The other day I got into a conversation with a friend over the meaning of the word “saint.” She, like myself, had been born and bred Protestant, and in the Protestant world you don’t hear this word being used very often, probably because it sounds a little too Roman Catholic. Now, though, I’m part of a fellowship of believers who, if you asked them, probably wouldn’t refer to themselves as either Catholic or Protestant, and as it turns out we have a tendency to use the word “saint” from time to time, in reference to one another and to other believers.
The word saint basically means “holy one” or one who has been set apart unto God. What it speaks of more than anything else is the new identity of those who have been placed in Christ. Biblically speaking, it is wrong to speak of “St. Christopher” or “St. Francis” in a way that sets apart certain believers in a special class above the rest. The New Testament speaks of all believers in Christ as saints, from the very least of us to the greatest.
I read a news article yesterday about a man whose son had been kidnapped and taken from him before birth. For 33 years this man searched for his son, and just this week he finally found him. Both son and father were elated. The son showed amazement at learning for the first time his true identity, which was given to him by his mother and father before he was even born, and said, “I will never use my old name again. This is who I have always been, and this is who I am now.”
I thought to myself, wow. What a picture of the spiritual plight of so many of God’s dear children. They go through life miserable, unsure of who they really are, though sensing they do not belong where they are at. A “sinner saved by grace” and nothing more, they are told to simply try harder, pray longer, and do more in what appears to be a futile attempt to arrive at some kind of spiritual reality. And all along they are ignorant of the identity that was given to them by their Father before the world began. They have never seen who they are in Jesus Christ. But good news, for the Father is seeking them out, actively pursuing a relationship with them that will open their eyes to their place in His love.
There is a verse in the book of Lamentations, speaking of the fall of Jerusalem, that goes like this: “The precious sons of Zion, worth their weight in fine gold, how they are regarded as earthen pots, the work of a potter’s hands!” (4:2) As a picture, I believe this speaks very clearly of present-day Christendom’s failure to bring forth the truth of who we are in Christ. There are simply too many Christians out there (even one is too many!) who are bowing beneath a load of religious guilt, attempting to live the Christian life from a place other than one of complete finality (i.e. “It is finished”).
Than one day it’s like they hear God call out their name, but they don’t recognize it at first, because He refers to them as a holy one, as one made righteous in Jesus Christ, and so they don’t respond. They just kind of look around as if wondering, “Did someone call my name?” hoping it to be true but fearful it is not, because they’ve never viewed themself in such a light before.
Scholars tell us that gold in the Old Testament is often a symbol of the divine nature. So when the scripture says that the precious sons of Zion, who in reality are worth their weight in fine gold, are esteemed as nothing more than worthless jars of clay, it says to me that there are numerous believers out there stuck in religious captivity, who have no idea that they have been made partakers of the divine nature, and that they are, in reality, saints of God.
So I ask you, brother, sister, are you aware that the very life and nature of God fills your inner being? Are you aware that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you have been made one with God Himself? Are you aware that your old man has been terminated at the cross and no longer even exists in God’s view? Did you know that this is your only true identity?
Think about it. How happy would it make the Father if today you shed those shackles you’ve been carrying around, and like the son from that news story say, “My God, this is who I am! This is who I’ve always been! Never again will I use my old name, for to me, as to my Father, that man no longer exists!”