Slaves, Saints, and Sojourners (2)
In a previous meditation on Philippians 1:1-2, I looked at the significance for us in being called “slaves” of Jesus Christ. But there is more. Following his standard practice, Paul also addresses this letter to “the saints” in Christ at Philippi. As you know, “saints” is a precious word that has been sorely perverted. For many people it conjures up images of a painfully thin, sad-faced monastic sort of soul who looks like he’s been sucking on a lemon. As someone once said, a “saint” is a man or woman who lives in constant fear and dread that someone, somewhere is actually having fun! What a tragic distortion of such a glorious descriptive word.
I hope most of you are aware that the word translated “saints” was used primarily to describe people set apart or separated unto God. A “saint” is someone consecrated by God’s grace to be a unique and treasured possession. If I could put it as simply as possible, to say that a Christian is a “saint” is to declare that he/she is possessed by God and especially designed for his purposes and praise.
The OT background for this terminology is found in Exodus 19:6, which is then restated in 1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The focus is more on separation than sanctity (although the former should always lead to the latter). It has in view more one’s position than purity.
It is important to know that the word "saint" (as with the word "priest") is always found in the plural in the NT, with but once exception (Philippians 4:21; but even there, Paul refers to "every" saint!). This does not bode well