I grew up in the New Orleans area rooting for the New Orleans Saints. When I was a child, the team was so bad that people called themselves ‘aints fans. Some fans even went to the games with paper bags over their heads, sending the message that they were too embarrassed to be seen rooting for the team. As the team got better, the fans stopped being ashamed. In 2010, we won the Super Bowl! Fans went from wearing paper bags on their heads to sporting Reggie Bush and Drew Brees jerseys. The fans did not accomplish anything at all on the field, but their identity changed because of the team’s performance. They were ‘aints no more.
The Apostle Paul begins his letters to Christians in Philippi, Ephesus, Colossae, Corinth, and Rome calling the Christians by a new title—saints. These Christians were the holy ones, the saints, people with a new identity. They were right with God—perfect before Him. And not because of their work on the field of life but because of Christ and His finished work.
Based on Acts 16, we know a few of the people who were part of the church at Philippi—a few of the people Paul called saints. At that time in history, religious Jewish men prayed a common prayer every day. “Thank you, God, for not making me a woman, a slave, or a Gentile.” They found their identity in their gender, status, and ethnicity. Paul went to Philippi to share the good news of Jesus and the first three people to respond were a woman, a slave, and a Gentile. They are now the real saints. To Lydia who likely chased satisfaction in her career and in what she accomplished, Paul says “You are now a saint. Christ has done for you what your career could never.” To a former slave girl who was mistreated and taken advantage of, Paul says “You are now a saint. What was done to you does not define you.” To the Roman guard who almost killed himself in shame when he thought Paul and Silas escaped, Paul says, “You are now a saint.”
For those of us who have trusted in Jesus, we too are saints. If you belong to Christ, you are a saint.
It is often difficult for us to internalize that we are saints because we associate that term with people who have been revered—and we feel so normal. If you are familiar with the Catholic tradition, you know it is a big deal to be a saint as it is a long process with sainthood only given to people after they have died based on what they have done. But the Apostle Paul is calling people who are alive saints—not because of anything they have done but because of what Christ has done for them.
You are indeed a saint. It matters because when you struggle with insecurity or shame from your past, you can preach to yourself the good news that Christ has given you a new identity. Two of the biggest tools to fight discouragement in my life have been remembering and reminding—remembering what Christ has done and reminding myself who He has declared me to be.
You are a saint.