This post is the first chapter summary in a series of posts focused on Jerry Bridges’ Respectable Sins.
The church in Corinth was a mess. It was full of contention, immorality, and disorder. And yet Paul did not hesitate to call the Christians of Corinth “saints” (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1). According to Jerry Bridges, it was common for Paul to call ordinary Christian people saints: “[Paul] uses it in several of his letters and frequently refers to believers as saints (see, for example, Romans 1:7; 16:15…Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; 4:21-22; and Colossians 1:2).”
In its popular usage, the word saint is reserved for select individuals who seem to be particularly holy. But Bridges makes clear that this is not the way the word is used in the New Testament. What then is a saint, according to Scripture? “[A saint] is someone whom Christ bought with His own blood on the cross and has separated unto Himself to be His own possession.” This is a crucial observation that needs to be locked down before we discuss any of the “respectable” sins which are the subject of this book. It is crucial for two reasons: (1) A Christian is someone who has been definitively set apart for God through the work of Christ. “In the biblical sense of the term, sainthood is not a status of achievement and character but a state of being – an entirely new condition of life brought about by the Spirit of God.” And (2) our “state of being” shapes how we understand our calling as God’s people.
Because we are saints, holy living is not something foreign to us. It is simply the outflow of what we have been re-created to be in Jesus Christ. You are a saint, so be holy. Be who you are! Moreover, our status as saints helps us to see that any sin is, according to Bridges (using a military metaphor), “conduct unbecoming a saint.” You and I are saints, and we must remember this as we go on to study topics such as anger, impatience, and jealousy.
Is it difficult for you to think of yourself as a saint? Why or why not? Who is someone that you know that you easily call a saint? Why? Do you think this person would think of him-or-herself in the same way that you think? Is it possible that even your “saint” finds it difficult to be called a saint?