Saints are not man-ordained nor defined by churches or any miracles/deeds that are claimed under their name during their life.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 1:2-3 ESV)
Paul’s greeting to the Corinthian believers uses the greek word for saints, Hagios (hag’-ee-os) to addressed those who have been sanctified and have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord. So the exclusivity of the term saints applies to all of God’s true believers.
The Jewish word Qadowsh (kaw-doshe’) mentioned around 116 times in the Old Testament, is used to describe that which is sacred, holy, set apart and is used for Holy One and saint.
Yea, he loved the people; all his saints are in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.
(Deuteronomy 33:3 KJV)
Deuteronomy 33 is in context to Moses’ final blessing to the children of Israel before his death. Studying verse 3, we can see some basic parallels and points regarding the saints.
1) Set apart only by the love of God.
Israel was not special or different in any way from other people. In fact they were the least in number from the time God chose them (Deuteronomy 7:7).
“Yea, he loved the people;…”
Only because God showed his mercy and love to them personally did the Israelites become his chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:8).
In the same manner, all believers (saints) are still sinners and fail like everyone else. The only thing that sets true believers apart is God’s love and mercy which redeemed all his saints from the wages of sin through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23) and allows them to experience God’s love on a personal level. We’ll come back to this point shortly.
2) They are eternally secured.
“all his saints are in thy hand:…”
Though we cannot say for sure if all the Israelites were true believers despite being given the truth, the ones who were God’s saints had assurance that they were in God’s hands, meaning eternal security. Just imagine, the all powerful and all knowing God of creation is holding his children close to him and keeping them in his protection. Can there really be anything more comforting? Can there be any fear of being snatched away from his grips? (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35, 38-39)
3) Hearers and doers of God’s word.
“…and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words.”
Anyone can say they believe, but the heart of a true believer will desire to learn more about God intimately through his word and walk in his truth not out of obligation or grudgingly, but out of an understanding of the truth and a desire/willingness to please the wonderful God we love.
Let’s go back to point one since that may have brought up the most questions.
Some question how the old testament saints were saved despite the fact that Christ had yet come to earth to sacrifice himself. The summarized answer is that the old testament saints had the same faith and hope of the future Messiah, Jesus Christ who was prophesied to them. (Romans 4). That faith in the living God was imputed to them for righteousness. The long answer will have to wait for another post.
Another question is how believers can be considered holy if they still sin? This is where we must distinguish a believer’s position in Christ and a believer’s practice. The root word of Qadowsh is Qadash (kaw-dash’) meaning to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate, etc. In context to its definition, saints are to be sanctified, set apart and holy. A believer is holy because of the sacrificial atonement and salvation of Christ that has cleansed them from all there sins (1 John 1:7-9), not because of the way they behave. This is God’s mercy in full swing. Though it is true that a believer will outwardly manifest the fruits of their faith (James 2:14-16), because we are still in our imperfect bodies, we still war against our flesh (Galatians 5:17) even when we desire to walk in Christ.
Judging a book by its cover isn’t a full-proof way to know if a person is a true saint of God. This is the folly of any church that tries to single out people because they believe from an outward perspective, they are saints. A person can easily do good works in there life yet still not have a heart that is right with the Lord. Because of sin, all our good works are filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6) and those who trust only on those things will be in for a rude awakening.
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
(2 Peter 1:1-4 ESV)
So who are the saints? They are those who have a true saving faith in Jesus Christ which gives them rebirth into a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17) and enables them to walk in a manner pleasing to God; being partakers of the divine nature and escaping the shackles of sin because of the atonement and forgiveness of Christ.