Depending on whom we ask this question to, we’re bound to get a variety of answers. Some people think of a “saint” as someone who is just extra good. In Catholicism, a “saint” is someone who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness and likeness to God. Typically, a person is elevated to sainthood after they die and then people still living on earth will then pray to these saints. In other denominations, there will be other thoughts and opinions, making this entire decision rather confusing. The good news is, God has provided us with very clear clues to identify who saints really are.
First, saints live on the earth. Looking through Scripture, we see people identified as saints having physical needs (Romans 12:13; 15:25-26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:12). There were saints physically harmed and imprisoned (Acts 9:13; 26:10). Saints were living in physical homes (Acts 9:32; Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Only living saints would be able to have their feet washed (1 Timothy 5:10). Paul was called a saint while still alive (Ephesians 3:8). Clearly, saints are people living on earth.
Second, the tense of the word. The word saint is almost always used in the plural (67 times). Only one time is it used in the singular, but even there 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 is this group of people?
Third, the descriptions of saints. There are several words and phrases used to describe saints in Scripture. (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 (John 3:16), it appears there is a special group of people on earth who are “beloved” by God. Who are these people? We will answer this shortly. (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. Again, who could these people be? (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 tense? 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 an extra 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 way a person becomes a saint is the same way a person becomes a Christian, through baptism (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27).
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.