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Uh, Sorry.  We Don’t Do Saints in Our Church

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
Ephesians 1:1b

“Saints.  Really?  That sounds kinda Catholic to me.”  And for many, it does.

But the term “saints” seems to be God’s go-to description for those He redeems and calls to Himself.  In fact, Paul uses this term to identify those he addresses in his letters.  For example, in Romans, he writes, “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7).  In the same manner, he addresses those in Corinth as “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2).  And he repeats this pattern in his letters to the churches in Philippi (Phil. 1:1), Colossae (Col. 1:2), and Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1).

By addressing believers as saints, Paul reminds them, and us, of the reality of our new identity in Christ.  Being deemed a saint is not a status earned through good works or perfect behavior, nor is it a title given by a religious body to commemorate some meritorious act, but it’s a descriptive designation God bestows on His children by grace.  It’s how He sees us— no matter how much we may have lived un-saintly lives or how we have grieved His Spirit (Eph. 4:30).  This designation as a saint reminds us we are no longer defined by our past sins or failures, but by our relationship with Christ and the righteousness He imparts to us (1 Cor. 5:21).

But What is a Saint (hágios)?

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “saints” is “hágios,” and carries the meaning of being “holy, set apart, and dedicated to God.”  It is not a title limited to a select few who achieved some higher level of spiritual excellence, performed miracles, or made great sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel, but it refers to all believers who are set apart for God’s purposes.  Being called a saint implies we are consecrated and dedicated to God, and reflect His holiness in our lives (or at least, we should be reflecting the holiness of God in the way we live.  But we’ll address ‌sanctification at a later time).

In Ephesians 1:1, Paul uses this term to remind those in Ephesus of their unique identity in Christ— not by defining them by what they were, but by who they are now (1 Cor. 6:19).  And as saints, they in Ephesus, and we today, are called to live in a way that honors God by demonstrating His character in our daily lives.  Remember, this life of holiness is not something we achieve on our own (because we can’t), but it is made possible only through the work of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Note the operative word: holy— as in Holy Spirit.  Our holiness is simply a reflection of the Holy Spirit who now lives in us.

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Central to our identity as saints is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, which is one of the most amazing things about this life with Christ.  In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul writes,

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with (what) the Holy Spirit of promise, (described as) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

The moment we believe and regeneration takes place, the Holy Spirit makes His home within us, marking us as God’s own, and acting as a seal and guarantee of our eternal inheritance in Christ.  This seal signifies ownership, security, and authenticity.  It is a divine guarantee of our future inheritance in God’s kingdom, a promise that we will one day fully partake in the blessings of eternal life with Him.

The Spirit’s presence in our lives is not a passive reality, but an active, transformative power that allows us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).  The Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13), empowers us to live righteously (Gal. 5:16), and produces spiritual fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23).  And as saints, we must learn to walk in step with the Spirit (Rom. 8:14), yielding to His leading and allowing Him to give us the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

And the presence of the Holy Spirit is not just a future promise, but a present reality that empowers us to live holy lives, as saints, right now (which is the essence of the Higher Christian Life).  For without the Holy Spirit, there is no salvation (Rom. 8:9), for it is the Spirit who brings about the new birth and sustains us in our faith journey.

Saints Are Faithful, Like the Ones in Ephesus

As saints, we are called to live lives characterized by faithfulness to God.  The church in Ephesus serves as a model in this regard.  In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus commends the Ephesian church for their diligence, perseverance, and discernment, while also exhorting them to return to their first love.  This passage highlights key aspects of faithfulness that we should see growing in our own lives.

First, faithfulness involves diligence in our spiritual walk.  We must be committed to growing in our knowledge of God’s Word, engaging in fervent and frequent prayer, and actively participating in the life of His church.  These spiritual disciplines have defined a faithful believer since the Book of Acts and still do today.

Second, faithfulness requires perseverance in the face of trials and challenges.  As saints, we will inevitably face opposition and hardships (it comes with the territory – 2 Tim. 3:12), but we must remain steadfast in our faith, trusting in God’s goodness and sovereignty, no matter what.  After all, trusting Him when we’re flying blind and can’t see tomorrow is the best way to have your faith tested and grow (Jas. 1:2-4).

Third, faithfulness demands discernment— like big time.  We must be able to clearly distinguish between truth and error by holding fast to sound doctrine and rejecting false teachings that would lead us astray.  Remember, Jesus said the primary sign of His soon return would be deception.  Read it for yourself in Matthew 24.

Finally, faithfulness is rooted in our love for God and for others.  Jesus called this love the two greatest commandments, and it should flow from a heart wholly devoted to His and seeking to extend His love to those around us.

“‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these” – Mark 12:30-31.

So Let’s Pray

As we embrace our identity as saints (even if it still makes us feel a bit uncomfortable), let us continue to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).  May we daily surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to transform us from the inside out.  And may we, like the church in Ephesus, be known for our unwavering devotion to Christ and our commitment to living out His truth in a world that desperately needs to see the light of the Gospel, no matter how difficult that may be in the days ahead.

Dear Father,
I come before You with a heart full of gratitude for the incredible privilege of being called Your saint.  Thank You for setting me apart for Your purposes and filling me with Your Holy Spirit.  I am humbled by the knowledge that Your Spirit dwells within me, sealing me as Your own and guaranteeing my future inheritance in Christ.

Lord, I desire to live a life that reflects my identity as a saint.  Help me to be faithful in my walk with You, just as the church in Ephesus was faithful.  Strengthen my commitment to prayer, so that I may communicate with You daily and align my heart with Your will.  Grant me the grace to obey Your Word, living out Your commandments with joy and faithfulness.

Fill my heart with Your love, so that I may love You with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love my neighbor as myself.  Lord, please inspire me to serve others selflessly, following the example of Your Son, who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).  Empower me to be a bold witness for You, sharing the good news of Your truth with those around me.  And let my life be a testimony to Your transformative power and grace.

Father, I ask that You draw me closer to You each day.  Continually remind me of my identity as Your holy one, and help me live in a manner worthy of Your calling.  May my faithfulness bring glory to Your name and advance Your kingdom here on earth.

I pray all this in the precious name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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