The concept of holiness is one of the highest in Christianity, involving strict obedience to the will of God and the unwavering pursuit of virtue.
Reverend Terry Pugh and Bishop Michael Sis say the simplest example is of a person earnestly striving to be holy.
“Looking in the Book of Romans, Paul regularly refers to saints,” said Reverend Pugh, pastor of First United Pentecostal Church. “He speaks to and about the good people who serve Jesus Christ in the local church.
“You can be a church member and not be a saint. Saints are really trying to be better people within the context of Christianity.
“Modern religion promotes the idea that God will take you to any level, that you can say you’re a Christian and you love God but don’t make any changes,” Pugh said. “But God intends to make us different.
“He takes an individual who was full of sin and turns him into someone who looks and acts a lot like Jesus. It requires a lot of changes and whoever is in this process probably falls into the category of saints.
Pugh said Bible readers should be encouraged by the stories of people who fought against sin.
“We know the people of the Bible were far from perfect, otherwise Paul wouldn’t have written down everything he did to try to straighten them out,” he said.
“But he still called them saints.”
The Most Reverend Sis, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of San Angelo, said the most basic meaning of the word “holy” refers to a holy person.
“In the New Testament there are many passages that refer to followers of Christ as ‘saints,'” Sis said. “For example, the letter to the Romans is addressed ‘to all the beloved of God in Rome who are called to be saints’.
“In Acts 26:10, Paul says he ‘put many saints in prison.’ The word “holy” also refers to a faithful Christian who is in heaven.
Sis said the book of Revelation often speaks of the saints in heaven worshiping God by singing hymns and offering prayers.
“In Romans 15:30, Colossians 4:3, and First Timothy 2:1, the New Testament encourages us to offer prayers to God for one another,” he said, “and James 5:16 says that the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
Sis says Christians believe the spiritual soul survives the death of the physical body.
“Just as a Christian is called to offer intercessory prayers for others here on earth, it seems reasonable to continue to love and pray for others even after the death of one’s body,” he said. “So a saint in heaven is a member of the church who continues to offer prayers for the good of others. Death does not break the bonds of faith and love between Christians.
The bishop said Catholics view the saints in heaven as members of the church and followers of Christ.
“They are the ‘cloud of witnesses’ who encourage us to victory in Hebrews 12:1,” he said. “As members of the church, we ask them to pray for us. We don’t worship them. We only worship God. Our love for the saints must never take the place of our love for Christ. All saints are subordinate to Jesus Christ.
Sis said that during the early centuries of the Church, apostles, martyrs, and other esteemed Christians were honored after death.
“Simply by popular acclamation, they were considered saints in heaven,” he said. “Thousands of people have been honored as saints because they have led an exemplary Christian life. As the list of saints grew, the church eventually established a formal process by which a local bishop would make the final decision after serious study of the person’s life.
“From the 10th century it became common to ask the pope in Rome to make the formal declaration of sanctity. This declaration is called ‘canonization’ because the person’s name is added to the official list.
Sis said the word “canon” refers to an authoritative list.
“The first canonization declared by a pope dates back to 993 AD,” he said. “How many canonized saints are there? The precise number is debatable, but there are over 10,000. However, it is very important to emphasize that the list of canonized saints is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all people in Heaven. Most of those in heaven are not officially recognized.
“The church puts someone on the official list of saints when we have moral certainty that the individual is in heaven,” Sis said. “The most important factor is the life the person has lived. The investigation must prove beyond doubt that the person lived a life of extraordinary and heroic virtue, a grace-filled life of faith in Jesus Christ.
“There must be an extraordinary and wide popular recognition of the holiness of the person. Everything the person has written is for review and review. Investigating the cause could take hundreds of years with no guaranteed results.
“For example, the cause of Juan Diego took 500 years,” he said in reference to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, a Chichimec peasant in Mexico who saw the Virgin Mary four times in December 1531.
“Interestingly, there is no official process for declaring a particular person to be in hell. It is because no one knows the limits of God’s mercy.