The apostle Paul refers to the Romans in Chapter 1 of Romans as Saints. I’m not so sure most of us today would have called them such.
“They were proud and fractious; they tolerated gross immorality, sued each other in court, flaunted their freedom in Christ, about the observance of the Lord’s Supper, misunderstood the purpose of spiritual gifts, and were confused about the future of believers.”(Jerry Bridges pg11)And yet in verse 7 Paul says ‘To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”
What did Paul mean when he used the word saint? The word "saint" is derived from a Greek verb (hagiazo [aJgiavzw]) whose basic meaning is "to set apart,” “sanctify”, or “make holy”.Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology has this to say:
“Those who were dedicated to the teachings of Christ were frequently called saints by these writers (e.g., Matt 27:52; Acts 9:13; 26:10; Rev 14:12). Six of Paul's letters to churches are addressed to saints (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians).As believers we are called by God to be”…in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” (1 Cor 1:2). We are called to peace Col 3:15. We are called to live a holy life.(1 Thess 4:7; 1 Pe 1:13)
Saints, in the New Testament, are never deceased individuals who have been canonized by the church and given sainthood. They are living individuals who have dedicated themselves to the worship and service of the one true God as revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Christian are beloved of God, they are members of that body which is beloved, in which God delights in. Christians are to be holy; they are called to be saints, called to salvation through sanctification. We don’t become saints by our actions. We are made saints by the immediate supernatural action of the Holy Spirit alone who works this change deep within our inner being so that we do, in fact, become new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) (Jerry Bridges)
Please understand that a saint is not someone who no longer sins. There is a constant warfare in the life of every believer between the spirit and flesh. It’s fought daily, sometimes hourly. We need to remember that we do not live defeated lives, but are called to be holy, to set ourselves apart from the world’s way of living and live a life worthy of being called saints. We are set apart for God. There should be a difference between the way you live and the way the world lives. Does your choices, the life you live tell those around you that you ARE a saint? Anything less than living a life ‘set apart’ is a misrepresentation of who Christ is and is sin.
Verses taken from the NIV Bible. Bridges quotes taken from Respectable Sins.