I’ve been convinced by the argument of Donald Robinson and others that when Paul refers to ‘the saints’ in his letters, he is most often referring to Christians from a Jewish background, and especially those in Jerusalem.
This however does not seem to fit well in Romans 1:7 where Paul addresses the roman church in this way:
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Normally I would take this to mean that Paul is primarily addressing Christians from a Jewish background. The problem is, everything else in Romans 1 seems to point strongly to the fact that Paul sees the Romans as a mainly Gentile church (see Romans 1:5-6, 13-15).
One option I thought of was to divide the people Paul is addressing into two groups ‘Those loved by God’ – Christians from a Gentile background, and ‘the saints’ Christians from a Jewish background. There are two problems with this approach. First, there is no ‘and’ between ‘those loved by God’ and ‘called to be saints’ in Greek, so I think they are really the same group. The second problem with the two groups theory is that I don’t think ‘those loved by God’ is a technical term for Gentile Christians.
A second option for interpreting this verse is to take Paul as saying that the Romans have been ‘called to be saints’, that is they have been called to join with the Jewish believers in being God’s people. At this stage I’m leaning in this second direction because it makes more sense in context. But I’d be happy to here any thoughts from anyone (if there’s anyone who still remembers this blog exists….)