I am not a Roman Catholic. In my understanding of Roman Catholicism, the term "saints" is not applied to all believers. It's applied to a subset of believers who have performed some miracle or great act.

When I look at Romans 1:7, I see:

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

From this, we can logically derive:

"those people who are in Rome" AND "are loved by God" ==> can be called a saint

I suspect the condition of "being in Rome" is not a hard requirement, i.e. it's there became it's the book of Romans and Paul is writing to people in Rome.

Thus, I get the impression that in Paul's eyes, "all those who are loved by God should be called a saint."

Thus, "all believers are to be called saints."

Is this consistent with Paul's other teachings?

  • See @Susan's comment on the word hagios. The New American Bible translation of this verse reads "To all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy." Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 11:19
  • @curiousdannii My own sense is that the OP is interested in how this relates to Roman Catholic doctrine (not a BH.SE issue), although that’s pretty much already been addressed here.
    – Susan
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 15:12
  • @Susan : Actually, I don't care about Roman Catholicism. However, (1) living in the same world as them, (2) seeing that in Roman Catholicism, only 'special' believers were called 'saints', and (3) in the churches I attended, no one addressed each other as 'saints' -- I thoughtlessly took on the view that 'saints = special class of believers' ... which, after reading Romans 1:7, I no longer believe.
    – guest
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 0:44
  • I happen to think you’re correct (see commentary starting on p. 13 here for more than you ever wanted to know about this usage of hagios), but I’m no longer sure if you have a question at all. You seem to have made up your mind about the meaning of the text, and I’ve not appreciated a specific question about doctrine here if it’s not about Catholicism.
    – Susan
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 1:01
  • The term "saint" is often used in a restrictive sense (in the manner of Catholicism) but that's not strictly the case. Even Catholicism acknowledges the concept of "saint" meaning simply someone who is holy (in particular one in heaven).
    – eques
    Commented Aug 20, 2020 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


Paul refers to “the saints” many times in his writings. The clearest definition of a saint is found in his salutation at the beginning of 1 Corinthians:

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ

(1 Corinthians 1:1–3)

According to Paul, a saint is someone who is “sanctified in Christ Jesus.” This describes all who believe in Christ and are made holy by his grace. Also included in the definition are “all that ... call upon the name of Jesus Christ” (who may or may not yet be fully converted).

In Romans 8:27, it says that Christ “makes intercession for the saints.” In the surrounding verses it explains that the saints have the Holy Spirit, love God, and are “called according to his purpose.”

As a side note, the word saint is also used in the Old Testament, though not as often. For example, Psalm 50:5 defines saints as “those that have made a covenant with [the Lord] by sacrifice.” In other words, the saints are any who can be identified as God’s people.

  • 2
    Note that the word used is ἅγιος (hagios) - an adjective normally glossed as ‘holy’. Here it’s used as a substantive meaning, “those who are holy” (i.e. consecrated to God). Psalm 50:5 is actually a different word in Greek, and the Hebrew is not the normal correlate of hagios. This usage does occur, though, e.g. Psalm 34:10, where the Hebrew adjective qadosh is being used as a substantive and translates to hagios.
    – Susan
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 7:30

Saint is a technical term meaning to be set apart, whether in the greek hagios or the hebrew qadowsh. In itself, it doesn't mean anything regarding love, godliness or righteousness, as objects can also be sanctified as stated in MAt. 23:17 where Jesus said the temple sanctifies (greek = hagiazo) the gold within. All it means is set apart. Regarding the Bible, it means set apart for God. If you keep away from the ungodly lifestyle of this world system, and follow God's laws and precepts, then you're a saint.


The NT refutes the idea of a special class of saints. A saint comes from the word hagios which according to Strong's Definition

ἅγιος hágios, hag'-ee-os; from ἅγος hágos (an awful thing) (compare G53, G2282); sacred (physically, pure, morally blameless or religious, ceremonially, consecrated):—(most) holy (one, thing), saint.

This is a term applied to all that are saved by virtue of their position in Christ (1 Cor. 1:2; Rom 6:3-4; 8:1; Eph. 1:3., etc.).

Positionally, all NT believer is considered a saint. Yet, experientially, there's people that are more than others. The more our experience conforms to our position in Christ, the more the person shows Christlike traces.

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