WAS MARY ‘IMMACULATE’ (Without Sin)?
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Wherefore, as by one man sin enteredminto the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that ALL HAVE SINNED: (Romans 5:12)
If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:10)
The Lord looked down from heaven upon he children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are ALL gone aside, they are all together become filthy: THERE IS NONE HAT DOETH GOOD, NO NOT ONE. (Psalm 14:2 & 3; Ps. 53:3)
There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
If they sin against thee (FOR THERE IS NO MAN THAT SINNETH NOT)… (2 Chron. 6:36 & 1 Kings 8:46)
As it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no not one:’ (Rom. 3:10)
The scriptures are clear on this universal truth: that all have sinned. There is no one who does not sin.
Is Mary, the Mother of Christ wihout sin?
The doctrinal premise for this belief insofar as I understand it is that Christ cannot inhabit an unclean vessel, and so logically, since He came throuh Mary she must have been without sin in order to carry the sinless Christ. In fact, a lot of protestants misunderstand the doctrine called the ‘Immaculate conception,’ assuming that it means that Jesus was without sin at conception. Actually, it means that MARY was wihout sin when she conceived Christ.
Now, I can appreciate the logic of the thinking – and I hope that I don’t seem to be making a straw-man arguement with this – but despite any assumed logic, plain statement of scripture clearly shows us that ALL have sinned. We need to believe scripture, or else we are in heresy.
I have further heard it argued that since Jesus was without sin, He is therefore an exception to this biblical plain statement, which thereby shows here are exceptions to it. Thus, Mary also is an exception (as based on the logic above).
Jesus obviously is an exception to that, because just as there are several plain statement scriptures declaring that ALL have sinned, there are also a plethora of plain statement scriptures declaring that Christ was without sin:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN. (Hebrews 4:15)
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time WITHOUT SIN unto salvation. (Heb. 9:28)
He hath made him[Christ] to be sin for us WHO KNEW NO SIN; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21)
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22)
And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
So scripture shows us a rule: ALL have sinned. And AN (one) exception: Jesus.
Of course Jesus is the exception, He is the perfect sacrifice for our sins; just as it says: He who knew no sin was made sin that we might be the righteousness of God through substitutionary atonement. Jesus is God in the flesh. God cannot lie or sin. Having come as a man, He, and He alone according to the testimony of scripture is the exception to this rule. Just as there are a plethora of scriptures declaring that all have sinned, there are also a plethora of scriptures showing Christ to be the exception.
So, not only does scripture confirm that Jesus is the exception, but it also gives us the clear reason and purpose for His sinlessness: that He might die in our place and vicariously bestow His perfect innocence on us. God sent His Son because He alone could be perfectly righteous and do this work of salvation for us, and being without sin was THE REASON which substitutionary atonement works: The righteous died for the wicked.
Did Mary die for our sins? Is she sinless in order that we may be cleansed through HER? No, that is blasphemy. But, she doesn’t need to be without sin because Jesus died to bestow His righteousness upon us all.
Further, if Jesus needed biblical plain statement to reveal that He was without sin – and He did because the scriptures clearly teach that ALL have sinned – are there any similar verses revealing that anyone else (Mary in particular, as she is the subject at hand) are also exceptions to that?
Spoiler alert from a guy who’s read through the bible a few times: no, there isn’t. There are no plain statement scriptures declaring Mary to be without sin. (By all means, if I’m mistaken show me the verses that declare Mary sinless because I’ve read the bible several times and haven’t found anything close to such a statement in there.)
So, with the biblical precedent clearly stated through scripture support for he idea that Mary was ‘immaculate,’ as an exception must also be found in the biblical narrative as is the case for Christ. Thus while I appreciate the logic of the argument that in order to bear the Lord, she must be without sin, yet this is not a biblical testimony but a theological assumption, and as such it assumes contrary to biblical plain statement.
WAS MARY ‘EVER A VIRGIN’?
Along with this goes the notion that Mary was ‘ever a virgin.’ I.e. that she remained permanantly a virgin even after the birth of Christ. She certainly was a virgin when Christ (who was concieved not of the flesh, but of the Holy Ghost) was born. Yet the teaching of the church of Rome is that she remained ever a virgin.
I think that this doctrine goes on the heels of the sinlessness of Mary. Sex in the confines of heterosexual marriage is not sin. Still, if she was ‘immaculate’, how could she do something dirty like lose her virginity (you know what that involves don’t you?! *prudish shudder*)?
However if we’re just using logic to form our theological assumptions, consider this one: Mary and Joseph did get married. Scripture not only allows sex in [heterosexual] marriage but also encourages it; in fact, it not only encourages it, but COMMANDS IT. In the begining, God commanded the man and his wife to be fruitful, and multiply (Genesis 1:28), and the biblical stated purpose of marriage is that the two ‘become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24) which is a very clear euphemism for… *clears throat, glances from side to side* you know what *nudge, nudge, raises eyebrows with a suggestive smirk*.
Additionally, we know from the teaching’s of Paul (in scripture) that with regard to sexuality, a wife should do her duty to her husband and vice-versa (1 Cor. 7:3-5). One could just as easily argue that if she did remain a virgin after marriage that she was in sin on the basis of these biblical principles. (I know, the ready argument is that Joseph agreed to marriage with her, thereby renouncing sex and living in celebate marriage. Yet I really just have to point back to those biblical principles, and ask again whether there was any special exemption for them from following God’s word?)
Now, the reason that most protestants ussually give from scripture about whether Mary remained a virgin are references to the brothers and sisters of Jesus (Mark 6:3, 3:31, John 2:12, 7:3, etc.). However, since you’ve all heard that one before, and the Roman argument against it is that the Greek word used in certain contexts COULD mean ‘cousins’ rather than brothers/ sisters (although, interestingly, even the Douay-Rheims translates it ‘brothers’).
The reason which I will point out is that scripture calls Jesus Mary’s FIRSTBORN Son (Matt. 1:25; Luke 2:7), rather than her only Son. Why would the scriptural writers call Jesus Mary’s FIRSTBORN, if in fact He were the only?
The term ‘firstborn’ intrinsically implies that there are others that followed, the usage of the word itself is evidence of following children. Was it a Greek term employed in the absence of another appropriate word, or term? Definitively no. Jesus is clearly called GOD’S ‘only begotten’ Son. The expression in this case (used several times, EX: John 1:14 & 18; 3:16 & 18; 1 John 4:9) leaves no room for misunderstanding: Jesus is the only begotten Son of the Father. Yet in the context of Mary, He is not her ‘only begotten,’ or even simply her ‘only’ Son (EX :Luke 7:12), or even just her Son with no clarifying adjective, but her FIRSTBORN Son. And if Matthew had gotten it wrong, Luke had the opportunity to refer to Jesus as Mary’s only Son, but he also used the term ‘firstborn.’
If Mary had no other children ‘firstborn’ is not only an innappropriate adjective, but also downright misleading where the adjective ‘only’ or even no adjective at all would have sufficed and better explained the relationship. As it is, the use of ‘firstborn’ gives clarity to the context of the Greek word which some say should be tranlated ‘cousins’ or ‘close kin;’ they were latter-born brothers/ sisters whicn means Mary was not ‘ever a virgin.’
DOES MARY’S INTERCESSION GIVE US GREATER FAVOR WITH GOD?
Okay, so this question is why I’m going ahead and writing this post.
If you are a member of the church of Rome and are reading this (well… you probably haven’t gotten this far, but if you have:) I am not coming at this question from the typical Protestant perspctive of: ‘Praying to saints is idolatry, period.’
I understand the theology to be that dead saints have joined the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ and that death cannot seperate them from the Church, Christ’s body, thus ‘prayers’ to the saints are really more like requesting prayer from somone you know in the church. I get that (don’t wholly agree, but I understand it and am not [exactly] approaching the question from this angle).
A Romanist friend of mine carefully explained praying to Mary to me; that since she is the ‘mother of God’ (which phrase I’ll also look at) and presently in heaven, she has direct access to God in her prayers. While we, sinners, must petition God from a place not equal with hers, we bid Mary to be the intermediary which brings God’s favor on our behalf because it is she advocating for us. Simlpy put: she – being more rightous than we – can make our petitions acceptable to God.
If you are a Romanist and think I’m misrepresenting, please let me know but I think that is a decent u derstanding of the process. I repeated this concept back to my Romanist friend who approved that I did seem to understand it.
In fact, when I repeated back my understanding of his perspective, he said: “Yeah, so you can see it’s not idolatry.”
To which my response was: “I still think it’s idolatry.” He seemed a bit frustrated by this and asked in essence (I don’t recall his exact words: “If you understand the Catholic perspective, how can you still think it’s idolatry – how is it idolatry to ask someone for prayer?”
Well, I’ll tell you.
I appreciate when others pray for me, and I do sometimes ask people to pray for me. But what is the content and purpose of their prayer? I would never ask anyone to pray for me in order to make me, and my prayers more acceptable to God. Why not? Because that is the role of JESUS’ BLOOD. Christ’s sacrifice for my sin – and that alone – makes me acceptable to God. To think that anyone’s prayers can add to the work of Christ’s blood in making me the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21) is not only doctrinally erroneous, it’s blasphemy.
So here’s the problem: petitioning Mary (or any other saint) to bring our requests to God on the basis that they are more righteous than we is the same as denying that Jesus blood has made us the righteousness of God. By such prayers we deny the work of Christ’s blood, and simultaneously elevate men in it’s place. This doctrine puts Mary in the place of the blood of Jesus Christ. It’s blasphemy against the blood of Jesus. Only Jesus’ blood makes us acceptable in the eyes of God, only His atonement makes us the righteousness of God.
He hath made him[Christ] to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21)
The concept of petitioning Mary (or any saint) because she has direct access to God ALSO defaces the work of Christ in our behalf; through Christ’s blood, not only are we made THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD, we also have direct access to God:
Having therefore brethren boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh: and having an high priest over the house of God [in context this ‘high priest’ is Jesus, not Mary, nor any other saint] Let us draw near with a true heart IN FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water [water baptism] Let us hold fast the profession of faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Hebrews 10:19-23)
Now, I quoted the fuller content of that passage because not only does the passage teach that we have full access to God through the sacrifice of Christ for our sins, it also exhorts us to hold fast to faith in the work of His blood without wavering. To ask anyone, living or dead to intercede on your behalf on account of their own righteousness, or nearness to God IS TO NOT HAVE FAITH IN THE WORK OF JESUS’ BLOOD. Not only so, but it is also putting faith in someone or something else to accomplish what only Jesus’ blood can do. This actually ADDS an intermediary between you and God; you no longer have the direct access to God which Jesus blood gives you, you have access THROUGH another person.
Yes, I 100% believe it’s idolatry. But actually, it’s worse than idolatry, it is blasphemy against the blood of Jesus.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:28 & 29)
If you have been deceived into this practice, I bid you repent and put your faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross for your righteousness, and direct access to God. Asking Mary (or any saint) to pray for us “now and in the hour of our death,” or at any time at all to make you acceptable with God is a false hope of salvation. Worse, it means you are putting faith in something other than Jesus blood for your salvation and will, itself, damn you.
Ok, I was going to address ‘Mary the Mother of God,’ but I suppose I’ll do so only briefly because if you are honestly open to the message of the Gospel, rather than following the traditions of men, I think what is said thus far is sufficeint. If you are merely reading this so you can learn to argue Mariology with Protestants, then it’s not likely anything I say will convince you anyhow. Yet even if I disprove by scripture Romanist Mariology, the lynchpin of the Roman faith is the Papacy, and many will choose to believe the teaching of Roman tradition rather than scripture because they believe Christ istituted the Papacy (see also post: Why I’m not a Roman Catholic on the Papacy), therefore ‘holy orders,’ and tradition become equal to scripture. Believe the Gospel, it is so much more True than any peripheral or tradition, that the peripherals and traditions will be shown for what they are (true or false) in the lamp of our love for the Gospel.
So I’ll just say: Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ’s physical body. We should reverence her role appropriately as a godly woman full worthy of emulation. To call her the ‘mother of God’ is to deify her; she did not give birth to God, she gave birth to Jesus’ body – which shows her for what she actually is: a prophetic typology of the Church (you know ‘Mother Church’ (to use another Romanist expression)).
Refering to her as God’s mother creates a wrong perception whether or not you are Protestant or Roman Catholic; it unrightly implies that she is the originator of God, thus deifying her in our consciousness.
As I don’t delight in polemics (which may surprise you), but reasoning for the advancement of the Gospel, I’d like to round this off with some right biblical Mariology:
Mary is, as I have just mentioned, typology of the Church. In Revelation 12 John chronicles his vision of the birth of Christ; revealed is a woman clothed with the sun and twelve stars about her head. The Roman tradition is that this is Mary, the second Eve; this is not entirely accurate but it is in many ways more accurate than the now common view among many evangelicals that she is the earthly nation of Israel.
The woman clothed with the sun who give birth to Christ is the New Jerusalem: the True Catholic [universal] Church; she is the elect. Only the Church, New Jerusalem can be both the mother and the bride of Christ.
Just as God declared that the seed of the woman [Christ] would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15); and just as the first Adam prophesied to his wife that she would be called Eve, and would be he mother of ‘all living’ (Gen. 3:20) so it is that the bride of Christ (who is the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:22 & 45)) is the mother of ‘all living,’ that is: all those who have eternal life through faith in Christ. Just as Jesus is the second Adam, the Catholic interpretation of this passage rightly equates the passage with the second Eve.
Yet the Romanist interpretation wrongly holds Mary herself as the literal second Eve; she did indeed bear and birth Christ literally, howbeit it is the Church: New Jerusalem which is biblically the mother of all who have eternal life:
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Have you put faith in Christ? Are you born again, from above? This is only possible because Christ has established His body, the Church through whom, and for whom He came into the earth to crush the serpent’s head, and bring you to eternal life through His work on the cross.
Fix your faith in Jesus’ blood, friend; by it alone are you made righteous; by it alone are you brought into His body, the Church and given eternal life.