As long as this is what the Bible teaches, we are fine. But if not, then once again, we need to follow Scripture as our sole rule of faith and not traditions of men. It was Jesus Himself who told the religious people of His day that they invalidated the word of God by their tradition, which they had handed down. (Mar 7:13). So let’s see what the Bible teaches on this.
The Usage and Meaning of the Term "Saints"
First of all, the term “saints” is used 68 times in the Bible (Psa. 16:3; 34:9; Dan. 7:18,21,22,25,27; Mat. 27:52; Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 15:25,26,31; 16:2,15; 1Co. 1:2; 6:1,2; 14:33; 16:1,15; 2Co. 1:1; 8:4; 9:1,12; 13:13; Eph. 1:1,15,18; 2:19; 3:8,18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18; Php. 1:1; 4:22; Col. 1:2,4,12,26; 1Th. 3:13; 2Th. 1:10; 1Ti. 5:10; Phm. 1:5,7; Heb. 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3; Rev. 5:8; 8:3,4; 11:18; 13:7,10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:20,24; 19:8; 20:9). In the Old Testament, it is used 8 times and 60 times in the New Testament. The most frequent occurrence of it is found in Revelation (13 times), Ephesians (9 times), Romans (8 times), Daniel (6 times), 1 Corinthians (6 times), 2 Corinthians (5 times), Colossians (4 times), and Acts (4 times). The term in Greek for saint is “hagios”, meaning “sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated): - (most) holy (one, thing), saint.” (Strongs).
Now that we have established the fact that the term "saints" means the "holy ones", I'd like to say a word about the use of the expression "holy man". The only two people in the Bible referred to as “a holy man” were Elisha and John the Baptist (2Ki 4:9; Mk 6:20). The Lord Jesus Christ, of course, is referred to as "The Holy One", and five of those instances are in the New Testament (2Ki. 19:22; Job 6:10; Psa. 78:41; 89:18; 106:16; Pro. 9:10; 30:3; Isa. 1:4; 5:19,24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19,23; 30:11,12,15; 31:1; 37:23; 40:25; 41:14,16,20; 43:3,14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9,14; Jer. 50:29; 51:5; Eze. 39:7; Hos. 11:9,12; Hab. 3:3; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69; 1Pe. 1:15; 1Jn. 2:20).
The singular version of the word "saint" is rarely used in the Bible, but it does exist. For example, Aaron, the brother of Moses is referred to as a saint (Psa. 106:16). Moreover, the prophet Daniel received a vision from God, in which he heard one saint speaking, and then he heard another saint reply to the first one (Dan. 8:13). Lastly the apostle Paul told the Philippians to greet "every saint" there (Php. 4:21).
The Believers In Rome Were Called Saints
Paul wrote, "To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom 1:7)
These Roman believers in Christ were called as saints while they were still alive on earth, serving the Lord. Paul was addressing as "holy ones" all who were beloved of God in that city.
This term was used not only of the Romans believers, but also the believers in Jerusalem (Act 9:13; 26:10; Rom 15:25, 26), Lydda (Act 9:32), Achaia (2Co 1:1), Ephesus (Eph 1:1; 2:19), Philippi (Phi 1:1), Corinth (1Co 1:2), and Colossae (Col 1:2).
Let’s see what other things Paul wrote to the saints.
Paul prayed for the saints regularly
One of the things we note in the Bible is that Paul prayed for the saints continually. He wrote, "For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you." (Rom 1:9-10).
And he taught that we as saints should pray for one another: "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints." (Eph 6:18)
Paul prayed for them often, because they it was necessary. Even the Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints (Rom 8:27). Saints need to pray for each other constantly. This is quite different from the traditional view of saints, in which we ask the saints in heaven to pray for us.
Paul, the great apostle, considered himself the least of all saints
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, (Eph 3:8)
Paul put himself below every other person in Christ who had been made holy, calling himself the least of the saints! This is amazing, considering he lived a selfless life of complete dedication to Christ, suffered much for the Lord, preached the gospel all over the world, and wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven New Testament Bible books that we have today.
Paul longed to impart a spiritual gift to the saints
For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. (Rom 1:11-12)
So even though they were saints, they needed ministry. They needed to have a spiritual gift imparted to them. And Paul also knew that he would likewise benefit from his contact with them as well. This is always the way it goes. There are no big shots in the kingdom. No matter what our role, whether saints or apostles, we all benefit mutually from one another when we minister to each other.
Saints have nothing in themselves to boast about
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Even though the Romans were saints, they couldn’t boast about it. The reason is that it was not by their works that they were considered saints, it was because they had been justified by faith. Neither can we boast, except in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." (Rom 1:17)
Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; (Rom 3:22)
These Romans were justified the same way everyone else is – by faith. This is a revelation you need to receive from the Holy Spirit. There's a lot of meaning packed into that short phrase, "the just shall live by faith." Meditate on this until you get it. To be justified means to be made righteous. We are justified not by our works but by faith in Jesus Christ. And when we’re justified, we are put in right standing with our Holy God.
The saints need to be equipped to do works of service
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Eph 4:12).
The saints are not just those who have finished the race and are in heaven now. Saints are also those of us here on earth who still need to be equipped, so that we can do the works the Lord has prepared for us to do since the world was created!
Saints are all those who call on the name of Jesus who have been sanctified
Paul wrote, "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 on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:" (1Co 1:2)
The saints will possess the kingdom and judge the world
The heavenly being that spoke to the prophet Daniel said, "But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come." (Dan 7:18)
Paul wrote, "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?" (1Co 6:2)
Since the saints will one day possess the kingdom and judge the world, we should be able to settle disputes between saints without taking matters before legal courts. And there are many other implications for the lives of saints today when we consider this glorious future.
There are saints in all the churches of the saints
Paul wrote, "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." (1Co 14:33)
Not every church is a church of the saints. Some congregations may be churches in name only and have none of Jesus' life in them. The true gospel is not preached there, and they are spiritually dead. But then there are churches of the saints! This is where you will find saints, if you want to meet one or be one, too!
Saints are supposed to live pure and holy lives
Paul said that it is proper among the saints to live pure and holy lives, and that immorality, impurity, and greed must not be named among them. He wrote, "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints;" (Eph 5:3)
How much this message is needed today in the churches of the saints! Holiness is a topic so seldom spoken about. It seems no one believes in holiness anymore. Yet we are taught by the Lord to "be holy, even as I am holy." (1 Pe 1:16). This is perhaps the most important point in this entire article. For more on this critically necessary topic, please see my articles, Holy Living in a Perverted World, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, and Holy Fire Baptism.
Saints need their eyes opened in order to see
Paul wrote, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints," (Eph 1:18)
Paul prayed for the saints in Ephesus that the eyes of their heart be enlightened, so they would know the riches of the glory of Jesus’ inheritance in the saints. Have your eyes been opened to this yet? If not, ask the Lord to open them.
He said, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:14-19)
Putting it All Together
So we can see that the saints are all who have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ and sanctified, and who follow Him. This includes those who have passed on into glory already and those of us who are still here on earth. It’s not a special class or title reserved for the elite Christians. That false tradition only renders the Word of God invalid. It leads people to think they should rely on this supposed elite class of officially recognized saints to pray for them and get their messages to God’s throne. Yet no place in the Bible are we taught to pray to those saints in heaven or to ask them to pray for us. Neither does the Bible teach us to adore relics or assign special powers to them.
If you are a believer in Christ, do you normally think of yourself as a saint?
If you have been justified by faith in Christ, have you also been sanctified as well?
If you are truly a saint, how should that affect the way you speak and act?
Once we recognize that all disciples of Christ are called to be saints, then we should begin to act like it. We should pursue holiness that we may be sanctified, pray for the saints, greet the saints, do the works of service the Lord has given each of us to do, and leaders should equip the saints for these works. But none of us can boast, because it is not by our own merits that we are saints. It’s through the shed blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. My prayer with Paul is that the eyes of your heart may also be opened to see who you are in God and what He has given you. It’s glorious.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB
Author's Note: If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend reading Holy Living in a Perverted World, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Keeping Your Body Pure and Holy, and Holy Fire Baptism. You can access the Seeking the Lord Main Directory or my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.