Being Saints (February 2019)

There is a word which originates in the Bible, and which occurs 63 times in the New Testament, and is often used in everyday language today also.  The word is ‘saint’.  It comes into usage especially in the book of Acts [see for example Act 9.3], and is used to described Christians who belong to the early church. [See for example Romans 1.7; 1Corinthians 1.2; Ephesians 1.1; Philippians 1.1].   It is not uncommon for words to have come into common language having originated in the Bible, but rarely has a word been so misunderstood as the word ‘saint’ has. 

By the Middle Ages, the church had begun to use it to refer to particular noteworthy Christians who had a distinctive ministry.  But it’s origin was not so exclusive.  In all of its uses in the Bible, it is referring to the normal church membership, not any extraordinary heroes of the faith, except in the way that every Christian is called to be a hero for God.

The word originates from a Greek word, which has its root in a word meaning ‘separated’.  The word means that a saint is set apart and made holy by God.  So, by calling Christians saints, S.Paul in his letters for example is making the point that Christians are set apart by God, made holy by Him, so as to be in His service.  Christians are set apart.  Being separated from the general population, Christians are different from the rest of society. 

While most of the world is made up of people whose choices in life are to please themselves.  Christians are called instead to a ministry which is distinctively different from the usual roles people take on in the world.  And a way that ministry is often described (following the example of Jesus himself) is as service, because Christians are called to a servant ministry. There are some key features of servant ministry which stands out as different to jobs someone may take on in other ways.

Firstly, a servant is looking to glorify his master, not himself.  Christians seek God’s glory, not their own.  This means that anything a Christian does in service is pointing people to see God, to look to Jesus, rather than themselves.  Then also, a servant sacrificially seeks the joy and benefit of those he serves.  So, Jesus said ‘Whoever would be great among you must be your servant…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’  (Matthew 20.26, 28)

A Christian does not look to feel good about themselves, or to pander to their own needs, but rather is more concerned about others.  Christian service seeks to pursue other people’s progress in the faith.  So when we think about what we do as Christians, the first consideration needs to be ‘how does that help others grow in their faith?’ and not ‘how does that help me?’  If that is our priority, then we are true Christian servants.  In the same way, a Christian servant doesn’t look for the spotlight to be on them, or for what they do to be recognised, but instead to be in some ways invisible.  What a Christian does in service for God is seen by God, and is only for His recognition, so whether or not other people know about it is irrelevant.

So, as saints at Holy Trinity Blacon, let us recognise it is God who sets us apart, and calls us to service for Him in this place.  And in all we do, let us seek to glorify His name, and not look for praise or recognition or benefit for ourselves.

Tina Upton

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