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What are Saints?

“I’m no saint!”  That is what people say if they want to tell you that they aren’t good.  We all know that meaning in English of a saint is a good person.  However, there are more meanings.  In the Orthodox and Catholic churches, there are specific qualifications one must fulfill to be called a saint, and they pray to their saints.  If you look in the Bible, the word saint does not mean what the Orthodox and Catholic churches have denoted it to mean at all, and it doesn’t mean that someone is really good either, but just a Christian.

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I really don’t know the qualifications of a saint in the Catholic church, but I can only imagine they are close to what the Orthodox think a saint is.  When I was teaching the girls in the Orthodox seminary in Sibiu, Romania who were studying to become Orthodox nuns, a discussion of saints popped up.

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We had just come back from a vacation, and we were all talking about what we did on vacation, and one girl said she had been up north to visit the new saint.  She was surprised when I hadn’t heard of it as the other future nuns were.  They thought everyone knew about it, and since I didn’t, they proceeded to tell me.

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They had the body of a dead girl in a church building up north.  The girl who went there said she just wanted to touch the body because she had a bad cold, and she just knew if she touched the body, her cold would go away.  I said, “Did you touch it?”  Her reply was that she did.  After that I asked her, “Well, did your cold go away?’  She replied that it did.  I asked another question, “How long did it take for your cold to go away?”  She said, “Seven days.”

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The future nuns continued.  They explained to me that this girl was considered a saint because they had found her body after she had died and was buried, but her body didn’t decay.  She said they checked into her life, and she was a very good person, so they declared her a saint.  I asked them where they found the body, and they told me that she was buried at the beach in sand.

Do you know about sand?  When my youngest daughter was a baby, she had a diaper rash, and we went to the beach.  She fell asleep, so I left her in just a cloth diaper and laid her in the sand and put an umbrella over her.  When she woke up, the diaper rash was gone.  When we lived in Romania, we lived close to some salt lakes.  If we went swimming in the salt lakes, every mosquito bite, scratch, cut, blister, whatever was wrong on our skin was healed when we got finished swimming.  There was mud close to the salt lakes that had salt in it.  Doctors sent patients with arthritis and problems like that to the salty mud and told them to sit in it, and their pain would go away.  There is salt in sand.

I didn’t try to discredit what these girls said to me, but I understand this.  I just listened and let them talk because they were so proud of becoming nuns, and I didn’t want to take their dream away from them.  They were so proud of being able to inform me about Orthodox ways.

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I said at the beginning of my blog that in the Bible, saints are Christians.  I will give you examples now.  Look at the first verse of the book of Ephesians.  This book was written to the church in Ephesus. However, the first verse says, ” Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints in Christ, the faithful in Jesus Christ.”  Who are the faithful in Jesus Christ?  Wouldn’t that be Christians?  In this verse, saints is used synonymously for “the faithful in Jesus Christ.”  Look at Romans 1:7:  “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”  This is a letter to the church in Rome, and they are called “saints.”  Again, we can look at the first verse of the book of Philippians: ” Paul  and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.”  This letter was to the church at Philippi, and the Christians in that church were referred to as saints.  I could just keep going through the New Testament and looking at who all the letters to the churches were addressed to, and the people in the churches are called saints.

If they are saints, does that mean they are extremely good as our casual definition states or that they can do miracles like the future Orthodox nuns thought?  Not particularly.  If saints are Christians, it simple means they have chosen to follow Jesus Christ.  They have repented, changed their hearts and lives, and been baptized (Acts 2:38, Matthew 28:19,20, Mark 16:13, Romans 6, etc. etc.)  1 John chapter 1 says about Christians, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar, and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John:10).  A Christian, or a saint, is a forgiven sinner.  We are supposed to try because that is what repentance is about, trying, but God acknowledges that we are not perfect, and we should too.  1 John chapter one has something to say about this too: ” If we claim to have fellowship with him, but walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth, but if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus, his son purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1: 6 & 7). We are expected to try, but God acknowledges that we mess up at times, and we need to acknowledge too that we are not perfect.  1 John says that if we say we are perfect, we are liars.

We read in Romans 3:11 & 12, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, and they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  This is a prophecy about why Jesus needed to die on the cross for us.  When we are baptized, our sins are forgiven, but we can’t say we have never sinned.  We can try not to sin, repent, and we have help through the Holy Spirit because we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit when we repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38, Galatians 5:22-26).  Even in Romans 7:14, we read about the Apostle Paul struggling because he does things he doesn’t want to do.  However, since he kept on the road of following Christ, as it says in 1 John, since he didn’t give up, but continued to repent and be sorry for what he did, he was still walking with God.  If the Apostle Paul wasn’t a saint in the casual meaning of what we think of a saint today, then how can we think we are perfect?  We can only do what he did.  We keep struggling and trying to do the right thing.  That is the real definition of a saint, a person who follows Jesus and is trying to do the right thing, not someone who is perfect.

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Can saints do miracles as those future Orthodox nuns thought?  Go back to 1 Corinthians 13: 11:  “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”  If we back up in 1 Corinthians 13, it says miraculous prophecies, miraculous tongues, miraculous knowledge, all those kinds of things will be done away with.  If we understand the scriptures, we know that the Apostles could do those things, and they could even pass the ability on to others, but those people could not pass the ability on to others.  Read Acts chapter 8. Phillip could do miracles.  He was preaching, and people were believing and being baptized.  However, he could not pass the ability to do miracles on.  Peter and John had to come from Jerusalem to lay their hands on these people to give them gifts like that.  What happens if the Apostles are not around to give anyone these gifts anymore?  Yes, as 1 Corinthians 13 says, they vanish.

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Yes, there was a time that some Christians could do miracles.  Why?  The Bible as we know it didn’t exist.  The church as we know it didn’t exist.  When Jesus gives the commission to the 12 and sends them out to preach in Matthew 10, he talks about how bad people are going to treat them.  When the apostles went out to preach, they were going to pagan people, not people like today where Christianity has already had a civilizing influence on the world. In Acts chapter 19, the people were worshiping the goddess Artemis, or Diana, and the people rioted because Paul was teaching about God.  When the apostles went into the world to teach about Christ, they were going into a world that had human sacrifice, hate, strange rituals, etc.  They were not going into the civilized world that most missionaries go into today.  They needed all the extra help they could get.  The apostles used the miracles to get people’s attention.  If you read the accounts of the apostles teaching, there was a pattern of “miracle, teaching, and then conversion.”  (Acts 2, Acts 3 & 4, Acts 8, etc.)  There was a purpose for those miracles.  However, when perfection comes, the imperfect vanishes (1 Corinthians 13: 9).  What is perfect?  James 1:25 says the word of God is perfect.  When we have the Bible, when we have everything God wants us to have, we have perfection.  We no longer need to see miracles to believe.  Jesus says “a wicked and adulterous generation” asks to see miracles (Matthew 12:39).

God can still do miracles if he wants because he is still God, but for one of us to do miracles, it looks like we are going to have to put up with being normal people.  That doesn’t mean if we are Christians that we don’t have any help from God because we do.  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  God will help us do the right thing if we want him to.  We just have to give ourselves to him.

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As for saints, in the meaning that Christians are perfect people, we are not, but Christians are saints in the meaning that is used in the Bible.  Christians don’t do miracles.  The word Christian means that we follow Christ.  The Orthodox and Catholic churches are very nice to people they declare as saints, but are those people saints?  Can we pray to saints the way Orthodox and Catholics do?  Can the saints mediate for us with God?  (Mediate means to be the “go between” like in prayer.”)  Read 1 Timothy 2 :5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”   Hebrew 8:8, Hebrews 9:15, and Hebrews 12:24 are also clear that Jesus is our mediator.  Saints in any meaning of the word can’t save us nor take our prayers to God, only Jesus can do that according to the Bible.

 

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