What comes to mind when you hear the mention of the word, “Saint?” It is strange that our favorite uses of the word either tie to a football team or to someone declaring that he isn’t one. In the writings of the Apostles Paul the word “Saint” is one of the most often used words to describe those who follow Christ. Did you know that the word, “Christian” was never used by Paul in any of his writings. The word is only used three times in the New Testament. One time Luke used it to describe Christ-followers in Antioch when he said, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” The second use of the word was by King Agrippa when he said to Paul, “Do you think that with so little persuasion you will convince me to become a Christian?” The final use of the word was by Peter in I Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, don’t be ashamed, but glorify God in that name.” The name “Christian” is a great description of those who follow Christ, meaning that one is devoted to him.
But it was rarely used in the New Testament. But the word “Saint” was used very often to describe the disciples of Jesus. In the short book of Ephesians Paul referred to those Christ-followers as “Saints” thirteen times. In the very first verse he said, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the saints and believers in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.” In verse fifteen of chapter one he said, “This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.”
Strangely, we think of the word “Saint” as referring to the elite disciples of the Lord. It has even come to be tied to those officially determined to be saints by the Roman Catholic officials. But that use of the word has no relationship at all to the common use of the word in Scripture. Instead the Bible use is a way of referring to the disciple of the Lord Jesus. In Paul’s writings he called the members of the church in Corinth “Saints.” In I Corinthians 1:1-2, it says, “Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and our brother Sosthenes: To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord – theirs and ours.”
The people he called saints were people with all kinds of problems. They struggled with division. They were so immature that Paul called them babies in Christ. They struggled with immorality. Some were carrying one another to court because of differences. Marriage problems were common and varied. The difficulties they had with their worship assemblies were numerous. Some of them even struggled with believing in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If we heard of a church that had the same problems in our times we would question their devotion to Christ.
In light of Paul’s use of the word “Saint” to refer to people who were disciples of Christ, but who had numerous problems and challenges, it should be obvious the the word isn’t meant to be some exclusive word to apply to the elite members of the body. It means to be set apart for Christ. It is the same word translated by “Holy” and the word “Hallowed”. It not only describes what a person is, but what they long to be for Christ. A “Saint” isn’t one set apart from sin but one set apart for God. The brand new follower of Christ is just as much a “Saint” as the most mature disciple one can find.
One of the uses of the word by Paul is most interesting. In I Corinthians 14:33-34 it says, “Since God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says.” The church is described as “The church of God”, “The church of the Living God”, “The House of God”, “The body of Christ”, “The churches of Christ” and “The church of the firstborn.” Notice that most of the time the description relates to the relationship with God or Christ. But here in I Corinthians 14:33-34 it is the church of the saints. Here it is described in it’s make up of people. In reality that is the same point made in Hebrews 12:23 when he speaks of the church as “The church of the firstborn.” The word “Firstborn” is plural. Instead of being a reference to Jesus as the “Firstborn” the word is plural and literally refers to “The firstborn ones.” It is describing the church as being made up of all people who are God’s firstborn children.
It might attract unwanted attention to declare to others that you are really a saint after all. But it would be accurate and Biblical. We are saints, set apart as followers of Christ.