No, not at all! In fact, we need to take a look at what a born again person's proper title should be ... how should we identify ourselves? After all, aren't we Christians and isn't "Christian" what we should call ourselves?
To answer that question, we need to ask, "How does God's Word identify us?" If God's Word identifies us in a certain way, then we can only conclude that God has chosen to so identify us!
So, how does God Himself identify us? Before we answer that question, we must understand that first of all, we are impeded by centuries old religious definitions that really do not match the Biblical reality.
The religious definitions of saint are:
a. (Abbr. St. or S.) Christianity. A person officially recognized, especially by canonization, as being entitled to public veneration and capable of interceding for people on earth.
b. A person who has died and gone to heaven.
c. Saint A member of any of various religious groups, especially a Latter-Day Saint.
2. An extremely virtuous person.
So, according to the religious definitions, you and I are not able to be identified as a saint! But isn't that just the way of religion ... to rob us of our rightful heritage? According to the religious definitions above, we can't be called saint (unless we are a Mormon) because either we have not yet died and gone to heaven, or we have not yet been canonized! To be canonized, one must be dead as well!
Finally, and this is the larger hindrance, we must meet some religiously imposed qualification of conduct ... one that no matter what level of virtue we may achieve, there will always be someone who will say "not good enough"!
So, we just simply don't have the right to call ourselves "saints" ... according to religion!
But by which authority are we to determine this or any other issue, man's religion or God's Word? If you answer "religion" then we are finished! But if you answer "by God's Word", then we must learn what God's Word does, in fact, say on the matter!
In most epistles, Paul addresses the members of Christ's Body as "saints"! Let's look at 1 Corinthians 1:1-2 ... 1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (NKJV)
Paul declares that we are called to be saints! And in nearly every epistle, the greeting is similar, he addresses us as SAINTS!
A saint is one who is sacred, pure, morally blameless and holy!
But by whose determination, by whose works are we made sacred, pure morally blameless and holy? By our own efforts?
Not according to 1 Corinthians (or any other epistle), but by what Christ has accomplished! We are called to be saints by God's will for those who call upon Christ Jesus!
So then, we are saints not by our will but by God's will for us!
Or, in other words, a saint is not something that we attain or become after we are born again, but we are made saints by being born again and being a saint is a predetermined choice of God for all those who call upon Christ Jesus as Lord!
Thus, being a saint is not something that we finally somehow by our striving to be pure finally achieve but being a saint is a status that we are to live up to! God declares that we are saints already and it is up to us to live up to that calling of God!
You might think of it this way: When we are born again, God adopts us as His children. Adoption always includes a change of identity, a change of our family name. Whereas before we were in the family of "Sinner" now our family name is "Saint"! Thus, we are no longer known as "Timothy, Sinner" but as "Timothy (or whatever your first name is) Saint"!
This should then change our perspective on who we are in Christ as well! No longer should we say that "I am just a sinner saved by grace ..."! Instead we should say, and understand our status as "I am a saint!"
The definition of a saint? A person who WAS a sinner that HAS experienced God's grace in salvation and IS NOW a new creature ... a SAINT!
This breeds another question ... is it correct then to call ourselves Christians? Correct, but incomplete! Do you know how many times in all of God's Word that an Apostle or writer of any New Testament book identifies us as Christians?
ONCE! Just one time! In 1 Peter 4:16 - - "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf."
The name "Christian" is only used twice more in all the Bible and that in the book of Acts. The first is that believers were first called Christians in Antioch and second when Agrippa told Paul that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian.
So, actually, Christian is how the world of sinners identified followers of Christ while God's leaders identified us as Saints! And Saint has a much broader, deeper meaning than does Christian! For Christian only means follower of Christ while Saint speaks to what our character qualities are to be!
While Christian means "follower", Saint implies becoming like Christ! For the qualities of a saint are the very qualities of Christ Jesus Himself! Again, a name to live up to, what it is we are becoming ... which is the declared will of God our Father! As we are told in Romans 8:29 (and other places) that we are being conformed to the image of Christ our firstborn Brother among many brethren. The brethren of Saints!
Read more articles by Dr. Timothy Hoflund or search for articles on the same topic or others.