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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary


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Holy people, a title for all God's people but applied in some contexts to a small group seen as the most dedicated ones.

Old Testament Two words are used for saints: qaddish and chasid . Qaddish comes from the qadosh and means holy. To be holy is to separate oneself from evil and dedicate oneself to God. This separation and union is seen both with things and people. All the items of worship are separated for the Lord's use: altar ( Exodus 29:37 ), oil (Exodus 30:25 ), garments (Exodus 31:10 ), and even the people are to be holy (Exodus 22:31 ). This separation reflects God's very character, for He is holy (Leviticus 19:2 ). See Isaiah 6:1 ). So holiness is more than a one-time separating and uniting activity. It is a way of life. “Ye shall be holy: for I am holy” (Leviticus 19:2 ). Saints are people who try to live holy lives (Daniel 7:18-28 ).

Chasid means “to be kind or merciful.” These are qualities of God. Thus, chasid people are godly people because they reflect His character. Saints praise the Lord for His lifelong favor ( Psalm 30:4 ), rejoice in goodness (2 Chronicles 6:41 ), and know that God keeps their paths (1 Samuel 2:9 ). God's encounter with His people through the covenant enables them to walk as His saints.

New Testament One word, hagios , is used for saints in the New Testament. This word, like qadosh , means holy. Consequently, saints are the holy ones. There is only one reference to saints in the Gospels (Matthew 27:52 ). In this verse, dead saints are resurrected at the Lord's crucifixion. The death of the Holy One provides life for those who believe in God. In Acts, three of the four references occur in Acts 9:1 ( Acts 9:13 ,Acts 9:13,9:32 ,Acts 9:32,9:41 ). First Ananias and then Peter talks of the saints as simply believers in Christ. Paul continues this use in his Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, and Philemon. In each case, saints seem simply to be people who name Jesus as Lord. In the Book of Revelation, however, where the word saints, occurs more times than in any other single book (13 times), the meaning is further defined. Saints not only name Jesus as Lord, but they are faithful and true witnesses for Jesus.

Little wonder then that the early church considered witnesses who were martyred for their testimonies to be saints. In fact, soon these saints were accorded special honor and then even worship. Unfortunately, the term saints came to be applied only to such special people.

Biblically, though, the term saint is correctly applied to anyone who believes Jesus Christ is Lord. To believe in Jesus demands obedience and conformity to His will. A saint bears true and faithful witness to Christ in speech and life-style. To be a saint is a present reality when a believer seeks to let the Spirit form Christ within ( Romans 8:29; Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:13 ). See Spirit; Witness.

William Vermillion

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Saints'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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