|Vol. 16 No. 4 April 2014||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The city in Missouri, USA on the Mississippi River bearing the name St. Louis was named after King Louis IX of France. He lived from 1214 to 1270 and served as King from 1226 until his death. The Roman Catholic Church canonized or declared him to be a saint in 1297.
According to Catholic teaching, in order for someone to be canonized or acknowledged to be a saint, the person must be dead and be responsible for at least two miracles. These miracles result from prayers being prayed through the departed person, who in turn becomes instrumental in miracles happening in answer to the prayers. Furthermore, all the dead in heaven are viewed as saints, but the supposed cause and effect of prayers and miracles serves to validate that the one through whom the prayers were made is in heaven, and therefore, is a saint. The canonization process is looked upon as validation that one is a saint in heaven, as opposed to the church making someone a saint.
The current Pope Francis has declared hundreds of people from centuries past to be saints since he became pope. On Sunday, April 27, 2014, this pope canonized more contemporarily known and celebrated predecessors as saints – two recent popes, John XXII and John Paul II. Naturally, canonization and becoming a saint is a topic of current conversation and interest. However, while much of so-called Christendom is abuzz with such goings on, serious Bible students realize that the Holy Scriptures teach quite differently about what it means to be a saint.
Source of Religious Authority
Many religious groups who purport to be a part of Christianity view their respective denominations as possessing the prerogative to legislate religious authority, irrespective that some of them nevertheless claim to view the Bible as authoritative. One person heads, councils, etc. are and have been making, rescinding and revising church laws over the decades or even for centuries.
Especially the New Testament paints a very different picture of present-day religious authority. After His resurrection and immediately preceding His Ascension, Jesus Christ claimed all authority in heaven and on earth for Himself (Matthew 28:18 NKJV). Subsequently, the apostles of Christ and other divinely inspired writers produced the New Testament epistles through the direction of the Holy Spirit. This New Testament claims for itself to be the sole and absolute authority of God.
Both testaments of the Bible were given by the “inspiration of God.” “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
God’s instruction to mankind contained in the New Testament is exhaustive and complete. Neither is anything else needed nor authorized. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Strict prohibitions populate the New Testament that sternly forbid alterations of, additions to or subtractions from New Testament doctrine. Everyone today is obligated to abide by the “apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Great curses rest upon anyone who would introduce alternate gospels (Galatians 1:6-9) or take from or add to the Word of God (Revelation 22:18-19).
The New Testament was verified to be divine in origin by the miracles that were performed by the apostles and other inspired writers (Mark 16:20), just as miracles likewise verified Jesus of Nazareth to be the Son of God (John 20:30-31). The New Testament has been “confirmed to us” through those miracles (Hebrews 2:3-4).
Bible Miracles Have Ceased
Miracles had a purpose, which when that purpose was accomplished, miracles were no longer needed. Just as predicted in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:8-12; Ephesians 4:11-14), then, Bible miracles came to an end when they were no longer needed to validate new revelation. That is, when the last New Testament epistle had been written, divine inspiration and other miracles expired.
Since true, Bible miracles ended nearly 2,000 years ago, there are no real miracles being performed today. Hence, dead Catholics to whom people yet living may pray are not responsible for modern-day miracles.
Biblical Definition of “Saint”
The biblical definition of “saint” differs widely from the Catholic notion. The English word “saint” appears 62 times in the New Testament, and it appears as a synonym for the children of God or disciples (Acts 9:13, 41; 26:10; Romans 12:13; 15:25; 1 Corinthians 14:33; etc.), what today we would call Christians (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Saints or Christians are holy or set apart for a holy use by God. Saints may be alive or dead; every true Christian is a saint, even without some ceremonial declaration by some mortal representing a manmade church. No miracles are required or even possible today. No one according to the Bible is directed to pray to or through saints, living or dead, but rather, followers of Jesus Christ were directed by Him to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:6). Our prayers are supposed to be through Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17). Jesus Christ alone is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), not some departed mortal. Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:25) and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26) make intercession for us, but departed mortals cannot do that for us.
All the fanfare aside, biblically speaking, no potentate representing the Catholic Church has the wherewith to declare someone to be a saint based on extra-biblical authority and supposed modern-day miracles effected by a dead person. On the other hand, since my given name is “Louis,” and I am a Christian by New Testament definition, you may call me “Saint Louis” if you like. However, every Christian today is also a saint in the biblical sense of the word.