“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1).
Paul’s profound treatise on the great temple built by Jesus of Nazareth is addressed to a specific body of people in Ephesus: the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.
Because of the horrible abuse the word has received from the Roman Catholic Church, many think of “saints” as dead people. Such does not harmonize with the New Testament. The apostle Paul’s letter was not to be read in a cemetery of corpses; it was delivered to living, breathing humans.
According to 1st Corinthians 6:11, sainthood (or sanctification) begins when a penitent believer in the Son of God has been washed (i.e., baptized in water—Ephesians 5:26) and thus justified (i.e., baptized for the remission of sins—Acts 2:38). This salvation from sin results in the saint being added to a collection of sanctified people called the church (Acts 2:47). According to Ephesians 5:26-27, the church is that glorious bride of Christ which He has personally sanctified and cleansed so that He might present her to Himself without spot or wrinkle (i.e., holy and blameless).
Not only is sanctification an act that occurs when you become a Christian, it is also a process by which you become more like Christ as His disciple. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he identified them as “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2). The process of sanctification is a lifetime of purposefully seeking to obey the simple command: “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).
If the process of sanctification is ongoing in your life, you remain justified before God (1 John 1:7). Therefore, Paul’s second descriptor in his salutation is so significant. To be faithful in Christ Jesus, you must be an obedient child of God who is not conforming to your former life of lust, ignorance, and sin; instead, you must be seeking to be holy in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:14-15). you must live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:12) by presenting your body as a living, holy sacrifice to God and by being transformed by the renewing of your mind by the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
The great temple built by Jesus is a glorious spiritual structure. It is served by a voluntary, holy priesthood which offers up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Its royal priests are “saints and faithful in Christ Jesus”.
What a high and holy calling!