Colossians 1:2a

To the Saints at Colosse


The Believer’s Relationship to God: Saints

A. What a Saint is Not

1. Roman view of a saint…

a. St. Joseph Catechism: A very holy person; one who loves God perfectly and is now in heaven; especially one who died with perfect love and did not have to pass through purgatory.
• To qualify, they have to have been dead for a certain amount of time…
• They have to have performed a miracle.
• In the Bible saints are NEVER dead and in heaven. They are always alive and on earth.
• Col. 1:2 – he is writing a letter to the saints in the city of Colosse. You don’t write letters to dead people.
• I Cor. 1:2 – secondly, saints in the Bible were not always very holy people practically. The Corinthians were saints, but were NOT very holy.
• Their definition got off to a bad start.

b. Catechism question # 171 – “What can the “saints” in heaven do for the souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth?” … The saints in heaven can help the souls in purgatory and the faithful on earth by praying for them.”
• Rome’s doctrine of saints seems to be specifically designed to undermine our relationship to Christ.
• The Bible says that it is CHRIST who is in heaven and who ever makes intercession for us… not the so-called saints! (Heb. 7:24-25)

c. Catechism question # 172: “Should the faithful on earth… honor the “saints” in heaven and pray to them?” The faithful on earth… should honor the saints in heaven pray to them because they are worthy of honor… and will help the faithful on earth.
• This too is designed to undermine one’s relationship to Jesus Christ.
• This doctrine once again undermines a person’s relationship to Christ…
• It suggests that honor goes to a dead human being, rather than to Christ Himself. (Remember the theme of Colossians!)
• It also places the so called “saint” between the person and Christ… as a mediator. Instead of praying to God directly, they are told to pray to the saint who will relay that message to God.
• What does the Bible say? There is ONE mediator! Only one… (I Tim. 2:5)
• Besides – THINK about this. They are teaching that a dead human being must take on God-like qualities. He must be able to listen to potentially millions of people praying to him in hundreds of languages at the same time! Omniscience and omnipresence would be required for that!
• In stark concrete terms, they are teaching that not only do dead people pray for you, but you are to pray TO dead people.

d. Catechism question #216: “How can we honor the saints?” We can honor the saints by imitating their holy lives, by praying to them, and by showing respect to their relics and images.
• Again, this undermines a relationship to Christ and violates Scripture.
• Praying to them violates I Tim. 2:4.
• The catechism goes on to explain that praying to the saints means talking to them… and that they are willing and able to help us.
• Think about what is being said here. They are telling their people to talk to dead people! And not only so, but that the dead people will help them somehow!
• The Bible says that we are to pray to God and Him alone… and only HE is able to deliver us…
• Should we honor their relics and images? This is a violation of the first commandment – which not only forbids showing honor to an image or an idol, it forbids making them! (Ex. 20:1-5)

2. The common Protestant View of a saint: many protestants who reject the Catholic notion of a saint have defined a saint as “one who has struggled with sin and was victorious and has been received triumphantly into heaven.”

a. At funerals, they speak of the Christian dead as “sainted.”

b. This is an improvement over Rome’s view, in that it removes the superstition and idolatry, and it does not undermine the work of Christ…

c. However, it too falls short of what the Bible says about a saint.

d. In the Bible, a saint is not someone who has been memorialized in a stained glass window. A saint is a vile sinner saved by grace… like me… and you, if you know Christ as your Savior.

e. The terms Paul uses in Col. 1:2 are the most common terms for believers… for Christians in the Bible.
• The term Christian only appears 3 times!
• The term “Saint” appears over 100 times in Bible and mainly as a synonym for “believer.”
• Brethren almost 250 times in the NT alone!

f. For those who know the Bible, referring to living people as saints is perfectly normal. For those who do NOT know the Bible, but have been indoctrinated in traditions of men – it sounds quite strange.

g. Note in Col. 1:2 that Paul is NOT addressing saints in heaven… he is addressing saints in Colosse! The folks who received and read this epistle were all very much alive.

B. What a Saint Is: The Term – hagiois

1. Means: set apart; one who is sanctified; consecrated; separation

2. The verb form of saint is “sanctify.” A saint is simply a person who has been sanctified.

3. But what does sanctify mean?

a. The term has nothing to do with cleansing or purification; it has nothing to do with the extinction of evil in the flesh…
• Gen. 2:3 – God sanctified the Sabbath.
• It wasn’t dirty and was made clean; rather, it was put in a special position… separate from all other days.
• God did the work of sanctifying the Sabbath. The Sabbath was separate from other days because God declared it to be so.
• Saturdays LOOKED like every other day… the sun came up and went down the same… it had the same weather pattern as other days… it was still 24 hours.
• An onlooker might observe the days and not notice anything special or different about the Sabbath. No celestial halo appeared in the sky on Saturdays.
• Very often the Jews did not observe the Sabbath properly. They bought and sold and went about their daily business as if this day were NOT separate from the other days.
• But it didn’t matter what others thought of the Sabbath… it didn’t matter whether the Jews observed the Sabbath… it was sanctified because God separated this day from all others.
• It was a unique day… special… set apart to God… whether acknowledged, practiced, believed, or not.
• God sanctified the Sabbath. It was God’s work of setting this day apart from all others… and putting it into a unique position as a day separated unto Him… consecrated unto His service…
• The Sabbath was HOLY (sanctified) because God set it apart.
• However, God later commanded His people, the Jews to remember to KEEP the Sabbath holy… to observe the Sabbath…
• But regardless of whether the Jews obeyed God or not – the Sabbath was holy… because God sanctified it.

b. The term does not mean to “make pure.”
• Jesus Christ “sanctified” Himself. (John 17:19)
• Jesus Christ was sanctified by the Father (John 10:36)
• This does not mean that He had sin that needed to be cleansed or purified.
• Rather, it means that Christ was set apart to a special ministry by the Father… and He set Himself apart to that ministry.
• It means He was consecrated to divine service.
• Just as Old Testament priests were consecrated to divine service… they were sanctified. (Ex. 28:41)
• The Old Testament priests did not always live a consecrated life… but regardless of their lifestyle, they WERE consecrated to the priesthood.
• It wasn’t their lifestyle that MADE them consecrated or sanctified for divine service. It was their calling… it was their position…
• Some priests honored God by their consecrated service and godly lives.
• Other priests (like Eli’s sons) were a disgrace to their calling… They were anointed and set apart to the priestly service, but their lifestyles were abominable!

c. Num. 20:12 – Moses was rebuked for not sanctifying God.
• God was already holy… infinitely so… pure… sinless.
• But Moses was expected to put God in a special place in the minds and hearts of the people by the way Moses lived… by his faith – trusting in the Lord.
• When Moses smote the rock, he demonstrated a LACK of faith… and a LACK of reverence toward God.
• His actions declared that God was NOT special…
• An interesting thought – by our actions, we can either sanctify God in the eyes of those around us… or bring dishonor to Him.
• That’s why we are a little old fashioned around here. Our goal is not to please the people and have lots of fun. Our goal is to sanctify God – by our worship, our reverence, and respect we show in this place, we set God apart from all else…
• This is part of our testimony as believers… to sanctify God.

d. The main gist of the term is separation…
• In the Bible, the setting apart has two sides:

1. Set apart FROM… sin, self, the world, Adam, old life

2. Set apart TO… God…

C. The Believer’s Position as a Saint

1. Sanctified (Positionally)

a. Every born again believer is a sanctified one… a saint.

b. This does not refer to an elite group of believers, but ALL believers are saints.

c. Even the carnal Corinthian believers were sanctified… (I Cor. 1:1-2) Their lives were not excessively virtuous, but they were sanctified positionally. (I Cor. 6:11)

d. At salvation, God sets us apart from sin and condemnation and puts us in a position that is acceptable unto Him…

e. The unbelieving sinner, at the moment of saving faith is separated from his sin, condemnation, and his unsaved position and is placed or separated UNTO the status of a saved person… with all that that implies (regenerated; justified; redeemed; reconciled; etc.)

f. We are separated from our former position in Adam and placed in Christ… set apart unto God.

g. Sanctify: to set apart unto God.
• We were in Adam, and God set us apart from our former relationship to Adam and placed us in Christ…
• We were in the world, now we are in the church, the Body of Christ.
• We were in the family of Satan, and are now set apart from that and set apart unto God’s family.
• At the moment of saving faith, God changes our position… and we are forever set apart unto God.

h. Positional sanctification occurs ONCE for all! (Heb. 10:10, 14)
• This kind of sanctification never needs to be repeated. It is a “once for all” sanctification.
• We are completely and eternally separated unto God!
• Vs. 14 – them that are sanctified never need to be sanctified in this sense again.

i. Being positionally sanctified is God’s work for us… not our work for God.
• Heb. 10:10 – By the which will — by God’s will – HIS choice.
• Heb. 10:10 – through the offering of the Body of Christ. HIS work on our behalf.
• Cf. I Cor. 1:30 – But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us sanctification…
• Christ is our sanctification. It is God’s work through His Son.
• All those in Christ have been sanctified… separated unto God…

j. And HOW do we become sanctified?
• Heb. 13:12 – we are sanctified by the blood of Christ. Christ died and rose again. His shed blood was the payment for our sins.
• II Thess. 2:13 – God hath chosen us to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit… and BELIEF of the truth. Our job is to believe. God’s Holy Spirit will then set us apart unto Himself… sanctify us… hence, we are saints.
• Acts 26:16-18 – we are sanctified BY FAITH in Christ! (not by performing miracles or an exceptionally holy life). Faith: nothing more… nothing less.
• Becoming a saint:
» Is entirely God’s work…
» We believe; and God does the work of saving and sanctifying.
» Sanctification is based upon the shed blood of Christ.
» The Holy Spirit sets the believing sinner apart unto God when he believes the gospel.
» The one thus set apart is a SAINT…
» Sanctification, like any aspect of our great salvation is entirely God’s work.
» It is not earned or merited. It is ours as a grace gift through faith and no other way.

k. No one becomes a saint by trying to live a saintly life. (Eph. 2:8-9)
• Becoming a saint is not the final reward for a life full of sacrifice, good works, and virtue… that one obtains at the end of life when one enters heaven.
• Rather, becoming a saint occurs the very moment our new life in Christ begins!
• The person who puts his trust in Christ – God saves! God sanctifies once and for all!
• God promises that if we place our FAITH in His finished work on the cross, then God will save us…
• God promises to put that believer in a new position –
» Separated from his former life in Adam…and separated unto a new position in Christ.
» Separated from his former state of condemnation to a position of being justified!
» Separated from darkness unto light.
» Separated and removed from your former position as a child of the devil to a son of God.
» Separated from our former state of spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ! (Eph. 2:1, 5)

As individuals, we are saints. The church corporately is referred to as a holy nation — or a nation of saints… and a royal priesthood. (I Pet. 2:9) This is an awesome position we possess in Christ.

2. Consecrated

a. As Old Testament priests were consecrated to divine service by an anointing, so too, New Testament priests are also consecrated to divine service by an anointing of the Holy Spirit at salvation. This sets us apart unto God.

b. Every believer (male, female, young, old, new believer or mature) is a consecrated priest before God.
• I Pet. 2:5: “Ye also, as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
• This makes our entire life sacred… hence, whatever we do is to be done for the glory of God…

c. Sanctification sets us apart unto God’s service. As such, we are priests.

d. This means that our lives are no longer ours, but are devoted to God and His service.

e. Consecration or an official dedication to God’s service is PART OF our sanctification.

3. Called

a. We are saints by calling, and not so much by practice. We are called saints – whether we live up to our calling or not!

b. Rom.1:7 – Called to be saints

c. Called: called to (the discharge of) some office. Divinely selected and appointed.

d. It is GOD who calls men to the position as a saint.

e. It is not conferred by men… but a calling from God.
• To be — not in original.
• Saints === we were called to the office or position of a saint… divinely selected and chosen to be a saint.
• Sainthood is our sacred calling…
• The Bible knows nothing of clergy and laity… all true believers in Christ are called to His service… as priests.
• I Thess. 4:7 – We are CALLED to holiness…For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (sanctification or sainthood)
• Eph. 1:18 – Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian saints was that God would open their eyes that they might KNOW what is the glorious hope of their calling… and their marvelous inheritance as saints… (not all saints understand or appreciate their sacred calling!)

D. The Believer’s Responsibility as a Saint

1. We are called saints – walk worthy of our high calling (Eph. 4:1)

a. Vocation = same word as calling in Eph. 1:18 – our calling and virtually the same word as in I Cor. 1:2, “called saints.”

b. In Eph. 1-3, Paul spent 3 chapters describing the marvelous calling of the saint in Christ Jesus…

c. Now, after teaching the believers about their high calling, he challenges them to walk worthy of it! (You are called saints… now live like it!)

d. The word “worthy” (axios) means “equal weight”; one’s calling and conduct should be in balance…
• Our calling is high and heavenly… our walk should be the same… equal… in balance with…
• Eph. 4:2-3 – Paul then describes the proper attitude of the believer – a Christlike attitude… in whatever God, in His sovereign love, sends our way.
• That is how we walk worthy – by allowing the indwelling life of Christ to be manifested through our mortal members.
• This is ever the way of grace. We walk NOT in order to obtain a calling to sainthood, but rather, we are to walk a worthy walk because God has already called us to this position as a saint… by grace… not merit!

2. We are holy… therefore, we ought to BE holy…

a. I Pet. 1:15 – we are called saints… holy ones… separated unto God.
• However, that holy position in Christ carries with it certain responsibilities…
• We are responsible to BE holy in practice, not merely in position.
• The Corinthians were good examples of what NOT to be: they were saints, but did not behave very saintly!
• Here Peter states that we should BE holy… saintly… because we ARE saints… we are sons of God and God is holy, so His sons should be holy… a reflection of HIM!
• It is very poor testimony… we put God in a bad light when we who are saints behave like the world…
• A person who has been called OUT of the world and has been called UNTO God ought to be different… separate…

b. Eph. 5:1 – be followers of God. Vs. 3-4 – and don’t let these sinful practices be once named among you as becometh (is fitting) saints! These practices are unbecoming to a saint! Walk worthy of our high calling.

c. Being a “called saint” is the highest calling imaginable. There is some kind of behavior that may not necessarily be sinful in and of itself, but it is not becoming to one who is a saint! Stay away!
• Titus 2:3 – The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness.
• I Tim. 2:9-10 – ?In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; ? 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
• Phil. 1:27 – Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.
• Rom. 16:2 – that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you.
• Certain kinds of behavior is expected of those who have been called as saints of God. It should affect our behavior, our dress, our conversation, our treatment of other believers…
• Is YOUR behavior becoming holiness? Is your behavior such as becometh saints?
• If not, then perhaps we need to make some changes!

d. This is NOT a matter of law or legalism. It is a matter of being in tune with God… close to Christ like a branch on a vine… and desirous of only that which is Christlike to be manifested through us.
• Are there certain expressions or words you use that may not be outright swears, but perhaps unbecoming a saint?
• Are there things you watch on TV that are not fitting for a saint of God?
• Are there places you go that might not be suitable for a saint of God?
• Are there books you read that are not fitting for one in your position?
• Are there activities you are involved in that may not be evil or wrong, but simply not fitting for a saint?
• On the flip side, there may be things that are fitting for a saint to be involved in that we are NOT presently involved in… and perhaps we should be!
• Perhaps we should be praying before our meals – and we are not. That is becoming for a saint.
• Perhaps we should be getting involved in church ministries – that is fitting a saint.
• Perhaps you should be telling others about Christ… that is fitting for a saint.

e. Don’t you love the way these exhortations are worded in the epistles?
• The Holy Spirit addresses us as sons… full grown sons of God… saints…
• Then He challenges us to walk worthy of so high a calling.
• Religion says, “Do this and that and you might become a saint one day.”
• The Bible says, “By grace through faith you are already a saint… now walk worthy!”
• Our walk as a saint is never in order to obtain a spiritual blessing from God — never to obtain life or in order to become a saint.
• But rather, we are exhorted to a worthy walk out of gratitude for the position God has already given us… and on the basis of indwelling life that we already possess.

3. We are consecrated priests…

a. Rom. 12:1 – hence, we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God… in His service… for His glory…

b. This presenting our bodies (ourselves!) to God IS consecration’s practical side. It is our personal responsibility.

c. God set us apart to His service at the moment of saving faith. God made us kings and priests.

d. Now, it is our responsibility as a believer-saint to put that into practice in our daily lives.

e. In other words, the condition of our lives ought to be commensurate with the position to which we have been called.

f. As consecrated priests, we are to live every moment of every day in that attitude of yieldedness… full surrender… having presented the members of our body to God for His use and service.

g. That’s the life of a saint… one set apart from self and sin and set apart unto God’s service – as a consecrated priest.

h. This isn’t a crisis experience that we do once and for all. It is to be an ongoing attitude of mind and heart – yielded…surrendered… ready to serve Christ… moment by moment… day by day…

i. The more we think about… meditate upon… understand… and learn to appreciate our glorious calling as saints… the more this will have an effect on the way we live!

j. And there will not be one ounce of legalism in any of it.

k. No wonder Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that God would give them the spirit of revelation and wisdom to understand what is the glorious hope of their calling.

l. Knowing and believing this will change us forever. It will transform our service for God from toil and joyous service… from duty to a glorious privilege… from a burden to a delight.

m. Rather than taking out a whip and beating his readers into subjection to God (legalism), Paul chose to point his readers to Christ and His finished work on the cross… AND to its marvelous results: our high calling in Christ!

n. Meditate on this high calling… study more of it in the Word… let it sink in… the height, length, and depth, and breadth of God’s love for us demonstrated in our calling… and we will begin walking a high and worthy walk to match… not because we have to… but because we WANT to!

o. Spiritual understanding of our high calling as saints in Christ results in a worthy walk! (Col. 1:9-10)

Back to top of page

Back to Chapter-1 Index

Back to Colossians Index

Back to Bible Studies