Today I want to unpack our access to God. The Catholic Church and the Protestant Church differ significantly on this point.
To start with the obvious, Catholics have significant affections for Mary. One only needs to drive through a Catholic town and see the small statues of Mary with tiny houses covering her. In addition to this, if you walk into a Catholic Church you will hear people reciting the “Hail Mary” which is as follows: “Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The “Hail Mary” is a prayer to Mary. Some Catholics will argue that they are not praying to Mary, but the Vatican says otherwise. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God….This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria:” (http://www.vatican.va)
The question is why? Why does the Catholic Church put so much emphasis on Mary? Like many things within the Catholic Church, this belief evolved over a significant period of time. In 431 A.D. at the council of Ephesus they first declared Mary to be the “Mother of God.” Sometime after 1000 A.D. some people within the Church claimed she was without sin, and it finally took official hold in 1854 and was officially taught by the Roman Catholic Church. It was not until 1950 that the Romans Catholic Church began to teach of Mary’s bodily assumption. With each step, Mary was exulted higher and higher. Today there is a growing movement to officially declare Mary as a co-redemptrix or a mediatrix (i.e. a female redeemer). And as I stated in my first blog, as the Roman Catholic Church declares these things, they become the Words of God, because they have made themselves equal with God in regards to authority.
On the other hand, Protestants entirely reject the Catholic position on Mary. Why? Once again, because of the Bible. Protestants allow the Bible to be the ultimate authority, therefore, every teaching is held up against the Word of God to see if it fits. The exultation of Mary does not fit.
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5).
God makes it abundantly clear that there is only one person who stands in the gap between sinful man and a Holy God, and it is Jesus, not Mary, nor anyone else. Likewise in Hebrews 9:15 it states, “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant.” Then again in Hebrews 12:24, “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
And Jesus Christ being the one and only mediator makes sense, for in order for a person to stand between a Holy God and sinful man they would need a foot in both realms, and Jesus is the only one who has these qualifications. He was fully God and fully man. Mary was not. She was fully human, both of her parents were human. She was a descendant of Adam from both branches of her family tree; which leads to my next point.
Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—.“ Mary was a sinner, like you and I, therefore disqualified from being a mediator. Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Mary was without sin. In fact the opposite was true. Mary herself claimed she needed a Savior. Luke 1:46-47, “And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” You only need a Savior if you need saved. Only sinners need saved.
In addition, we see her sin in the pages of Scripture. Mark 3:20-21, “Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Then a few verse later, verses 31-35 we see this, “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mary and her sons were on a mission to go and stop Jesus from doing the will of God. This is the definition of sin, to resist the will of God. Did Mary need a Savior? Absolutely; just like I do, and you do.
This leads me to my final point, should people pray to Mary? Once again, there is nothing in the Bible that even hints to praying to Mary, or to anyone else except to God. Jesus himself teaches us to pray, “Our Father.” Because of Jesus we have access to God and we can approach him boldly in prayer. Jesus encourages our prayers to Him and through Him in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
So again, is there a difference between Catholics and Protestants? Yes, an immense one. Who is correct? I encourage you to look at the evidence and decide for yourself. As always, I would love to discuss this more if you have questions, so do not hesitate to contact me and we can sit down and pursue truth together.