The commissioner of the National Football League strides up to the podium with a card in his hand. With great anticipation from the packed ballroom, the commissioner announces, “With the 10th overall selection of the first round, the New Orleans Saints pick….. you.” Surrounded by family and friends in the waiting room, you smile with great delight and relief. You have been selected to play in the NFL. Your greatest dream has been realized.
Now imagine standing in the center of a cavernous stadium. Thousands – perhaps millions – fill the seats that reach endlessly to the skies. A trumpet sounds and a loud voice echoes across the heavens declaring, “I have chosen you as my beloved child. Welcome to my team!” The grateful and loyal throngs of the heavenly hosts shout their approval. You are on God’s team — the “Saints” in Christ Jesus. Even though you may stink at soccer, fail in football — or barely catch a ball or carry a tune — God has selected you to be on his team. You have been set apart, made holy and righteous in his eyes by faith in Christ. Your teammates? Paul, Timothy and all the saints like those living in the city of Philippi.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:1-2)
All Christians are considered “saints” in the New Testament. Saints is a word that can cause discomfort in describing ourselves. We think of a saint as being someone else. They stand out in a crowd, always doing amazing good works, and their life seems all put together. You may be surprised at how the Bible defines a saint. In the original New Testament language of Greek, the word for saint means “separated ones.” A Christian believer is separated or set apart from the rest of the world. They have been chosen by God to be on his team. Why? Not because of how good or upright they are, but the fact that they are “in Christ Jesus.”
We are made separate, holy, totally cleansed from sin by what Christ has already done for us on the cross. By faith, Christ is in us and we are in him. God, who has chosen us even before the creation of the world, has made us saints, holy and righteous in His sight (Eph. 1:4). By faith, we belong to the greatest team in the history of the world.
Paul and Timothy, appointed coaches of the Saints in Christ Jesus, have also adopted another name for God’s team here on earth. They belong to the “Servants.” Not exactly a fearsome name, is it? I have not heard of a team called the Chicago Servants or the North High Butlers. Yet, this is what Paul and Timothy consider their identities to be — saints and servants of Christ Jesus.
In some translations of the New Testament (NASB), we see the term, “bond-servant.” This is an important word with great meaning. In the time of Jesus, a bond-servant was a former slave, or perhaps a loyal servant, who has decided to forego their freedom and become a servant for life of a good and kind master. Paul and Timothy are declaring themselves and their identities as bond-servants of Christ. They know that by surrendering their freedom, their will, their very life to Christ. They have gained everything and have lost nothing. They are no longer slaves to sin, but life-long servants to a heavenly King who has saved their life and will provide for all their needs. With this understanding, Paul and Timothy live out their lives in pure thankfulness, appreciation, and sincere commitment to serve the Master who has made their new identity in Christ Jesus possible.