| Last week I heard about a state where the registration forms for new 2000 model automobiles were coming out of the computer indicating these cars were “horseless carriages.” All autos built prior to 1916 were listed by that designation. A system, which was believed to be Y2K compliant, incorrectly thought that the year 2000 was 1900.
I must say it is odd to hear a vehicle referred to by that name. Especially one that has lots of horsepower, air conditioning, power steering and a CD player. The designation is still true, but it just doesn’t fit with our modern situation.
The Bible speaks of Christians by a name that sounds just as antiquated to most modern hearers. With the exception of some long-dead individuals I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone referred to as a “saint.” By contrast, it was a very common designation during the time the New Testament was written.
We’ve lost the word “saint” because it was used to refer to a group of people who were deemed especially holy. Since people didn’t want to make that judgement regarding someone’s life while they were still alive (I guess they could have messed up bad enough to be removed if still living), the term was used of the deceased.
But Paul speaks of Christians as “saints.” He speaks of all people set apart for God’s service with this term. Yes, it carries with it the sense of “holy,” but Paul recognized that our holiness comes through Jesus’ substitution rather than us being perfect law-keepers. While all of us have sinned, some of us have been called by God into His family. We’ve been adopted as His children and He has made us holy–“saints.”
I believe Paul used the term as a way of reminding 1st Century Christians who they were. Maybe we need to restore use of the term as a way to remind each other that we are God’s people–set apart for His purposes. Maybe we also need the reminder so we will live consistent with that designation.
John Kenneth King