Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…

Philippians 1:1

What is meant by the word “saint”? How does one become a saint? What role do saints play in the church?

While there are certainly individuals in church history who have been strikingly effective and particularly used by God, in the language of the New Testament there is no basis for titling someone “Saint So-and-So” while the rest of us are called by our ordinary names. Biblically, saints are not a special group of outstanding Christians who have done something peculiarly pious. Saints are normal Christians who follow Jesus.

“Saint” is simply the New Testament word used to describe every believer. In the introductions to Paul’s letters, he frequently addressed the recipients as “saints.” The word means “set-apart ones” or “holy ones,” and all Christians are those who have been set apart from what they once were in sin and set apart for Christ. They are His treasured possession—His saints.

And if you are in Christ, so too are you.

The key to becoming a saint, then, is not building up a résumé of good deeds; it is being “in Christ Jesus.” The Bible says that by nature, we are “in Adam,” and unless we are placed into Christ, we remain in Adam and will die in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:22). Jesus came to do all that Adam failed to do and undo all that Adam did in the fall. People are brought from their experience in Adam to a new experience in Christ by His atoning death on the cross. Paul puts it this way: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Here is the real question about sainthood: not “Am I in church?” but “Am I in Christ?” It’s good to be “in church,” but just as someone can be “in a garage” and not become a car, someone can be “in church” and not be a Christian. If we are not in Christ, we are still the same old stuff—religiously painted up and spiritually interested, perhaps, but fundamentally unchanged.

Are you in Christ? If so, then you are a saint! All the benefits and blessings of being in Christ Jesus accrue to you, and you have the privilege of living for Him. Paul’s addressing of ordinary Christians as saints stood as a reminder to them: This is what you are, and this is what you should live as. You are different. You are not to be like the world. You are His. Rejoice today, this moment, if He has set you apart for Himself, and live in freedom to the praise of His glory.

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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.