What Is the Deal With Relics and Saints?: Where Did They Come From, and Should Christians Worship Them?

You are here

What Is the Deal With Relics and Saints?

Where Did They Come From, and Should Christians Worship Them?

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


Many people around the world make long pilgrimages to see relics of supposed spiritual significance to their particular religious beliefs. The practice predates Christianity.

Catholic.org explains, “The word relics ... [refers to] some object, notably part of the body or clothes, remaining as a memorial of a departed saint. The veneration of relics, in fact, is to some extent a primitive instinct, and it is associated with many other religious systems besides that of Christianity.”

The Catholic church keeps charge of their designated relics and you may find among them a wide variety of items that came from a so-called “saint” including a preserved head, a tongue, a finger, a garment, wood fragments and much more.

Whether or not these items are proven to have come from a particular source is not the concern as far as Scripture is concerned.

The concerns are these:

1. God did not instruct us to use any relics in our worship

The Third Commandment is clear: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5 Exodus 20:4-5 [4] You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
American King James Version×

The prophet Isaiah spoke of the foolishness of idols: “Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; they are their own witnesses; they neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image; that profits him nothing?” (Isaiah 44:9-10 Isaiah 44:9-10 [9] They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed. [10] Who has formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
American King James Version×
). “He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it” (Isaiah 44:14-15 Isaiah 44:14-15 [14] He hews him down cedars, and takes the cypress and the oak, which he strengthens for himself among the trees of the forest: he plants an ash, and the rain does nourish it. [15] Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yes, he kindles it, and bakes bread; yes, he makes a god, and worships it; he makes it a graven image, and falls down thereto.
American King James Version×

2. Saints do not intercede between us and God

Acts 17:16-34 Acts 17:16-34 [16] Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. [17] Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. [18] Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seems to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached to them Jesus, and the resurrection. [19] And they took him, and brought him to Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof you speak, is? [20] For you bring certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. [21] (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) [22] Then Paul stood in the middle of Mars' hill, and said, You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. [23] For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, him declare I to you. [24] God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands; [25] Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he gives to all life, and breath, and all things; [26] And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; [27] That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: [28] For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. [29] For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like to gold, or silver, or stone, graven by are and man's device. [30] And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: [31] Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead. [32] And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear you again of this matter. [33] So Paul departed from among them. [34] However, certain men joined to him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.
American King James Version×
records that the apostle Paul condemned the notion of praying to anyone other than God. In ancient Athens, Paul came across many of the so-called gods to pray to depending on the particular need. There were altars to Zeus (the king god), and his daughter Athena (the goddess of wisdom). Along with these were the so-called gods of the bountiful harvest (Demeter) and Aphrodite (the goddess of love and beauty) to choose from.

In response to the Athenians' search for God many centuries ago, Paul’s message was clear: your prayer to these non-gods is worthless.

Likewise, if the apostle Paul were to walk the streets today, he would not approve of the practice of many who pray to deceased saints. For example, praying to St. Anthony to help find things which are lost. Or Saint Jude if you are experiencing any type of financial hardship. These are just a few examples of the misplaced worship of any created being which violates God’s instructions and commandments.

On that day in Athens, Paul began to preach the truth of “the resurrection of the dead.” And while some mocked him, others were willing to hear this truth” (Acts 17:32 Acts 17:32And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear you again of this matter.
American King James Version×

The fact is, all those who have died, will not be conscious again until the time of their resurrection after Jesus Christ returns to earth. The patriarch Job writes: “Man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he? As water disappears from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dries up, so man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep” (Job 14:10-12 Job 14:10-12 [10] But man dies, and wastes away: yes, man gives up the ghost, and where is he? [11] As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decays and dries up: [12] So man lies down, and rises not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
American King James Version×
). To learn more regarding the resurrections, read our study guide “What Happens After Death?”

3. We are not to add or take away from the biblical instruction to worship God alone

The words of the prophet Isaiah must have rang in Paul’s ears, “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, mor My praise to carved images” (Isaiah 42:8 Isaiah 42:8I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
American King James Version×

Paul knew that God told His people to get rid of all of those idols and to serve the only true and living God. He knew that the prophets made clear that the making of gods or idols was not the way to know or honor the Creator, and it was an abomination to God.

If you’re a believer today, you might ask God to open up your eyes in a new way regarding any idols that may be in your life. Discover more regarding this biblical truth through our video "Hard Questions: Are Christians Guilty of Idolatry?" In it, Gary Petty asks the question, "Could you be practicing idolatry without realizing it?"