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Acts 9:13 says that Saul of Tarsus harmed (persecuted) the saints at Jerusalem. Surely he was persecuting, not dead people, but living people. So who were they? Acts 9:1 says he persecuted the disciples of the Lord, who were later called Christians (Acts 11:26). Acts 8:3 says Saul persecuted the church. So saints are simply Christians, disciples of Jesus, members of His church.
The word "saint" literally means, "a person who has been sanctified." To be sanctified means to be set apart or dedicated to God's service. New Testament Christians were saints because they had become sanctified or dedicated to God's service.
So how does a person become sanctified? First, one must hear and believe the gospel. John 17:17 says: "Sanctify them through Your truth. Your word is truth." Then one must be cleansed of sin by the power of Jesus' blood. Hebrews 13:12 says Jesus died "that He might sanctify the people with His own blood." But how does a person receive the benefits of Jesus' blood? Romans 6:3 says that we are baptized into His death. Ephesians 5:26 says that Christ gave Himself for the church "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." So a person becomes a saint, when he is baptized in obedience to the word of the Lord.
Anyone can become a saint, and all of us should be saints.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2/5/2005
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.