On September 4, 2016, Pope Francis declared mother Teresa of Calcutta as ‘Saint Teresa’ after 19 years of her death. It was the conclusion of the canonization process that began in 2003. Thus, the Catholic Church got one more patron saint to intercede for them! According to a bishop, Saint Teresa will help particularly women who do not conceive and the traveller!
As the whole world paid special attention to this event it’s appropriate to consider the sainthood of a Christian according to the New Testament. How terrible it is that, in spite of the explicit scripture portions on this topic, many Christians turn a blind eye to the truth. Most Christians silently accept the false teaching and practice of praying to man-made saints, which is against the New Testament revelation. Without much explanation let us consider seven things about the doctrine of believer’s sainthood.
1. Every born again child of God in the New Testament has been called a saint. Acts 9:13, 32, 41; 26:10; Romans 1:7; 15:25, 26, 31; 16:2, 15 etc.
Immediately after the formation of the church we notice that along with the terms ‘brethren’, ‘believers’, etc., ‘saints’ was also used widely to refer to the company of believers. While writing to various local assemblies, Paul addresses the believers as saints, Ephesians 1:1; Colo. 1:2 etc.
2. Even Christians with practical failures were also called saints. 1Cor. 1:2 cf. 3:3.
In chapter 3 v3, Paul says that the Corinthian believers were carnal men who lived like ordinary people because of their fightings. Even then he addressed them in the beginning as ‘saints’. That means according to the New Testament a saint is not necessarily a ‘perfect man’! There is only one perfect Man—the blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Saints in the New Testament are saints by calling. 1Cor 1:2,
“who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints”.
Point number 2 shows that Christian sainthood does not depend upon our merit, but the merits of Christ our Lord. A detailed study of the work of Christ in a believer is necessary to understand our privilege and position today.
In 1Corinthians 6:9–11, Paul writes about the past life of the believers and their present new life through Jesus Christ. “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” V.10. So, the basic reason behind their sainthood was this three-fold work of God—cleansed, sanctified and justified.
Sanctification in the Bible primarily refers to our separated state. Holy vessels and instruments in the Old Testament were separated for God’s purposes. Thus, the moment one trusts Christ as His Savior and Lord, not only he is forgiven and washed, he has been set apart from the filth of this world for God’s own purposes, Cf. Hebrews 10:10.
Justification is God declaring the believing sinner to be righteous in the Lord Jesus Christ. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2Cori. 5:21. God imputes the righteousness of Christ in to the life of a repenting sinner, Cf. Romans 4:5, 6.
That’s why Paul says that Jesus Christ is our sanctification, justification and redemption. 1Coir 1:30. All our blessings are in Christ alone.
In summary, the New Testament idea of sainthood has to do with the following:
- Our holy state by virtue of our position in Christ Jesus: We are washed and justified. God looks at us in Christ His Son, 1Cor. 1:30; Phil 1:1; Heb 3:1
- Our separated state. God has set us apart for Himself. This is a once and for all experience which cannot be revoked, Heb. 10:10; Acts 20:32; 1Cor. 6:1.
4. Saints in the New Testaments are being sanctified. Eph. 5:26 cf. John 17: 19; 13:8 etc. ,
The positional truth of sainthood mentioned above must be true practically in the day to day life. This sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit continues by imparting Christ’s righteousness, cf. Romans 8:28–30; Phil 1:6. This practical aspect of sanctification is a process that will continue throughout our lives.
God in His wisdom and plan, works in the lives of every born again Christian to make him/her more like His Son, Lord Jesus Christ, Cf. Jn. 17: 17; Eph. 5: 26; 1Thess. 5: 23, 24. Though it’s God’s own work, we too have a role. Phil 2: 12, 13 says that God works in us and we work it out. That’s why the word of God exhorts us to cleanse ourselves and be holy in all our conduct, Cf. 2Cor. 7:1; 1Peter 1:14–17.
5. Saints by calling will be saints indeed—perfectly in future. Eph. 5:27; 1Jn. 3:2; Rom. 8:29, 30; Jude 24.
This is the ultimate goal of sanctification, which will happen at the time of rapture. Complete conformity to Christ.
The above mentioned three things are linked together. We are saints in Christ positionally. This positional truth should be true in our practical lives. From the day we got saved, God began to work in us, which will continue till our death or rapture. One day the Lord will present us before the Father without any blemish, in complete holiness.
6. Saints have a specific life-style. Eph 5:3; Rom 16:2
“Let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints”. Here the writer exhorts the believers to behave differently from the unbelievers who are characterized by a deplorable life-style. ’The day to day life and conduct of saints must be fitting/appropriate for God’s people. They should be marked by holy and separated lives, Cf. Ezekiel 44:23; Lev. 10:10; 11:47. The people of God must be able to distinguish between holy and unholy things and follow what is clean and acceptable to God.
7. Saints have special privileges. 1Cor. 6:2; Col. 1:12; Rev. 11:18.
- “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?”
- “The inheritance of the saints in the light.”
- “You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints”
These are the privileges that saints in Christ will enjoy in the future. They will have inheritance, reward and part in God’s kingdom. However, there are some other blessings a saint can enjoy even today. Cf.
Psa. 37:28 – God will not forsake His saints.
Psa. 97:10 – He preserves their soul.
Psa. 149: 9 – They will have special honor.
Psa. 132: 9, 16 – They will shout for joy.
Psa. 116: 15 – Their death is precious to God.
Doctrine of Seaparation
What a blessed privilege it is to be known as saints in Jesus Christ. No man can make anyone a saint. It is the prerogative of God Himself. The method to become a saint is clearly revealed in the New Testament. Anything else is false and erroneous. Every born again child of God is a saint. They are marked by a separated life in character and practice. Are you a saint? How do you live as a saint?