In conversations with Catholic friends of mine I often discuss the relevance of Mary in their daily devotions and relationship with God. The usual response that I have received from many different Catholics is “If we want to know Jesus what better person is there to go to but His own mother? Mary simply leads us to Jesus.”
The interesting thing is that this idea of “ping-ponging” (as I call it) off of someone to get to Christ is present in Judaism and some overly religious Christians. In Judaism you could only be forgiven of sins if it was by the Priest’s sacrifice also prophets were the designated individuals that delivered the “Thus says the Lord” messages to the people of God. Many Catholics place Mary in the place that the priest held to the Jews, they need her in order to get to God/Christ, this however is what was done away with when Jesus’s death ripped the veil in the temple. In some Christians minds their relationship with Christ consists of church attendance to hear a nice sermon from the pastor and personal revelations from God seem to be reserved for only those elect or of high positions in the church. This mindset is also present in the Catholic history where the Roman Catholic Church thought it inappropriate and dangerous for the common people to read the Word of God. To prevent this they chained the Bible to the church podium and did not allow the Bible to be translated in to a common language. Only the Priests and select people could read, understand, and interpret the Word. In my mind that is why the dark ages were considered dark. We can approach God directly because of the New Covenant, and we can read the Word personally and receive correction on interpretation/general revelation from the Holy Spirit.
Thankfully under the New Covenant we can:
- Know Christ personally
- Ask and receive complete forgiveness of sins from Jesus
- Approach God because of Jesus’s atonement
- Hear God’s voice through the Holy Spirit in you
A Christian does not need a middle man, a messenger, or a representative to know God. Instead, Jesus’s work paved the path for us to approach God. It’s on Christ’s behalf that we can come to God and be in his presence unlike under the Old Covenant. The impassable valley of sin was annulled by the bridge of the cross thus we can enter in to eternal life and be one with Him now in this life.
However a problem arises when one believes they can only receive forgiveness by asking a human to ask for them, or when their only reading / revelation of scripture is from another man. This is counterproductive of the work of Christ on the cross because He died so that we can come to God. People who form doctrines that undo a personal relationship with God are in a sense mending up the veil that Jesus tore in the temple at His death.
Proximity to God
Before Christ died for us and established the New Covenant mankind was by necessity distanced from God, they had to be or God’s purity and power would consume and destroy them. God only allowed a few individuals who stepped up to the plate of leadership in faith to approach Him personally and even then, it is likely that He was withholding Himself for their safety. Moses was one of these individuals where on the mountain He alone drew close to God in the cloud, while the Israelites were scared and feared for their lives and did not want to draw close because of their sin. God confirmed their fear by saying they would die if they came close.
This was an endless cycle:
- God wants us to draw close
- When we do we die because of sin
- To get rid of sin we must draw close
Thankfully God fixed this paradox by coming to Earth as a human being and dieing a natural and unjust death to provide a final payment for the debt of sin that was on our shoulders. Now that grace is present sin can be annulled and we can draw near to God.
Do you know a famous person? How about Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie, or Oprah Winfrey? There is a great chance that you don’t but there is also a great chance that you do know some things about them or someone else you admire, perhaps a favorite actor, director, or band member. But do you know them personally? No. Therefore you have an indirect relationship with that person built off of second hand information, whether from the media or a biography. I personally know way to much about the band Mutemath, I know their origins, their secret projects, their never released songs, instrument specs, performance routines and other nerdy details that many people do not know. But this does not mean I know Paul Meaney, Darren King, or any of the other band members. I only know about them. This represents many peoples religion towards God. They lack the personal relationship with God because they are only ping-ponging off of people to know God or Jesus, this should not be so. Mary’s prayers to Jesus are no more effective than yours, St. Paul’s intercession is no more powerful than your saved Grandma’s. God is not a respecter of persons! Pray for yourself or ask your living friends to pray for you if you want agreement and help with an issue. Besides, concerning prayers of the (dead) saints, there is not Biblical proof that saints in heaven pray to God at all or hear our prayers.
Designed for Relationship
God made us relational; in the Garden of Eden before sin came in to the picture Adam and Eve had a personal one on one relationship with God on the Earth. Thus we can conclude that it was never in God’s original plan to have indirect relationship with Him. God has always wanted man to be able to come to Him personally without the assistance of any other man or work. However, God established the office and duty of the High Priest in the Old Testament to show us that we needed a savior to be our offering and our intercessor forever. The problem was that the required level of perfection and purity that was needed to approach God could never be achieved by any human because of their fallen state. So this circular problem was solved by the fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem mankind through Jesus.
Isa 53:12 – Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
Rom 8:34 – Who [is] he who condemns? [It is] Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Hbr 7:25 – Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
And concerning prayer to God we can pray to Him in the name of Jesus because only by His work can we have access to God fully. Therefore we do not need any saint or human dead or alive to take or relay our prayers of any kind to God for we can pray straight to Him.
1Ti 2:5 – For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
Hbr 9:15 – And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Jhn 14:13 – And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Replacing the Holy Spirit
St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, “…Now, Mary being the most conformed of all creatures to Jesus Christ, it follows that, of all devotions, that which most consecrates and conforms the soul to Our Lord is devotion to His holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to Mary, the more it is consecrated to Jesus” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 120).
St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, “The more, then, that you gain the favour of that august Princess and faithful Virgin, the more will you act by pure faith; … a faith active and piercing, which like a mysterious skeleton key, will give you entrance into all the mysteries of Jesus, the ultimate goal of man, and into the heart of God Himself…”
(Treatise on True Devotion, n. 214)
These writings harmonize with much of Catholic literature in claiming that Mary leads us on the best path to know Jesus and His mysteries. This however does not line up with scripture for we find that these duties belong to the Holy Spirit.
1Cor 12:3…no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
2Cor13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit [be] with you all. Amen.
Jhn 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
1Jhn 5:6 …And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.
1Jhn 4:1 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God
We also see that the holy Spirit is our comforter, teacher, counselor and many other things to us. He is like the personal assistant to the believer that desires to be closer to God and know Him more. The Holy Spirit speaks to us the truth of Christ and leads us to know God, especially as we pray and read His Word. This description closely fits the Catholics description of Mary but without the Biblical foundation. ( For more on the attributes of the Holy Spirit see my previous post: “Activities of the Holy Spirit” )
My point: a human intercessor is not necessary or in God’s will to get you closer to God (I am not saying pastors or Christian fellowship is unnecessary).We can approach Christ freely through faith, anytime, anywhere no matter how much sin we may be in we can come to Him and receive forgiveness. And because of that unconditional forgiveness we can approach God personally and directly.
Hbr 4:14 – Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] confession.
Hbr 4:15 – For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all [points] tempted as [we are], [yet] without sin.