Are You a Saint?

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The Misused Term and Its True Meaning


If you are a Christian, do you think of yourself as a saint? The Bible teaches us that all who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior are indeed saints. The term actually refers to those who are holy or "set apart" by God. And all of us who are saved by grace through faith, have been set apart by God for His use.

The problem is that the Catholic Church has taken a perfectly good biblical word and misused it for so long that most Christians don't know that they are saints. Catholics have added another understanding to the term that is totally unscriptural, and which many think about when they hear the word.

I. Unscriptural Views of Catholicism

In the Catholic religion God's forgiveness through the work of Christ covers only the penalty of eternal death. The Christian must make satisfaction for all sins committed after baptism. This Satisfaction must be complete and perfect before one can enter heaven.

Satisfaction can be made through penance and good works in this life. But if not complete, it has to be accomplished through the fires of purgatory. That is, unless you die in mortal sin. These sins are supposedly grave violations of God's law that turn a man away from God, and if not redeemed by repentance and forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's Kingdom. This person will go to Hell. Mortal sins are different from venial sins, according to Catholic theology. Venial sins don't set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God and, although still constituting a moral disorder, they don't deprive the sinner of friendship with God, and the eternal happiness in heaven.

Here is where the Saints come in. They are the ones who got it right in this life. They lived lives of exceptional holiness and so enter straight into heaven when they die. They don't have to go through purgatory. These men and women die in God's grace and friendship. They are perfectly purified and live with the Lord forever.

To recognize a person as a Saint in the Catholic Church it takes an elaborate process. It ends in the person being 'beatified' or 'canonized' by the Pope or a prominent bishop. Canonization is a solemn proclamation that these people practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God's grace.

II. What Scripture Actually Teaches

The Catholic ideas which we just talked about cannot be found in Scripture. All these ideas are based upon their oral tradition. Rome claims, however, that its oral tradition is equal to Scripture, so they don't have to appeal to the Bible.

But sadly, they are in contradiction to what Scripture tells us about sin and salvation. Salvation has absolutely nothing to do with anything that we can do. It is by grace alone, through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9).

The only purgatory in the Bible is the cross where Jesus died for the sins of the world. Hebrews 1:3 states that Jesus:

"When he had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high."

And in Hebrews 10:10-14 it points out that Christ sat down because He had perfectly finished the work of sin-bearing. Verse 14 says:

"For by one offering He has perfected forever, those who are being sanctified."

It is that word sanctified that is the key to why the Bible calls all Christians saints, and not just a select few who supposedly merit the title.

III. Scripture, Sanctification and Saints

The word sanctification is the same Greek word as holiness. It is the word 'hagios' meaning a separation. And interestingly, the word for saint comes from the same Greek word as well. Saint is almost always used in the plural as 'saints.' In Scripture there are 67 uses of the plural 'saints' as opposed to only one use of the singular 'saint.' And even in that instance a plurality of saints is in view. This use is found in Philippians 4:21 where Paul says to: "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus."

Saints are those who have been set apart for the Lord and His Kingdom. Even though the Lord expects His saints to live godly lives, it is not their godly character that makes them saints. It is rather the fact that they are related to Jesus Christ through faith and set apart for His glory. Paul even uses this term of the Corinthian church, even though it had some carnal Christians living there. He says to them:

"To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours" (I Corinthians 1:2).

Over and over again, Paul calls believers in the various churches to which he writes saints. Indeed all believers have been sanctified or made saints, not by our own merits, but through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

There are some places in Scripture that make the word saints synonymous with the Body of Christ. For instance Ephesians 4:11,12 talks about Christ when it says:

"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the Body of Christ..."

Once again, we see that the Bible sees saints, not as some special people who earn canonization, but as all of God's people, the Body of Christ.

IV. Progressive Sanctification

What we have to understand when talking about sanctification and being a saint is that when we first become a Christian it begins a process that ends when Jesus Christ returns and we receive our new bodies and our new home in heaven. God declares a Christian righteous and holy, or set apart, on the basis of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Christ bore our sins on the cross. We receive His righteousness (II Corinthians 5:21). This is sometimes called positional sanctification. That is why Paul could call all the Corinthians saints.

But the Christian life is a progression, whereby we conform more and more to the image of Jesus Christ. This is our daily walk. It is in this manner that Paul in Ephesians 5:3 tells us:

"But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints."

Ultimate sanctification, as we said, happens when Jesus Christ returns. Then all believers will be free from the presence of sin forever, in our own lives, and in the universe. We will be saints, set apart in every sense of the word. And we will finally be like our Lord Jesus Christ. John is talking about this when he says:

"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when he appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is" (I John 3:2).

Conclusion

It is time that the Christian Church takes back the term 'saint'. If you have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are a saint, you are sanctified and holy. You are set apart for God. It should be something that we thank Him for. However, it should also be a challenge for us to live up to the position that Christ has placed us in through His death, burial and resurrection. It means that we no longer belong to ourselves. We are set apart by and for Him, for His glory. May we no longer live like the rest of the world. Let us begin to live like the saints that we are.






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Comments 18 comments

GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 3 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

The idea of Purgatory can never be in agreement with the Bible and thus it goes under the category warned of in the last chapter of Revelation: "For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, I any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

God indeed corrects the believer who sins, but nowhere does it say in the Bible that this correction is in Purgatory. It is done while the Christian is on this earth. And the whole idea of mortal sins which keep a person out of heaven is nothing short of a mockery of the precious blood of Christ which has cleansed us from all sin. It is works salvation at its worst, and should cease being taught.


newenglandsun 3 years ago

"Purgatory, as you've noted is also taught. This is heretical, since it is basically saying that what Christ did on the cross doesn't cover all sin."

How does purgatory do this? The Eastern Christian churches lean toward Christus Victor theory of the atonement. Sin, death, and Satan are personified and defeated at the cross. Jesus dies to expiate for our sins. To heal us. That does not mean that the punishment is paid for or that we don't need correction afterward. We do.


lstCitizen profile image

lstCitizen 4 years ago from California

OK then.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

1st Citizen: I'm not going to continue arguing back and forth because I don't believe that it will get us anywhere, and I'd like to do more writing then just this.

I don't believe that the Roman Catholic Church is correct in venerating any saints, so I'm not choosing at all what saints to venerate. It is giving glory to man and not to God. Philippians 2 says that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. And the whole idea of the Treasury of Merit is totally based upon works, when the Bible clearly says that it is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. When the Roman Catholic Church claims to speak for God and yet takes the Gospel of the Grace of God and makes it a gospel of works, it is not speaking for God any longer.

It takes the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross and says that Jesus' death has to be added to by acts of pennance and Purgatory. There is something wrong here.

And the Eucharist, or the Lord's Supper, was never meant to resacrifice Christ by his body being offered over and over again. Jesus told his disciples to do it in rememberance of Him. Like the Passover was meant to memoralize what God did for Israel, the Lord's Supper was meant to memorialize what Jesus completed on the cross of Calvary. Paul also repeats this in I Corinthians 11. Once again the Catholic Church does more than just give further revelation, it actually changes the gospel. Jesus died once for all. He said: "It is finished." Salvation has been completed. No man can or should add to it.

Hebrews 10:11-14 says:

"And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified."

It doesn't get much clearer than that. Even if I believed that God was still adding revelation to the canon of Scripture today, I could never accept that Rome is God's mouthpiece. They have clearly strayed from the gospel and have cheapened the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, once for all.


lstCitizen profile image

lstCitizen 4 years ago from California

The Catholic Church teaches just what your hub advocates; that we faithful Christians walking on earth are all saints. You reject that the Church canonizes certain saints of the past by deciding which saints are worthy of veneration. Do I have this right? Now with regard to the bible, there were lots of gospels and epistles written back in the early centuries of the Church. The Church chose to canonize only certain documents around the turn of the 4th century. You do not object to these Church decisions and you even take it one step further and declare these books to be the “sole authority” of Christianity.

Do you not see the irony of all this?

Are you still obsessing over the sins committed by men in the 16th century? If you are so against the corruption of those days, why do you not also protest the sins committed by Protestant leaders against Catholics in the following centuries? Do you have your own traditions that are sacred to you?

You say your evangelical churches don’t claim to have authority, yet you freely level charges of “heresy” to any church that disagrees with you. Or is it only the Roman Catholic Church? Anyway it sure sounds like you assume to have authority. You promote this idea that each believer is their own authority. Isn’t that it, really? It turns out that what Luther began in order to eliminate the need for a pope, actually created millions of popes, each deciding for themselves what is the truth. And so in the end, we have a Christian flock that is so scattered that each member makes up their own truth. Of course none agree on everything so each becomes a heretic to the other. And you think this is the church that Jesus built? Seriously?

You preach about grace and yet you reject Jesus’ offering of sacramental grace that He instituted through His Church especially in the Holy Eucharist, (and also in the sacrament of Reconciliation). Read John 6 and ask yourself: Am I among those disciples who say “This saying is hard: who can accept it?”, and would walk away. Or, am I with Simon Peter who in spite of not understanding says “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Do you believe that God could turn the water of the Nile to blood by the hand of Moses and Aaron? (Ex 7:19) Do you believe that Jesus could turn water into wine at the wedding in Cana? (Jn 2:1-10) Or multiply a few fish and loaves to feed thousands? (Mt 14:13-21, Mk 6:31-44, Lk 9:10-17 and Jn 6:5-15) Why do you not believe that Jesus could turn wine into His blood in a Catholic Mass? And bread into His body? Don't you realize why Abraham told Isaac that "God himself will provide the sheep" (Gn 22:8), or why the passover prescription required that the meal be eaten (Ex: 12:8), or why St. Pauls tells us to "celebrate the feast" (1 Cor:5:7-8). It is sad to think that so many sincere Christians have been led away from the richest source of grace, Jesus Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity.

Perhaps you are not used to being confronted like this. You must ask yourself whether your Christianity is conditional. Does it have limits? Do you accept the Word of God only so long as it does not require you to accept the Roman Catholic Church?

I will pray for you, brother.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

Thanks lifegate for your input.

1st citizen: I just wrote a lot that somehow got erased before I could publish it, so I'm assuming that the Lord wanted me to say it another way.

First of all the Roman Catholic church did much in the 16th century that they are still trying to live down today. That includes the selling of indulgences. You cannot buy God's favor, either in this life or the next.

Secondly, I am not leading any revolt. I follow the Lord Jesus Christ who told me that if I believe in Him, accepting Him as Lord and Savior I will be saved (John 3:16; John 3:36). I am relying on the grace and mercy of God, and not on any works that I can do to find favor with God (Titus 3:5). The Bible says that any righteousness that I have done are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

You are right that there is only one Church. It is not found in Rome, any more than it is found in any other specific place in the world. It is made up of all true believers, both Jew and Gentile, in this age of Grace in which we now live, both living and dead, who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is the Church Universal, and its head is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23).

All the thousands of churches that you are talking about, if they are evangelical churches, don't claim to have authority. The authority comes from the Word of God, and the indwelling Spirit who lives in each believer (Romans 8:14). We don't have many mediators, such as the Saints, or even the Pope. We have one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5).

And we don't take just Ephesians 2:8,9 as our verses to tell us that salvation is by grace (unmerited favor), through faith. Jesus himself said: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." He also said: "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he that believes not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abides on him ( John 3:16; John 3:36).

Paul said that it was: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He has saved us..." (Titus 3:5).

The fact that it is a gift means that there is nothing we do to earn it. You don't get a gift by working for it. You get it because of the love of the one giving it. It is grace, unmerited favor. Grace is giving me something that I don't deserve. God's mercy means that He doesn't give me what I do deserve, which is Hell.

And for the record, I never said that works didn't matter. Works are the fruit that a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ does after salvation that proves he is truly regenerated. Jesus said: "By their fruit you will know them" (Matthew 7:20). Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 2:10 when he says: "For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." And that is what James is talking about in James 2. He is talking about the fruit that comes once a person is saved. If there is no fruit, then you can question whether or not a person has been born again. Someone has said that if there is fire in the fireplace, there should be smoke coming out of the chimney. If there is a fruit tree, it ought to produce fruit. And if there is a truly regenerate Christian, he should produce good works. However, the salvation comes first. The new life that Christ gives us by faith is lived in gratitude and service to the One who has given us life.

The good works that we do are a result of the Spirit living in us.

It is He who produces the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Salvation is from God from start to finish. (Philippians 1:6). He began it, He will complete it.

I could go on about why we believe that the Bible is the final authority, but it would take up a lot more space. I think I'll save it for a Hub. For now let me leave you with some of the final Words of Scripture, found in the Book of Revelation:

"For I testify unto every man that hears these words, of the prophecy written in this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life and out of the holy city and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:9). This is a solemn warning every believer should pause and consider.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

GodTalk,

This is your hub, so I'm backing out of the conversation. I am however, writing a hub addressing the issues mentioned here. Thank you for faithfully standing for Truth.


lstCitizen profile image

lstCitizen 4 years ago from California

GodTalk and lifegate, by just what authority do you decide what is heresy?

As for me, I belong to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church founded and built by Jesus Christ over 2000 years.

You have gone with the 16th century revolt started by men, against Jesus’ Church and now you appear to be leading that revolt. You have decided that you can do it better than Jesus. How arrogant. You make up all these doctrines, like the bible is the sole authority (sola scriptura) and by faith alone we are saved (sola fides). These are man-made and not based on sacred Scripture or sacred Tradition. If you teach these, then you are a heretic. “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD”. (Jer 23:1-6)

There is only one Christian church. It is the Roman Catholic Church.

There are not tens of thousands of churches, each claiming to have authority. The Catholic Church is holy. She has Jesus’ promise to be with her always and to be guided by the Holy Spirit. (Mt 28:20, Jn 14:16) The Church is catholic, which means she is open to everyone, universally. The Church is apostolic and so by succession as established by Jesus and the original apostles, our Pope now sits in the chair of St. Peter and has the full authority granted to him by Jesus himself. You have none of these and so you have no standing to decide what is heresy.

You reject Purgatory. Yet with heaven we know, “nothing unclean will enter it, nor any who does abominable things or tells lies”. (Rev 22:27) And so you would have everyone believe that they are clean just by claiming to be. You spin “…for by grace you have been saved through faith…” (Ep 2:8) to mean what you want you want it to mean. You preach that all one needs is to “accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior” and poof!, you are saved. You preach that works don’t matter. What heresy. Never mind “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead”. (James 2:17). No, the Catholic Church correctly and scripturally teaches that by the grace of God, we are working to one day be saved. We are not so arrogant as to presume to be saved because we say we are.

You reject anything if it is not written in the book that we call the Bible. Yet nowhere in the Bible will you find such a doctrine. Actually, you will find the opposite. St. John tells us at the end of his gospel “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written”. (Jn 21:25) And so your sola scriptura doctrine says to Jesus “sorry Jesus, unless you give it to us in writing, we don’t want to hear about it”. You are so determined to reject sacred Tradition as the word of God that you even disregard St. Paul’s written words in sacred Scripture “Therefore, brothers stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours”. (2 Thes 2:15)

I responded to your hub initially to give you a friendly correction about what the Catholic Church teaches about the “Communion of Saints”. Now that I see that you know full well what the Church teaches, I see that you are lying about it to deceive your followers. We should all take the warning from Matthew’s gospel “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Mt 7:15)


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

I would have to agree with lifegate. And 1stCitizen you might want to check your doctrines again, because the whole idea of Canonization and the Treasury of Merit is indeed being taught by the Catholic Church. Purgatory, as you've noted is also taught. This is heretical, since it is basically saying that what Christ did on the cross doesn't cover all sin. If you have to go to a place called Purgatory at all, it means that you have to pay for sin done in this life.

The Bible teaches that Jesus died for sin once for all (I Peter 3:18). The Old Testament sacrificial system was a constant reminder that sin had not yet been dealt with. But Jesus, by His one offering for sin, has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). I invite you to read the book of Hebrews. It is a wonderful book which explains this fully.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 4 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

GodTalk,

Thanks for bringing it and staying true to the Scriptures! I was going to comment on the above comment, but I thought it be better if you did (and I'm sure you will), but if the Bible is to be our sole authority (negating tradition when contradictions arise), where is purgatory even mentioned in Scripture, much less taught as doctrine? It's nowhere to be found--nowhere, so who's misleading who? Oops. I guess I commented. Sorry!


lstCitizen profile image

lstCitizen 4 years ago from California

GodTalk, if you know that the Catholic Church teaches that saints include souls living in heaven, in purgatory and on earth, please don't spread misinformation like this. Its no wonder the average person is misled.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

Dave: "Thanks again for your indights.

1st Citizen: The misinformation that you talked about comes straight from a pro-Catholic website. I know that the Catholic Church teaches that in some way we are all saints, but my point was that they added this unbiblical, and I believe heretical, addition to the idea of sainthood that is very misleading. And the average person, when they associate the word saint with Catholocism, thinks of this idea of those who have been Canonized by the Pope.

The whole idea of the canonization of Saints, the Treasury of merit, Purgatory and for that matter mortal sins is completely a works based salvation and is therefore another gospel than what was preached by Paul and the other apostles.


lstCitizen profile image

lstCitizen 4 years ago from California

GodTalk, you have some misinformation about Catholicism. In fact the main point of your article is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches. You see, we Catholics believe in the "communion of saints" which encompasses all believers in heaven (the church triumphant), in purgatory (the church suffering), and on earth (the church militant). Somehow you've been lead to think that we reserve the word "saint" to refer only to souls in heaven. No, we include believers on earth too just as you say we ought to.


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

It is good to find another brave "Soldier for Christ" ready and willing to take up the battle against false and improper teachings. The sword of Jesus which comes from His mouth in the book of Revelation is a powerful two-edged sword that cuts clean.


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

I agree. The Catholic Church has lead many astray from the truth of the Bible. They have taken salvation by grace, through faith and made it into a salvation based upon works.


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

GodTalk: Someone Must do it. Catholics need to know the truth about their "Religion".


GodTalk profile image

GodTalk 4 years ago from Kentwood, Michigan Author

Thanks Dave for standing up for the truth of Scripture. God bless you.


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

I have been writing against the Dogmatic teachings and policies of the Roman Catholic Church for some time now. It is good to find another Christian Writer who is not afraid to speak up.

Do you call the priest "Father"? Jesus says no!

Is infant baptism scriptural? Not in any bible I've read from.

Are priests necessary to confess your sins? What purpose do they serve in this?

Is praying to Mary or any of the Angels of the Bible, or any of the Catholic so called saints right and proper? Is it scriptural?

These and others I have discussed.

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