Paul described the Roman believers as “beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). The word “saints” simply means “holy.” The words “to be” were actually added by the translators. In Greek, this literally says, “called holy ones.”
Remember that holiness is not some kind of extra qualification that a few believers may acquire; rather, it is something that is expected of all believers. Paul did not conceive of some special “super class” of believers who go on to a higher plane inaccessible to the rest of us. Paul assumed that all believers were going to be holy.
When you accept the gospel invitation of faith in Jesus Christ, God calls you a holy one. You are one who is set apart, ready to yield to the Holy Spirit and to righteousness. You may look at yourself and say, “Well, I really don’t seem to be very holy,” but recall what Paul said: that God “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17). God called Abraham “a father of many nations” before he had even one son. (See Genesis 17:4–5.)
When God calls you something, it is because He is going to make you something. When God calls you holy, you are holy, because He has called you holy. It may take some time to work out holiness in your life, but that is His decree for you.