In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul sends it to the church and names Timothy as “our brother.” In 1st Corinthians, it was Sosthenes; in 2 Corinthians, it is Timothy. He addresses the letter to the church in Corinth but then adds that it is also to all the saints in Achaia. The first verse reads, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia.” Some might suggest that the phrase “with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia” is another way of saying that all these people are with him, meaning they support the content of his letter. But it appears that Paul is addressing them along with the church at Corinth. He is sending greetings to all the believers in the area. Rome had broken up the area into two provinces. Macedonia is the northern province, and Achaia is to the south. Paul is addressing the entire Roman province as well as all the believers in every location.

Paul is addressing the “saints.” We often think of a saint as one recognized as such by the Roman Catholic Church. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “There are three steps to sainthood: a candidate becomes ‘Venerable,’ then ‘Blessed’ and then ‘Saint.’ Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized formally by the pope as having lived a heroically virtuous life or offered their life.  To be beatified and recognized as a Blessed, one miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is required in addition to recognition of heroic virtue or offering of life. Canonization requires a second miracle after beatification.  The pope may waive these requirements.”[1] This is not what Paul means when he addresses the Corinthians as saints. It appears that any believer in Jesus Christ is a saint. Especially when you realize that the word “saint” refers to someone set apart by God. Sainthood has to do with faith, not works. Guzik says, “It is remarkable that Paul freely calls the Corinthian Christians saints, considering their many problems. We often use the term saints differently today, applying it to the ‘super-spiritual’ instead of those who are set apart by a relationship of trust in Jesus Christ.”[2]

This idea is one of the significant differences between Protestants and Catholics. Protestants, on the whole, see all believers as saints. “The word saints here carries none of the twentieth-century ideas of canonization, rather its use reflects the fact that all believers are called of God to be his special possession.”[3] Grace Theological Seminary says, “So, what does saint mean? In its most basic sense, a saint is a “holy one,” someone who is set apart for God’s special purposes. As a result, every follower of Jesus Christ is a saint. In most of his letters, the apostle Paul refers to the recipients as saints, including the church at Corinth, where there were significant moral and theological problems!”[4] Pratt says, “‘Saint’ in the Old Testament occasionally refers to priests, but in the New Testament it designates all believers (Rom. 1:7). It basically means ‘holy ones’ or ‘sanctified ones.’ Paul did not have a special class of believers in mind. He wrote to every believer, no matter what their spiritual condition.”[5] When this came up in my sermons, I often referred to myself as “Saint Chuck.” My mother, who raised me as a Catholic, used to get mad at me when I’d do that. My sister said, “You!! I know you too well. I grew up with you, and you have the gall to call yourself a saint.” Yet, it’s not a matter of righteous living. We all fall short. It’s a matter of faith. If you are a believer in Jesus, “Welcome to Sainthood.”


[2] David Guzik. 2013. 2 Corinthians. David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible. Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

[3] Kruse, Colin G. 1987. 2 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 8. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


[5] Pratt, Richard L., Jr. 2000. I & II Corinthians. Vol. 7. Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.