Who is a saint? A holy person? One who is above and more deserving than others? One who stands out because of their works? Specific Christians who’ve reached a certain level of holiness in their walk? Recently in my small group we touched on this very topic as we discussed Ephesians 1:1.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: (ESV)[Emphasis mine.]
How often do you read right through this verse? It’s just a greeting, right? Would we all pay more attention if Paul wrote the following?
Paul, a jerk for Jesus, to the idiots who are in Ephesus.
We might just stop a little more quickly and wonder just what in the world Paul is writing. However, our gracious God inspired Paul to write something that is more telling about Christians, but harder to see. This one verse that is merely a salutation tells us much about who Christians are in the eyes of God. The reason we often miss it is that daily we fall short of living up to God’s standards. We have a tendency to feel guilty about this. I understand that, really, I do. There may be a greater problem that lies behind just why we aren’t always good servants of our Lord. We often don’t have a proper view of ourselves as God sees us. There are a few things this verse shows us as to how we should view ourselves as Christians. It is God who has put us as ambassadors, separated and in Christ.
Paul rightly calls himself an apostle. He was surely in a special position and God worked in specials ways through him. What does this say to and about Christians in general? While Paul is considered an Apostle there is a sense in which all Christians are apostles or ambassadors. We are all ambassadors for Christ. Christians represent Jesus as we go out into the world. I think this is understood in a general sense which is why we feel the guilt when we fall so short.
However, as we think of ourselves in this light there is something more that should humble us. We aren’t ambassadors by our own doing. We are representatives of Christ by the will of God. God has put Christians as His ambassadors where ever they are in the world at any given moment. The humility in this is that God has done it, not you. You don’t have to worry about all of the why and how questions. You just be the ambassador that God made you.
But are you good enough? Are you saintly enough? When thinking of the term “saint” an image of a person full of good works who is holier than everyone often comes to mind. Paul calls Christians saints in his letter. Are you good enough to be a saint? No according to our worldly connotations. So what makes us saints? It is that which Paul also states that we are in Christ Jesus. Positionally, that is the Father sees Christians as in Christ which is what makes us saints. The humbling part here is that Jesus makes us saints. We don’t “try harder” or “work harder” for God to gain holiness. We can’t. It is only on the basis of Christ’s work and perfection that are can claim to be saints. This takes away all of our power that we think we have.
Jesus has saved Christians and freed them from sin so they can serve Him. This is in opposition to the world’s wisdom which would tell us that we must serve God through our “goodness” that we might earn grace and freedom from sin. We must continue to point to Jesus and understand that He is where our strength and wisdom lie. We might take this simple verse and say it like this:
I, an ambassador of Christ Jesus by God’s will not my own, among the saints, of which I am one, faithful in Christ Jesus can live as such only on the basis of Jesus Christ freeing me from sin and worldly captivity for the sake of serving Him.
For what it’s worth…