The term “saint” originates from the Greek word “hagios,” signifying consecration to God, holiness, sacredness, and piety. Its usage is predominantly in the plural form, “saints.” As Acts 9:13 recounts, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem.” This theme echoes throughout the Scriptures, exemplified in Acts 9:32, “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda,” and Acts 26:10, “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons…”
While the singular form is rare, Philippians 4:21 implores, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus…” Yet, even here, a collective sense prevails: “…every saint…” In Scripture, the plural “saints” appears 67 times, emphasizing the communal aspect, compared to the singular “saint,” which occurs just once.
The essence of the term “saints” in the Bible conveys a community consecrated to the Lord and His kingdom. Romans 16:2 emphasizes the godly character of saints, urging believers to receive one another “in a manner worthy of the saints.” Ephesians 4:12 underscores the purpose of equipping saints for service and building up the body of Christ. Ephesians 5:3 directs saints to maintain moral purity, stating, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”
Biblically, “saints” encompass the body of Christ, denoting all Christians. First Corinthians 1:2 declares, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…” Christians are saints by their connection with Christ and are simultaneously called to embody holiness in their daily lives.
Contrastingly, the Roman Catholic understanding of “saints” differs. In their theology, saints are in heaven, beatified or canonized by the Pope or a prominent bishop. In biblical terms, all who receive Christ by faith are saints, residing on earth. While Roman Catholicism venerates, prays to, and sometimes worships saints, the Bible instructs saints to revere, worship, and pray to God alone.
In summary, the biblical concept of “saints” emphasizes a community consecrated to God, while diverging from certain aspects of the Roman Catholic understanding. The Bible portrays saints on earth, collectively embodying holiness, with the ultimate focus on revering and worshiping God alone.