Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Today is known as Halloween. It has roots in age-old European traditions. It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of fun activities for kids like trick-or-treating and carving jack-o-lanterns.
Within the Roman Catholic tradition, Saints is a term that is used to designate specific heroes of the faith who have demonstrated extraordinary faith. This has led to the idea that Saints are a limited number of these very special people and all the rest of us would fall into a different category.
In the New Testament, the distinction between saints and sinners is less clear. Throughout the New Testament, the word “saints” is used 45 times; all in a general sense to mean a group of believers in Christ. The Apostle Paul routinely used the word “saints” to refer to all believers. Rather than being a special class of people, the New Testament uses “saints” as a designation for all who have genuinely placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. The word “saint” is closely linked with the idea of holiness. Saints are the holy ones; the ones set apart for God’s service.
When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we called out of a life of sin and into a life of holiness. This is not an optional add on to our faith, but the very core of our faith. As Paul instructs us in Ephesians 4:22-24, You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We have a significant part to play in living up to our title as a saint. But it does not all depend upon us.
The good news is that it is Christ who makes us into saints. He is the one who redeems us and takes away the penalty for our sins. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1) Not only that, but Christ then gives us His righteousness. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24)
Now here is the rub; most of us do not see ourselves as saints. Instead, we see ourselves as sinners. We still have the idea that to be a saint is to be perfect in all that we do. This line of thinking is really a trap, which leads us into the death spiral of works righteousness. We spend our lives trying to earn God’s favor, while all the time being weighed down by the burden of our sin. We are trying to be our own Savior, instead of embracing the truth of what Jesus has already done for us.
The truth that we must come to grips with is that we are both saints and sinners, at the same time! When we look in the mirror we see the sinner. When God looks on us, He sees the saint, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. The Christian life is living in that dynamic tension. We have been justified before God, and we are being sanctified to become like Christ. We are a work in process. Paul highlighted this tension in his own life. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
The saints in Corinth were a contentious, obstinate bunk. The saints in Galatia had lost their way. Yet Paul embraced both groups and challenged them to live up to who they were in Christ. Real saints still struggle with sin, but they don’t let sin have the last word. Real saints understand that the race is not over until they cross the finish line. Real saints have their eyes on the goal and are striving to be holy just as Christ is holy. We are all a work in progress and we all need to challenge and encourage one another along the way. That is why Paul calls for us to pray for all the saints. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.