There are very few topics, ancient or modern, which have drawn as much question and criticism as that of saints. Despite the historical picture that some might paint, the Early Church also had an uneasy relationship with idea of saints, and the topic was a source of sharp disagreement between the bishops and their congregations.

The topic of saints would eventually divide the Protestant Reformers from the Roman Catholic Church, and it continues to be divisive within many segments of the Church yet today. And as if the topic weren’t already complicated enough, the various ways in which the Church has used the word saints over the years makes it all the more confusing.

The first “saints” of the church were all of its members. Click To Tweet

In the Apostle Paul’s theological treatise to the Romans, he writes, “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints…” (1:7, NRSV). He repeats this language again when he pens a letter to the church congregation in the city of Corinth, “to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…” (1 Cor. 1:2, NRSV).

The word “saint” is one that has broad biblical support.

It should also be pointed out that, in addition to elders and deacons within the church, there may have also been a special group of individuals who were set apart and called saints. Look at the language that doctor Luke uses in the book of Acts, referencing an occasion where there was a need for “calling the saints and widows” in order to witness the raising of Tabitha from the dead (9:41).

Though we may not be able to say much or be dogmatic about these early uses of the word saint, it gives us a window into the mindset of a Church that was unafraid to use the word.


PRACTICE:  Journal a bit about your feelings on the word saint and from where you think those feelings might come.


Kevin holds a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies from Portland Seminary, where his work on Early Church spiritual formation passed with the rare honor of exemplary distinction. He is also a graduate of Cedarville University and Dallas Theological Seminary, holding degrees in Biblical Studies, Visual Communications, and Church Educational Leadership. Kevin has served on ministry staffs in some of the largest churches across the United States and is currently the Senior Minister of JupiterFIRST Church in Jupiter, Florida. His most important role, though, is husband to Sally and dad to four of Generation Z’s youngest members: Libbie, Lucy, Harris, and Matthew.