Actually, the Bible is very clear as to the meaning of this word. However, orthodox Christianity, and especially Catholicism, have distorted the meaning and have adopted a concept of a “saint,” which is in total opposition to the Biblical teaching.
The “Christian” world thinks that a saint is a very special kind of a Christian; usually one who has died, went to heaven, and who is now interceding before God on our behalf. The “Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine,” by Peter Geiermann, edited 1946, defines a “saint” as “one whose soul is in heaven” (page 111).
The “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” edited 1994, states under No. 828: “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the [Catholic] church recognizes the power of the spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models AND INTERCESSORS.”
The “Concise Catholic Dictionary”, by Reynolds and Rosemary Ekstrom, edited 1988, states on pages 134-135:
“Early followers of Christ… sometimes referred to other Christians as saints, but eventually (!) the word saints applied only to those in heaven… The [Catholic] church teaches that the saints in heaven can intercede on behalf of those on earth (these saints are often prayed to for help)… The church has traditionally taught that everyone in heaven (!) is a saint–not just those who have been canonized”
Further, in order to be “officially recognized” as a “saint,” the Catholic Church “requires the authentication of miracles wrought by, or through the intercession of, the person whose virtues are under debate. [These miracles] must be established by testimony of the countrymen of the reputed saint” (“The Catholic Dictionary,” article, “Canonization,” page 115).
We should realize that the worship of saints is closely associated with the pagan belief of ancestor worship. The Catholic Dictionary points out in its article, “Canonization,” on page 114: “Roman citizens brought the images of their distinguished ancestors in their villas. In China the worship of ancestors is to this day the most living portion of this popular religion.”
The “New Question Box–Catholic Life for the Nineties,” by John Dietzen, ed. 1988, states on pages 495 and 496: “The saints, including our own relatives and friends who have died and are with God, are united in some mysterious way by God’s providence. Since they are with God, it is only natural and profoundly Christian that we ask their help and prayers for anything important to us.”
However, such practice is not “profoundly Christian,” but since it is associated with paganism, it is, therefore, “profoundly pagan.”
Before explaining the biblical concept of a saint, let us clarify what a saint is NOT: As we pointed out in the Q&A of Update #205, the Bible does not teach that a person, including a Christian, goes to heaven when he dies. Neither does the “soul” of the Christian “go to heaven,” as the Bible does not teach at all the concept of an “immortal soul.” Rather, the human being IS the soul, and when the person dies, the soul dies (compare Ezekiel 18:4). A dead person is without consciousness, until Christ gives LIFE to the dead person in a resurrection FROM the dead. The Bible likens “death” to a “dreamless “sleep.” (Compare, for Biblical proof, our free booklet, “Do We Have An Immortal Soul?”) In addition, one does not have to be able to perform miracles to be recognized in the Bible as a saint. For instance, John the Baptist “performed no sign” (John 10:41), but Christ said that “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
When the Bible speaks about saints, it addresses LIVING Christians. Paul wrote to “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who ARE in Colosse” (Colossians 1:2). He also wrote to the “saints who ARE in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1), or to “ALL the saints in Christ Jesus who ARE in Philippi” (Philippians 1:1). He was not addressing Christians whom the church would “declare” to be “saints” after their death. He also wrote, in Romans 16:15: “Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who ARE with them.” In 1 Corinthians 16:1, he spoke about “the collection for the saints,” who were, at the time, in need of physical help. In Acts 26:10, Paul is quoted as saying: “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison… and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” (Compare, too, Acts 9:13.)
We also read, in Daniel 7:25, that a future false religious leader will “persecute the saints of the Most High.” But the system which he represents will be severely punished by God. We read that the “angel of the water” will say to God: “You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And you have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due” (Revelation 16:5-6).
Notice this! Christians are called saints in the Bible BEFORE they die. We are told, in Psalm 116:15: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the DEATH of His saints.”
According to the Bible, a saint is a person who is “holy” or “sanctified”; that is, he is set aside or set apart for a special purpose. Once a person is “sanctified,” he is “holy” — or a saint. The word “saint” refers to LIVING people–not dead ones. Notice Revelation 14:12, which addresses living Christians: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
W.E. Vine explains in “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,” that the word “saint,” as used in the New Testament, is derived from the Greek word, “hagios,” meaning “holy.” He states that it is used for “believers… It designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness, or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of saintliness. See especially 2 Thess 1:10, where ‘His saints’ are also described as ‘them that believed,’ i.e., the whole number of the redeemed…”
A saint is an obedient Christian. He has been set aside, by God, to BECOME a born-again member in the very Family of God. He is a child of God, but in no way is he to be worshipped or prayed to (compare Acts 10:25-26; 14:8-18).
In summary, there are no “saints” in heaven. Psalm 16:3 tells us that the “saints… are on the earth.” Therefore, it is useless and wrong to pray to “saints,” as they are dead and in the grave, unable to hear our prayers, and unable to help us. They cannot “intercede” for us–there is only one intercessor or mediator between God and man–Jesus Christ (compare 1 Timothy 2:5-6; see our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”).
The Bible says that you are a saint, if you are a converted Christian. But it is not your destiny to go to heaven when you die. For more information about the REAL potential and future of a true Christian–a “saint”–please read, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”
Lead Writer: Norbert Link