In the closing greetings of the book or letter to the Hebrews, the writer mentions Italy.  Hebrew 13:24 says, “Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.” The mention of “Italy” must have something to do with Rome because that’s the center of Paul’s ministry in that country. Paul was also involved with Timothy in Italy as well. Kistemaker says, “Timothy had been in Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment (Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Philem. 1). From Rome Paul wrote the so-called prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philemon, Colossians, and Philippians). During Paul’s second imprisonment at Rome, he urged Timothy to come to him quickly (2 Tim. 4:9).”[1]

The most important phrase in these greetings however is the title that the author gives to those believers he is writing to. He calls them “saints.” Carter rightly observes that “Saints is a general term used here for Christian believers.”[2] Speaking about the reference to all believers as “saints,” Utley says “One must note the unfortunate use of this term by the Roman Catholic church to designate special Christians. All believers are called ‘saints’ in the NT! It is our position in Christ that is being emphasized.”[3] I grew up thinking that most saints were plaster statues in the church representing only the “holiest” of believers. But Evans and Coder have it right. They say, “The very moment a man believes in Christ he is sanctified, that is, in this first sense: he is separated from sin and separated unto God. For this reason, all through the New Testament believers are called saints (1 Cor. 1:2, R. V.; Rom. 1:7, R. V.). If a man is not a saint, he is not a Christian; if he is a Christian he is a saint. In some quarters people are canonized after they are dead; the New Testament canonizes believers while they are alive.”[4]

In the Navy, I was “Chief Larsen.” My mail still refers to me with that title. I’ve been called “Pastor Larsen” or “Pastor Chuck” for about 40 years now on the basis of a position I filled in a church. Others in my position and those in denominational circles have called me “Reverend Larsen” based on an ordination process I endured. I still get mail addressed to me that way. My students at Grace University called me “Doctor Larsen” based on a degree I have earned. All of those titles are just pieces of paper on the wall and are based on some earthly achievement. They mean nothing to God. The only title that matters is the one that God freely gives to you and me based solely on the work and merit of someone else! In Jesus, I’m “Saint Chuck.” That’s the only title that will matter in the end and it’s offered to everyone by God’s grace through faith alone.

[1] Simon J. Kistemaker and William Hendriksen, Exposition of Hebrews, vol. 15, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 435.

[2] Charles W. Carter, “The Epistle to the Hebrews ,” in Hebrews-Revelation, vol. 6, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966), 184.

[3] Robert James Utley, Luke the Historian: The Book of Acts, vol. Volume 3B, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2003), 128–129.

[4] William Evans and S. Maxwell Coder, The Great Doctrines of the Bible, Enl. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 166.