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Themes in Philippians (Lesson 2)
Saints in Christ Jesus | Philippians 1:1
The apostle Paul frequently uses the term "saints" to describe Christians in his letters, a concept that plays a crucial role in defining a Christian's core identity.
This lesson explores the meaning of "saints" and its significance for the Christian life, using Philippians 1:1 as a reference point.
The city of Philippi was a prominent Roman colony situated in the district of Macedonia. Paul visited Philippi on his second missionary journey, where he established a church (Acts 16:12-40). Written to this church during his imprisonment in Rome, he addresses the believers in Philippi as “saints.”
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi…”
The word "saint" in the New Testament comes from the Greek word hagios, which means "holy."
The term holy has two primary meanings. First, it means “morally perfect, without defect, and pure.” The second way holy is used is to designate something (or someone) as "set apart" or “consecrated” for a special purpose.
For example, in the Old Testament, items in the tabernacle, such as the anointing oil, bread of the presence, golden lampstand, bronze altar, and sacrifices were designated as uniquely set apart, or consecrated to God for special use.
But not only were things set apart. So were people! In fact, the nation of Israel was set apart to be a holy people. Consider these passages from the Old Testament.
Exodus 19:6: “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Deuteronomy 7:6: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than the other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
It is the same way in the New Testament, where the apostle Peter takes the passage from Exodus and applies it to the church, saying, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
When the New Testament apostles calls Christians saints, they are not using the term in the way that some people might think.
A saint is not a super spiritual Christians who has achieved a higher level of holiness or perfection. Rather, in the biblical sense, a saint is someone who is "set apart" by God to receive his grace, mercy, and kindness in Jesus.
Saints are people who have been made holy by receiving the holiness of Jesus as a gift by believing upon the Savior as their sin-bearer on a cross, where Christ took on the sinner’s unholiness and clothed the believer with his holiness.
Saints now have a new identity and a new destiny in Christ. They are part of God's family and his kingdom, citizens of heaven and ambassadors of Christ on earth.
A believer’s positional holiness is not due to any personal, moral merit or religious work or activity.
It’s purely a gift from God, based on the work of Jesus for us.
That’s why we call it grace.
How does the apostle Paul's use of the term "saints" differ from common misconceptions of the word?
In what ways can we see the Old Testament concept of "holy" or "set apart" influencing the New Testament understanding of "saints"?
How does the core identity of a Christian as a "saint" affect the way believers view themselves and their role in the world?
According to Paul, how does a sinner become a saint? What role does faith and grace play in this change in identity?
Thank you for the privilege of being called "saints.”
We are grateful for the love, grace, and mercy that you have poured out to us through Jesus.
By your Spirit’s power, may we be ever mindful of our status as forgiven, accepted, and beloved, and be encouraged as those set apart and consecrated to testify to your grace to the world.
We pray in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.