otherness. We are different because of His work in our hearts and we in turn are called to live differently. In the words of Paul, we are “called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We are not sinless but we are called to sin less. We are called to become more and more like the Lord Jesus who saved us. Through the help of the Holy Spirit this is possible because that Holy Spirit is God who dwells in us. Therefore Paul says in Ephesians 4:1, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Wow. He says later in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
In those words we see the key to living like a saint. It’s very simple. We imitate God. We live a life of love toward Him and others just as He did toward us. We bring our attitudes, words, thoughts and actions into alignment with His. We are saints by definition. And we are called to live as saints by imitating him.
“Father. Thank you for the work you have done in my heart and life. You have made me a saint, one set apart for yourself. Today, help me to imitate you so that I also live like a saint. Amen”