So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.Ephesians 2:19-22
If you are in Christ, you are no longer identified as a sinner. You are identified in Scripture as a saint.
How we see ourselves determines to a large degree how we behave.
Many believers see themselves as “sinners saved by grace.” They picture their reality as, “When God looks at me, he doesn’t see my sin, but he sees Christ instead.” Both of these images hold some truth, but also contain a devastating error. Both of these images identify as “sinner.” That is wrong. God’s word never refers to believers as sinners, not once. We used to be sinners, but now that we are in Christ, we are saints, holy ones.
Psychologists generally refer to this phenomenon as self-image. When you look into the proverbial mirror, what do you see? Do you see a sinner who is graciously saved by God’s grace? Or do you see yourself as a saint according to God’s word? It makes a big difference in terms of your conduct. If I see myself at my core as a sinner, it is much easier for me to live up to my self-image and commit sin. On the other hand, if I see myself as a holy one at my core, I will be much less prone to sin because sinning is against the core of my nature.
I know we still have a sin nature and will until the resurrection. But “sinner” is not our identity anymore. Now we are saints who do sometimes sin. Our identity makes a big difference.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:16-17
You are no longer the same old sinner who has had his sins forgiven; you are a new creation. You are no longer the same person you were at the core of your being. Of course, you have the same essential personality and the same history as your back-story.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.Romans 6:1-14
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Note: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” You are no longer enslaved to sin; you are now a saint. So, “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
When Paul addresses the people in the churches to whom he writes, how does he address them?
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…” Romans 1:7
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” 1 Corinthians 1:2
“To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia…” 2 Corinthians 1:1
“To the saints who are in Ephesus…” Ephesians 1:1
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi…” Philippians 1:1
“To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae…” Colossians 1:2
In addition the New Testament refers to believers as saints in the following verses: Acts 9:3, 32, 41; 26:10, Romans 8:27; 12:13; 15:25-26, 31; 16:2, 15; 1 Corinthians 6:1-2; 14:33; 16:1, 15; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:1, 12; 13:13, Ephesians 1:15, 18; 2:19; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18; Philippians 4:22; Colossians 1:4, 12, 26; 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 5:10; Philemon 1:5, 7; Hebrews 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:8; 20:9.
Why did I go to the trouble of listing all of those verses? Because I know some of you won’t believe what I am saying in this article, that you, as a believer in Christ, are a saint at your core. Your identity is as a saint, not as a sinner, saved or not. If you think you are a sinner, then you do not understand the completeness of the work Christ has done for you. His work has gone far beyond just forgiving you of your sins; he has changed your basic nature. You are a saint.
So, now when you find yourself tempted to behave in an un-saintly manner, remember you are being tempted to act contrary to your true in-Christ nature, that of a saint.
Who are you, really? I hope by now you realize you, in Christ, are a saint. That is what you are.
When you sin, confess your sin, and he is faithful and just to forgive you your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. You are a saint who sinned and now has been forgiven. You are still a saint! Walk in your identity.