Believers As Saints
Evangelicals teach that all believers are saints. This perspective is supported by many passages of Scripture such as Philippians 1:1: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacon.” It seems evident that Paul in addressing the saints is referring to all those in the church and not a special segment of the congregation. Therefore, the term encompasses all believers.
Based on this definition evangelicals tend to respond to the question above within an easy affirmative, “Sure, I’m a saint. I have invited Jesus into my heart.”
The word “saint” literally means holy ones. The term holy conveys the idea of being set apart. Many families have every day dishes, and then there is a set reserved for company. That china separated for special use conveys the scriptural idea of holiness. By way of contrast, the daily dishes would be considered “profane,” used for common purposes.
In what way are saints set apart? A typical evangelical answer might be that at salvation they are set apart to God, having their sins forgiven and becoming part of God’s family. In theological terms this means that they are saints in a positional sense, that is, in regard to their status as opposed to their behavior.
However, Revelation 14:12 presents a different picture: “Here is the endurance of the saints; the ones keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” This verse describes “saints” in behavioral terms. One is a saint if he keeps the commandments of God. The New Testament includes many commandments. Obviously no one keeps these perfectly. Consequently, this passage apparently makes reference to those who maintain God’s commandments in pattern, even if not in perfection, and who when they do break a commandment are quick to confess and receive forgiveness.
This passage also indicates that saints keep “the faith of Jesus.” A week or so ago I wrote a post on the foundation of faith consisting of belief in the spiritual world, which entails not only a cognitive belief, but also the accompanying commitment and lifestyle. In other words, a life of faith calls us to maintain the attitudes, values, and behaviors related to the spiritual world. Therefore, keeping the faith of Jesus conveys living in acknowledgment of that spiritual world and its principles. One such principle specifically related to Jesus is found in 2Corinthians 5:15, “…and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” Faith as related to this principle requires scrapping our own agenda and adopting Christ’s.
Therefore, Revelation 14:12 indicates that a saint is a person whose behavior reflects the values of the spiritual world, which includes keeping the commandments of God. “Saint,” then, does not only refer to one’s position as a believer but also one’s behavior.
The Implication of Behavioral Saints
If all believers are saints, as noted earlier, and Rev. 14:12 states that saints are those maintaining high biblical behavioral standards, this suggests that all genuine believers live godly lives, keeping God’s commandments at least in pattern and walking by faith, i.e. the realities and values of the spiritual world.
This same position is expressed from the negative perspective by Paul in Galatians 5:19-21.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
This conclusion has implications for how we are saved. Scripture is clear that we are not saved by works but by grace. Therefore, one does not receive salvation by living like a saint. However, since believers behave like saints, saving faith must include a commitment to live in the spiritual realm, by its values and mandates.
Many contemporary evangelicals view everyone as a saint who have ever prayed the prayer, regardless of their lifestyle. However, the verses above suggest otherwise. This brings us to the opening question. Are you a saint? It is crucial to answer correctly. Your eternal life might depend on it.