Welcome back to the Teen Faith Study Group!
As you already saw from the excerpt, today I’m going to be exploring a very important and thoughtful Teen Faith Question. I hope you guys enjoy the discussion. Please do share your thoughts in the comments.
A new reader writes in to say: “This is a question about your Adventist beliefs. Why do you refer to the apostles as saints? Do you believe that everyone who believes in Him as their personal savior is a saint? Why or why not? Thank you for your willingness to be so open with your beliefs on this blog and yet be so humble about sharing them.”
Thank you for submitting this great question! Before we move on to my answer, I want to take a moment to welcome you to the blog family. I’m so glad you’re here, and I’m touched that you enjoy my discussions. I pray you’ll be blessed by this one!
Two Main Points
You guys have probably noticed that on this blog, I always refer to the apostles as saints. I never say simply “the apostle Paul” or “the apostle Peter” or “the apostle John.” Instead, I address Paul as St. Paul. I address Peter as St. Peter. John is St. John the Divine or St. John the Revelator. James is St. James the Just. And so on.
One thing you probably didn’t know is that this is indeed very intentional and a conscious decision on my part. There are a few significant reasons, which I strongly believe are biblical, for why I do so. I have failed at this more than once, but I try my best to make decisions based on the convictions I receive. I’ve received convictions to address the apostles as saints.
Before we move on, I want to say first that I never want anyone to be offended by anything I write on this blog. I want this blog to be a safe place where everyone can share and where we can be honest about what we believe. My beliefs may be different than yours, and I simply want to state them honestly.
Alrighty, now on to answering this great question! I’ll answer the first part of your question (why I refer to the apostles as saints), and afterward I’ll answer the second part of your question (whether every believer is a saint).
In order to best answer your question, I thought it would work great to separate these reasons/convictions into two main points. Then I’ll explain and include Scripture references for each:
- God himself directly used the apostles to give us the Bible.
- As such, they deserve our respect.
1. God himself directly used the apostles to give us the Bible.
St. Paul tells us that every word of the Bible is inspired and breathed out from the mouth of God himself:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.– 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Here is the perfect opportunity to share with you something extremely enlightening which I recently learned from studying the Bible with one of my mentors. We were talking about the famous opening verse to the Gospel of St. John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.– John 1:1
What is the Word? The Bible.
So if in the beginning was the Bible, and the Bible was with God, and the Bible was God, this leaves us with a clear conclusion.
I was amazed when I learned this since I had never thought about it that way before. But when I thought about it, it made perfect sense. My mentor also taught me this is a good reason to have your hand on the Bible while you pray, because having the Bible with you is having God physically with you. Incredible, right?
So, to sum up: The Bible is God breathed, and the Bible is a direct manifestation of God; God manifests himself in the Bible. That’s why the Bible is so important to Christians. Without the Bible, where is our truth? Without the Bible, where is the proven evidence that God exists? We don’t need extrabiblical resources. The Bible is all we need to prove God’s wonderful existence.
Of course, we believe as Christians that God is the ultimate authority. Therefore the Bible is the ultimate authority, too.
Here are a couple more great verses:
Let’s review these biblical conclusions:
- Every word of the Bible is inspired and breathed out from the mouth of God himself.
- The Word is God and is with God, and the Word is the Bible. Therefore, to have the physical Bible is to have the physical God. The Bible is a direct manifestation of God; God manifests himself in the Bible. From the beginning this has all been so.
- We don’t need extrabiblical resources; the Bible is all the evidence we need to prove God’s wonderful existence.
- God and the Bible are the ultimate authority, and truth can be found from no other source.
We know that the New Testament Bible was written by the apostles.
- They were inspired when they wrote. From their hands (or mouths, since they sometimes used scribes) came our Holy Bible – the sacred scriptures that are breathed out from the mouth of God. God directly used the apostles to give us the Bible – to preserve for us the holy words which he breathed from his mouth.
- If the Word and God are one – that is, if the Bible and God are one – in writing the Bible, the apostles were actually writing on the tablets of God’s very heart. That’s incredible. God gave them this honor. He gave them the words to write on the tablets of his heart. God directly used the apostles to manifest himself in words, and to give us this manifestation of himself which is called the Bible. If the Word has been with God, and has been God, since the very beginning, that makes the apostles’ honor still greater. From the very beginning God entrusted these words to them.
- The apostles were chosen to write down God’s words – the only words in the entire universe that have the power to prove God’s glorious existence.
- The only truth can be found from that which was written by the apostles’ hands. The only authority can be found from their words, which are really God’s words. Everything that the apostles wrote is our ultimate authority and our only truth. They were given the honor of upholding this holiest authority and truth.
When we examine all this, it’s just incredible. Only the apostles were given this honor, the holiest honor that can ever be bestowed by God upon sinful human beings. Therefore the apostles’ calling was unique and special and glorious in a way that no other calling will ever be.
2. As such, they deserve our respect.
Since the apostles breathed out from their own mouths and wrote from their own hands – on the tablets of God’s heart – the words that came from God’s mouth and hands, that means a very significant conclusion:
Since the apostles were God’s highest messengers under the angels, and were given the holiest calling that can ever be given to sinful human beings, to disrespect the apostles is a serious offense. To disrespect the apostles is to disrespect these messengers of God who were chosen specially to give us the Word. To disrespect the apostles is to disrespect God. When we persecute (or even just simply don’t give proper respect to) any of God’s messengers, we are really persecuting and dishonoring God. The apostles deserve our respect. God wants us to respect and imitate them (1 Corinthians 11:1). We must have respect for this holiest human calling. We must be very grateful that they were “not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19), for then we would not have them as our witnesses, missionaries, and examples.
Because I strongly believe that to disrespect the apostles is to disrespect God, referring to them as saints is a simple way to give them the respect God wants me to give them.
However, with all this being said, I don’t want what I’m saying to be misunderstood. It’s very, very important to realize the following:
The apostles are not God. They are not equal to God. Authority belongs only to God, as St. Paul himself said. God is our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Lord. The apostles are not gods in any way, shape, or form. They should never be worshipped. They should never be prayed to. Besides, it’s impossible to pray to a dead person, because “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). God, on the other hand, never dies; he is forever.
I am saying that we must respect and honor them because their calling was the holiest. But notice that I said this calling was “the holiest honor that can ever be bestowed by God upon sinful human beings.” The apostles’ holy mission was given to them by God. It belonged to God and was given by God. The apostles were sinful human beings just like us. To name a few examples: Peter denied Jesus three times, Paul was a persecutor of Christians, James and John fought for thrones in heaven because of their arrogance.
God alone deserves our worship and praise and prayers and songs. The apostles would be grieved if we placed them on a pedestal. That’s not respectful, that’s disrespectful since we must never worship idols or have any gods before our Lord.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.– John 1:6-8
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.– 1 Corinthians 1:12-17
For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.– 1 Corinthians 3:4-11
Two More Main Points
Now to answer the second part of the question: “Do you believe that everyone who believes in Him as their personal savior is a saint? Why or why not?”
Yes, I do believe this wholeheartedly.
To explain this, I’m going to do the same thing I did with the first part of the question – two main points:
- The Bible addresses the believers as saints, because our merciful God consecrates us as saints.
- Our power is not the same as the power given to the specially chosen apostles.
1. The Bible addresses the believers as saints, because our merciful God consecrates us as saints.
In the Bible, we can find many clear statements that we are indeed saints in God’s eyes, through his mercy.
The Bible addresses the believers as saints. Why? To shout God’s mercy and love from the rooftops! God loves us so much that he cleanses us and makes us white as snow, and we are indeed all saints in his eyes when we allow him to cleanse us.
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.– Philippians 4:21-22
Caesar’s household – also known as people in Emperor Nero’s palace whom Paul converted during his two-year imprisonment in Rome. And now they are saints – those who had once been devoted to the evil emperor.
Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?– 1 Corinthians 6:2
Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.– Acts 9:32
I’m very sure there are lots of other examples, but you guys would be here for a while if I listed them all! XD
In God’s overwhelming love and mercy, we are saints. Amen.
Anyone else absolutely love that old song? “Lord, I want to be in the number when the saints go marching in!”
2. Our power is not the same as the power given to the specially chosen apostles.
Alrighty, final point!
Before I get into this final point, please remember that these are Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, which I want to share with y’all since I’m an Adventist Christian. 🙂
The Adventist church believes that while each believer is absolutely a saint, we do not have the same power given to the specially chosen apostles.
Remember how I previously said: “Only the apostles were given this honor, the holiest honor that can ever be bestowed by God upon sinful human beings. Therefore the apostles’ calling was unique and special and glorious in a way that no other calling will ever be.”
The Adventist church believes there is something dangerous in assuming we have the same power as the apostles. Remember my points on their holy calling of expelling the words of God from their own hands and mouths. We are not given that same holy calling of writing words on the tablets of God’s heart. The Bible is the ultimate authority.
I think the following two verses are the best ones to look at here:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.– Revelation 22:18-19
Does God still work miracles through ordinary people? Yes, absolutely. He still casts out demons. He still heals the sick. He still raises the dead. You name it. He still does it through ordinary people when it is in accordance with his will.
However, the apostles were given this supreme power in a way that no one else ever will – because their calling is the holiest.
And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.– Acts 19:11-12
Paul was given this holy power from God. Throughout his life, he performed probably millions of miracles. Why? Because his calling was unique and special and glorious, in a way that no other calling can ever be. God also worked extraordinary miracles often through his apostles in order to gather more followers to the early church. The people in the pagan city of Ephesus, as well as many other pagan cities in which Paul preached, were overcome by these miracles. Although they had their own magicians and witches and sorcerers, these people could never perform the miracles Paul was performing. That convinced millions to convert to Christianity and join the early church.
If a pastor or teacher today walked about claiming he could touch a handkerchief and heal someone of their illness or cast out their demons that way, I would be suspicious. I would be very suspicious, and I would stay far away. That’s a red flag to a false teacher.
I’m going to be very careful with what I say next, because this is an Adventist belief that can be controversial to some with differing beliefs. So I won’t go deep into it today – it would be a conversation for another day anyway – but I feel it’s important to mention, so I will.
One crucial difference between the Adventist church and certain other churches is that we don’t believe miracles are ordinary, everyday occurrences. We don’t believe God works them all the time nor often. Adventists believe that certain other churches are very popular because they are filled with miraculous occurrences, such as a disabled person rising from his wheelchair. But the next week, he is back in his wheelchair. Why does this happen? We need to be very careful about miracles and how we view them. Some miracles are not from God – Satan can and does imitate them, and they are convincing. He can raise a disabled person in a moment of frenetic excitement. It lasts only for a moment. The next week, the person is back in the wheelchair. False miracles do exist, and false teachers do exist. We need to be very careful about what people claim and what occurs.
I’m still learning, but I’m confident that God gives wisdom to discern what is a real miracle and what is not.
(By the way, I recommend reading Acts 19:11-20 in full for an example of false teachers.)
That’s all I will say on this subject, since as I previously said, I’m not intending to go deep into it. If any of you are interested in learning more, though, you can let me know through my Contact page and I’d be happy to discuss with you!
So, to wrap things nicely up for you, I thought I’d write up my summarizing points:
- I refer to the apostles as saints as a sign of respect and appreciation for them and their holiest calling.
- The apostles are not gods to be worshipped, and we should never treat them as such.
- Each and every believer is a saint through God’s wonderful love and mercy!
- While everyone is a saint, we must remember that the apostles were indeed given a special and unique and glorious calling, which no one else will ever be given. It’s dangerous to claim we have the same power.
- We need to be careful about miracles and how we view them, and we must ask for discernment in order to identify false miracles/teachers. Miracles are indeed miraculous things, not commonplace, everyday things. God does not take his miracles lightly, and neither should we.
Hope you guys enjoyed!
Wow! That was quite a study session, wasn’t it?
Thank you again to our awesome friend for submitting such a thoughtful and thought-provoking question!
I hope you all had fun exploring the Bible and learning together. Please feel free to respond in the comments with all your thoughts. Just remember to keep things kind and be respectful of what others believe. 🙂
And remember that if you have any questions of your own, I welcome you to submit them through the Teen Faith Study Group submission form. Again, you are absolutely welcome to contact me if you have any further questions about today’s discussion and would like to go deeper.
Love you guys! Keep living in God’s truth.
You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!