Christianity, religion Christianity, Christianity religion. SAINTS:
At the beginning of his epistle to the Romans, Paul wrote: “To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:7). This name “saints” is one given to the members of the first Christian communities (e.g. Eph. 1:1). It may signify the Christians who constitute the “church of God” in a particular place (2 Cor. 1:1; Heb. 13:24-25; Col. 1:2), or it may signify the whole Christian people (Eph. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:2). Its most frequent equivalent is “brothers (and sisters)”, as in Col. 1:2: “To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae” (cf. Phil. 4:21-22). Saints form a new community coming both from the Jewish community in Jerusalem (Acts 9:13; Rom. 15:25) and from gentile Christianity (Rom. 1:7). The apostle is one of them: “I am the very least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). Later, they were called Christians (Acts 11:26).
Saints and the mystery of the church
The notion of saints should be seen as part of the mystery of the church,* “those who are sanctified [i.e. the holy people] in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:2), the people of the New Testament. It includes certain basic affirmations.
“One only is holy, One only is the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.” This is a very ancient liturgical exclamation which echoes the hymn of the Lamb (Rev. 15:3-4), acclaimed as Kyrios (Eph. 4:5; Phil. 2:11) and as “the Holy One of God” (John 6:69; cf. Luke 4:34). Jesus Christ* is holy both as the Son of God and as bearer of the Spirit when at his baptism the Holy Spirit* descended on him (Luke 3:22). With this authority and power he destroyed the unclean spirits (Luke 4:33-37). Christians “have been anointed by the Holy One” (1 John 2:20), being called to become “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). The identity itself of the saint is to be bearer of the Spirit.
The faithful are called saints because of their participation in the holiness of God, who is holy by his own nature (Isa. 6:3). Christians are saints in God's holiness (1 Pet. 1:15), in Christ (Phil. 4:21). They are “God's chosen ones, holy [or saints]” (Col. 3:12). One aspect of the mystery of the church is this new consecration in Christ of a “priestly kingdom”, “holy nation”, “royal priesthood” (Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:9; cf. Isa. 43:20-21), which is not exclusive or restricted. An essential criterion of the new people is that “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20).
It is part of the mystery of the church to be the manifestation of God's glory and holiness, for God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph. 1:3-4). He presents to himself a glorious church “without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27). Christ sacrificed himself for her to make her holy (Eph. 5:25-26). Christ made the church his body, in spite of the sin* of its members. Hence, the church must always be in a state of renewal, of repentance.
Scripture refers also to the communion of saints,* the friends and fellow heirs of Christ (see Eph. 4:1-6), the “inheritance among all who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). He will come “to be glorified by his saints and to be marvelled at... among all who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:10). The kingdom of God* is promised to them and includes “the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints” (Eph. 1:18). The book of Revelation recalls those who, having finished their earthly pilgrimage, enjoy God's presence in the heavenly city (Rev. 7:9-17). “To be ‘in Christ' is to be in his body, a member of a fellowship which transforms the local neighbourhood, which overleaps boundaries of nation and race and whose own boundaries are lost to sight in the infinite horizons of the eternal communion of saints” (Oliver Tomkins, Youth in the World-Church , 1947).
Belonging to a community is a sign of the new condition (see 1 John 2:19). Conversion* means, then, “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). It implies equally “the service of the saints” (1 Cor. 16:15).
As a holy people, the church has the capacity to discern, to sort out, to reveal the light that “darkness did not overcome” (John 1:5). The church of God received the power to bind and to loose (see John 20:23) and the power to judge (1 Cor. 6:2).