Hymn Story

For All the Saints

Hymn lists
by book of Bible

What is a saint?  The Apostle Paul often speaks of hagioi—a word that means “holy ones,” but is usually translated “saints” in our English-language Bibles.  Paul writes “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints” (Romans 1:7; see also 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1).  It is clear from Paul’s usage that he intends hagioi — “holy ones”— “saints”— to mean the people of God.

Saints are people who have been “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 10:10).  We don’t use that word, sanctified, very often, but it comes from the word hagios.  Sanctified means “made holy.”  When the author of Hebrews says that we have been “sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ,” he simply means that Jesus Christ has made us holy.  That doesn’t mean that Jesus has made us perfect.  It does mean that Christ has made us holy—set us apart to a Godly purpose—called us to live holy lives.

As saints, we are linked to each other by our faith in Christ.  The New Testament speaks of Christians as brothers and sisters, so we are one family in Christ.  We are blood relatives of Godly people from other races and nations (the blood that connects us is the blood of Christ).  We are blood relatives of Godly people who lived long ago—and of those who will come after us.

Bishop William How wrote the hymn, “For All the Saints,” in 1864 for All Saints Day, a day meant to honor departed saints, whether known or unknown.  This hymn, then, celebrates the saints who went before us—”who from their labors rest.”  It tells how God sustained them through difficult times—strengthened them to battle evil—brought them light in their darkest days.

And it offers a prayer for the saints of today—for us and for our children.  It says, “O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold, Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old.”

And it paints a picture of the saints of all times streaming through the Pearly Gates in countless numbers, “Singing to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

NOTE:  Before using this, make sure that what you say corresponds to the verses found in your hymnal.

Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan