How Can True Saints Help You?
IN THE Scriptures, the Greek word rendered “saint” in some versions can be translated “holy one.” To whom did the term apply? “In the plural, as used of believers,” notes An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “it designates all such and is not applied merely to persons of exceptional holiness, or to those who, having died, were characterized by exceptional acts of saintliness.”
The apostle Paul therefore designated all early Christians as true saints, or holy ones. For instance, he addressed a letter penned in the first century C.E. “to the congregation of God that is in Corinth, together with all the holy ones who are in all of [the Roman province of] Achaia.” (2 Corinthians 1:1) Later, Paul wrote a letter “to all those who are in Rome as God’s beloved ones, called to be saints.” (Romans 1:7, footnote) These holy ones had obviously not yet died, nor had they because of outstanding virtue been set apart above the rest of the believers. On what basis were they distinguished as saints?
Sanctified by God
God’s Word shows that a person is not made a saint by men or by an organization. The Scriptures state: “[God] saved us and called us with a holy calling, not by reason of our works, but by reason of his own purpose and undeserved kindness.” (2 Timothy 1:9) A holy one is sanctified by virtue of Jehovah’s calling, according to the undeserved kindness of God and in harmony with His purpose.
Holy ones of the Christian congregation are parties to “a new covenant.” The shed blood of Jesus Christ validates this covenant and sanctifies its participants. (Hebrews 9:15; 10:29; 13:20, 24) Cleansed in God’s eyes, they are ‘a holy priesthood and offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’—1 Peter 2:5, 9.
Invocation and Intercession of Saints
In the belief that “saints” can bestow special power on believers, millions venerate them by using relics or by invoking them as intercessors. Is this a Bible teaching? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his followers how to approach God, saying: “You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.’” (Matthew 6:9) Prayers are properly addressed to Jehovah God alone.
In an effort to support the intercession of “saints,” some theologians cite Romans 15:30, where we read: “I exhort you, brothers, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the spirit, that you exert yourselves with me in prayers to God for me.” Was Paul encouraging those believers to pray to him or invoke his name in approach to God? No. While prayers offered in behalf of the true saints, or holy ones, are encouraged in the Bible, nowhere does God command us to pray to or through such holy ones.—Philippians 1:1, 3, 4.
However, God has appointed an Intercessor for our prayers. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” said Jesus Christ. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus also stated: “Whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:6, 13, 14) We can be confident of Jehovah’s willingness to hear prayers offered in Jesus’ name. Concerning Jesus, the Bible says: “He is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead [“be interceding,” footnote] for them.”—Hebrews 7:25.
If Jesus is willing to intercede in our behalf, why are “saints” often invoked in prayer by worshipers in Christendom? In his book The Age of Faith, historian Will Durant traces the origin of this practice. While noting that Almighty God was feared and Jesus seemed more accessible, Durant states: “One hardly ventured to speak to [Jesus] face to face after so thoroughly ignoring His Beatitudes. It seemed wiser to lay one’s prayer before a saint certified by canonization to be in heaven, and to beg his or her intercession with Christ.” Are these concerns justified?
The Bible teaches us that through Jesus we can have “freeness of speech and an approach with confidence” in prayer to God. (Ephesians 3:11, 12) Almighty God is not too distant or removed from mankind to hear our prayers. The psalmist David confidently prayed: “O Hearer of prayer, even to you people of all flesh will come.” (Psalm 65:2) Rather than transmitting power through the relics of deceased “saints,” Jehovah pours out his holy spirit upon those asking for it in faith. Jesus reasoned: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!”—Luke 11:13.
The Role of the Holy Ones
The holy ones to whom Paul’s letters were written died centuries ago and, in time, were to receive “the crown of life,” a resurrection to heaven. (Revelation 2:10) Worshipers of Jehovah God realize that veneration of these true saints is unscriptural and cannot bring protection from sickness, natural disasters, economic instability, old age, or death. Hence, you might ask, ‘Do God’s holy ones really care about us? Should we expect them to act in our behalf?’
Holy ones figured prominently in a prophecy recorded by Daniel. In the sixth century B.C.E., he saw a stirring vision, the fulfillment of which stretches into our day. Out of the sea came four fearsome beasts symbolizing human governments, which are unable to satisfy the real needs of humankind. Daniel then prophesied: “But the holy ones of the Supreme One will receive the kingdom, and they will take possession of the kingdom for time indefinite, even for time indefinite upon times indefinite.”—Daniel 7:17, 18.
Paul affirmed this “inheritance for the holy ones,” that of being joint heirs with Christ in the heavens. (Ephesians 1:18-21) The blood of Jesus opened the way for 144,000 holy ones to be resurrected to heavenly glory. The apostle John declared: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4, 6; 14:1, 3) In vision, John heard a host of heavenly creatures sing before the glorified Jesus: “With your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Revelation 5:9, 10) How reassuring! Jehovah God himself has carefully chosen these men and women. Moreover, they have served faithfully on earth, facing practically every problem experienced by humans. (1 Corinthians 10:13) We can be confident, therefore, that these resurrected holy ones, or saints, will be merciful and understanding rulers, taking into account our weaknesses and limitations.
Blessings Under Kingdom Rule
The Kingdom government will soon take action to rid the earth of all wickedness and suffering. At that time, humans will draw closer to God than ever before. John wrote: “With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.’” This will bring untold blessings to mankind, for the prophecy continues: “He will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.
What a time that will be! The results of the perfect rulership of Christ Jesus and the 144,000 holy ones are further described in these words recorded at Micah 4:3, 4: “[Jehovah] will certainly render judgment among many peoples, and set matters straight respecting mighty nations far away. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war anymore. And they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble; for the very mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken it.”
The invitation to partake of such blessings is held out by the holy ones. Symbolized by a bride, the true saints keep on saying: “Come!” The text continues: “And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Revelation 22:17) What is included in “life’s water”? Among other things, accurate knowledge of God’s purposes. In prayer to God, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) This knowledge is available through regular study of the Bible. How happy we can be that through God’s Word we can discern the true identity of the holy ones and learn how he will use them to the eternal benefit of mankind!
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Paul wrote inspired letters to true saints
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Jesus’ faithful apostles became true saints, or holy ones
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We can confidently pray to God through Jesus Christ
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The resurrected saints, or holy ones, will be compassionate rulers over the earth