What is a saint? What are they for? Are YOU a saint, or can you ever BECOME ONE?
THERE is a vast difference between what most people believe concerning saints and what God actually states about them. This article explains these differences and closely examines what God's Word really says.
For centuries people have been talking about saints. Yet, few people understand what a saint really is.
How did St. Valentine, St. Patrick, St. Augustine and others become "saints" anyway? There are many conflicting beliefs about this question. Some feel they must pray to a different saint each day, or each time a new problem arises. Others feel that only members of their particular denomination or sect are saints. Still others believe that only those who have been cruelly martyred for the sake of Christianity can be saints.
For example, the article "Saint" in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, states: "In ancient inscriptions, it often means those souls who are enjoying eternal happiness, or, the martyrs. It was not until almost the Sixth Century that the word became a title of honour specially given to the dead whose cult was publicly celebrated in the churches. It was to the martyrs that the church first began to pay special honor" (emphasis mine throughout).
The Encyclopedia Britannica further asserts that the honoring of saints dates back to the second century and was soon widespread throughout the world. It was a practice devised by men, and as the practice spread, it became much abused. People began to worship saints rather than God.
In these modern times, it is a difficult task to have someone declared a saint. Noel Francis Moholy, the priest who is spearheading the drive to have Junipero Serra, the founder of California's first mission, made a saint, stated in a recent Los Angeles Times article: "Canonization is the most complicated legal process ever devised by man. Nobody started work on Serra's cause until twenty-five years ago, and the passage of time makes it more difficult."
In one well-known church, the name of a special saint is given to new converts at baptism. On each day of the year one or more saints are commemorated. The believers in this faith are also asked to pray to these saints often, for it is believed they will intercede with God for that person. They feel that no one except those already in heaven can be saints and that if we please them, they will do us fauors with God.
If this is true, what about those who have had their sainthood status taken away? Were they suddenly thrown out of heaven, or what?
Let's see what the Bible says.
Turn to the Word of God and see what He states about saints. After all, if there is a God, then the heavens and the earth and all that exists belong to Him, and He is the one who will control who lives where, and He will dictate the terms of who is, and who isn't, a saint.
Notice first the very positive and dogmatic statements in John 3:13: "No man has ascended up to heaven," and in Acts 2:29 and 34 where the Bible states plainly that the prophet and patriarch David is dead and buried and has not ascended to the heavens.
This means, then, that according to the most popular and modern teachings regarding saints, David, who was a prophet (Acts 2:30) and a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), would not be qualified to be a saint because the Bible plainly states he is not in heaven. This, of course, would not make good sense. If God felt David was a man after His own heart, certainly He would want David around Him where He is.
The Bible shows us plainly that no one is in heaven except God, Jesus Christ and the angels. So why waste all that time praying to some saint who can't hear you, and isn't there?
Furthermore, our prayers should be addressed directly to God the Father (Matt. 6:9). It is through the name and office of Jesus Christ that God hears our prayers (Eph. 2:13, 18).
Paul spoke about how, before he was converted, he himself had persecuted and tortured the true saints of God, how he put them in prison and testified against them, thinking all the while he was doing God a favor (Acts 26:10, 11). Then as the rest of Paul's life story is read, it is seen that he became a saint (Eph. 3:8) when he repented — when he changed his way of life and began to follow Christ instead of some religion of man.
Paul makes it very clear that the saints were those people who were true followers of Christ, keeping God's Law in spite of severe criticism and persecution, and that they were people who were alive and active in God's Church. (See Eph. 2:19-22; Col. 1:2; Eph. 5:3; Phil. 1:1.)
As God's Word states in Revelation 14:12: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."
Right at this very moment, God is revealing His plan of salvation and His way of life to those people whom He is calling and those who obey Him. These people are the TRUE SAINTS OF GOD.
That's right — these living, breathing human beings whom God is working with, and through whom He is revealing the true hope for all mankind — these are His saints! (Col. 1:26-28.)