This past weekend, the Roman Catholic Church decided to make Mother Teresa a saint. The RCC has had this bad habit of thinking it can declare sainthood for some time now. I know that many will marvel at the wonderful “works” that Mother Teresa performed in her life, but none of those works, no matter how many Buddhists she inspired to be a better Buddhist, will garner her one ounce of merit worthy of sainthood.
We must remember that the RCC, all the popes, nuns, mothers, and others, departed from the true faith of the gospel many hundreds of years ago. In their belief that the popes are in the line with the Apostle Peter, they somehow came up with the idea that they could declare who was and is a saint. Now, if you know anything about human nature, you can see very quickly that declaring someone a saint, can become very political in nature. This is the last thing we need in the body of Christ: a group of fallen men who think they have the right to speak for Christ, and standing in place of Christ, declaring who is and isn’t a saint. With this being the case, people will have to tow their party line in order for anyone to become a saint. Then, on top of that, they don’t bother with the average member of their religion, only the popular ones get to be saints. It’s sort of like an Amway marketing scheme for the religiously devout, only those with the triple diamond award pins get to be considered.
But no group of men on earth have the right to declare sainthood. Sainthood is decreed upon men and women by God alone. And the tricky point is that to become a saint comes about by believing in Christ for salvation alone. Yes, we are saved so that we can do good works (Ephesians 2:8-10), but those works do not merit us sainthood, or any favor with God. The salvation we are given is so that we can do good works, not so we can earn some merit.
And the beauty is, even with our sin nature still ravaging us, tripping us up, causing us much tribulation, through faith, we are already saints. Faith means sainthood. Not councils, popes, Cardinals, or panels of well meaning men of other religious. Just like all of our salvation, it is from God, not men.
So we should not get caught up with the Pope and his fellow cohorts declaring Mother Teresa as a saint. She was either already a saint, through faith, or she will never be a saint. Their declaration means nothing.
Now here are two things that I hope we, as Protestants do not do, in wake of this RCC declaration. First, please don’t start quoting Mother Teresa. She was not a defender of the gospel of Christ. Her words are clear enough and you can read about her beliefs here. When we quote her, and give her veneration, we only add to the problem of the RCC by making it seem as though they have something to offer true believers. If they did not offer another gospel, then we might be able to dialogue in a profitable way. But they offer another gospel, to which the Apostle Paul declares: As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:9).
Those are strong words from the apostle and show us that these things are not areas we wish to trifle with. The gospel is precious, and shows that by Christ’s death and resurrection we are saved by faith in Him ALONE. To add anything, one work, one good deed to such a precious gift is to spit on the gift, to turn it into something profane, and this is what the RCC, and anyone does, when they try and add works to our salvation. Our works are always in response to the gift of salvation. God created us and redeems us for good works, but not so that we can point to them for any merit whatsoever.
The declared sainthood of Mother Teresa, and the other saints, is just as profane because the RCC is making a statement that she is worthy for heaven and veneration for the “good works” that she did.
Now, you might ask why it is that I put “good works” in quotes. I do so because Mother Teresa, and all Roman Catholics, believe that their works do bring them merit with God. Our works are only acceptable to God in Christ, not because of what we have done or not done. To take a work of mercy and turn it around, offering it to God, is to make a profane offering before Him. He requires obedience, not faulty sacrifices. If we do perform a good work, then we should not boast in that work, but rejoice that the Father ordained it for us, move on as unprofitable servants knowing that we only did what we should have done in the first place. Jesus also tells us not to do our good works before men.
Just the fact that she is being made a saint, shows that the RCC has already negated anything that she has done at all. They are, after all, exalting her to a unique status because of all her good works. Jesus told us not to look for favor among men, and to keep the right hand from knowing what the left hand was doing. When He commended the widow for tossing in her last mites, He also instructed us that she did far better than those who made a big show of their works. What has the RCC done but make a big show about Mother Teresa’s works. She has been applauded, lauded, and as Christ said, she has been given her reward. Being made a saint according to their man-made standards, will not help her.
Secondly, I wish that as Protestants, we would remember why we are Protestants. There was a reason we had the Reformation in the 16th Century. The gospel needed to be reclaimed for what it truly was, found in Scripture. Those reasons still exist today, and we all need to work toward this end, letting Scripture be the only guide and rule for faith, not counsels of popes and cardinals. We are saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, which is a gift from God, not of ourselves. And, for more comforting reasons, we are made saints by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, which is a gift from God alone, not of ourselves.
Let’s not be deluded into thinking any other sainthood is worthy of pursuit. We do not seek the praise of man, nor the approval of counsels. We need to be faithful to our calling as true believers and trust the LORD with whatever reward we will be given in glory. Here is a hint: when we do arrive in heaven, being with HIM will be all the reward we desire or need. We don’t need a counsel to declare that for us.