I have been asked recently about the subject of sainthood. What does the Bible teach about saints? Who are they? Major Christian groups differ in their explanation. Some believe that saints are Christians who have died and have been recognized to possess certain miraculous events in their lives. Others teach that
both the Old and New Testaments unreservedly reveal that all true believers are—in this life—saints.
Let us go to the Bible and find the answers.
I do believe that understanding this truth has enormous implications for our personal growth in grace and assurance. As we move forward in our walk with Jesus, the scriptures give us encouragement and one of them is the declaration that we, believers are saints.
Is there some kind of qualification to become a saint? The Apostle Paul addresses believers with this designation in the opening of many of his letter (e.g. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Jude). Believers are repeatedly referred to as saints throughout the body of many of the New Testament letters (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:10; Hebrews 6:10; 13:24; and Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:7 and 10) without any qualification other than their having believed that Jesus is the one and only Savior of the whole world.
The word translated into the English word saint is related to the words godly, holy, sanctified and set apart.
Jesus—by His obedient life (Phil. 2:8)—merited a perfect righteousness, which, in turn, is imputed to us by faith.
Jesus has become our sanctification by virtue of our union with Him. In a very real sense, we can say that Jesus merited sainthood for us. His sanctification guarantees our sanctification. We are assured that God sanctifies (makes us saints) because the Son of God (Jesus) became the perfectly sanctified One for us. Though He was sinless, He merited a human holiness for us through His life of learning obedience to His Father’s will as the representative of His people. Through His life of obedience and suffering, He was “made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:28) and “by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). This is how Scripture can declare all believers to be saints in the here and now. These are words to encourage all believers. Not just a declaration of a few who have died years ago. What is true of Jesus is true of all those united to Him by faith.
Here are some additional scriptural references to who the saints are. By the way, the word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious.” It is almost always used in the plural, “saints.” “…Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda” (Acts 9:32). “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons …“ (Acts 26:10). There is only one instance of the singular use, and that is “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 4:21). In Scripture there are 67 uses of the plural “saints” compared to only one use of the singular word “saint.” Even in that one instance, a plurality of saints is in view: “…every saint…” (Philippians 4:21).
In summary, biblically speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. All Christian are saints. First Corinthians 1:2 states it clearly: “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” The words “sanctified” and “holy” come from the same Greek root as the word that is commonly translated “saints.” Christians are saints by virtue of their connection with Jesus Christ. Christians are called to be saints, to increasingly allow their daily life to more closely match their position in Christ. These words should encourage all believers of Jesus. It’s God’s way of saying you are special.