What does the Bible say about Christian saints? What are saints?
Saint originates from the Greek word meaning "holy" or "set apart." For example, in Acts 9:13, Simon says, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints [set-apart people] at Jerusalem." Here, saints refers to all the Christians at Jerusalem, not to a special group of Christians.
The New Testament uses the word saint or saints 67 times. In every instance, the reference is to all believers (e.g., Acts 26:10; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2). Never is the word used of a special group of believers who serve God better than others. Scripture is clear that all Christians are saints.
This biblical view is much different from the traditional Roman Catholic view of saints. In Catholic theology, saints are a special class of believers who have been canonized. Canonization is the process by which the Catholic Church confers sainthood upon a person based on that person's special deeds. It is an honor bestowed posthumously. In contrast, the Bible views every Christian as a saint, as someone set apart for God's work. Ephesians 4:12 teaches that the spiritual gifts are given "to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ." Clearly, the "saints" are ordinary Christians involved in service in the church.
Christians are called saints because they are called to live set apart from the corruption of the world. Followers of Christ are called to be holy (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
Another interesting observation regarding the biblical view of saints is that they are almost exclusively referred to in plural form—"saints." Even the one exception, found in Philippians 4:21, has more than one believer in mind: "Greet every saint in Christ Jesus." The church is a team.
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