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What Is the Definition of a Saint?

Who is a saint? Are there people, dead or alive, truly considered saints? Who are the saints in the Bible? You asked, the Bible answers.

What is the Definition of a Saint?

Voiceover: I have been watching your television program. When your ministers preach, I notice that they do not address the apostles as “saints.” Paul, for instance, is called “Apostle Paul” but never as “Saint Paul.” Why? Do you not believe in saints? Do you not consider Peter, Luke, John, and the rest of the apostles and evangelists as saints? 

[Perry S. Abiera Manila, Philippines]

Brother Bob Pellien: Thank you so much Perry for that question, which is obviously based on your observation of our various televised programs, and we actually commend you for noticing that we do not (you’re really correct) we do not refer to the apostles as saints–in the sense that it is a title to be used before their names.

Your question however, of “do you not believe in saints?” you asked also, “do you not consider Peter, Luke, John, and the rest of the apostles and evangelists as saints?” You know, these are questions that can be answered directly with a “Yes.” First of all, yes we do believe in saints, but it requires more of an explanation.

So, in order to thoroughly answer your question, we need to properly, and first of all, define the term “Saint.” 

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Question: What is the definition of the term “saint”? 

Bro. Robert: Since the difference of belief is essentially based on a difference of definitions, for example: The way most people understand the term “Saint” it’s the same way, and it has its root in, the Catholic church’s definition of it. According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 12, page 852, the Catholic church defines “saint” like this; it makes the definition of a saint as:

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A title properly given to those human members of Christ, recognized by the Church, either traditionally or by formal canonization, as being in heaven and thus worthy of honor.

[New Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 12, p. 852]

Bro. Robert Pellien: And you know dear friends, on page 962 of that same reference the Catholic church gave a further definition of saints. Let’s take a look at what they said here on 962:

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Intercessors with God for the living and for the souls in purgatory.

New Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 12, p. 962

Bro. Robert Pellien: So dear friends, the problem with believing or accepting this definition, the Catholic church’s definition is, well, it contradicts what the Bible actually says.

So does the Bible teach that the Apostles, along with the other members of Christ worthy of honor, are now in heaven since they are no longer living on earth? What really happens to the one once they die? The answer is recorded in the Holy Scriptures; we turn now to the Bible, Psalm 88, let’s listen together here verse 5:

Adrift among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And who are cut off from Your hand.  

[Psalm 88:5 New King James Version]

Bro. Robert Pellien: Dear friends the Bible makes clear that the dead are like the slain, they lie in the grave. There’s no mention that they immediately ascend to heaven and become saints as what is taught by the Catholic church. That is absent from the Bible.

You know some might think that it’s only the physical body that will lie in the grave since God said, and they remembered Genesis 3:19, very famous Bible quote where it says:

…For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

Genesis 3:19 NKJV

Bro. Robert Pellien: And that the soul of a person will go to heaven immediately when a person passes away. Dear friends, the Bible also clears that up. Clears up that misconception as well. Also in the book of Psalm 119:25 and it says there:

My soul clings to the dust;…

Psalm 119:25 NKJV

Bro. Robert Pellien: Therefore dear friends, the soul also dies with a person. And you know also dear friends to further prove the Biblical truth that people do not immediately ascend to heaven once they die, the apostles presented an example. Who is the example they used? Well, let’s take a look at it, it’s recorded here in the Book of Acts chapter 2. We’ll read verse 29 as well as 34, it says this:

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “ Sit at my right hand.

Acts 2:29,34 NKJV

Bro. Robert Pellien: The Bible is clear my dear friends, just like the example given here by the apostles, of King David who is described in the Book of Psalm 86:2 if you want to read that.  

Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You! 

Psalm 86:2 NKJV 

Bro. Robert Pellien: He’s described as “holy”, he was one that pleased God.

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When a person dies, they do not immediately ascend to heaven even if they were holy.

Bro. Robert Pellien: But as we just read in the example of David, instead,

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They remain lying there lying in the grave, says the Bible.

Bro. Robert Pellien: But you know before we leave this important point, let’s ask: if and when those who have died and are there in the grave, will they just stay there? Will they ever rise up out of the grave? Or will they just remain there forever? Let’s continue to get the accurate answers from here the Holy Bible and this time we turn to the Book of Job, chapter 14, we’ll read verses 10 and 12:

But man dies and is laid away: Indeed he breathes his last And where is he? So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, They will not awake Nor be roused from their sleep.

Job 14:10, 12 New King James Version

Bro. Robert Pellien: Again dear friends, the Bible is very direct, very clear. A person that has died will no longer rise again until the heavens are no more, until the heavens have passed away. Until that happens, a person remains in the grave and will not be ushered into heaven. So when is it that the heavens will pass away and those in the grave will be resurrected? When will the heavens pass away? The Bible makes mention in 2 Peter 3, verse 10 and verse 7, the Bible teaches of a day when that will take place:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. In which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

2 Peter 3:10,7 New King James Version

Bro. Robert Pellien: So dear friends the Bible teaches clearly that the heavens will pass away or be no more on the day of judgment. So until that day of judgment, the apostles, along with David that we read about a while ago, and all the others who have already passed, they’re all still lying in their graves and awaiting for the judgment of who will and who will not enter into heaven. That’s why it’s called the day of judgment, it’s called judgment because that’s the time they will be judged. Not immediately when one dies.

These Biblical truths, they’re the exact opposite of what we read earlier from the Catholic Encyclopedia teaches as we read that

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Saints are those already in heaven.

Bro. Robert Pellien: You have to remember that the Catholic definition of saints is, as we also read, it’s not only those in heaven but also those who they called

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“intercessors with God for the living”

Bro. Robert Pellien: Intercessors, or intermediaries between man and God for the living. And as they said in their book “and for the souls in purgatory” which further contradicts what the Bible is teaching here

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If one were to accept this meaning of saint, then he or she will believe that, well first of all the soul of a person continues to live on after death in a place called purgatory 

Bro. Robert Pellien: which we have already proven to be false, there’s, and by the way as a side note, there’s no such thing like purgatory recorded in the Bible. And number 2, that 

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there are multiple intercessors or mediators to God.     

Bro. Robert Pellien: But according to the Bible dear friends, how many can intercede or be a mediator to God? The Bible’s answer again, in 1 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 5:

 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,

 1 Timothy 2:5 New King James Version

Bro. Robert Pellien: So dear friends, the Bible teaches that just as there is only one God, there is only one mediator between God and mankind which is none other than the man Christ Jesus.

There’s not multiple mediators and multiple intercessors with God as stated by the Catholic church in their encyclopedia, so:

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The Catholic Church’s understanding or belief about the term “saints” is not something that came from the Bible.

Bro. Robert Pellien: Then therefore, is not something that anyone should accept or believe in. But, with all of that having been said, the Bible does teach about the saints and also the way we should understand the term “saint” and it’s the way the Bible teaches it, not the way that’s believed in by the Catholic church and so many others in this world. So, that’s the important question we move to now;

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Who are saints according to the Bible?

Bro. Robert Pellien: Well we can read their description right here in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 2 reads this way:

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

  1 Corinthians 1:2 New King James Version

Bro. Robert Pellien: So here dear friends, the Bible clearly describes the saints. Saints as those who are called to be sanctified in Christ Jesus. If one is not, then they cannot be considered or called a saint.

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How did the Lord Jesus Christ sanctify or purify those who were called to be saints?

Bro. Robert Pellien: Again, we turn to the Bible for the answer. Here in Hebrews 9: 14:

Since this is true, how much more is accomplished by the blood of Christ! Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood will purify our consciences from useless rituals, so that we may serve the living God.

Hebrews 9:14 Good News Translation

Bro. Robert Pellien: According to what is written, Christ offered himself as a perfect sacrifice, using hHis blood to do what? This is what’s so important dear friends! To sanctify, to purify a person called to be saints. Notice, this is important to notice, that this is the biblical process in order to serve the living God. Therefore one does not become a saint just by dying, but rather is called to be a saint, to live life in the way it was intended: in service of the living God.

Now obviously everyone and anyone can simply claim and believe that they are purified by the blood of Christ and after that, can consider themself a saint. But after comparing personal beliefs with what’s actually written in the Bible, we have already discovered that;

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Merely believing in something doesn’t make it true.

Bro. Robert Pellien: So we pose the next question, which is, should be obvious:

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What does the Bible specify as having benefited from the sanctifying blood of Christ?

Bro. Robert Pellien: The biblical truth to answer that question is recorded also in the Book of Acts, we turn there now chapter 20, we’ll find out. Who’s been sanctified by the blood of Christ? Just anyone who says so?

Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.

Acts 20:28 LAMSA

Bro. Robert Pellien: Truth of the matter is then dear friends, Christ used His blood to purchase or redeem His Church, which is the Church Of Christ. Clearly then:

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Those who have been sanctified, purified by the blood of Christ – called by the Bible therefore as saints – are those inside or members of the Church Of Christ.

Bro. Robert Pellien: So dear friends, this is what we all must understand:

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The term “saint” indicated the characteristic of those who were redeemed by Christ’s blood.

Bro. Robert Pellien: It is by this biblical definition that we recognise the apostles as saints since they were preachers inside the Church Of Christ, and this is how the term “saint” should be understood and used because “That’s in the Bible.”

However, despite believing that the apostles are saints, we still, you know, don’t attach the term “saint” as a title to each of their names when we mention them. Just like we do not attach the term “saint” to any member of the Church Of Christ in their name as well because by doing this we avoid any confusion that our understanding or the use of the term “saint” is the same as many others that were influenced by the Catholic Church’s definition of saint.

That’s why inside the Church Of Christ we share with you these truths that you may align with the Bible’s teaching of these things and not be influenced by teachers of this world.

Bro. Robert Pellien: When you are ready to learn more about the fundamental teachings found inside the Church Of Christ please visit incmedia.org. You know, there you’re going to find various programs like this all dedicated to answering your spiritual questions. You can also follow our Facebook pages Iglesia Ni Cristo News and Updates as well as Iglesia Ni Cristo Media.

Bro. Robert Pellien: And to view more of our shows and see how the Church gets involved in the various community projects visit incgiving.org

Bro. Robert Pellien: And to find a house of worship that may be near to you visit IglesiaNiCristo.net.

And if you have any other questions that you’d like answered on this show, please email your video question to answers@incmedia.org.

Thank you for joining us and we’ll see you again next time here on “THAT’S IN THE BIBLE!”

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What Is the Definition of a Saint?