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Friday, October 23, 2015

All Saint's Day: What Exactly Is a Saint?

November 1st is All Saint’s Day in the Roman Catholic Church ( probably put at that place on the calendar to counter the pagan festival of Samhain). The RC Church has quite a list of criteria in order for someone to become canonized as a saint but really what is a Saint? According to the Bible, specifically the New Testament, a saint is simply a believer in Jesus.  We tend to think of a saint as someone who has a halo above their head and is as pure as the driven snow; however,  that’s not what the Bible describes.

The Greek word hagios is where we get “saint” from – it means Holy, separated unto God. The early Greeks used it of something separated unto the gods but the Christian term signifies something that is separated unto God not by man but by God Himself. Someone who is not holy in and of himself but made holy by God through faith in Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection. In the Bible it refers to both believers who have gone before us and those who are now with us on earth. The Bible also uses hagios to refer to Jesus Christ as the "Holy One" or "Saint" of God (Mark 1:24 , Acts 3:14, 1 John etc..).  

Easton’s Bible Dictionary tells us that “It was not used as a distinctive title of the apostles and evangelists and of a "spiritual nobility" till the fourth century. In that sense it is not a scriptural title.”

Vine further says “This sainthood is not an attainment, it is a state into which God in grace calls men ; yet believers are called to sanctify themselves …consistently with their calling.”

They are not a saint because they are holy; they are holy because they are a saint – and they are only a saint because they believed in Jesus and trusted Him to forgive their sins.

Methodist, John Wesley did not agree that saints of any kind should be venerated or prayed to but he did agree that there is much for us to learn from the saints ( all believers) who have gone before us. After all that's what Hebrews 11 is all about. Reading the biographies of believers who have gone before us can be very edifying, encouraging and challenging. 

So if I am to honour this holiday at all then it will be to be thankful that God, through Jesus, has made me, ever the sinner,  into a saint – not by my works but by His grace. I can also glorify God by thanking Him for the many godly examples of past believers and current mentors, friends, brothers and sisters whom I can call saints and who have blessed my life and my Christian faith. 

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” Ephesians 2:19

You may also be interested in:

A Bio Sketch of Hilda of Whitby 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Bible (Short Bio) 

A Bio-Sketch of Maurice of Thebes: The Legionnaire Who Died for Christ 

5 Historical Facts about St. Nicholas of Myra ( The Origins of of Santa Claus)

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