SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS (hagios)
This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew kadosh (noun, BDB 871; verb, BDB 872, KB 1066-1067; see Special Topic: Holy), which has the basic meaning of setting some one, some thing, or some place apart for YHWH's exclusive use. It denotes the English concept of "the sacred." Israel was "the holy nation" of YHWH (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9, which quotes Exod. 19:6). YHWH is set apart from humanity by His nature (eternal, non-created Holiness) and His character (moral perfection). He is the standard by which all else is measured and judged. He is the transcendent, Holy One, Holy Other.
God created humans for fellowship, but the fall (Genesis 3) caused a relational and moral barrier between a Holy God and sinful humanity. God chose to restore His conscious creation; therefore, He calls on His people to be "holy" (cf. Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 20:7,26; 21:8). By a faith relationship with YHWH His people become holy by their covenantal position in Him, but are also called on to live holy lives (see Special Topic: Sanctification, cf. Matt. 5:48; Eph. 4:1,17; 5:2-3,15; 1 Pet. 1:15).
This holy living is possible because believers are fully accepted and forgiven through (1) Jesus' life and (2) work and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their minds and hearts. This establishes the paradoxical situation of believers:
1. being holy because of Christ's imputed righteousness (i.e., Romans 4)
2. called to live holy because of the presence of the Spirit (see Special Topic: Sanctification)
Believers are "saints" (hagioi) because of
1. the will of the Holy One (the Father, cf. John 6:29,40; 1 Pet. 1:15-16)
2. the work of the Holy Son (Jesus, cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 1:18-21)
3. the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9-11,27)
The NT always refers to saints as plural (except one time in Phil. 4:21, but even then the context makes it plural). To be saved is to be part of a family, a body, a building! Biblical faith starts with a personal reception, but issues into a corporate fellowship. We are each gifted (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11) for the health, growth, and well-being of the Body of Christ—the church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7). We are saved to serve! Holiness is a family characteristic!
It became a title for believers (cf. Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2) and a way of designating service to others (cf. Rom. 12:13; 16:2; Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 1 Tim. 5:10; Heb. 6:10). Paul took a special one-time offering from the Gentile churches for the poor in the Mother Church in Jerusalem (cf. Rom. 15:25-26; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1).
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