All this week, I'll be answering frequently asked questions about "the saints" - hopefully an interesting and edifying exercise.
Who are the saints?The people of God; the Church of all the ages. In the Old Testament, two words are used for the word saint. They are found most frequently in the Psalms, but elsewhere also, including verses that the New Testament likes to quote or refer to.
In the Old Testament, we have:
a. hasid; meaning righteous, referring to their character. It is related to the word hesed for mercy, and well should it be so. The saints are the objects of God’s mercy toward sinners. No one is righteous but that God has made him so in a wonderful act of mercy.
b. kadosh; refers to their being separated unto God: sanctified, which is related to the word saint itself. This emphasises how the saints belong to God. They are His people.
In the New Testament, the word used is hagios, which is the word used for translating the OT word kadosh; the above word meaning sanctified. The apostle Paul's common phrase to express this condition is in Christ. Our place in the universe has been changed from being fallen in Adam, to being sanctified in Christ. In this new place, this "standing in grace" (Romans 5), all the sanctifying benefits of Jesus' life and work are ours. We are sanctified unto God - made righteous and holy - in an organic fashion through our union with Christ. This personal holiness, which is a gift to us in Christ, is now personally our own through the will of God. It is both an official standing now, and a progressive reality in our lives today as we are changed into the likeness of our Lord by His Word and Spirit. Thus, being in Christ, what else can we be but saints?
BTW - for good measure - the answer in the new ACNA catechism to the question "Who are the saints?" reads:
"The saints are all those in heaven and on earth who have faith in Christ, are set apart to God in Christ, are made holy by his grace, and live faithfully to him and for him. (Ephesians 1:1; Revelation 7:9-15)."