Steps have been taken in the Roman Catholic Church to make Mother Teresa a saint. I’m not Catholic, but she IS widely regarded as a wonderful lady who did a lot of good in her work with the poor and orphans. There are over 10,000 recognized “saints” in the Roman church. There are patron saints for just about everything – including patron saints for the internet, for travelers, even of patron saint of dysentery. It almost gets ridiculous.
Now, how would YOU like to be saint? You might be in for a surprise… so keep reading. Do you think YOU could ever be a saint? Don’t laugh. What if I said you already are a saint in God’s eyes? Really. Maybe your family and friends would never call you “Saint So-and-so”, but maybe you are in God’s eyes. Don’t forget that the Messiah himself said it’s hard even for a true prophet to be honored and respected in his own country and among his or her own family, friends and those who know him or her (Matthew 13:57).
Let’s start with the traditional way one becomes a recognized saint in the Catholic Church and then compare that to what Scripture says. You might be amazed.
In the Roman church, there are protocols and steps required before a man or woman can be recognized as a “saint” – so the idea that an everyday man or woman, maybe that even you or I could be a saint, sounds farfetched to many. In the Roman church, the process has evolved quite a bit. In the past, even well-known saint’s lives were sometimes based on legend and folklore. In 13th century rural France, when St. Guinefort saved his master’s baby from snakebite, he was made a saint. St Guinefort was a dog. Well, they’ve stopped venerating dogs and folk heroes now, I think.
The process of becoming a saint has become a bit easier in the Roman church, so on May 12, 2013 for example, the Catholic Church recognized another 802 saints. Eight hundred of them were residents of a city in southern Italy who were killed for refusing to convert to Islam when their town was besieged by the Ottoman Turks in 1480.
The usual process to sainthood involves several steps. This is just a quick overview.
- Normally one has to wait at least 5 years after the potential saint’s death. Then that potential saint’s pastor submits a proposal to the bishop.
- Once the person is accepted by the bishop for consideration, he/she is called “a servant of God”.
- Then the Vatican has to determine this “Servant of God’ has lived a life of heroic virtue, at which point that person is labeled “Venerable”. They define “heroic virtue” as someone who makes a continuous effort to be better than they were before; they are seen as someone growing in holiness.
- It’s best if at least one miracle can be attributed to the Venerable candidate. This person’s cause is presented to the Pope who determines if he/she is worthy of being called BLESSED. This step is also called the Beatification. We’re almost there….
- If they can find another miracle, this Blessed person’s case comes once more to the Pope for judgment. If the Pope is convinced the evidence is real – the canonization process is started and – if all goes as hoped for – we have another “saint”.
- In the Roman church, someone – a human – has to nominate you. But no, God the Father himself chooses you to become one of his saints (John 6:44) and among His firstfruits.
There’s more – that has to do with the body and the blood of the dead candidate for sainthood. And normally, the person will have had to live a very morally clean and holy life. I would be surprised if people who had once been “low lifes” and then changed -- would be venerated or allowed to be official saints.
But now - - where in the Bible can these steps – and more – be found? Where in God’s word do we have the “rules” for sainthood that sound like what I’ve just described? You won’t be able to find anything like this in scripture.
Are YOU a saint? Can you become one? Click on “continue reading” to the right, to see what Scripture has to say about this.
The first time the word “saints” is used in the Bible is found in Deuteronomy 33:2-3. The word “saints” is found about 99 times. In the singular – “saint” – the first time is Psalm 106:16 where Aaron is called a “saint of YHVH (the LORD)”. The Hebrew word for saint is qadosh – meaning anyone or anything sacred, holy, set apart for holy use. In the plural it is qodesh—but the meaning is about the same.
In the New Testament, the Greek word used is “hagios” (Strong’s # 40)– translated simply as “saints”. It refers to something or someone set apart for holy use, consecrated and devoted to the service of God. One could translate it “holy one”. There’s a clear reference to separation from the ways and sins of the past and a separation from ways of this world.
If any of you have a concordance or Bible aids on your computer, you can look up “saints” and read the context for each one yourself. It’s quite an education.
What makes someone a “hagios” – a set-apart holy one? Ultimately God’s presence is what makes someone or something holy or sets you apart. In fact, some groups prefer to say “the set-apart spirit” instead of “holy spirit’. You and I cannot – of ourselves, apart from God – make ourselves holy. God’s presence is required, because as scripture says, “for YOU [God] alone are holy” (Revelation 15:4). So angels of God are holy because of God’s presence. People are holy because of God’s presence. Buildings can be holy if God is present (like the temple, the tabernacle, etc.). So when Yahweh consecrated the 7th day as the sabbath in Genesis 2:1-3, God put his presence into the day and personally stopped, rested and assigned that day as a weekly holy day. There’s no scripture giving any man the right to overrule God – and change it to Sunday. None.
Another time, even dirt became holy when Yahweh’s presence we there. Remember Moses and the burning bush? Yah commanded him to remove his sandals for “the place you stand on is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Holy dirt. Why? Because Yahweh was in the burning bush! His presence on that mountain made it holy. Why remove sandals? That was what servants and slaves did: worked shoe-less. Even priests worked barefooted in the temple. We’re ALL called to be servants of God with an attitude of taking off our shoes in his presence.
So how would you become a saint? Just because a lot of people say he/she was a good person and did some miracles? Let’s up the ante: can a “bad person” who repents of the most vile things he’s done, turn to God, receive the Holy Spirit – and become a saint – or is his or her past life a disqualifier for sainthood? It’s absolutely not a disqualifier. Look at St. Paul’s story. He arrested, tortured and killed believers in Christ -- but ended up writing most of the New Testament! So your past, and my past, is not a disqualifier for sainthood at all.
Besides, scripture is clear on this. Yeshua (Jesus) said “there’s none good but God” (Mark 10:18). Every human has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Every single one. Sorry folks, but yes – even Mother Teresa fell short. Even you have. Even I have. Many times. So our past failures cannot be a disqualifier.
The reason: we have a REDEEMER. It is through HIM- and through HIM alone – that we can become holy when we repent of our sins, ask him to please wash us clean in his blood that was shed for us, and to come live in us by God’s holy spirit! At this point, our bodies become the house of God, the dwelling place of the Most Holy. God comes to live in us (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). . He takes up residence inside us by His Spirit. I think most of us fail to grasp the true depth of what Yahweh does for us!
Once the Holy Spirit comes into us, each of us becomes holy ground (yes, we are made from dust) – and we become consecrated to God, holy ones. We become “hagios” in Greek, or “qadosh” in Hebrew – holy, set apart, SAINTS of God. NOT because of all the good things YOU did, but because you repented and God sent His set-apart spirit to reside in you, making your body the equivalent of the ancient Holy of Holies, where the shekinah glory of God was present. Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We become saints NOW – not later. Some translations add the words “to be” – in “called saints” -- changing it to “called to be saints”. But “to be” are not in the original. No, we’re called “saints” right now.
In short, if you have God’s Holy Spirit inside of you, you are a saint. We do not have to first attain moral perfection to be called “saints” right now. This is why Paul begins so many of his epistles with a greeting to the “Saints in Corinth” – or Ephesus, or Rome, or wherever he was writing (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:2). Look up those verses!
The brethren in Corinth and Rome were far from perfect. They had come out of vile lives – just see 1 Cor. 6:9-11, where Paul lists a bunch of horrible sins and says, “And such WERE some of you, but you were washed, sanctified and justified (made righteous) by God’s spirit. But those folks were also included in his greeting “to the saints in Corinth” in the opening verses of the book. If DIRT can be declared holy because of God’s presence, yes – even you, even I, dirt that we can be at times – can be declared holy, saints, as well.
I’ve heard some say that we become holy by our good works. One man told me we become holy by not eating pork. My fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah, this is wrong and this is backwards. We can’t work our way into holiness. We become holy by God’s shekinah presence – and that holy presence will lead us to live a life of obedience, to let Christ live in us the way he lived when he walked the earth: obediently, humbly, joyfully, lovingly, with kindness and goodness. But it’s HIS PRESENCE that makes us holy. It’s his presence that leads us to a holy life – not the other way around. We live an obedient and holy life after Christ comes into us. He walks – through us --the same way he did the first time: obediently.
But it’s HIM in us that makes us saints. It’s not our goodness that makes us saints. Hebrews 12:10 says we are called to be partakers of HIS holiness. And without it, we won’t see God!
OK, so what’s your name? Welcome to the family of God, you- - Saint Michael, Saint Scott, Saint Janine, St. Mark, St. Robert, St. Norm, St. Paul, and St. Paula -- whatever you name is, put it in there, if you have God’s Holy Spirit. Or maybe you have Asian names, or African names, or Hispanic names or Arab names or Russian names … sure, you’re saints too, if you have God’s spirit. It doesn’t matter where you’re from – St. Alina or Saint Anastasia or Dasha… or Nikita, Dima, Vlad or whatever your name is. Is it Omae? Is it Xi, Abdullah, Ali or Ibrahim… you get the point!? (And yes, true believers in Christ can be found among our Arab brothers and sisters as well, and we welcome them too!).
YOU, yes YOU, with God’s presence, can be a saint, and are – right now - a saint.
What if you have worked no miracles? I see nothing in scripture for miracles to be a requirement for sainthood. No miracles are attributed to John the Baptist, but he’s a saint, I guarantee you. For that matter, it’s not the person who does the miracles anyway, but GOD, through the power of God’s spirit. No man can boast. The ability to work miracles is one – only one – of the many gifts of our Father’s spirit. Only a few have the gift of miracles, dramatic healings and so on. Others have other gifts. Please read 2 Cor. 12:7-11.
Now compare what scripture says to the Roman Catholic process of sainthood. Here are a few just for starters, and you can compare their other requirements with scripture yourself.
- After passing that first hurdle you officially become “a servant of God” in the Roman church. But scripture says we all have been called to be bondservants of our Lord and Master. All of us. If you’re called to follow Christ, you are called to be a servant of God. You, right now. (2 Peter 2:16; Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:24).
So welcome to the household and body of Christ, you saints! Some tough times are coming ahead for saints of God. The coming Beast power will make war against the saints as Rev. 13 and Daniel 7 clearly state. But we look to the brighter days after that! And I look forward to returning with our Lord with you when he comes back to reign on the earth with tens of thousands of his resurrected or transformed saints (Jude 14; 1 Thessalonians 3:13).
For more about holiness, being saints – be sure to check out my sermon titled “Guarding holiness” Sept 2011. Just type in “Guarding holiness” in the Search bar at the top left section of the Home page and it will pop up for you. It’s all about cherishing and guarding our calling to be holy, to be saints of God.
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