Poor Samson and Rahab. Under new Vatican guidelines methinks the Old Testament saints (see Heb. 11:31-32), a lust-driven womanizer and a Jerichoan whore respectively, wouldn't make the cut (via USA Today emphasis mine):
It's getting more difficult to become a saint.Now, by no means am I excusing or condoning sinful behavior, and certainly not sexual immorality, but true sainthood is an office and/or quality that is NEVER earned by personal moral merit, it is ALWAYS bestowed by God's grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Ultimately, it depends on Christ's merit and Christ's work.
The Vatican, which has more than 2,200 potential saints in the pipeline, says it wants bishops to exercise more "rigor" and "sobriety" when it comes to choosing someone worthy of beatification, according to the Associated Press.
Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, chief of the church's sainthood office, tells reporters that candidates must have a "true reputation for holiness" in order to warrant consideration.
DPA, the German news agency, has a detailed overview of the rules.
The only person with a perfect "true reputation for holiness" in the entirety of human history is Jesus Christ, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and there is none righteous, no, not one. [Rom. 3:10, 23; Psa. 14:1]
What's more, the Bible is replete with references to "saints" who were, when addressed as such, living, breathing, and most assuredly still-sinning believers.
We sin -- fall short of God's holy perfection -- every day, intentionally or accidentally, in thought, word, deed, and motive. Sure, we strive by God's grace to grow in holiness, as we are called in God's Word, but our saintliness is never, biblically speaking, a subjective function of our personal sanctification, rather it's the objective forensic declaration of God at our justification. [I Peter 1:14-21; II Timothy 1:8-14]
Look no further than Paul's epistles to the Corinthians. That's a screwed up church if ever there was one. You had people getting drunk at communion, their worship services were completely chaotic, there was a dude in the church openly and proudly sinning sexually by sleeping with his father's step-mom, and the Corinthians had the nasty habit of filing lawsuits against one another, dragging each other before bewildered pagans in Roman courts, among other problems.
And yet, despite all that, Paul calls the people in the church saints, even as he admonishes them to get their act together. Indeed, in his opening greeting, he calls the Corinthians "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." [I Cor. 1:2;]
God sees the end from the beginning and completes the good work He began in us. [Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:2; Rom. 8:31-39] It's He who declares us righteous in Christ and who, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the washing of the Word of God sanctifies us in this life until we conform to the image of Christ Jesus. [Eph. 5:25-27]
That's what being a real saint is: clinging for dear life to Christ's finished work on the cross, trusting in Him as we live out our lives in the world, but not of it. [Col. 1:21-23; II Peter 1:3-11; I Cor. 5:6-13; 6:18-20]
[A closing prayer for all who trust in Jesus as their Savior]: Thank you, Heavenly Father, for saving us not by virtue of our self-perceived merits, but by the perfect merit of your spotless, holy Son. Thank you Jesus for living the perfect obedient life I couldn't live and dying the death I deserved to die so that I could spend eternity glorifying you.
Thank you for adopting us and sanctifying us, cleansing us from sin by your shed blood, renewing our minds to conform more and more to your image by the washing of your Word. Thank you that none of this is because of our striving, effort, or any goodness inherent in us. It is all of grace, lest any man boast. We bless your Name, Amen.