How does this sound to you…
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in fear of the Lord. New International Version, Acts: 9:31
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Which one of these blessings do you need right now?
I confess I would love to drink up full portions of each – peace, strength, and encouragement!
Long ago, as the persecution of the early church intensified, the faithful resolve of the followers of Christ intensified as well. They refused to cower in fear. Instead, these Believers proclaimed the hope of Jesus Christ all the more. Then, after this difficult and oppressive season, and after the miraculous conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the early church experienced a time of peace. They could finally breathe again.
It was at this moment that Peter chose to set out from Jerusalem. His purpose? To strengthen and encourage the saints of Jesus Christ.
As Peter traveled about the country he went to visit the saints. New International Version, Acts: 9:32
Who were these saints?
These men and women lived along the Mediterranean Coast in towns and villages like Azotus, Gaza, Lydda and Sharon. These were people that Philip had shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as he traveled throughout the country earlier in time. The new church was birthed through his efforts in this region. The saints had come alive!
What I love and envision as Peter traveled from town to town, from village to village, from church to church, from home to home, was that he was meeting up with and encountering saints – people, perhaps, like you and me – who wanted to grow in their faith and who were hungry to learn more about Jesus.
Peter was fully aware that the followers of Jesus Christ, His saints, His believers, needed spiritual encouragement and refreshment. They needed love and care. They needed to hear more truth and more words of instruction and exhortation. They needed coaching and support. Peter had come to not only lift up and encourage the saints, but to ordain, to anoint, and to bless them to further the Kingdom of God on earth and beyond.
For Peter, for the early church, for the people who would receive, embrace and follow the message of Christ, these were the saints of God. These were a people group that professed a sincere faith in Jesus Christ and lived out their convictions in all that they did – in their day to day lives – along the Mediterranean Coast.
When we think of saints in this day and age, regular Jesus following people don’t quickly come to mind. Over the course of the centuries, the view of who the saints of God were morphed into something almost unattainable for the common man. Even today, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church require a procedure called canonization before they will bestow someone with the Saint of God title.
Yet, back in the early church, there was no such thing!
A saint was a faithful follower of Christ.
A saint was a holy one – with a soul separated for the things of Christ.
A saint was a believer who acted upon his/her conviction of faith.
A saint was a resident of a city, town, or village who had day to day responsibilities that helped care for the needs of his/her family.
A saint was someone who needed refreshment, strength, encouragement, healing, and peace as they lived out their faith – perhaps just like you and definitely just like me – and Peter responded to these needs as he traveled from one place to another along the Mediterranean Coast.
For Peter and the early church, everyone who followed Christ was a saint – whether they lived along the Mediterranean Coast or not. And each saint believed that Jesus Christ lived in them and empowered them to do right on this earth. The Holy Spirit guided their lives and strengthened their hearts. They were guided by hope that Jesus Christ was their Lord and Savior. They were guided by the confidence that the Holy Spirit would advance the Kingdom of God as they followed His leading.
Do you consider yourself to be a saint of God?
You are – if you profess Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord!
We are the saints of the earth…
As for the saints who are in the land – in neighborhoods, towns, cities, countries, and nations – They are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight! New International Version, Psalm 16:3
A saint is not about a title or lofty designation– a saint is about one who believes in Christ and acts upon this faith in everything they do and in everything they say with delight!
We can rest in this truth!
The peace, strength and encouragement of Christ is ours as we embrace our identity as saints of God!
Perhaps if we truly embraced this identity, we as Christ followers, would be seen as saints who love as Jesus loves, because we live with the Grace of Christ in us and the Hope of Christ empowering us. If we did, I believe the church could grow in numbers once again – because those in our communities, towns, villages, and such would see and experience our love for Christ and our love for our neighbor. They would observe the difference He is making in our lives. They would see us living for our Lord and not living in fear for ourselves.
Yes, fellow saints, if we could do this, what a difference it would make in world that often deems us hateful and irrelevant.
Be a saint, Believers! Live for Christ!
Will you join me?
Image retrieved from Desiring God : The Smile of God in the Face of His Saints