These three words aren’t normally seen together. They are certainly an odd combination. However, this usual assortment of terms is being used to describe a Brazilian man by the name of Guido Schaffer. Shaffer is a young man who died while surfing back in 2009. Besides being a man of faith, he was known for being giving and loving to others. For these reasons, people labeled him as the “surfer angel.” Before his death, he was weeks away from being ordained as a Catholic priest. Now the Vatican is considering him for sainthood (Catholic News Agency).
Schaffer certainly seemed to be a good person. He obviously helped many people. The problem comes with the label of “saint.” See, if Shaffer wasn’t a saint while he was living, then he cannot become one after death. This isn’t to minimize what he did, but merely to point out that people often misunderstand what a saint actually is. A saint is not a person the Catholic Church deliberates on and then comes to a decision whether or not he or she is worthy to be called a saint. The Bible actually paints a very different picture of what a saint actually is. The word “saint” literally means, “holy one.” So, this is talking about people who are especially holy in God’s eyes. Who are these people? Let’s explore some facts.
First, saints live on the earth. Only living saints would have physical requests and would need a contribution to be taken up for them (Romans 12:13; 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:12). Only living saints could be persecuted and put into prison (Acts 9:13; 26:10). Only living saints would have physical homes in certain cities (Acts 9:32; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Only living saints could have their feet washed (1 Timothy 5:10). Paul was a saint while still alive (Ephesians 3:8). Clearly saints are people living on earth.
Second, the word saint is almost always used in the plural (67 times). Only one time is it used in the singular, but even it is used in a plural sense, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 4:21). Today, the word saint is typically used to speak about a certain person. In scripture, it is used to talk about a certain group of people. The question is, who are these people?
Third, the description of saints. (1) Saints are the people who are “beloved of God” (Romans 1:7). This word “beloved” simply means, “to love more” or those who have a “special love” from God. So, while God loves everyone on the earth, it appears there is a special group of people on earth who are “beloved” by God. (2) Saints are people who are “sanctified by Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Sanctified means to be “set apart.” So, there are certain people God has “set apart” on this earth. (3) Only saints have the Holy Spirit to intercede and translate their prayers to God (Romans 8:26-27). Clearly there is a special connection between saints and God. This Scripture also shows that saints are living since dead saints wouldn’t need something like this.
So, who are saints? There is only one group that could possibly fit all of these descriptions – Christians. Follow along with me. What type of people would fit the plural sense? Christians. What type of people might be called saints and still be living on earth and have physical needs? Christians. What type of people would God have a special love for? Christians. What type of people has God “set apart” from everyone else to have salvation? Christians. What people are alive and would need the Holy Spirit to intercede in prayer for them? Christians.
All saints are Christians and all Christians are saints. You can’t be one without being the other. The Vatican may decide to call Guido Schaffer a saint, but this doesn’t mean he is one. The only way a person becomes a saint is the same way a person becomes a Christian, through baptism (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27). Only God knows if Shaffer was a true Christian.
If we aren’t already saints, the good news is we can change this at any moment (Acts 22:16). If we already are, then let’s praise God for allowing us to be a part of the special group who are beloved, set apart, and have the Holy Spirit.