Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. And coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. (Ephesians 5:1-4 HCSB)
The first time somebody showed me this concept in Scripture, I did more than a double-take. I simply didn't believe him. "You are a saint," he told me. Yeah, right. There's no way. "I am nothing but a sinner, saved by grace." What I didn't realized was that Scripture says I'm both.
First, I'm a creature made in the image of God - designed and created different in some way from all the rest of His creation.
Then, when I choose to walk away from God in sin, I become a sinner who deserves death for my sin - separated from God for eternity.
When I accept Jesus' death in my place, I am saved from that second death that keeps me separated from God for eternity.
Now, since I am reconciled with God (and will be for eternity in heaven), I am a saint!
I always thought that sainthood had to do with my actions - whether I was "good enough" to be a saint or not. Notice the way it is written in the passage above, though. Paul doesn't implore the Ephesian to avoid sin so they will "become saints." He doesn't tell them to work hard to "earn sainthood." He tells them to clean up their lives because that is the way "saints" should live. They are already saints!