To My Roman Catholic Friends: Who are the Saints?
For the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, two popes have been canonized into the “Sainthood” on the same day. But what does the Bible say about “saints”?
According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, the word for “saint” is derived from the Greek verb hagiadzo, which means to “set apart,” “sanctify,” or “make holy.” This word and its derivatives are used 232 times in the New Testament.
“Saints” are, simply, those who are “set apart” or “consecrated” or “made holy” to God. In 1 Timonty 4:5, Paul says that no food is forbidden by God, “for it is made holy (hagiadzetai) by the word of God and prayer” (ESV translation; “consecrated” in the NIV; “sanctified” in the KJV). “Saints” are those who are “sanctified” (hegiasmene) as in Romans 15:16, where Paul says that his offering of Gentiles to God is “acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” In 1 Corinthians 7:15, even children of one believing parent are holy “saints” (hagia) to distinguish them from children of unbelievers outside God’s covenant of grace.
Six of Paul’s epistles are addressed to “saints” (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, and Colossians 1:2). It would be absolutely absurd for Paul to be writing to only a few canonized “saints” in these churches.
Therefore, in the New Testament, a “saint” is never a dead person who has been “canonized” by the Roman Catholic Church to have the special title “Saint.” Saints are living individuals (only a few times do “saints” refer to dead people) who have been saved from sin and God’s wrath, justified by faith alone in Christ alone through God’s grace alone, according to Scriptures alone. As the fruit of this salvation, and in gratitude to God, they then devote themselves to the worship and service of the God of the Bible who has incarnated himself as our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
Moreover, the Bible never mentions any dead “Saint” who intercedes for believers who remain on earth. In fact, Paul says in Romans 8:27 that the Holy Spirit is the Intercessor, “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints [hagion] according to the will of God.” Christ as well is our Intercessor, “Christ Jesus is the one who died€”more than that, who was raised€”who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us“ (Romans 8:34). More to the point, Paul says that Christ is the only Intercessor or Mediator, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
What comfort it is that Christ prays for all his saints that the Father guard, protect and preserve them to the end! (John 17:12, 15) That all his saints “we have confidence to enter the holy places [the presence of God] by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19), that we are able to “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22)! That our prayers are certain to be heard and acted upon, since our Great Intercessor is none other than the King of Kings who has all glory, majesty, dominion, and authority in heaven and on earth! Even canonized “Saints” remain mere human beings who also need the prayers of Christ and the Spirit.
And since Christ is the only Mediator or Intercessor, believers€”who are truly saints in Christ€”ought not to pray to other saints, even “Saints.” This is idolatry, for praying to another created being, even angelic beings, is tantamount to making that other being another God.
Here are a few examples of the use of “saints” in the New Testament.
Acts 9:32: Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.
Romans 1:7: To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints [hagiois]: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:25: At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints [hagiois].
Ephesians 6:18: praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints [hagion].
Hebrews 13:24: Greet all your leaders and all the saints [hagious]. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.
Revelation 20:9: And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints [hagion] and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them.
It may surprise you that all of these examples in the first century apostolic age never refer to any of the “saints” the Roman Catholic Church “canonized,” since official church canonization did not begin until the 10th century (according to Catholic Online).