The Bible speaks of saints – people who are sanctified, made holy by the blood of Jesus through faith in Him.
Paul, in his letters, addresses the saints at various cities in the Asian regions he evangelised. An outstanding characteristic of these saints is that they were living, although he also spoke of saints whom he said were ‘sleeping’, that is, had died in Christ, and were awaiting the resurrection of the Church.
The key truth, though, is that they became saints whilst they were living, and not after they had died.
Interestingly, Paul even addresses the saints in Rome.
“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established–that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
Clearly Paul is writing to saints who are alive, whom he hopes to visit soon, whom he is praying for, whom he longs to see to encourage. To the Corinthians he writes “All the saints greet you”, speaking of the saints he was with at the time.
He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
We are made saints through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is nothing of oursleves. We are made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus through believing on Him, the work of His cross and resurrection. Sainthood means to be made holy. Sanctification is holiness, but not our own holiness through our own works, but His holiness through faith in Him accredited to us as result of His grace, or favour, towards us.
We cannot become saints by our own goodness or works. If we did we might boast on our own works, or holiness, or even on the greatness of others as more holy than than others, which is what the Roman Catholic Church, in essence, has done.
Roman Catholic Church Perception of Sainthood
The Roman Catholic Church sees sainthood completely differently to Paul and New Testament scripture, and has devised a doctrine which is completely at odds with what the Bible says, not only in the passages I have added here, but throughout the canon, in a long, drawn out process called canonisation, according to the Catholic Education Centre.
The Process of Becoming a Saint
Fr William Saunders
The official process for declaring someone a saint is called canonization. Prior to the year 1234, the Church did not have a formal process as such. Usually martyrs and those recognized as holy were declared saints by the Church at the time of their deaths. Before the legalization of Christianity in the year 313 by Emperor Constantine, the tombs of martyrs, like St. Peter, were marked and kept as places for homage. The anniversaries of their deaths were remembered and placed on the local Church calendar. After legalization, oftentimes basilicas or shrines were built over these tombs.
As time went on, the Church saw the need to tighten the canonization process. Unfortunately, sometimes figures of legends were honored as saints. Or once, the local church in Sweden canonized an imbibing monk who was killed in a drunken brawl — hardly evidence of martyrdom. Therefore, in the year 1234, Pope Gregory IX established procedures to investigate the life of a candidate saint and any attributed miracles. In 1588, Pope Sixtus V entrusted the Congregation of Rites (later named the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints) to oversee the entire process. Beginning with Pope Urban VIII in 1634, various Popes have revised and improved the norms and procedures for canonization.
Today the process proceeds as follows: When a person dies who has “fame of sanctity” or “fame of martyrdom,” the Bishop of the Diocese usually initiates the investigation. One element is whether any special favor or miracle has been granted through this candidate saint’s intercession. The Church will also investigate the candidate’s writings to see if they possess “purity of doctrine,” essentially, nothing heretical or against the faith. All of this information is gathered, and then a transumptum, a faithful copy, duly authenticated and sealed, is submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
Once the cause is accepted by the Congregation, further investigation is conducted. If the candidate was a martyr, the Congregation determines whether he died for the faith and truly offered his life in a sacrifice of love for Christ and the Church. In other cases, the congregation examines to see if the candidate was motivated by a profound charity towards his neighbor, and practiced the virtues in an exemplary manner and with heroism. Throughout this investigation the “general promoter of the faith,” or devil’s advocate, raises objections and doubts which must be resolved. Once a candidate is declared to have lived life with heroic virtue, he may be declared Venerable.
The next step is beatification. A martyr may be beatified and declared “Blessed” by virtue of martyrdom itself. Otherwise, the candidate must be credited with a miracle. In verifying the miracle, the Church looks at whether God truly performed a miracle and whether the miracle was in response to the intercession of the candidate saint. Once beatified, the candidate saint may be venerated but with restriction to a city, diocese, region, or religious family. Accordingly, the Pope would authorize a special prayer, Mass, or proper Divine Office honoring the Blessed.
After beatification, another miracle is needed for canonization and the formal declaration of sainthood.
So the process is lengthy, can only occur after a person’s death, includes good deeds, or works-based righteousness, and is challenged by an opposing argument. Hence the phrase ‘devil’s advocate’! It’s part of the initiation required for sainthood for the bringer of the cause for sainthood to be challenged by someone who plays the devil.
So, for the Roman Catholic, sainthood is an exercise only for a few, who have, by their own works and good deeds, or through martyrdom, or because of a miracle after they have died, done something outstanding from all other believers.
Probationary progression of Roman Catholic sainthood
They have a procedure called canonisation, which involves the intervention of men, apparently authorised to choose who can become a saint and who cannot, according to their own contrived devices, which have no bearing on scripture, including that of Paul and the other writers of the Epistles, where there is enough information on sainthood to make it plain for any ear to hear. This despite the clear Biblical information we have on who is a saint and how.
The process takes from God the power to accredit righteousness to a man or woman on the merit of His grace and their faith. It removes the entire need of faith as a means to sanctification, and declares a person beatified or sanctified only after certain criterion are realised, which, by their own admission, were devised by the Roman Catholic Church.
So, rather than correcting the error made by early Christians, up to the thirteenth century, of creating saints out of martyrs and venerating them and their shrines and gravestones, the Roman Catholic Church fashioned a completely unbiblical approach to sainthood which elevated dead people above the living, and gave the living the license to pray to and through these saints.
It was in their power to teach basic Biblical doctrine on how a person becomes a saint through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and not through any process induced by men. But they failed in this, and have perpetuated a myth which has caused huge confusion across the Body of Christ, even amongst Christians who are not in any way connected to Roman Catholicism.
The media in particular takes the Roman Catholic line that saints are special people who have died and had at least one miracle take place through pray to them, or through them.
Commercial value of Roman Catholic saints
Of course, this inevitably led to an industry of fabricating images and icons of canonised saints which the people could set up in their homes, and priests could erect in their churches and church yards, so that the faithful had a point of focus for their prayers. Wether this is acceptable or merely tolerated by the Vatican is neither here nor there. They created the anomaly, but have done little to remove it from the people of their church.
The official Vatican website has nothing about Biblical sainthood. Its procedure for nominating saints has 33 clauses, each with a number of subclauses, which go somehting like this:
1. a) The petitioner advances the cause of canonization. Any member of the People of God or any group of the faithful recognized by ecclesiastical authority can exercise this function.
b) The petitioner handles the cause through a legitimately appointed postulator.
2. a) The postulator is appointed by the petitioner by means of a mandate written according to the norm of law, with the approval of the Bishop.
b) While the cause is being handled at the Sacred Congregation, the postulator, provided that he be approved by the Congregation itself, must reside in Rome.
And on and on, but nothing to do with anything to do with the Bible in any way shape or form.
To put this into context, an astonishing thing to take into consideration is that, in Australia, from 1788 to 2010, the nation did not have one single actual saint, according to Roman Catholic doctrine. Even the British media lauded the arrival of Australia’s first saint.
Pope Benedict XVI has officially recognised Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, a Melbourne-born nun who worked with needy children.
This means that for 222 years of British colonisation of Australia there was not a single saint created on the entire continent, according to the Roman Catholic See, until Mary McKillop, who remains the sole saint.
Of course, this is nonsense, since sainthood is through the new birth, and not through works or even martyrdom, or a selection process by priests. There have always been Australian saints. Some of them arrived on the first ships.
Embrace the truth
For those who want to know the truth and live it, the solution is simple.
Abandon such folly and embrace the truth of scripture.
Give your life to Jesus if you haven’t already done so. The moment you accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour you will become a saint of God, not by your own merits or deeds, but because of the finished work of the cross, and because God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead and you can be alive with Him today as a saint of the Most High God.
There is no other way!