For God so Loved the Church in Rome

For God so Loved the Church in Rome

Rome was not only a strategic city in Paul’s day—it was a powerful city. From politics to ideologies, the city of Rome was at the center of the world and in God’s providence, God raised up a church in this important location at this juncture in history to accomplish his purpose. The church at Rome found itself as part of the story of redemption. Paul’s letter was holy Scripture that not only would encourage the church in Rome—but would be used to encourage the Universal Church through the ages. For God so loved the church in Rome that he sent his Son to die for her and then mobilized his apostle to write to her.

In the opening words to the church in the city of Rome, Paul makes a statement that should cause us to pause and reflect. Paul writes, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). When Paul addresses the believers (the church) in Rome, he refers to them as “those in Rome who are loved by God.” So, why did God not love all of Rome?

God is Sovereign

The first thing we must understand when it comes to salvation is that God is not obligated to save one single person in human history. God’s love is a sovereign love. Not even one person is worthy and deserving of God’s love. When discussing the love of God, some people become contentious—making the case that God loves the entire world without exception and without any measure of distinction. Often this debate will find its way to Romans 9 for clarity. However, long before arriving at Romans 9, we see the sovereign love of God on display in Romans 1:7.

While God was not forced to love one single person in Rome, he chose to love specific people in the city—effectually setting them apart and calling them to be saints. When contemplating the sovereign love of God for guilty and wretched sinners—it causes the value of our salvation to increase dramatically especially when we consider the free choice of God and the inability of fallen man to make any choice for God. Who is to call into question the love of God? Does God have freedom to choose to love whom he wills (Rom. 9:14-15)?

God’s Love Is an Electing Love

The love of God for the church in the city of Rome is clearly distinct from any generic love that God has for the entire city of Rome.  In a general sense, we can say that God loves Rome (as God loves the world in John 3:16).  However, in a special way God has chosen to love the church in Rome and this is God’s electing love.

This love speaks of God’s initiative in salvation. The church in Rome loved God, but not until God first love them (1 John 4:19). The language of this text points back to how God loved the nation of Israel. It was not based on the size, power, or value of the nation of Israel. God’s choice for Israel was based on his redemptive plan and mercy alone.

Deuteronomy 7:7–8 — It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, [8] but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The language used here by Paul connects the love of God for the church in Rome with the love of God for the nation of Israel and will be key as he develops these truths over the first half of the letter. Too often people minimize the depth of theology in God’s love and seek to generalize it—making God into a generic god of salvation to the entire world as opposed to the covenant keeping God of Scripture who sovereignly saves his people for his glory. James Montgomery Boice explains:

Some think that people become believers by their own unaided choice, as if all we have to do is decide to trust Jesus.  But how could we possibly do that if, as we have seen Paul say, each of us is “dead in . . .  transgressions and sins”? How can a dead man decide anything? Some have supposed that we become Christians because God in his omniscience sees some small bit of good in us, even if that “good” is only a tiny seed of faith. But how could God see good in us if, as Paul will later remind us: “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12; cf. Ps. 14:3)? Why, then, does God love us? The answer is “because he loves us.” There is just nothing to be said beyond that. [1]

God loved the church in Rome and as we consider the realty of God’s love—we must look to our local churches and see the expression and reality of God’s love among us. It’s not that God simply loved the church at Rome and we can only read about it from the pages of holy Scripture. We too are part of the story of redemption. For God so loved us that we too should be humbled and look to our purpose to live for his glory. Paul would later write in this very letter to the church in Rome, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). For God so loved the church at Rome that he saved her for his glory. That same truth can be embraced for us—and our local churches today.

Jerry Bridges has rightly stated, “The great God not only loves His saints, but He loves to love them.” The next time you hear someone profaning the doctrine of election—before you engage in a doctrinal dispute with them—take time to pray for them that they would see and understand Romans 1:7 long before you turn to Romans 9. Since God’s love is sovereign—and therefore unmerited, eternal, and unchanging, we can find comfort in the very words that Paul writes in Romans 8:33-39:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


  1. James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 1 Justification by Faith Romans 1-4, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1991), 65.

 

 

 

We Will See Our Salvation

We Will See Our Salvation

According to the Jewish customs, women who gave birth were considered unclean for a period of 40 days.  There was also a purification process and sacrifice that was part of the Law of Moses, and Mary and Jospeh obeyed this law following the birth of Jesus.  It was at the very time when Mary and Joseph were coming into the temple that an old man was waiting in the temple.  When Mary, Jospeh, and baby Jesus arrived, something unique happened.

Simeon’s Promise

Simeon was there waiting in the temple because he had been given a promise by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Christ of God.  When Simeon saw baby Jesus, he praised God.  Jesus, although a real baby, was God in human flesh.  Jesus was the Christ—the Deliverer—the Messiah of Israel.

When Simeon saw Jesus, he praised God and in his praise he revealed some important truths about Jesus.  Simeon called Jesus “salvation.”  While Jesus was given the titled Immanuel (God with us), he was most literally the salvation of fallen humanity.  He was the Messiah of Israel, and he was the hope of the Gentiles at the very same time.  All of this came out in Simeon’s praise:

Luke 2:29-32 – “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
[30] for my eyes have seen your salvation
[31] that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
[32] a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

In a dark world of sin, the light of the world came in the form of human flesh.  The Christ was conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit, was born in a manger, and came for the purpose of saving his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).  Simeon could die in peace because he had seen the promised Messiah of Israel as promised by the Holy Spirit.

Our Promise

Our promise is not like Simeon’s promise.  However, the Holy Spirit has given us a promise too through the Word that he wrote—the Bible.  In the Scriptures, we have a distinct set of promises that we too will see our Lord.  If we are alive, we will see him when he returns the second time.  Much like Simeon was waiting on the first coming of Jesus, we find ourselves between the cross and the second advent waiting on Jesus’ return.

If we die before Jesus’ second coming, we have the promise that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).  We too will see the Lord of glory.  What a day that will be when our eyes see Jesus.  Unlike Simeon, our sight of Jesus will be different.  He will not be a small infant baby wrapped in his mother’s care.  When we see Jesus, he will be the enthroned King of glory—the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Consider how majestic is the name of Jesus and how powerful is his throne—and one day we will see him face to face.

As Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”  We have this promise to cling to—one day we will be with Jesus in eternity—no longer looking to the future promises from the shadows, but dwelling with God in his presence for all of eternity.

Simeon had been given a promise and he died in peace having received the fulfillment of that truth when his eyes saw his salvation.  We have been given a promise too—that all who come to God by faith will one day see Christ and dwell with him forever.

Job believed this promise as he understood that when his skin was destroyed, he would see God (Job 19:25-27).  David understood that he would dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Ps. 23:6).  In Psalm 118:18-24—David found joy in the fact that he would one day enter through the gates of righteousness.  Paul exclaimed, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).  Do you have assurance that one day you will spend eternity with Christ—in the presence of his care and love?  Turn to Christ today by faith and repent of your sins.  Call upon the Lord today believing that he died on the cross for your sins.

Romans 10:13 – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 

 

 

Misunderstanding the Five Solas—Soli Deo Gloria

Misunderstanding the Five Solas—Soli Deo Gloria

Today I’m continuing a short 5-part series on the five solas of the Reformation.  This post would normally be posted on Tuesday, but since tomorrow happens to be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I will be writing a completely different article on that subject tomorrow.

The five solas are specific Latin slogans that emerged from the Reformation era as a means of identifying specific doctrinal positions that stand in contrast to the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  The slogans are:

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  • Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)

Today’s focus is on the fifth sola—Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone). If the five solas are built upon the firm foundation of sola Scriptura—it’s appropriate that we come to understand that the work of God in saving sinners is all for the glory of God alone.  When Johann Tetzel and others would say, “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”  This was to ascribe glory to man’s alms or the Roman Catholic Church’s authority to make the transaction.  This is nothing but a blasphemous doctrine.

Why Soli Deo Gloria?

The work of salvation is a work of God alone.  Sure, man responds to God in the process, but not until the work of God has already been accomplished and put into motion.  Man is dead in trespasses and sin and cannot work his way to God, will his way to God, worship his way to God, or pay his way to God (Eph. 2:1-5).  Salvation in many evangelical circles has been reduced down to a three step process whereby people make a decision to follow Jesus by asking Jesus to come into their heart.

All throughout the Bible, we see that salvation is something far different than a human decision.  Salvation, as Jonah said, “belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).  John the apostle, in his Gospel put emphasis on the fact that sinners are born of God (John 1:12-13).  He makes it clear that we are not born again by the will of man, the will of the flesh, by blood relationships, or any other common belief.  We are saved when we are born of God.  John returns to that same thought as he writes to a group of churches in his epistle known as 1 John.  He writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Robert Robinson penned these famous words in 1758:

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

As the Bible places great emphasis upon the fact that God saves sinners and that the work of salvation is a work of God in divine mercy saving a people who not only don’t deserve to be saved, but are completely unable to save themselves—it only makes sense that salvation is for the glory of God alone.  That’s why the Reformers pointed back to God—not the pope, priests, saints, or any other religious hierarchy.  Salvation of fallen sinful man is to the praise of God alone.

The next time you hear people giving a congratulations to sinners who have just been rescued by the sovereign grace and mercy of God—remember that the sinner didn’t do anything to deserve or earn salvation.  Instead of praising the new Christian—we should praise God.

Last of all, let it be known that for us to praise God and for God to desire the praise and glory is not in the slightest degree sinful.  We should never equate the football player who struts into the end zone with arrogant chest pounding displays of human effort with God who desires the praise of His people.  When people desire to be praised it’s an ugly thing, but when God desires to be praised it’s a wonderful thing.  God’s jealousy is not birthed out of arrogance and sin.  Instead, it flows out of the purity of God’s holiness (Ex. 20:3-5).

Revelation 4:11 — Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.

 

Misunderstanding the Five Solas—Sola Gratia

Misunderstanding the Five Solas—Sola Gratia

Today I’m continuing a short 5-part series on the five solas of the Reformation.  The five solas are specific Latin slogans that emerged from the Reformation era as a means of identifying specific doctrinal positions that stand in contrast to the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  The slogans are:

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  • Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)

How can the phrase, sola gratia (grace alone) be misunderstood and misapplied by Protestant believers?  In the attempt to stand in a continual protest of the works based salvation of the Roman Catholic Church, we must continue to point out that God saves sinners by grace alone—not based on the value of any works.  However, we must never diminish the need for good works to be present in the life of a child of God.

Defining Sola Gratia

When the Reformers used the phrase, sola gratia, they were insisting that God saves sinners based on God’s divine grace alone.  The idea was nothing new, in fact it was taken from the clear teachings of Scripture.  In Ephesians 2:1-10, the apostle Paul makes his point clear—salvation is by grace alone, apart from works, so that no one will be capable of boasting.  As the Reformers were protesting the selling of indulgences and various other practices of the Roman Catholic Church—their motivation in sola gratia was to point upward to God and make a clear point that God saves sinners by his grace and anything added to God’s grace is no longer grace.

Misunderstanding the Catholic Church

When people make the claim that the Roman Catholic Church does not believe in the saving grace of God, that actually is a misrepresentation of the Catholic’s position.  According to official Roman Catholic doctrine, they do embrace the teachings of salvation by the grace of God.  However, where the problem arises is when Protestants attach the word “alone” to the statement.  The Roman Catholic Church teaches that sinners are saved by the grace of God, but not all alone.  For instance, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1257:

“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude . . . “

While it should be clear that baptism is a work of man in obedience to God’s command, sometimes it is overlooked because it’s one of the ordinances of the church.  However, if you continue to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2010, you will see these troubling statements regarding works:

”The specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation,”

At the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church made this frightening statement to anyone who embraced salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone:

“If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema,” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

Misunderstanding Sola Gratia

Not only do people often misunderstand sola Scriptura, but they likewise misunderstand and misrepresent the intent behind sola gratia.  While we as helpless sinners are saved by God’s grace alone, the grace of God should never be alone in the life of a believer.  In other words, works do not save a sinner, but good works are present in the life of a believer as a direct result of the changed life by the grace of God.  Hear Paul in his letter to the church at Galatia:

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:16).

The Judaizers had crept into the church in Galatia and were teaching a salvation by faith in Jesus, but they added circumcision to the equation.  Suddenly, it was no longer salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins.  They added works to the formula.  In doing so, they changed the gospel from God’s gospel to something else—and Paul gave a stern warning to such practices in the opening words to the church at Galatia (see Gal. 1:6-9).

As we turn over to James, we see language that perhaps seems to be contradictory.  James argues for works to be present and active in the life of a believer.  James writes, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).  James’ point is clear—the works of a person’s life reveals their true spiritual condition.  Faith without works is dead and lifeless which points to the reality of a person who has never experienced the grace of God.

Do you have good works that flow out of God’s grace in your life?  Charles Spurgeon once wrote the following statement, “Although we are sure that men are not saved for the sake of their works, yet we are equally sure that no man will be saved without them.” [1]

Don’t misrepresent sola gratia by denying the need for good works and a pursuit of holiness in the life of a child of God.  At the same time, never lean upon good works as a means of your salvation.


  1. Charles Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit, 4:265.
Does God Save Everyone Who Asks?

Does God Save Everyone Who Asks?

One of the most comforting passages in the Bible is found in Romans 10:9-10 and Romans 10:13 where we see a clear promise to all who call upon the name of the Lord of salvation.  This should bring comfort to us each time we read over this section of Scripture.  We hear preachers stand and call people to respond to God claiming that God will never turn anyone away.  Is that true at all times and in all situation?  Is there ever a time when a sinner cannot be saved?  Certainly we can all agree that after death, such a time exists.  However, what about during the lifetime of a particular person, is there a time when he or she cannot be saved?

God Saves Sinners

In Acts 9, we see the story of Saul of Tarsus and how God humbled the learned Pharisee and brought him to a place of submission.  If God can save a Saul of Tarsus (whose names was eventually changed to Paul), anyone can be saved.  In fact, the story of the apostle Paul’s conversion should bring us hope that nobody in our family or on the school campus is beyond the saving reach of God.  God is capable of saving the vilest offender.  In fact, God loves to save sinners.

As we read about the city of Nineveh, we often focus on the story of the disobedient Jonah and his time in the belly of a large fish while completely missing the reality of God’s saving grace for a wicked people.  When you study about the deep depravity of the people of Nineveh, it should cause our hearts to swell with joy as we see God save them.  They didn’t deserve mercy and grace, but God acted through his grace unconditionally and delivered them from their condition of peril.  In short, God loves to save sinners.

God Does Not Always Save Sinners

As we think about the work of God in saving sinners, is there ever a time when God refuses to save someone who requests salvation?  Would God ever turn anyone down who called upon his name?  Although greatly controversial, it’s true that God doesn’t always save everyone who calls on his name.  In Psalm 18, we find the testimony of King David and how God spared him when he was on the run from Saul and his men.  Notice what David says in Psalm 18:39-42:

For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed. They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them. I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

In this particular case, it’s clear that God was saving David—not his enemies.  When the enemies of God surrounded David, he was spared by God’s plan which involved the destruction of his enemies.  It could be that their prayer was insincere and selfish in order to manipulate God and avoid defeat.  God knows the heats of men and cannot be fooled.  We have here a clear example of people crying out to the LORD and he refused to answer them.

In another place in the Old Testament, we find in Micah 3 where those who were opposed to God’s people cried out and he chose not to answer their request for salvation.  We see this in Micah 3:4:

Then they will cry to the LORD, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil.

It could be once again that their prayers were insincere and selfishly motivated, but yet again, we find that God refused to answer them and went on to hide his face from them.  Although we can say with certainty that God loves to save sinners and even the most vile person can be saved, we must also recognize that God is not obligated to save anyone.  Furthermore, we must realize that God is not unrighteous by not saving everyone.  God chooses to save sinners unconditionally and acts in mercy to save those who do not deserve it. That includes all of God’s children.

We find other passages in the Old Testament such as Jeremiah 11:11-14 and Ezekiel 8:15-18 where God says, “Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them” (Jer. 11:11).  Be sure these are difficult passages indeed, but the difficulty of God’s holy justice and his choice to judge sinners is not removed by the sweetness of his mercy and grace on others.  God’s choice to save sinners and God’s choice to judge sinners must never be held up in contradiction to one another (Rom. 9:20-24).

We must never approach God as if he’s merely a genie who offers up grace like a magic potion to overcome our sin.  Nor should we approach God as if he’s simply at our disposal like a glorified cosmic bellhop.  God is sovereign.  God is good.  God always does right.  God is right to save sinners and to satisfy his justice through the death of his Son Jesus, and he is likewise right to deny salvation to sinners.

If you are a Christian today, this should cause your heart to swell with renewed gratitude.  If you are not a Christian and know that you need God’s grace and mercy to rid you of your sin and to reconcile you to God—you should turn to him today and plead for salvation.  God loves to save sinners.  With a sincere heart, cast yourself upon his mercy trusting that Christ Jesus is your only hope in this life and for all eternity.

 

How to Become a Saint without the Pope

How to Become a Saint without the Pope

On Sunday, September 4th, Pope Francis led in the canonization service that pronounced sainthood upon the well known Catholic figure from recent history—Mother Teresa.  With Vatican City pulsating with a crowd that exceeded 120,000, Pope Francis bestowed the highest Roman Catholic honor upon Mother Teresa, in effect, making her Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  Did Mother Teresa need Pope Francis’ help in reaching the level of saint?  Was this ceremony necessary?

How to Become a Saint in the Roman Catholic Religion

The process to be recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church is a bit technical and lengthy.  The overview is as follows:

  1. The person must be dead for a minimum of 5 years.
  2. The person must have “fame of sanctity” or “fame of martyrdom.”
  3. Typically the Bishop of the Diocese initiates the investigation of the person’s life.
  4. The investigations looks to see if any special favor or miracle has been granted through the person’s life.
  5. The candidate’s writings are thoroughly examined to confirm that nothing heretical (against the Roman Catholic Church’s beliefs) are taught.
  6. Upon the end of the investigation, a transumptum (a faithful copy) duly authenticated and sealed, is submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.
  7. Next, they examine to see if the candidate was a martyr of the faith.
  8. If the candidate was not a martyr, they examine the person’s life to see if exemplary sacrifice and charity was performed in love for his or her neighbor.  Was this person’s life lived out in a heroic manner?
  9. Beatification is the next process, and the candidate will receive this in the case of martyrdom.  If not martyred for the faith, the candidate must be credited with a miracle.
  10. After beatification, the candidate will be recognized as a saint in a specific city, region, diocese, or religious family.
  11. After beatification, another miracle is needed for canonization and the formal declaration of sainthood.

As you can see, this is a lengthy process that takes time to validate.  Once the candidate reaches the final step and is pronounced a saint, their name can be officially used in the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgy during official worship.  It is also believed that a saint can receive prayers in the act of mediation.  According to the Roman Catholic Church’s catechism, they teach the following:

“We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers” (Paul VI, CPG § 30).

How to Become a Saint According to the Bible

Since Scripture is our final authority, we turn to the pages of sacred Scripture for answers on the subject of sainthood.  A survey of the New Testament provides the following usages of the word saint:

Saint:

  • Philippians 4:21 – Referencing the living.

Saints:

  • Matthew 27:52 – Referencing the dead.
  • Acts 9:13 – Referencing the living.
  • Acts 9:32 – Referencing the living.
  • Acts 9:41 – Referencing the living.
  • Acts 26:10 – Referencing the dead.
  • Romans 1:7 -Referencing the living.
  • Romans 8:27 – Referencing the living.
  • Romans 12:13 – Referencing the living.
  • Romans 15:25, 26, 31 – Referencing the living.
  • Romans 16:2 – Referencing the living.
  • Romans 16:15 – Referencing the living.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2 – Referencing the living.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:1, 2 – Referencing the living.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:33 – Referencing the living.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:1 – Referencing the living.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:15 – Referencing the living.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:1 – Referencing the living.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:4 – Referencing the living.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:1 – Referencing the living.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:12 – Referencing the living.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:13 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 1:1 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 1:15 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 1:18 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 2:19 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 3:8 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 3:18 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 4:12 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 5:3 – Referencing the living.
  • Ephesians 6:18 – Referencing the living.
  • Philippians 1:1 – Referencing the living.
  • Philippians 4:22 – Referencing the living.
  • Colossians 1:2 – Referencing the living.
  • Colossians 1:4 – Referencing the living.
  • Colossians 1:12 – Referencing the dead.
  • Colossians 1:26 – Referencing the living.
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:13 – Referencing the dead.
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:10 – Referencing the living.
  • 1 Timothy 5:10 – Referencing the living.
  • Philemon 5 – Referencing the living.
  • Philemon 7 – Referencing the living.
  • Hebrews 6:10 – Referencing the living.
  • Hebrews 13:24 – Referencing the living.
  • Jude 3 – Referencing the living.
  • Revelation 5:8 – Referencing the dead.
  • Revelation 8:3, 4 – Referencing the dead.
  • Revelation 11:18 – Referencing the dead.
  • Revelation 13:7 – Referencing the living.
  • Revelation 13:10 – Referencing the living.
  • Revelation 14:12 – Referencing the living.
  • Revelation 16:6 – Referencing the dead.
  • Revelation 17:6 – Referencing the dead.
  • Revelation 18:20 – Referencing the dead.
  • Revelation 18:24 – Referencing the dead.
  • Revelation 19:8 – Referencing the living.
  • Revelation 20:9 – Referencing the living.

The overwhelming majority of Scripture uses the word “saint” in reference to a living person, someone who was not dead and had not gone through a formal process of confirmation and canonization.  In fact, if we’re honest, the way the word “saint” is used in the New Testament is primarily focused upon normal Christians among the church.  The entire church in specific places were referenced by the word “saint” as opposed to a higher class of special holy ones.  The word “saint” is used as a description for saved people in the New Testament.  Therefore, all true believers are saints based upon their faith in Christ.

It should likewise be noted that in no place in Scripture do we see people praying to the saints.  This is the case for two main reasons.  First of all, the overwhelming majority of usages of the term “saint” in the New Testament involves living people at the time the letter was written.  It would seem odd for Paul to pray to Peter in order to speak to God, right?  Should it not seem odd for a person today to pray to Mary or to pray to Peter in order to reach God?  Especially since the Bible clearly states that Jesus is our one Mediator who stands between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).

The way a person becomes a saint according to the New Testament is to have a brokenness over sin and faith in God through Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 3:10; Rom. 10:13; Acts 3:19).  In Christ’s finished work on the cross, and that work alone, can a sinner find mercy and forgiveness from God (Is. 53:10; 1 Pet. 2:24).  Jesus said that He is the exclusive means of reconciliation (John 14:6).

It is impossible for a sinner to perform works of righteousness in order to please God (Titus 3:5).  Did Mother Teresa need Pope Francis to become a saint?  Absolutely not.  Mother Teresa needed Jesus Christ alone rather than the pope and the Roman Catholic Church.  Unfortunately, she spent many years in doubt and finished her life in darkness.  She wrote:

“I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul,” she wrote at one point. “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation.” On another occasion she wrote: “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” [1]


  1. Letters of Mother Teresa — See Washington Post Article – “Mother Teresa, about to be named a saint, felt terrible pain ‘of God not wanting me’”