Two brothers were well-known criminals in the city where they lived. There seemed to be no crime in which the siblings were not involved, whether it was gambling, prostitution, murder, etc. – you name it, they were connected to it. As time would have it, the older of the two brothers died. While trying to make funeral arrangements, the younger brother offered $10,000 to any clergyman who would say in the eulogy that his older brother was a “ saint.” Well, after many phone calls, he finally found a minister who would do the funeral and say that his brother was a saint. News of the agreement got out and the funeral chapel was packed for the service – with many wondering how the pastor was going to pull it off. The reverend simply told the gathering – “The man who lies in this casket before you today was a liar, a cheat, a swindler, involved in all sorts of organized crime, was linked to several murders, and even ran around on his wife. But compared to his younger brother, this man was a saint!”
Rome has now bestowed the title “Saint” on two of their former popes. This is a three-step process that takes place following death. Step one is veneration (a very high reputation among the people, such as the number of souvenirs purchased by them). Step two is beatification (a miracle secured through praying to them, showing they have power up in heaven). Step three is canonization (a ceremony in which the title is officially given as voted on by the pope and bishops). So now it is, Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II.
What does the Bible say about all of this? The Greek word for saint is found 67 times in the New Testament and it is never used of a person in the singular sense (saint) but always of people in the plural sense (saints). In other words, you will never read in the Scripture of – Saint Peter (or) Saint Paul (or) Saint John. But you will read of – …to all the saints at Ephesus (or) …to all the saints at Philippi (or) …to all the saints at Colossae. Thus biblically, if you are saved, you are part of the saints, regardless of the level of your Christian life.
How then can Catholicism single out one person and call them a saint when there is clearly no such precedent in Scripture – because Rome is quite clear that what they do is based not just on Holy Scripture (as we Baptists try to limit ourselves solely to) but also on early church tradition. And so in their way of thinking, if the early popes did something, like beginning to canonize people with the title saint, then those actions are equal to the Bible itself. So as of today, there are almost 1,000 people in Catholicism who have been given the title, “Saint”, with “Saint” celebrations designated for every day of the calendar year and for just about every occupation in life or occurrence of life.
The bottom line? Here are the three major differences between biblicists and traditionalists when it comes to: who the saints are and who the saints aren’t. One, in Catholicism (all the saints are in heaven), but in the Bible (all the saints are on earth). Two, in Catholicism (a person becomes a saint when they are venerated, beatified and canonized by the Pope), but in the Bible (a person becomes a saint when they are saved). And three, in Catholicism (the saints are revered, prayed to, and worshiped), but in the Bible (the saints are called upon to revere, pray and worship God alone).