Since the garden humans have faced the temptation to listen to an authority claiming to compete with God’s authority. Since the beginning voices have questioned, “has God really said?” Since the beginning voices have raised doubts about whether there is really one way to God? In Adam’s case that way was perfect obedience to God’s holy law, which Adam was capable of rendering since he was created in righteousness and true holiness. Mysteriously he chose not to render that obedience and, in so doing, plunged himself and all of us into sin, death, and darkness. After the fall God graciously came to us and offered us a substitute, a Second Adam (Romans 5), the Last Adam (1Cor 15:45), who would obey for us, whose obedience and death would be credited to all those who believe (Gen 3:14–16). He would do what the first Adam refused to do. He would obey in the place of everyone the Father gave to him (John 10; ch. 17) and he would lay down his life to secure their redemption and that salvation and acceptance with God is received through faith alone in Jesus the Mediator. The entire history of redemption was a preparation for the coming of the Mediator. Progressively we learned that Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David were not that mediator. They were all sinners. Of that list, most of those put their trust in the Mediator for their salvation (Hebrews 11). Time and again we found that the man who might have seemed to have been the hero, the Redeemers, was, in fact, another of the redeemed.
So it is no surprise that gradually through the history of the church after the close of the apostolic age some Christians gradually began to look for other mediators. The late patristic church began to turn memorial feasts held in honor of believers who had died into something more. Over the years, as Jesus came to be considered more and more remote and solely in regard to his royal office (as distinct from his priestly office), we began to lose sight of the fact that he alone is our Mediator, the God-Man, who was tempted in every respect as we are yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He alone has power and authority to help the helpless, he alone has the right to stand before the Father on our behalf, to make our prayers known, to represent us before the Father. This, of course, is one of the great messages of the book of Hebrews. Just as Jewish Christians in the mid-60s AD had been tempted to turn away from Jesus and back to Moses, the medieval church too needed a great reminder that Jesus is the only way. The medieval church accumulated a great number of saints days, imposed a church calendar in which each day was assigned a saint, and Christians began to seek help and intercession from Christians (saints) who had been declared by the church to have special standing. Eventually this came to include the Virgin Mary. It should be noted, however, that much of what the Roman communion today confesses about the blessed virgin was hotly controversial among orthodox Christians in the medieval church and, indeed, was promulgated as dogma only in the 16th and 20th centuries. The Roman communion is a Tridentine (i.e., from the sixteenth-century Council of Trent) communion. What we see in the Roman communion today, which is often represented as the ancient catholic practice of the church, is not actually patristic or biblical or, in many cases, even medieval.
In the Reformation, the Protestants and particularly the Reformed repudiated all competitors to Jesus as Mediator (including intercession with God).1 In the Belgic Confession (1561) the Reformed confessed:
Suppose we had to find another intercessor. Who would love us more than he who gave his life for us, even though “we were his enemies”? And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as much of these as he who is seated “at the right hand of the Father,” and who has all power “in heaven and on earth”? And who will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son?
So then, sheer unbelief has led to the practice of dishonoring the saints, instead of honoring them. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused (Belgic Confession, art. 26).
The Reformation restored biblical and ancient Christian doctrine and practice by returning to Jesus alone (solus Christus) as the only Mediator between God and man. If this seems like a radical thing to say, then the Apostle Paul was a radical:
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…. (1 Tim 2:4),
This unequivocal declaration is flatly contrary to the Roman dogma that the blessed virgin is a mediatrix. She is not. She is blessed not because she hears our prayers (she does not, death confers glorification but neither omniscience or omnipresence) but because the Lord blessed her by allowing her to become, in the language of Definition of Chalcedon (451 AD) the Godbearer (θεοτοκος). Our Lord Jesus, in his holy incarnation, took his humanity from the virgin Mary. In the Apostles’ Creed (not actually written by the Apostles but which is received by the churches as a summary of apostolic doctrine) Christians confess that Christ was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.”2
Scripture, however, says nothing, however, to lead us to seek to communicate with Mary after her death. To that point, Scripture says nothing that would lead us to think that she went to be with the Lord without dying. It is a fine thing to honor her faith and piety and particularly to remember why she is blessed, which turns the focus back where it ought to be—upon our Lord Jesus—but it is quite improper to regard her as anything more than a mere Christian, who, like all other Christians, was utterly dependent upon God’s grace for her own salvation—Mary too was a sinner—and upon the imputation of the perfect obedience and death of her son, the Son of God, for all his people for acceptance with God. As Reformed Christians confess in the Belgic Confession, she would be horrified to know that millions of Christians are calling out to her for help and intercession, instead of calling out to her Son whom she and we know to be the only Mediator between God and man.
This is why we say in Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 29:
29. Why is the Son of God called JESUS, that is, Savior?
Because He saves us from our sins, and because salvation is not to be sought or found in any other.
As we saw in the previous posts on this topic, Scripture expressly says (Matt 1:21, which the catechism here quotes) that Jesus’ name means “he shall save his people.” That is why there is “no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is why it is sheer superstition to call upon saints. They cannot help us. They are not Jesus. They are not God the Son incarnate. Only Jesus is.
Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus alone is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” because he alone is our substitute and our representative before God. Mary did not obey and die for us. St. Christopher did not obey and die for us. Further, Mary, St Anne, and St Christopher are not God incarnate. Jesus is. They do not love us more than Jesus. They did not lay down their lives for us nor did they take them up again for our justification. The government is upon Christ’s shoulders, not the shoulders of saints (Isa 9:7). This was Paul’s argument to the Corinthians:
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1Cor 1:13)
The expected answer is, “No! Of course not.”
Thus, as Hebrews says, Jesus, not saints, “always lives to make intercession” for us.
A great number of Christians, something like 60 million in North America alone, however, regularly call on the names of saints for help and intercession. We say:
30. Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?
No, although they make their boast of Him, yet in deeds they deny the only Savior Jesus, for either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior, must have in Him all that is necessary to their salvation.
One cannot have Jesus and not have him. Either he is the Savior or he is not. Implicitly the Ronmanist dogma of the intercession by the saints reduces Jesus to but half a Savior. We do not boast in anyone except in the righteousness of Christ credited to us (1Cor 1:31; 2Cor 10:17). We do not boast in or stand on or rest in our personal sanctity or in that of any mere human, including the saints. We rest only in the unique, perfect, condign merits and perfect righteousness of Christ.3
Inasmuch as calling upon saints for help and intercession offers something other to God than what Christ accomplished once for all, it is a form of the works righteousness that Paul condemned in Galatians 5:4. It is through Christ alone that sinners are reconciled with God (Col 1:20). we received the free favor of God (grace) from him, not from saints (John 1:16).
It may seem pious to invoke saints or the blessed virgin but it is not. It diminishes Christ’s person and finished work. Once more, Christ did not say, “I have made it possible for you to do your part, to call upon saints, to cooperate with grace unto eventual acceptance with God.” No, he said, “It is finished.” He accomplished our salvation once for all with his death. He applies it freely by his sovereign Holy Spirit and it to him alone that we should turn to find help and upon him we should rest as he stands before the Father for us.
Here are all the posts on the Heidelberg Catechism.
1. The Augsburg Confession, Art. 21 says:
Touching the worship of saints, they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works according to our calling; as the Emperor may follow David’s example in making war to drive away the Turks from his country; for either of them is a king. But the Scripture teacheth not to invocate saints, or to ask help of saints, because it propoundeth unto us one Christ the Mediator, Propitiatory, High-Priest, and Intercessor. This Christ is to be invocated, and he hath promised that he will hear our prayers, and liketh this worship especially, to wit, that he be invocated in all afflictions. ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with God, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2:1).
Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882), 26.
2. qui conceptus estde Spiritu sancto, natus ex Maria virgine.
3. This language is virtually identical to the language used in Belgic Confession art. 26. In his lectures on the catechism, Ursinus gave a thorough response to the Romanist dogma of the intercession of the saints. That portion is available here.
Good day. My prayers I ask for you and all who read. You have some very good reading here. For that I commend you. I did not find the comments policy. As such, I hope I don’t violate any of them. It is certainly not my intentions to do so. I also have not found my question or anything to answer it on your site. If it has been asked and answered please forgive me for nit searching more, and if you would be so humble to do so, then please provide a link or directions to get to the answer.
The question I have is this: I completely agree, and always have as a Christian, with there being only one that can save…one body, one God, one Savior, and one name. One body: the body of Christ, which in turn is the Church, the Church he made, Christ’s Church. One name: Christ. So the only way to be saved is through the Church of Christ. No other “church” can save us. Any in disagreement would be wrong according to the word of God. Now since to be saved one must do so through the Church of Christ and it is the only way, how then, or more so, why, knowing this, would any even consider wearing any other name or being members of any other name ither than the only one that can save? There are thousands of denominations, whose members falsely claim to be Christians. I say falsely because there is no salvation in any other name beside Christ’s nor any other body-hus Church, and they all bare another name than Christian, and are members of a “church” other than Christ’s Church. In so doing they worship in vain. Much of this you too have confirmed as believing. To use any other name besides Christian is wrong. This includes ALL that go by any other name. Ie: Catholic, Baptist, Assembly of God, Mormon, Quaker, Amish, and many, many more. (and here is the question) Would it not also include those calling themselves Protestants? One is either a Christian or one is not. One cannot be a Christian and something else. These are things written in the Bible. They are also written in this website. So how can you justify using another name to call oneself? I cannot, or have not. I don’t believe on can wear any ither name, but I realize I could be wrong, and that is why I ask.
Thank you for your time.