What do you think when you hear the word “saint?” That probably depends on your background. For example, in the small Baptist church I grew up in, we didn’t talk much about saints. But when we did it was in reference to what I would call MVP Christians who sang the hymns the loudest, had a zip-up Bible cover, and could quote the entire Pentateuch (in King James English of course).
If you grew up Catholic, you likely talked a lot about sainthood. You may have even had pictures of them in your house. In the Catholic world everything is named after a saint- the schools, the churches, the hospitals and more. But you don’t become a saint until you’re, well… dead.
Maybe you didn’t grow up in church, to you a saint is someone who didn’t drink, smoke, or swear, and had somehow cracked the code of living a highly moral lifestyle. The problem is that if those are the Biblical standards for sainthood, I’m sunk and so are you.
On Paul’s second missionary journey, he went to a Port City in southern Greece called Corinth. Like many port cities, it was devoid of a moral compass. In fact in that day if someone was sexually immoral, they were said to be Corinthianized.
Then something amazing happened, Paul started a church there. But rather than the church shaping culture there, culture shaped the church. And a couple of years later, Paul hears things aren’t going well. He hears about issues of division, sexual promiscuity and perversion, even people getting drunk during their worship gatherings. And it’s on that canvas that Paul paints what we know to be 1 Corinthians. Look at the first two verses.
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. 1 Corinthians 1:1-2
These were not people who showed up on Sundays and floated in on a cloud, with sort of a radiant glow because of the glory of God around them. These were people who were like you and like me- some who were faithful Christians and some who were not very. Some who were taking life by the horns and some who needed work. And Paul looks at the whole group and still says “you are saints”.
The reality is- there are only 2 identities in the Bible- sinner and saint. They are both given at birth. When you were born, your identity is “sinner”. Can I get an “amen” moms and dads? It doesn’t take long as parents to realize that. Whether we like it or not, that is a fact. No matter what I do, I cannot do anything about that. We see that idea in scripture more than 300 times.
BUT- When you were born again, your identity becomes “saint.” That word literally means “set apart; holy”. If you are in Christ, you’re not just a guilty, wicked, vile sinner who’s forgiven. In Christ you have a new identity, a new eternity, and a new biography Maybe you’re like me and sometimes you don’t feel that. That’s why you have to believe it. Once we believe what God has said about us, we start to feel as God feels toward us.
If you struggle with guilt, shame, or lack of joy, it’s likely because your primary identity is in your sin and not in your Savior. Just because you wrestle with sin (You do. And so do I.), that doesn’t make you a sinner. Sin may explain some of your activity, but does not define who you are anymore. You will sin some of the time, but you are a saint all of the time.
The minute we sin, if we see ourselves as a sinner, not a saint, we reduce God to the size of our failure. But you are holy and set apart. You are a saint. Allow that identity to determine your activity. Because you are His, live in the joy of being free to be who you were meant to be.
As a sinner, you have a dark past, but as a saint, you have a bright future in Christ.
© Image. Kah-Wai Lin. 2007. Creative Commons