Called As Saints

Man at Sunset

To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

One of the terms used in the New Testament to refer to the people of God is saints. This was the term Paul used to address the Christians in Rome (Romans 1:7). It is important that we understand this term and why it was used.

Divine Calling

The first point we must consider is that the term “saints” was not given by any man, but by God. There are two ways to look at the idea of being called – as an invitation and in the sense of being named.

Christians have been invited to be saints. This call is made through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14). All people have been given the opportunity to be saints – as the gospel was intended for “all the world” (Mark 16:15) – but we must take advantage of that opportunity. Becoming saints involves “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5). Answering this call is something that we choose to do.

Christians are also named as saints. Just as we are “called Christians” (Acts 11:26), we are “called as saints” (Romans 1:7) as well. This name has been given by God; therefore, it is a privilege to wear this name – nothing of which we should be ashamed. Since the Lord called us as saints, we should act like saints [more on this point later].

Refers to All Christians

Many in the religious world think of saints as a special class of Christians – usually dead Christians. This is not the way the term is used in the Bible. The saints in Rome to whom Paul wrote included “all who are beloved of God in Rome” (Romans 1:7). Other New Testament passages also make it clear that all Christians are saints (Acts 9:13, 32; Romans 12:13; 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 16:1; Ephesians 4:12; et al.).

What is a Saint?

The Greek word translated saint (hagios) means holy one. To be holy means to be set apart and consecrated for a purpose. For what purpose have Christians been set apart?

  • To do what has been revealed in God’s word – “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God […] For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:20-21, 27). God’s purpose was revealed in the word preached by Paul and the other apostles. We are to repent and obey that message.
  • Sanctification/purity – “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). To be set apart for God’s purpose means we are striving to be pure and remove sin from our lives.
  • Godliness – “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). To be godly is to be like God. We are to strive to live up to the standard we find in Him.
  • To be like Christ – “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus showed how to live in the flesh without committing a sin. We are to follow His example.

Contrast with Sinners

Think about what we have considered up to this point. God has called us to be saints. This refers to all of us. We have been set apart for a purpose. This purpose includes obedience, purity, godliness, and Christlikeness.

Yet too often, Christians refer to themselves more as sinners than saints. Jesus came to “call…sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Repentance implies a change. Sinners are disobedient, impure, ungodly, and unlike Christ. If this describes us, we need to repent. Paul wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). As Christians, we must not live like the world. We must be separate and distinct. We cannot emphasize this enough.

Holiness is for All Christians of All Time

Just because Christians in the first century lived in the age of miraculous spiritual gifts, that did not give them a distinct advantage over us in terms of living holy lives. When Paul wrote to the brethren in Rome and said they were “called as saints” (Romans 1:7), they had not yet received any miraculous spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11). They had simply obeyed the gospel and become “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18) – the same as we have done today.

Conclusion

Just like the Christians in Rome, we have been “called as saints” (Romans 1:7). Let us live up to that call and fill our lives with holiness rather than worldliness.


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