“to prepare the saints for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” Ephesians 4:12
When I was drafted by the New Orleans saints, my friends would say, “Well, Dave, you’re finally a saint.” When you consider the names of other NFL teams, saints seems a bit odd. Usually the names chosen signify prowess and strength. Think panthers, bears, buccaneers.
The city chose the name Saints for two reasons; (1) because it’s an allusion to November 1 being All Saints Day in the Catholic faith, and New Orleans’ has a large Roman Catholic population. And, (2) because of the song “When the Saints Go Marching In”, which is strongly associated with New Orleans.
What I find interesting is that those two things: Saints and the Catholic faith, and the song “When the Saints Go Marching In”, are very much in conflict with each other by definition.
The Roman Catholic faith teaches that though members all aspire to become saints, sainthood is only granted to a few, by the Pope, and only those who lived lives of great charity and heroic virtue. It’s a fraternity, if you will, that’s very difficult to get into. It’s kind of like making it into the National Football League Hall of Fame, many are considered, but only a few make it, and then only after you retire, or with saints, only after you die.
The song “When the Saints Go Marching In” is an American protestant gospel hymn. It speaks of the saints being here on earth, and marching into heaven when Jesus returns.
You see, the Bible defines saint quite differently than the Roman Catholic Church. The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God”. “It is almost always used in the plural, “saints.” An example would be, “As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints who lived in Lydda”.
Therefore, scripturally speaking, the “saints” are the body of Christ, Christians, the church. All Christians are considered saints. In Roman Catholic theology, the saints are in heaven. In the Bible, the saints are on earth.
Here’s my take on it; some churches make saints out of very good people after they die. God makes saints out of very bad people while they are still alive. And I thank God for that!