“To the Saints” (What is a Saint?)

What does it mean when Paul calls God’s people “saints?” (cf. Phil 1.1 – to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi [NIV]).  Barth (the young [1926/7] exegete!), in his commentary on Philippians, said this.

“[Saints]…describes the condition in which they find themselves on the ground of a specific mind and attitude towards them on God’s part (not vice versa!).  The Old Testament concept of holiness already points us in that direction.  The addition of “in Christ Jesus” rules out any reflection on the subjective qualifications or worth of the people concerned.  For precisely through Christ Jesus in the circle marked by baptism as his community on earth, their subjectivity, such as it is, has had the hand of God laid on it.  “Holy” people are unholy people, who nevertheless as such have been singled out, claimed, and requisitioned by God for his control, for his use, for himself who is holy.  Their holiness is and remains in Christ Jesus.  It is in him that they are holy; it is from this point of view that they are to be addressed as such, in no other respect.  The holiness of Christians is enduring and true in him who gives it, and that too in that he gives them it, not in that they have it.”

This is close to what we mean when we say in the Creed, “I believe the holy catholic/universal church….”  It is an objective holiness (Christ) before it is a subjective one (Christian).

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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