One of the most misunderstood words in the so-called Christian language is the word saint. I heard a lot about saints in the church I was raised in. But growing up, I just thought a saint was a dead person who was made into a statue.
But Paul the apostle wrote to saints in the books of Philippians, Romans, Colossians, and 1 and 2 Corinthians—and he wasn't writing to dead people. So what exactly is a saint? The opening verses of Philippians give us four qualities to consider:
1. A saint belongs to two spheres. "Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi" (Philippians 1:1). These saints were in Christ, but they were also in Philippi. In the same way, all saints have dual citizenship: we live on earth, but we are also in Christ, which simply means we share the same life as Him (see Galatians 2:20) and are destined for glory in heaven (see John 14:2). Because we're residents of two realms, we should live responsibly in both (see Luke 19:13).
2. A saint behaves submissively. In other words, a saint is a servant. Notice in verse 1 the word bondservant, or bond slave. Paul was writing as a servant to servants. Throughout this letter, he encouraged the Philippians to be servants just like Jesus was a servant and just like Paul was Jesus' servant. That's the idea of a New Testament bondservant: a voluntary slave bound willingly to Christ for life. Jesus redeems you from sin so that you can follow and obey Him with a heart that's submissive to Him (see John 14:15; Romans 6:17-18).
3. A saint believes in the Scriptures. When the Philippian church received this letter from Paul, they read it, obeyed it, and circulated it to other congregations. You know why? They actually believed that what Paul was writing was from God—that it was Scripture (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 3:15-16). Saints are people who believe the Scriptures, who believe that God had no problem superintending the writing of this Book.
4. A saint benefits spiritually. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 2). Grace and peace are like the Siamese twins of the New Testament, because you always find them together, and the order is never reversed. That's because it's God's grace that produces God's peace in the life of a saint. Grace is the fountain, and peace is the stream that flows from it.
To sum it all up, if you're a believer in Jesus Christ—if you belong to Christ—you are a saint. The word saint means holy. I want you to know that even if you don't feel that way, God sees you that way, because you are in Christ. God sees you as righteous because of what Jesus did for you on the cross. And now the light of the gospel shines through you. Imperfectly, certainly, but it still shines through—so let it shine.