"…Paul began his letter to the Ephesians by designating all of those who are in his congregation (and all of us in our congregations), without qualification, regardless of reputation or behaviour, as 'saints' (Eph 1:1). Saint is, literally, a 'holy one'. Now as Paul shifts from his opening blessing of God to the people who are blessed, he picks up the designation again - 'all the saints' (1:15). He repeats it again halfway through this part of the prayer as he describes what it is like to live 'among the saints' (1:18). He uses the term six more times (nine times in all) in the letter. 'Saint', as it turns out, is Paul's noun of choice for the people of God - men and women who, no longer lost, follow Jesus in the cosmos. Throughout every letter Paul wrote, 'saint' is his word for us.
And so, accustomed as we are to hearing 'saint' used as a term of honour, when we hear the word used without qualification for the mixed bag of people that is us, it creates dissonance. Are we hearing Paul right? Did I really hear what I thought I heard him say? It is certainly not a word I would use when I look around at the Christians with whom I am familiar. Is Paul naive? How well does he know these people? How well does he know me? Or is this manipulative flattery?
Paul does mean what he says. And he does mean for the word to take us by surprise, to create dissonance. He means for us to take a second look at these men and women whom it would never have occurred to us to name as saints. By identifying these blessed-by-God people - we, of course, are included - Paul deliberately chooses a word that identifies us by what God does in and for us, not what we do for God. He re-identifies us as creatures of God, saved by Jesus, formed for holiness by the Spirit. He is retraining our imaginations to understand ourselves not in terms of how we feel about ourselves and not in terms of how others treat us, but as God feels about us and treats us. Not as our parents or our teachers or our doctors or our employers or our children define us, but God. Not in terms derived from our employment or our education or our physical appearance or our achievements or our failures but God…"
Eugene Peterson. Practise Resurrection. Hodder & Stoughton, London. 2010. 77 -78