What is a saint? Who is holy? What should one do in order to become holy?
God is holy
The word “holy” is used in various different ways in the Bible. In its most unique sense, it is referring to God. This is for example expressed by angels exclaiming: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3) And God Himself orders the Israelites: “I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).
Jesus is holy
When Jesus was living on earth, He was recognized as God, and thus holy, by a man with an unclean spirit: “I know who You are – the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). When we are speaking about the ultimate Holy One, we are thus referring to God the Father or to Jesus Christ.
Prophets and apostles are called holy
The word holy also has a wider range of meaning. It is used to designate people who were serving God in a special way. The Bible speaks for example about holy prophets (Acts 3:21) and holy apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5). This connection between being holy and serving God is also seen in verses where angels are called holy (e.g. Mark 8:38, Revelation 14:10).
All believers as the saints
The circle is expanded further when all believers are addressed as saints or holy ones. This happens already in the Old Testament: “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack!” (Psalm 34:9); and: “Let the heavens praise Your wonders, O Lord, Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!” (Psalm 89:5).
In the New Testament, we read this even more frequently. Paul addresses a letter “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). In the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians, he calls his addressees “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). All believers are thus considered saints.
We conclude that the Bible designates a special group of God’s servants (prophets and apostles) as “holy”, because of their extraordinary connection with the Holy One. They deserve our special respect, in a way not comparable with people around us nowadays.
On the other hand, all believers are saints. Whoever believes in the Lord God and his Son Jesus Christ, is called out of the world by God, is cleansed from sin, is adopted as God’s child, and is set apart for the service in his kingdom. That is “being holy”.