How You Became One

No papal bull or synod was involved. It did not take centuries of time, nor did it take proof of miracles (thankfully). And most likely, it all happened without even your awareness. The status of “sainthood” was only one of the more than a score of things that occurred the moment you came into the good of God’s salvation. You were constituted a saint in a moment of time.

Are all believers saints? Allow the Word of God to answer. Despite the rather “unsaintly” behavior of the believers in Corinth, Paul wrote to them and addressed them as “saints” (1Co 1:2). The writer to the Hebrews characterized them as “holy brethren” (Heb 3:1), despite the wavering of many to whom he was writing. We are “holy and beloved” (Col 3:12), and all that were in the assemblies in Rome were designated as “saints” (Rom 1:7).

How did this come about? Ephesians supplies the answer. God’s great redemptive plan, from before the foundation of the world, was that we might be “holy and without blame before Him in love” (1:4).[1] He desired a people compatible with His very character. At conversion, we were not only forgiven but declared righteous, reborn with a “holy seed,” indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and made fit to be a partaker of the inheritance with the “saints” in light (Col 1:12). Mercy, not merit, made us holy in God’s sight.

Theologians refer to this as our standing in Christ. It is what we are by virtue of what Christ has accomplished for us. We have been constituted “saints” or “holy ones.” The word can also mean that we have been “set apart” to God for His pleasure. Grace has taken us “out of the world” and placed us in Christ, for God’s pleasure (Eph 1).

No failure on our part, no accusation from the adversary and no circumstance in life can alter the standing we have before God.

Becoming What You Became

We enjoy, by virtue of grace and the work of Christ, a standing of holiness, or as “saints,” in the presence of God. That is our standing. But how, then, do we explain numerous Scriptures which exhort us to a life of progressive holiness or “sanctification”?

For example, 1 Thessalonians 4:3 informs us that the will of God is for our sanctification or holiness. This is obviously something other than the conferred holy standing we were given at conversion. Peter adds his exhortation by reminding us that in light of the future day of God, “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation” (2Pe 3:11). And again, he adds in verse 14, “Be diligent that ye may be found of him … without spot, and blameless” (or Christ-like, cf. 1Pe 1:19). And Peter adds in 1 Peter 1:16 an imperative, not a mere option, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” We are exhorted to perfect “holiness in the fear of God” (2Co 7:1).

There are several words that, while sounding different in our English language, and translated differently in our A.V., actually all have the same root: saint, sanctified, purify and holy. Some linguists may find shades of difference, but they all come from the same Greek root word, hagios.

All of this serves to remind us that we are to become in our lives what we became at our conversion. The progress in holiness or “saintliness” is the responsibility of each believer. John 15, the chapter about fruit-bearing, is a compendium on Christ-like growth. As the Word of God abides in me, shaping my values and vision, I become more fruitful as a believer. Galatians 5 takes the same end result and reminds me that I need the power of the indwelling Spirit of God to produce this fruit. Romans 6 stresses my responsibility to yield myself to God to produce the fruit of “righteousness unto holiness.” Thus, the entire Godhead is working with each of us to develop this holy character in each one of us.

Paul prayed in 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 that the believers would increase in love with a view to their being established in holiness before God in a coming day. Love contains within it a hatred of evil, of sin, and of all that grieves God. Thus, love is the pathway to holiness and fulfilling the state of holiness.

You Will Become What You Became

Allow imagination to run amok for a moment – not that what I am about to write is imaginary; it is very real. Yet in a future day, when we are transformed and morally like the Lord Jesus, our state will finally conform to our standing. That means that we will not only have a holy standing before God, but that we will be holy, essentially and totally! The flesh gone forever is a thought that thrills my heart. No more struggles with mixed motives, impure thoughts and cold hearts. No longer will we struggle with wandering minds at the Breaking of Bread, minds that should be focused on Him. We will not need the emblems, and our minds will not need the discipline which we now need.

We will be completely at home in the presence of God who is holy. There will be no disconnect; all will be in perfect harmony. Unlike Isaiah (6:5), we will not cry out and confess our uncleanness. Nor will we, like Job (42:6), have to confess that we “abhor ourselves and repent” in dust and ashes. The remembrance that we were sinners in need of redemption will always be with us (Rev 1:5-6), but it will only serve to amplify our worship and adoration of the Lamb. We will be with a Holy God, in the Holy City, and we will be “at home” in every sense of the word.

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.