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Look at the Book: What Does It Mean to Be a Saint? Colossians 1:1–2, Part 3

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

Video from Desiring God

What Does It Mean to Be a Saint?

You Are a Saint, Sinner, and Sufferer

“I cannot imagine anyone being in more pain in their life than me,” he told me through angry tears. Coming from most, this could seem dramatic. But coming from him, it was almost believable. Systemically abused from childhood, multiple failed relationships as an adult, estranged children, and chronic physical pain made this man’s suffering monumental. Yet even in cases such as these Hebrews 4:15–16 does not cease to be true:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

No matter how much we suffer, there is no one who knows our suffering better than Christ. He’s more acquainted with them than we are. The man sitting in front of me had allowed one of the aspects of his identity as a Christian (sufferer) to take precedence and from precedence it became idolatry.

As Christians, we are all a combination of saint, sinner, and sufferer (CrossTalk, Mike Emlet). This is not to say that there are portions of us that are saved and portions that are unsaved. There are parts of us that emphasize one aspect of our identity, but all three are necessary for a balanced Christian walk.

Too Much a Saint?

We know that those who trust in Jesus Christ and him alone for salvation are described as saints (Ephesians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11) and are called to act like saints (1 Peter 1:15–16). It is the saintly aspect of our Christian identity that finds joy and peace in the holiness of our God and strives to be more like him in our words, thoughts, and deeds. It reminds us of the inexhaustible riches of God’s word and the safety of abiding in his law. Yet when this aspect is overemphasized, we lose sight of our need for grace or the fact that we are still sinners who hurt those around us with our sins.

We forget the need of repentance both to the Lord and to one another and we chafe at the suggestion that we need to ask for forgiveness. When this aspect of the Christian identity becomes one’s idol, statements like “I know I’m not perfect, but” become the norm, and contempt — rather than compassion — for fellow sinners becomes our practice.

Too Much a Sinner?

Likewise our identity as a sinner serves God’s purposes. Scripture confirms for us that every man, woman, and child, even those secure in the promises of God’s salvation, are still sinners (1 John 1:8; Romans 7:19–20). Yes, we are called to be those who doggedly kill sin day by day.." from the article: You Are a Saint, Sinner, and Sufferer

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