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 Vol. 7, No. 6 

June 2005

~ Page 15 ~

Are You a Saint?

By Hugo McCord

Image I. Four Definitions

The dictionary gives four definitions of the word "saint": 1. a holy person; 2. a person who is exceptionally meek, charitable, patient, etc.; 3. [S] a member of certain religious groups calling themselves "Saints"; 4. in certain churches, a person officially recognized as having lived an exceptionally holy life, and thus as being in heaven and capable of interceding for sinners; a canonized person.

II. Comments

1. There are holy people in all religions: "consecrated or set apart to a sacred use" (Webster). Christians are told: "as he who called you is holy, you yourselves be holy in all your manner of life, for it is written, 'You shall be holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15-16). But more than holiness is required to make a Christian saint.

2. There are people "exceptionally meek, charitable, patient, etc.," in all and out of all religions. Christians are told: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5, KJV). "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Corinthians 13:13, KJV). "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord" (James 5:7). But more than meekness, charity, and patience are required to make a Christian saint.

3. Outstanding among the religious groups who call themselves "Saints" is the Mormon Church, with the name "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," founded in 1810 in Fayette County, New York State, by Joseph Smith, Jr., 1800 years too late in the wrong time in the wrong place by the wrong founder. Jesus built his church in A.D. 30 May 28 in Jerusalem, Palestine (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:1-47; 5:11).

4. "Canonization" in the Roman Catholic Church is "the act of declaring a dead person a saint. This act is preceded by beatification, and by an examination into the life and miracles of the person" (Webster). "Beatification" in the Roman Catholic Church is "to declare by a papal decree (a deceased person) to be one of the blessed in heaven, and, though not necessarily canonized, to be worthy of public worship" (Webster).

Biblically, there is no such thing as "canonization" or "beatification" by a "papal decree" that a "deceased person" has become a saint. Biblically, if one does not become a saint in this life, he will never be a saint, for there is no such thing as a "deceased person" becoming a saint after death. The word translated as "holiness" (KJV) or "sanctification" (ASV) in Hebrews 12:14, from hagiasmon, can as accurately be translated "sainthood" or "saintliness": "Follow peace with all men, and sainthood without which no man shall see the Lord."

But God, who "so loved the world" of sinners that he "sent his Son as the offering for our sins," has made the path to sainthood plain and simple! He is "not willing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9). So simple is the path to sainthood, he says: "Be not foolish, but understand what is the Lord's will" (Ephesians 5:17).

In 51 A.D. Paul, Silas and Timothy preached Jesus in the pagan city of Corinth (Acts 18:1-17). The result was that "many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized" (Acts 18:8). Several years later, Paul wrote a letter to those baptized Corinthians, addressing it to "the church of God which is in Corinth, to them that are sanctified [hegiasmenois, "set apart"] in Christ Jesus, called saints" [hagiois] (1 Corinthians 1:2). Thus we learn that sinners, who set themselves apart to live for Jesus by believing and being baptized, are "called saints" by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:2).

It is sad that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that one has to be dead 25 years before the process of declaring one a saint is begun. After 25 years, the pope appoints "the devil's prosecutor" who will go into the community where the deceased person had lived, and attempt to verify that the deceased person had been a holy person and had performed miracles. If the prosecutor gathers evidence that the dead person was holy and had miraculous power, then he will recommend to the pope that that person be beatified and canonized, and then be called a saint. But, as we have seen, biblically unless one becomes a saint in this life, he will not "see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

It is sad that the KJV, ASV, NIV and the NRSV all add two words to 1 Corinthians 1:2, which could leave the impression that those now "sanctified" ["set apart"] in Christ Jesus are not yet "saints," but are only "called to be saints." The NASV, faithful to the Greek text, has omitted the words "to be."

the Celtic practices of paganism. Our dressing up as witches and goblins dates back to the practice of witchcraft and spiritualism. Even the well worn phrase "trick or treat" comes from the idea of punishment or reward. If the Celtics poured out their libation to the gods, they could in the coming year expect to be rewarded for their gifts. If on the other hand they neglected the gods, their wrath would be brought upon them (Grolliers American Academics Encyclopedia, cited by Trent Wheeler, ibid.).

The Roman Catholic Church reacted against the Celtic celebration on October 31 by changing "the night of all witches" to a night for honoring, hallowing, all the saints in heaven. They call it "Halloween," the evening preceding "All Hallows," "All Saints Day" on November 1, "dedicated to all saints" (Trent Wheeler, ibid.).

It is commendable that the Roman Catholic Church caused some Celtic revelries to cease in favor of harmless visits by children exclaiming "Trick or Treat"! It is sad that the Roman Catholic Church does not know that if one does not become a saint in this life, he never will be one (Hebrews 12:14).

Not only at Corinth were the baptized believers called saints by the Holy Spirit, but also "in all the congregations of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1, etc.). If Christians are not saints until 25 years after their death, it is strange that Paul wrote, "Many of the saints I shut up in prison" (Acts 26:10), and strange that he made up a collection to take to "the poor saints in Jerusalem" (Romans 15:26), and strange that he commended certain widows because they had "washed the saints' feet" (1 Timothy 5:10). If all saints are only in heaven, it is strange that they still need for the Holy Spirit to pray for them: "the Spirit himself makes intercessions for the saints, according to the will of God" (Romans 8:27). Also it is strange, if in heaven "Death shall be no more" (Revelation 21:4), that the psalmist wrote, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15).Image

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