When the Apostle Paul was writing to the saints in various churches, to whom was he writing?
In certain churches, the saints are those who have reached some high level of holiness. Often they have a miracle associated with their name. Some were considered godly mystics. Was this the kind of people that Paul was writing to, or just ordinary believers?
Today, if I met a believer at church and asked if he or she was a saint, many would reply, “Well, I don’t know if I would call myself that.” Most believers do not have this image of themselves. Many feel unworthy to be called a saint. In their mind, a saint would be someone who looked far more holy. When we think of a saint, we often think of what they should look like, or how they should act. Is this the mark of a true saint?
Recently a pastor of a large church asked me if I believed holiness was based on the way you dressed, or the way you looked? I told him, “No, because God does not look on the outward appearance, but upon the heart.” He liked that answer!
It is very important to understand how God views holiness. The Lord told the prophet Samuel:
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV)
Through the past centuries, it has been important to some people in the Church to appear holy to others. They wanted to impress those around them with how holy they were. This is a trap that the enemy loves to use to snare God’s people. God is not so interested in the outward appearance, as He is in the heart. Jesus referred to this when He addressed a Pharisee, who focused completely on the way he looked to others:
“Then the Lord said to him, ‘You Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.’ ” (Luke 11:39 NKJV)
God is not impressed with those who only try to appear holy to others. God does not look on the outward person, He looks upon the inward man or woman. God doesn’t want us to try to appear holy to others, He wants us to appear holy to Him!
Just as there are two sides to a coin, there are two sides to holiness: God’s side and your side. God’s side is what the Holy Spirit did for you when you were saved. He set you apart from the world, and He placed you in Christ. Now you are no longer of the world, you are of God. You are holy, because you are in Christ! This is why the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi:
“Paul, and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1 NKJV)
Who were these saints that Paul was writing to in this letter? They were the ordinary, common believers at the Church in Philippi. They were saints, because they were in Christ Jesus. The word “saint” means “someone who is holy,” and the word “holy” means “someone who is set apart.” They had been set apart from the world, and placed in Christ.
If you are in Christ, this means that you also are a saint. God wants you to have this image of yourself. He wants you to see yourself as a saint! Does that make sense to you?
There is also your side to holiness. The Apostle Peter wrote:
“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV)
In other words: You are holy, so act like you are holy. Be holy in everything you do. Do not act and talk like the world, but focus on doing those things that are pleasing to God.
Let me ask you: Do you get together with the men at work and tell them the latest dirty joke? Do you go out drinking with your friends at the bar on Friday nights? Do you live a promiscuous lifestyle? The answer should be: No! Why don’t you do these things like the rest of the world? The answer is: It is because you are holy!
Of course, if you have slipped back into some of these things, then you need to repent and shake them off of your life. Why? It is because you are holy! God did His part, and you have to also do your part. The Apostle Paul wrote:
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
It is important for you to realize that appearing holy to others, or trying to impress others by how holy you act, is not pleasing to God. It is more important to Him how you live on the inside, than how you appear to others on the outside. God wants you to be yourself, and focus on appearing holy to Him, by keeping a pure heart. You can do this by always being quick to confess your sin, and keep yourself clean and spotless before Him. To God you will be holy, but to others you will look like an everyday believer in Christ.
You are holy, dear saint!
[All Scripture quotations have been taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc.]