The first post of this series addressed the charge of hypocrisy in Christians. This second post reflects on the tension between hypocrisy and sainthood.
Part of the problem of attributing the name “saint” is its meaning. Its meaning has become pejorative in the two millennia since the New Testament was written. Admittedly, this self-righteous attitude that has become one of the connotations of “saint,” is due to many Christians’ high-and-mighty attitudes in the intervening years.
What is a saint in its biblical sense?
When we refer to the biblical usage of the appellation “saint,” it does not have the connotations that it does today. It does not mean a person who has passed away who is then inducted into a specialized category of Christian by the process of canonization due to their good works on earth. It does not signify one of those uppity, holier-than-thou types either.
A saint is one who has put his or her trust in Christ.
As Krikorian also proposes, we should begin our treatment of what a Christian where the Bible begins. It starts with the sinner’s salvation, his separation from sin, and his attachment to Christ. The New Testament word that has been translated to “saint” is the Greek hagios which means “a setting apart, a separation from common things.” “Christians are called saints, not because they have any merit of superior sanctity in themselves, but because by a free act of will they have made their choice to separate themselves from the world of sin and to consecrate themselves to Christ as their Saviour.”
It is “because they have made their honest and heart-born confession of faith in Jesus Christ, because they have told their Lord they are sorry for their sin, that they are saints. Like the dawning of light, they are not entire at first – but are separated to shine more and more unto the day of perfect and perfected sainthood” which will only be fully realized in Heaven. »
Saint is the Christian’s identity, who he or she is in Christ.
In fact, “saint” is used in the Bible to identify all Christians, regardless of their personal character. For example, Paul writes to the Corinthian church that “All the saints greet you” (II Cor. 13:13) and to both the Corinthian church and to the church at Rome that Christians are “called to be saints” (I Cor. 1: 2, Rom. 1:7).
Thus, having been forgiven of all sin by accepting Christ’s death on the cross as payment for one’s personal sin, the Christian is “sanctified,” made a saint. As M. P. Krikorian expresses it in his book The Adjective of Antioch, from which this study is inspired, “a saint … may justly be defined as one who is being made over by God through the operation and action of the blessed Holy Spirit.” In other words, it is a process and this growth is not due to the Christian’s efforts, but rather by God’s work in the life of the believer. A Christian can then attribute the term Saint to his identity, as a fact, not something to be attained, but that has already been attained through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Consider this reality. As a Christian, you are a saint. Consider Krikorian’s words: “When … you feel pressed out of measure above the common strength of mortals to bear up under the crushing weight, a perpetuation of the Cross; insomuch that you despair of even life or faint away; trust not in yourself, but, undismayed go on resting in the Lord God omnipotent, remembering that YOU ARE A SAINT. In your communion with God, our heavenly Father, approach him boldly and confidently because you belong to the ransomed of the Lord; because in him you live, and move, and have your being.”
Try this exercise to “try on” this title that is rightly yours. Speak out loud your name preceded by the word “saint.” Feel that? As God’s child, you are worthy of this name. As Saint ________, you do not have to strive to make yourself into a saint, BUT you do bear witness to the grace and goodness of God. It is a weighty responsibility. Let it be a name that you deserve.