Who are the Saints?

The Vatican has recently declared two former Popes as saints. What can we learn from the Bible about the concept of sainthood?

Yesterday, millions of people gathered together to hear Pope Francis declare former Popes John Paul II and John XXIII as new saints. As these two popes are enrolled among the list of Catholic saints, we wish to explain the Biblical concept of sainthood.

Seeing that the Bible was not originally written in English, it is useful to look into the definition of the original word. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “saint” means “sacred” or “holy.” This may not come as any great surprise, but it can give us a basis for our research.

In Lev 11:44 of the Bible we read of this concept of people who are sanctified and holy: “I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” If you take a quick look at verse 1 and 2 of this same chapter you will realize that this passage is talking about the entire nation of Israel in the Bible. Based on our definition of a saint as a holy one, it would indicate that the whole nation were to be saints. This concept is also brought forward to be applied to the early Christian believers in 1Pet 1:15-16 where we read: “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Based on these Bible verses, it would seem that this concept of holiness is being applied generally to the entire congregation of believers, and not to a separate class of believers. This is a key point, because, for the majority of the occurrences of the word “saint” in the Bible, it can be argued that it refers to the common believer who lives in accordance with God’s ways. If you are interested in pursuing this further, Vine’s Expository Dictionary and Unger’s Bible Dictionary argue similar points.

So what should we make of the veneration of these new saints by the Vatican? If Popes John II and John XXIII lived a holy life sanctified to God, then they were already saints in equal standing with the common believer alive today regardless of official statements from the Vatican.

 

What the Bible tells us about drinking

Drinking has been a part of the human social scene ever since early times. But, what does the Bible have to say about this subject?

Drinking has been a part of the human social scene ever since early times. Even today it can be seen as a status thing. Often people brag about how “wasted” they got during a weekend party, or about something crazy they did while drunk. At university, I even had a professor who bragged about how drunk he was while correcting the class midterms (no wonder why I didn’t do as well as I though I would)! However, as humorous and fun drinking may seem, the Christian who is serious about his or her faith, should know where he/she stands on this subject. More specifically, the Christian should know what the Bible has to say about this subject.

Fortunately for us, the Bible is very straightforward on this subject. If you crack open your Bible to Ephesians 5:18 you will read the following: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Here, we are clearly told that the Christian should not get drunk (be it from wine or beer).

However, related to this is the question of whether or not the Christian should drink beer or wine at all? This is a little less clear. But the Bible still provides us with a very practical answer. If you turn in your Bible to Proverbs 31:4,5 you will read some word of wisdom given to King Lemuel (probably Solomon): “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” Here this king is exhorted to abstain from drinking at all, in case he looses his discretion between right and wrong. Compare these thoughts with Psalm 104:14-15 where we are told that God has blessed mankind with wine to “make his heart glad.” Now, there are true believers that have totally abstained from drinking wine or beer. This is commendable, as it demonstrates a level of self-disciple that should not be despised. However, there are also true believers who do drink wine and beer in moderation, and this is ok as well.

In the Biblical book of 1Corinthians and chapter 10 (it is worth reading the whole chapter), the Apostle Paul addresses the contemporary issue of eating food that came from Pagan sacrifices. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul indicates that it depends on the situation whether or not it is ok to eat this kind of food. Here, Paul tells the fellow-believers to eat whatever food they buy, and to not ask questions about where it came from. However, he also presents a situation where a believer ends up having a meal with a Pagan. The Pagan openly talks about how the food came from the offerings to Pagan gods. In this case, we are told that it would be wrong for the Christian to eat this food; because it would be endorsing wrong beliefs/behaviour. The Apostle Paul concluded his discussion of this topic by saying: “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1Corinthians 10:31) How does this relate to our subject of drinking? The reason why I included this is that it teaches us a principle that also be applies to drinking. This is the principle: it depends on the company and situation that we find ourselves in as to whether certain actions honour God, or disregard his ways. Applying this to drinking, we can say the following: it depends on the company and situation in which we find ourselves, as to whether we should drink or not. For example: if we find ourselves amongst those who will get drunk, we should not drink at all; because it endorses that kind of behaviour.

So, this year, as Christmas draws closer, take the time out to consider where you stand on this subject. The Bible is clear on where God stands: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”

-David Keating

 

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