Monthly Archives: December 2012

Click here to see the video.

This has long been one of my favorite messages. Some people may want to come to Christ because they are genuinely concerned about their salvation but might have doubts about whether the gospel is meant for them. Ralph Erskine does a great job assuring such people that the word of salvation is truly meant for them.

It is probably too long to post here, so here is a link to a PDF of it: The Word of Salvation Sent to Sinners (by Ralph Erskine)

It is well worth taking the time to read it through.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, … (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV)

It’s a common debate between Catholics and Protestants: The Protestant will quote the above verse to disprove the Roman Catholic teaching on Mary as co-mediatrix with Christ. The Catholic will respond by pointing to verse one of the same chapter, where Paul urges that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” So all Christians, the Catholic says, are called to be mediators between God and men in some way. Why, then, can’t Mary be a co-mediatrix with Christ?

At first this seems like a reasonable response—until we see that the two kinds of mediation mentioned in this passage are entirely different. The one mentioned in v. 1 is a very limited mediation that all believers are commanded to do and consists only in prayer; the other is a mediation by Christ alone to bring about salvation. That this is such a mediation cannot be denied, since v. 6 describes Christ as the one “who gave himself as a ransom for all.”

The mediation that the Catholic Church attributes to Mary does not consist solely in prayer to God for people; it is much more than that. Section 62 of the document Lumen Gentium has this to say (emphasis added):

62. This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.(15*) By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and cultics, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix.(16*) This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.(17*)

Despite the disclaimer at the end of this paragraph, the boldfaced text above indicates that the Catholic Church clearly attributes to Mary a role that goes beyond mere intercession into the realm of “bring[ing] us the gifts of eternal salvation.” Moreover, her duty is called salvific, and she is said to care for Christians. In fact, the Catholic Church portrays Mary as holding an office that is remarkably like that of Christ’s, calling her Advocate and Mediatrix. Therefore, the Catholic implication that Mary’s mediation is like the limited mediation described in v. 1 falls flat.

So when Catholics respond to the Protestant’s use of the above verse by saying that Mary’s mediation is like the lesser form described in v. 1, they are really going against what Lumen Gentium says. In reality, according to official Catholic teaching, her level of mediation resembles Christ’s in striking respects.

There are people today who separate themselves from the local church and feel they are perfectly justified in doing so. The New Testament, however, has much to say about this, and when we look at relevant passages, we can see that doing so is a dire sin. The Scriptures know nothing of living the Christian life by oneself, in isolation from the body of Christ.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1 John 5:1)

If you don’t long for fellowship with other children of God, do you really love God?

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10–11)

It is impossible to obey this passage’s command to use our gifts to serve one another if we are not plugged into a local body of believers and involved on a regular basis. Our spiritual gifts are given to us to “serve one another,” as the text plainly says, not to keep them to ourselves. If we don’t use our spiritual gifts to serve others, are we perhaps like the man in Jesus’ parable who buried his talent and hid it and produced no profit with it (Matthew 25:14–30)?

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:1–6)

This text not only commands us to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, but it says to be eager to do so. That means we should go out of our way to maintain unity in the church. It is obvious that those who separate from the church are doing the opposite because they are contributing to disunity. Breaking off and separating—unless they have good biblical reason to do so—simply fractures the church further than it already is.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, … (Eph. 4:7–11)

Continuing in Ephesians 4, we see another indication why separating from the church is sinful. Christ Himself gave gifts to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. If we separate from the church, we cut ourselves off from those gifts and essentially say that we don’t need them. That is certainly contrary to God’s will. The gifts mentioned are absolutely vital to the church’s life, health and growth, and so cutting ourselves off from them will result inevitably in a decrease in our own spiritual health. Again, that is something contrary to God’s will.

… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Eph. 4:12–14)

Here the apostle explains why the aforementioned gifts of men to the church are so vital to her health and growth. It is through them that God equips the saints for ministry, builds up the body of Christ, and brings the church to maturity for her protection from error. To separate oneself from the church, then, is to remove oneself from God’s divinely appointed means of spiritual growth and protection. Can that be anything less than dangerous, not to mention an affront to our wonderful Christ, who graciously provided those gifts?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:15–16)

Notice that Paul here not only mentions growing up but specifically growing up into the head, Christ. He also mentions that Christ is the source of that growth. There is, then, no growing apart from being connected with the church, and particularly with those men whom Christ has given as gifts to the church.

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Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.