"To all the saints in Christ who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:1-2
"The Saints" is a term more likely used in contemporary culture to describe a professional football team in New Orleans, than a group of believers in Philippi. When it is used in reference to another person, it often conveys the negative, not the positive. In others words, "He's no saint."
To describe "saint" without contextualizing it in the ancient text robs it of its rich heritage. In the suffocating darkness of a lost world filled with Roman decadence, Jewish legalism, unhinged immorality, abundant slavery, and toxic religions "the saints" were drawn to The Light. Paul recognized them as being "in Christ." Saints still are.
The Book of Acts contains one of the first references to "saint" being used to describe those who believed "in Christ." It was in the context of Paul's conversion. When Ananias was instructed by The Lord to go minister to the newly converted Saul, he resisted.
"But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem;" Acts 9:13
It is ironic, that Paul once saw "The Saints" as his enemies. By the time he is imprisoned in Rome, he views them as the brightest lights in the darkness. They are the ones he turns towards, in gratitude for all they have done for him. They are held in his memory with high esteem.
In more ornate language, "saint" means worthy of veneration. Simply put it means holy. In Scripture it is used interchangeably with references to The Spirit and The Saints. The two are inseparably linked.
Without The Holy Spirit there are no saints. Without The Saints, there is no evidence of the fruit of The Spirit. They do not co-exist in separate realms. They breathe the same air. It is the air of prayer.
The Spirit fills The Saints and the fruit of The Spirit reveals the character of Christ. The Saints are not the source of the fruit or The Light. They are "in Christ." This means, they are in His light, and they reflect His light. They do not produce their own.
Paul remembered The Saints with joy. It is interesting to note that he writes, "including the overseers and deacons." Much has been made in my own denomination about the qualities and expectations of those who hold these two offices, but not as much is said about The Saints.
Paul's primary focus of his joy was on those worthy of veneration. He started with The Saints. The contemporary church has placed a great deal of emphasis upon leadership development. For the most part this has been a commendable effort. Still, it may be a bit imbalanced. Paul's gratitude didn't begin with praise for overseers and deacons. He started with pool from which they must be drawn. Looking for saints? Don't fish where they ain't. But I digress.
The Saints and The Spirit are both described as holy. One of my earliest definitions of this word came from my friend and preaching professor, Dr. Jimmy Nelson. He described it as being set apart for a purpose, within the context of a message he delivered at Seminary Chapel.
Dr. Nelson had been a pastor in West Texas. It is home to solid churches, ranchers, cattle and wide open spaces. One day, he took part in a round up of calves, with one of his church members. It involved roping the calves, separating them from their mothers, and branding them with the owner's mark. After completing this process on one of the calves, the rancher turned to to Dr. Nelson and said, "Preacher, you can call that one a 'Holy Cow.'"
The rancher had been listening to what his preacher had said in church. The calf was set apart for a purpose, and marked with the owner's brand. It had been a terrifying, painful experience for the calf, and someday it would end in its death. It no longer lived for any other purpose, than the will of its owner. Holy cow, indeed.
Paul honored The Saints for being "in Christ." They were marked by His brand and His character. They shared the one word that set them apart from the world in which they lived. They were holy.
The Saint's Christ-likeness was inseparably linked to The Spirit's fulness. The character of Christ flowed from their lives. They were like diamonds thrown on a black, velvet backdrop. When The Light of Christ shown on them, they gleamed like dazzling stars in the night. The sight of them brought joy to Paul's soul. They were simply unforgettable. The Saints always are.
Prayer transforms The Ain'ts into The Saints. Prayerless people may seek an office, hold a position of authority, and even make a name for themselves. Prayerful people are holy people who know they are branded for some other purpose than their own, and live to honor the name of their Master.
Prayer enables The Saints to hear the voice of The One who called them out of the night and into The Light. Prayer is the means by which they are guided by God's direction, protection and correction. Holy people are not perfected, in the sense that they are flawless. They are holy because they are separated. They are "in Christ" by praying for the forgiveness of their sin, not their willful ignorance of it. The Saints run to The Light and TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!