The apostle Paul gives the lofty designation of “saints” to believers in most of the letters that he writes to the churches. And, although we tend to use the word as a description rather than a grand title, the designation is not dependent on behavior; rather it is bestowed by the Lord Himself.
We often do not use the word “church” in the correct sense, either. What is a church? To most people, the term commonly refers to a building frequently topped by a steeple or a cross. Yet, in the Scriptures, the term is reserved for people – a group of people who have gathered for the specific purposes of worship, fellowship, and edification.
Who makes up the church? Here again confusion reigns, not from Scripture but from common use. A Brethren assembly is a building where those of the Brethren brothers and sisters gather. The same idea pertains to every denomination. But in the New Testament, a church is simply a group of people who have believed on the Lord Jesus and who gather out of the world for spiritual activities. Common English usage of “local church” refers to both saved and lost alike, but the church in the Scriptures is limited exclusively to those belonging to Christ by regeneration. Not only that, but the word is used in the Bible for the local church (such as the one in Corinth), and also for the universal (or “catholic”) church, which is made up of all believers from the day of Pentecost to the present day. Although every believer can and should choose to belong to a local church, believing on Christ automatically makes one a member of the universal church.
Church members are called saints-that is, by designation they are saints. Most people use the word for those who have lived a life of piety and so deserve the title of saint. But Paul is saying that every believer of this local church was a saint. That does not mean that they lived what we would call a saintly life. But still the title is valid, because each believer has been set apart to Christ the moment that he or she believed.
This is a high calling, one to which we should all aspire to live. I must ask myself the same question, “Do I live up to my name of ‘saint’?”