This past week Pope Francis declared the late Mother Teresa would be elevated to sainthood. It reminded me of a Yahoo video I watched in 2011 called “The Four Steps to Becoming a Saint”, which claimed the late Pope John Paul II was one step away from sainthood. Immediately I thought how unbiblical that was. Had the pontiff obeyed Romans 10:13 (“whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”) before he died, then he already took the only step needed.
The Catholic Church teaches that for a person to be considered for sainthood, he or she must have been dead for at least five years. There are many Scriptures proving a person cannot become a saint after they die. Revelation 22:11 says, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Once a sinner passes through the gates of hell, he or she cannot become holy by the actions of another person including the pope.
The Catholic Church also teaches that to become a saint, there must be evidence of creating a medical miracle, such as the healing of a patient. Jesus told his disciples in Mark 16:17-18, “And these signs will follow those who believe…they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Divine healing does not make anyone a saint but can be the byproduct of one who knows his authority in Christ.
God’s people in both the Old Testament and the New Testament are referred to as saints. In the King James and New King James Version of the Bible, there are 20 verses in Psalms alone that mention saints. (Modern translations minimize the usage of this word with alternative terms like “God’s holy people.”) The ninth chapter of Acts has three references to God’s saints…
“Then Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man [Saul of Tarsus], how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.’” - Acts 9:13
“Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda.” - Acts 9:32
“Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive.” - Acts 9:41
In Acts 26:10, the Apostle Paul talked about when he had shut up “many of the saints” in prison. How rational would it be for someone to put dead people in jail?
Paul began several of his epistles by addressing the brethren as saints…
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia”- 2 Corinthians 1:1
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:” - Ephesians 1:1
“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” - Philippians 1:1
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. - Colossians 1:1-2
Who in his right mind would write letters to dead people?
In Romans 12:13, Paul wrote about “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” A dead person doesn’t need any earthly possessions. As many preachers often say, "I have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer.”
Romans 15:26 refers to making “…a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.” 1 Corinthians 16:1 also talks about “the collection for the saints.” What good is it to receive an offering for a dead person? One exception could be to cover someone’s funeral expenses.
Paul also wrote in Romans 15:31, “that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints.” A person doesn’t do the Lord’s work to please dead people. It only matters if the Lord tells us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21 KJV)
Romans 16:15 says,“Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.” Paul wouldn’t greet the dead because the Mosaic Law forbade believers from occultic practices. Jesus pointed out in Luke 16:26 a dead person cannot speak to one who is alive. Mediums who think they are communicating with the dead are really listening to deceiving spirits.
I’ve heard some Christians borrow Paul’s comment in Ephesians 3:8 and say they are “the least of all the saints.” The New Living Translation of this verse reads, “Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.” True humility is not putting yourself down but simply recognizing it’s the grace of God that enables you to fulfill His plans and purposes for your life.
On a related note, many believers call themselves “a sinner saved by grace.” If a person really is saved, then he is technically a saint or as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “…a new creation in Christ Jesus.” A sinner is someone who practices sin.
So if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you ain’t a saint. But you can become one by being born again…before you die.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”
– Hebrews 9:27