Christians are called saints 60 times in the New Testament, and they’re only called Christians three times. Saint is the Greek word hagios, which means sacred (physically pure, morally blameless, ceremonially consecrated). Hagios is used in the New Testament 219 times, but is mostly translated holy.
What separates saints from sinners is the Holy (hagios) Spirit. If you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you don’t belong to Him (See Rom 8:9). Did you receive the Holy Spirit? If you did, you’re a saint. How empowering!
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)
When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
Not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil 3:9)
We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Cor 5:17)
God has given us a new self image: His righteousness. Saints are holy new creatures whose character is transformed as they worship in spirit all the time. Please read the two previous lessons, if you haven’t already, because this is all tied together.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
As you read your Bible and read innumerable statements like the one just quoted and read 60 times that you are a saint, you get the idea that God is trying to impress something on your brain. There is a spiritual battle going on for your mindset.
The Other Side of the Coin
We’ve been looking at the positive, but we’ve all heard the voice of the enemy as well. “You’ve always been a sinner and you’ll always be a sinner.” Every time you look at some of God’s positively motivating principles of transformation, someone parrots this defeatist mentality. It’s repeated so often you’d think it was Scripture, but it’s not!
Saints aren’t just a bunch of sorry sinners who are nothing but forgiven. We’re not doomed to spend the rest of our days continuing to ruin our relationships while we mechanically go through the motions of so-called worship services. Sadly, this dismal description is the reality for many deceived believers.
Jesus came to save us from our sin, not in our sin. He came to set us free! The Scripture repeatedly sets the expectation that we are to overcome as we walk in love:
Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law… Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom 13:8-14)
Sin and the solution were both explained in this Scripture. Jesus led by example. Focus on love, not on sin. Transformation of character happens as you daily put on the new image that God has given you. Practice the laws of the harvest and you will reap:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Gal 5:16)
It’s preposterous to think that as long as you have a body you have to be a lying, cheating, adulterous murderer. Those who hold this faulty view argue a cause that the Scripture does not argue for. Can you love without sin for one second? For one minute? One hour? One day? …
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Tim 6:3-6)
One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. (Phil 3:13-16)