How does the Bible use the term saint?

October 19th, 2010

With all the news over the last few weeks about Mary McKillop becoming a Saint of the Catholic Church, I thought I would do some research as see what the Bible says about the term Saint and how it is applied to people.

The Greek word that is used in the New Testament for saint is hagios (G40). This touches on things like being “sacred (physically pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially consecrated): – (most) holy (one, thing), saint.”

However when we look and see how the term hagios (Greek) or saint is used, it is used as a noun and nearly always is used in the plural form. It is used to describe a group of Christian people in a place ie the saints in Ephesus.

Here are a few examples of how it is used in the New Testament…

  • It is used once in the gospels (Matthew 27:52 KJV) of the saints of the former age. Hagios is translated as “holy ones” (NIV) in this verse. The other references are in the Book of Acts  and later.
  • “Much evil he has done to thy saints” (Acts 9:13);
  • “to the saints that lived at Lydda” (Acts 9:32);
  • “I not only shut up many of the saints in prison” (Acts 26:10);
  • “the Spirit intercedes for the saints” (Romans 8:27);
  • “contribute to the needs of the saints” (Romans 12:13); hagios is translated “God’s people” in the NIV.
  • “I am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints” (Romans 15:25, 26).

It is interesting to note that the only instance of the use of the word “saint” in the singular is found in Philippians 4:21 (KJV) where it says “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus”. The NIV translates this as saints plural.

I just found this research interesting and I thought I would share it. I hope it is a blessing to you and helps you to understand the New Testament use of the term saint a little better.

God Bless,

Dave