Holding to Truth

holding to truth in love for the building up of the Body of Christ

What are saints according to the Bible?

What are “saints” according to the Bible? Have you ever considered this question?

What are saints according to the Bible?

In the introduction to the book of Romans Paul greeted the receivers of his letter saying,

To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, the called saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 1:7)

Paul addressed all the believers in Rome as “the called saints,” not just a select group of believers.  He included both mature Christians and new believers.

In 1 Corinthians he said,

“To the church of God which is in Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, who is theirs and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2)

Here again, “the called saints” included all the believers in the church in the city of Corinth at that time.

But, due to a traditional, religious understanding, many people think that saints are a special class of people that have attained to an elevated status. They may believe that a saint is something they hope to become in the future.

But let’s consider what saints are according to the Bible…

Saints are those who have been set apart to God 

The word  for “saints” in these verses is the same word as for “holy” (Greek, hagios).

Footnote 3 on Romans 1:2 in the Recovery Version says,

To be holy is to be separated, set apart (to God) and the saints are the separated ones, the ones set apart (to God).

Those “called saints,” who were equal to the church of God in Corinth, were simply those who had been set apart to God in the city of Corinth.

Saints are the called ones

God called some Corinthians…and that is exactly what He does with every believer today. Our salvation didn’t begin with us. It was the faithful God who called us into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9).

When God called us, we couldn’t help but respond to His calling.  We repented of our sins and believed into His Son, Jesus Christ. In this way, we experienced being set apart to God. At the moment we believed, we became “called saints.”

The saints are the components of the church

The grammar in 1 Corinthians 1:2 puts, “to the church of God” in apposition to “to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints.” This means that “to the church of God” equals “to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, the called saints.”

This expression strongly indicates that the church is composed of the saints (14:33).

They are “the called saints,” not “called to be saints”

Also “the called saints” in verse 2 is in the original Greek text, not “called to be saints.” There is no “to be” in the Greek New Testament. From the moment God calls us through His gospel and we respond to His call, we’re sanctified, set apart to Him. We’re saints.

Saints are those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus

In 1:2 Paul also says that the saints are those “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

From the moment we believed in the Lord, God put us into Christ Jesus, and in Christ we were sanctified, separated unto God (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ Himself became the element and sphere in which we were sanctified, made holy to God, to be His saints.

So whether or not you are a saint does not depend on your good behavior. Have you been called by God, believed into Christ, and, by faith, been sanctified in Christ Jesus?  Then you are one of “the called saints.”

Saints are those who call upon the name of the Lord

On God’s side, He called us. But on our side, we need to call on the Lord Jesus. The simplest way I’ve found to experience being “sanctified in Christ Jesus” is to call on His name—“Lord Jesus!”

In the second half of 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul also says,

“…the called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, theirs and ours.”

When referring to the local saints at Corinth, Paul uses the expression “the called saints.” But when he spoke of all the believers on earth, he uses another expression: “all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place.”

We’ve been called to call—called by God to call on the Lord!

 In this verse we can see these two kinds of calling:

  • First, we are called saints–those called by God.
  • Second, we should respond to His calling by calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

For us to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus is a continual, lifelong matter. We need to call on Him in every place. This is just like our needing to breathe continually in order to live physically.

As such called ones, we should be Christ’s callers! Calling on the Lord was so common among the early believers that it designated them from all the other people (Acts 9:14, 21).

This also indicates that calling on the name of the Lord Jesus is not a matter of praying silently. It is an audible invoking of the Lord by calling upon His name, even crying out to Him.

As Christians, we may at times pray silently or in a very low voice. But, if we would enjoy the Lord in a richer way, we need to learn how to call out to Him audibly,

“Lord Jesus! O Lord Jesus! O Lord, I open to You! Fill me right now.

From my experience I can testify that this kind of calling changed my Christian life. By calling on His name, I touched the Lord in my spirit (2 Tim. 4:22) This made the Lord Jesus so real, near and dear to me.

I hope you’ll try it also.

If you’ve been helped by seeing what saints are according to the Bible, please share your appreciation in a brief comment.

References and Further Reading:

  • This post was inspired by my reading Life-study of 1 Corinthians, Message 2 by Witness Lee. For a richer appreciation of this topic, I encourage you to read the message at: ministrybooks.org.
  • For a further appreciation for Calling on the Name of the Lord, I also recommend a booklet by that title. You can also freely read it on the ministrybooks.org site.


About Tom Smith

Hi. My name is Tom Smith. I'm the writer behind Holding to Truth in Love, and I love the Lord Jesus and His life-giving Word. Please feel free to send me an e-mail through the contact page if you have any questions. I hope you'd take a moment to subscribe to the Holding to Truth blog. Then you'll be sure not to miss a post. Thanks!

29 Replies

  1. Edgar

    Clear as crystal! Thank you Tom!

  2. Much Grace In Christ, to you brother Tom.

    1. Tom Smith

      Amen. Much grace to you also. Thanks for reading the blog and sharing your encouragement.

  3. Amen! The called out ones, the calling upon the name of the Lord saints, those sanctified unto Him, O Lord Jesus! How good it is to call upon His name. O Lord Jesus! Even while reading your post, I found myself calling on His name. It is so enjoyable to be His callers, the saints of God! Hallelujah! Thank You Lord Jesus! Amen.
    Thank you brother Tom.

    1. Tom Smith

      May this word be a continual reminder. We’ve been called to call–called by God to call on the name of the Lord. May the Lord recover this healthy practice among all His saints–calling on His name in every place, just like our fellow believers in the early church. It is so enjoyable, refreshing and supplying to call on His name! Thanks for the confirming comment.

  4. J. Cagle

    How wonderful that we were called BY the Lord to call ON the Lord! I appreciate that we were not called to do something FOR the Lord, but to call ON Him, even to call on Him with others in every place and at every time. Oh, Lord Jesus, keep us calling on you!

    1. Tom Smith

      Amen. Calling on the name of the Lord is the “enjoyable way to delight oneself in God” as footnote 1 on Acts 2:21 in the Recovery Version says. May we learn to call on the Lord in every place (1 Cor. 1:2) and to also call on Him with those who call out of a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22). Thanks again for your confirming comment.

  5. eric nkengayih atembe

    Calling on the name of the Lord every day enables Christ to breath into us daily.

    1. Tom Smith

      Eric, That’s right. Calling on the Lord is our spiritual breathing. When we call on Him, He breathes His Spirit into us. He first breathed His Spirit into His disciples in the evening of day of His resurrection (John 20:22). This breathing is continuing with us today. In 1 Cor. 12:3, Paul said, “No one can say Jesus is Lord [or Lord Jesus] except in the Holy Spirit. So if we desire to be healthy Christians we need to practice this secret to “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place (1 Cor. 1:2). Thank you for your confirming comment.

  6. I am so happy I came across your blog, it’s inspirational and uplifting. Thank you for sharing! Praise God and may you continue to bring forth His word. God bless you~

    1. Tom Smith

      I’m really glad you found the blog inspirational and uplifting. It is genuinely our desire to bring our readers closer to Christ and deeper into the plan of God revealed in His word, the Bible. Thanks so much for your encouraging comment and may the Lord continue to bless you as you pursue Him in His word.

  7. “Whether or not we are saints does not depend on our good behavior. It depends on whether or not we’ve been called by God, believed into Christ, and, by faith, been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” It is “of God.”
    Thanks for the clear and simple presentation.

    1. Tom Smith

      How good it is to see that God has called us and in so doing has sanctified us unto Himself. Now we are the called saints, but we need to live in this reality moment-by-moment by calling on our Beloved Lord Jesus. When we call on Him, we’re practically in Him and live a life that is befitting of saints. Thanks again for an encouraging comment.

  8. Blossom Chen

    Thank you brother Tom and other saints that have left encouraging comments. My calling on the Lord in every place regardless of my situation-high or low-has become comfort, assurance and peace, that Christ Jesus, the all- inclusive, life-giving Spirit lives in and is growing more within me. Hallelujah! Breathing the Spirit of our Lord is by calling!

    1. Tom Smith

      That’s right. We don’t just call on the Lord because we feel like it. Many times we don’t. But we do have the promise from God’s word that ‘The same Lord is Lord of all and rich to all who call upon Him; For “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”‘ (Rom. 10:12-13) From my experience I can confirm that whenever I call on the Lord, I contact Him as the Spirit, enjoy His riches and I get saved from my situation. Spontaneously, I enjoy Him as my comfort, assurance, peace or whatever I need. Let’s keep breathing the Spirit by calling on the Lord! Thanks for the confirming comment.

  9. Mercy Sembrano

    Thank you for a very inspiring and uplifting blog, dear brother in Christ.

  10. Shannon

    Thank you Tom, I have been very confused as I have been searching for a church and each has their own definition on worshiping (Mary and the Saints and the Pope) and others who remind me that if I stick to the Word I will find my answers. But I have a hard time finding the references in my bible to answer my questions. Your references and quotes straight from the Word was very helpful. I appreciate your time.

    1. Tom Smith

      I am glad you found the post, “What are saints according to the Bible?” to be helpful. As you mentioned the answers are in God’s word, the Bible. But finding the appropriate verses can be challenging. To receive from the Lord’s Word requires that we be poor in spirit (Matt. 5:3) and pure in heart (v. 8) so that we can both see and understand what God is speaking to us through His Word. To this end it helps to pray before coming to the Bible, in order to empty out of our old, religious knowledge. We need to turn our heart to the Lord (2 Cor. 3:16) and pray that His light would shine into our heart. I have also found that reading the Recovery Version with outlines, footnotes to be very helpful. You can read it online at online.recoveryversion.bible or order a free copy of the New Testament Recovery Version at BiblesforAmerica.org.
      Keep feeding on the Word. Thanks for the comment.

  11. Vincent Oduro

    How can I live a righteous life?

    1. Tom Smith

      The only fully righteous One is the Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ the righteous. If we are to live such a life it can only be possible by living in the union of His Spirit with our spirit. When we live and walk according to this mingled spirit we spontaneously fulfill the righteous requirements of God. Rom. 8:1-4 confirms this by saying:

      Rom 8:1 There is now then no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
      Rm 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death.
      Rm 8:3 For that which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh,
      Rm 8:4 That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.

      Thank you for the comment.

  12. Felisa

    Praise the Lord for this blog. Indeed, my question was answered clearly. We are the “called out ones” by God. We may continue to call on the Lord’s name in every place with a pure heart. Hallelujah!

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, we are the “saints,” the called out ones, the sanctified ones, set apart by God for His purpose. To be a “saint” is first a matter of position, from a common position, to a holy one. At the moment we heeded God’s call through the word of the gospel and the convicting of the Holy Spirit, Christ sanctified us through His own blood (Heb. 13:12). Now, this sanctifying work is continuing throughout our Christian life, as we open to the Lord for His inner sanctifying work (Rom. 6:19, 22). Then by receiving the washing of the water in Christ’s word, we are daily sanctified and cleansed that we might be part of Christ’s beautiful bride (Eph. 5:26-27). Such a sanctifying work will consummate in the “holy city,” New Jerusalem as the completion of God’s sanctifying work throughout the ages (Rev. 21:2). Thanks for the comment.

  13. Kyeng

    Thanks for the post. It has clarify my doubts..thanks be to God

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you found the post helpful. A saint is a sanctified one, one set apart by God and being saturated with God (1 Cor. 1:2). This is something that every believer experiences from the day of their salvation. Then we continue to experience a further work of sanctification throughout our Christian life (Rom. 6:6:19. 22). Thanks for sharing your appreciation.

  14. Dr. PC Holder

    I am really inspired by this articulation of what I already believed in my heart. I’m so inspired that I am led to develop a sermon from a title I was given about 10 years ago.

    1. Tom Smith

      Every believer needs to realize that from the moment they believed, God put them into Christ (1 Cor. 1:30), sanctifying them in Him. In this way we are the “called saints.” God’s calling, separated us unto Him. Not only so, our calling on the Lord saturates us with the sanctifying Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). This results in our being sanctified subjectively (Rom. 6:19, 22). So, as saints, we are sanctified both in our position, unto the God outwardly and saturated with Him in our disposition, inwardly. What a wonder that sinners such as we, could in God’s marvelous salvation, be “called saints” today! This is basic to our being His church, His ekklesia, the gathering of the called out ones. Thanks for sharing your enjoyment in a comment.

  15. Jackie Hinds

    Thanks you so much Mr Smith.
    I now know who the saints are. It has helped me tramendouly with my study of Revelation. I broke out in praise when I found out that I was a saint.
    God’s richest blessings be yours.

    1. Tom Smith

      Glad you enjoyed this post on “What are saints according to the Bible?” As believers in Christ, we are presently “called saints.” We are not called to be saints. That is not a correct translation of the Scriptures. From the moment that God called us and we called on Him (1 Cor. 1:2), we have such a sanctified position. Now His sanctifying Spirit is working to sanctify us wholly—spirit, soul and body (1 Thes. 5:23). In this way we not only saints in a holy position but in disposition also. May we believe God’s word, take the standing of saints, and enter into this full reality subjectively in our present Christian experience. Thank you for your comment

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