As if the safety of refuge in God and the goodness of Christ’s Lordship were not more than enough to fill our hearts with thankfulness, the psalmist continues to describe blessing number three: the delight of knowing fellow believers.
“As for the saints who are in the land,” observes the psalmist David, “they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.”
A strange and eclectic array of pictures comes to mind when I hear the word saints. Tales of unusual men and women of the past millennia venerated for their high degree of holiness seem to limit the scope of who can be referred to as saints. But Scripture speaks of saints somewhat more simply.
David’s Hebrew use of the term ‘saints’ means ‘holy ones’ and is the same as the Greek word used by the New Testament writers in several of the epistles’ salutations. Sometimes they say “to the saints in Ephesus” or “to the saints in Philippi”, and sometimes they say, “to the church”, “to the holy and faithful brothers”, or “to God’s elect.” The salutation in Peter’s second epistle rephrases the word saints with the broadest description when he says, “to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” So saints are people who have accepted Christ’s atoning forgiveness, have received His righteousness by faith, and consequently are acceptable in God’s eyes. That is the process of becoming ‘holy ones’ in God’s economy.
David, the psalmist, most likely did not understand the full prophetic meaning of his words when he thanked God for “the saints” and foresaw the glory of their position and the delight of their society. That seems to be the way God works throughout Scripture. He layers deep truths into the words He impressed Biblical writers to inscribe.
So we today who call ourselves followers of Christ, who have received the new birth of our spirits into the Father’s family, and who are daily submitting ourselves to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, are saints. We are part of an amazing organism of diverse people with a unified purpose whose main characteristic is love for God and love for one another. These are the saints the psalmist foresaw. These are the ones who reveal God’s glory by living their lives on earth with a different purpose.
Now we may not always feel a sense of delight when we are with other saints—not if we are only looking at surface appearances. Saints aren’t perfect, at least, not yet. Saints are projects in process, an enterprise of proportions only God could conceive, create, and bring to eventual culmination.
Jesus places a very high value on the body of believers—on saints. He considered them ‘to die for’. And that is the source of the delight of knowing fellow believers. It’s not that they are noteworthy in and of themselves. The delight is in the realization that each saint, each Christ-follower, has been endowed with the presence of God’s Spirit and is the object of amazing grace. The body of people—of saints—who will complete the family of God and be part of God’s plans for a new heaven and a new earth still has vacancies. God is delaying His final end-times plans until the full number of saints is satisfied. What that means is that He wants as many saints as possible. He delays the closing days of this dying earth so that as many people as will accept His invitation will become His saints–we who read these words included.
What’s to be thankful for? We can be thankful for God’s gracious invitation to be part of the impossible glory and delight of being saints. Thank you, God.
(Photo Credit: Painting by Fra Angelico Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fra_Angelico)