“. . .that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19, NKJV).
A surprisingly common way Paul refers to the original Christians to whom his letters are addressed is “saints.” In Greek, the term is hagioi, literally, “holy ones.”
The surprising part for many is that Paul’s use of this word is not limited to a select few—not pastors or even longtime believers. All who are part of the Church of Jesus Christ, those who have joined together in the work of Jesus Christ, are called “saints.”
This is a not so subtle reminder from Scripture that all who accept the call to follow Jesus accept the call to be transformed into His likeness—to “be holy” as God is holy.
This holiness is not something we conjure up in order to be impressive. Nor is it a badge we wear in order to exalt ourselves. Instead, holiness describes the gift of God’s loving and guiding presence as God accepts us, walks with us, corrects us, and above all, loves us in such a way that is both life-changing and contagious. He actually transforms us more and more into what we have been created to be—His children, who reflect the ways of His Son Jesus Christ.
These days, the word “saint” is either used pejoratively (to mock or criticize) or as a special distinction only reserved for a few. While it is true that there are those among us worthy of special honor (see 1 Corinthians 12:24), all of God’s children are “holy ones” in the sense that God has set us all apart for His special purposes (this is where we get the word “sanctified”), and God is calling us to become completely His, so that we may be transformed from the inside out in a way that reflects the loving ways of Jesus.
Historically, the Christian calendar has set aside a day to celebrate “All Saints Day” (November 1). Though this part of the Christian calendar has (like many holy days) been co-opted by secular celebrations, perhaps we can recapture the original intent of this day by doing the following:
- Honoring the memories of those whose Christlike example has influenced us;
- Recognizing that all Christians are called by God to receive ongoing power over our sinful ways;
- And, seeing all of our brothers and sisters the way God sees them—as “saints.”
By allowing God to give us the gift of becoming “holy ones,” we become instruments of God’s mission to invite the whole world to do the same!
Prayer for the Week:
“Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
That my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
That I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
To defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
That I always may be holy.” (St. Augustine)
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.