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by H. L. Olmstead

Reprinted from the September 1917 Word and Work Magazine.


     It’s Use. Here is a word of frequent use in the Scriptures and of very infrequent use among congregations of Christians today. Gross abuses and misuses of the term are no doubt responsible to a large extent for its disappearance from the Christian vocabulary. In addition, the loss of the idea for which it stands has made its employment unnecessary. The idea that it is to be used to designate certain favored characters who have been so canonized by ecclesiastical authority as being the only ones worthy the title is both an abuse and a misuse of the term. The choosing of this particular name to designate a cult, schism, division, faction or denomination is also unscriptural. Just as the names, church of Christ, and Christian have no right to be used for the purpose of distinguishing a religious party, movement, distinctive plea, or denomination so we have no right to thus employ the word “saints.” Some New Testament uses of the word are found in the following passages: “To all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” (Rom. 1:7). “Church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” (1 Cor. 1:2). “Church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints.” (2 Cor. 1:1). “Now concerning the collection for the saints.” (1 Cor. 16:1). “All the saints salute you.” (2 Cor. 13:13). “To the saints that are at Ephesus and the faithful brethren.” (Eph. 1:1). “To all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Phillipi.” (Phil. 1:1). “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ that are in Collosse.” (Col. 1:1).

According to these uses of the word all Christians at Rome were called to be saints; the entire church of God at Corinth were saints; the faithful brethren were saints. In a word all true Christians are saints and are called to the position of sainthood. God alone can canonize saints, and that through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. They are sanctified in, through and by the Lord Jesus Christ. No one sect has a monopoly on this title; no select few canonized by pope or conclave have the exclusive right to this exalted position. Is it not to be deplored that we have sometimes been guilty of saying, “Oh! I’m no saint by any means,” when that is the very thing we must be if we are Christians?

      Its Meaning. Its idea is that of holiness. “Holy ones” would be a good translation of the term employed in the original. To the stumbling, weak-faithed, dim-visioned Hebrews the writer could say, “Wherefore holy brethren.” Heb. 3:1. Judicially and legally they were righteous before God in Jesus Christ. They had put on Christ and viewed in Him they were holy. That wonderful gift of righteousness from God was their precious possession. He, Christ was their righteous redemption and sanctification. They had been set apart to and for God, and hence were sanctified, holy, and therefore saints.

But let us not fail to consider that other blessed truth. These same “holy” saints were exhorted to follow after peace with all men and the sanctification (holiness) without which no man shall see the Lord. Let God work out in our lives the disposition and deeds which should adorn the position of sainthood. Let us remember that we are called to be saints in all manner of holy living, and that such a life impossible under law is our privilege and precious possession under grace, if we will but claim it.

We must not allow the enemy of our souls to cheat us out of the blessing of the doctrine of sainthood by sectarian misuses of the term and Romish superstitions. It will be a glad day for the Lord’s church and for the world when the words, “saint,” “holy,’ and “sanctified” are as much employed, and their meanings as faithfully expounded as are the words baptism and Christian. Let us be saints.

-H. L. Olmstead, September 1917

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33