Archive for the ‘Intercession’ Category

Belief in God is more than Believing God Exists

January 21, 2013

These days people often use the phrase “believe in X” to mean, basically, “believe that X is real” or “believe that X exists.” That’s one reason I sometimes find it helpful to use “believe on Jesus Christ,” when explaining the gospel to people, rather than “believe in Jesus Christ”: it is one thing to believe that Jesus exists and another thing to trust in Jesus Christ.

One great verse to evidence this difference can be found in the following passage:

John 14:1-14
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”
Thomas saith unto him, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?”
Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.”
Philip saith unto him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.”
Jesus saith unto him, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.”

It is easy for us to read this simply as readers of the gospel – as if Jesus were addressing us as his primary audience through the text itself.

These words of Jesus, however, were addressed to his first century audience – particularly the apostles that were right in front of him. The first apostle to interject a question is doubting Thomas. The second is Philip. Both of these men knew full well that Jesus existed. That wasn’t the question for them.

The question for them was one of trusting in Jesus as they trusted in God the Father.

Of course, it would be totally inappropriate for the apostles to trust in Jesus as though would trust in God, unless Jesus was also God.

Moreover, notice that Jesus says that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. This demonstrates for us the foolishness of offering prayers in any other name but the name of Jesus.

Is there any reason to think if we ask anything in Mary’s name, Mary will do it? If we ask anything in Jude’s name, will Jude do it? We have no reason to suppose so from Scripture. Indeed, such a view undermines Jesus’ point that he fulfills prayers offered to him.

We are often encouraged to believe in Jesus, but never to believe in Mary, the angels, or any of the saints. On the contrary:

Psalm 146:3
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

Psalm 118:8-9
It is better to trust in the Lord
  than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
  than to put confidence in princes.

So, if you do not already do so, put all your trust and confidence only in the one Lord, Jesus Christ.


Prayers for the Dead and Marian Intercession

September 8, 2011

“I pray that, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate whom he so greatly venerated, the Lord may welcome this faithful pastor of the Gospel and the Church into His Kingdom of eternal joy and peace”, the Pope concludes.

(Vatican Information Service, 5 September 2011)

Notice that here the Pope is explicitly requesting Marian intercession for a dead Cardinal (Cardinal Deskur). This falls into the category of prayers “through” Mary (as opposed to prayers simply to Mary) and of prayers “for” the dead.

I know that some of Rome’s advocates are fond of saying that one is “just asking Mary to pray” in one’s prayers to Mary.  Actually, though, the goal here is for the prayed-for person to be accepted on the basis of Mary, that is to say, on the basis of her person and merits.  While this is not completely explicit, notice that she’s described as “immaculate.”  This is the wrong way to pray.

Our prayers are to be God through the intercession of Jesus Christ, our one mediator.  Only Christ’s merits form a sufficient basis for the intercession we need.  Christ is not simply the best mediator, he is the only mediator.

It is also foolish to pray for the dead.  They have already either entered into Heaven or Hell.  There is no third place from which they need to be freed in order to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  The pope’s teaching here is consistent with his own church’s dogmas, but not with the Scriptures.

It seems doubly foolish for the pope to pray for the dead in this way.  Does he not supposedly possess the ability to release souls from Purgatory by means of indulgence?  Why not simply declare the Cardinal free himself rather than hoping that Mary will intercede for him?  This aspect of the pope’s messages seems out of line with the traditional view of Purgatory – or at least rather odd, considering that the pope evidently feels kindly toward the deceased Cardinal.

To put it in another way, isn’t this rather like telling a naked and hungry man, “be warmed and fed,” but not actually giving him food and clothing?  Perhaps there is more to the story, but it certainly inconsistent for the pope not to exercise his own papal prerogatives, if he really wants the Cardinal to get out of Purgatory.

Finally, perhaps it is worth pointing out that the pope acknowledged that the Cardinal engaged in the veneration of Mary.  Moreover, the pope recognized that he did so to a notable degree “so greatly,” the English text reads.  Cardinal Foley put it this way:

Cardinal Deskur had a particular love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his apartment door carried the sign “Casa di Maria” (house of Mary). He was quite devoted to his most recent responsibilities as President of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate Conception.

(Catholic News Agency)

Do my readers in the Roman communion want to tell me that this “veneration” isn’t “worship”?  I suppose some will.  But I think most people can see that this kind of religious devotion is worship.


Charles Hodge on Intercession of Saints

October 15, 2008
Charles Hodge
Intercession of Saints
(extracted from his Systematic Theology)

There is but one Mediator between God and man, and but one High Priest through whom we draw near to God. And as intercession is a priestly function, it follows that Christ is our only intercessor. But as there is a sense in which all believers are kings and priests unto God, which is consistent with Christ’s being our only king and priest; so there is a sense in which one believer may intercede for another, which is not inconsistent with Christ’s being our only intercessor. By intercession in the case of believers is only meant that one child of God may pray for another or for all men. To intercede is in this sense merely to pray for. But in the case of Christ it expresses an official act, which none who does not fill his office can perform. As under the old economy one Israelite could pray for his brethren, but only the High Priest could enter within the veil and officially interpose in behalf of the people; so now, although we may pray, one for another, Christ only can appear as a priest before God in our behalf and plead his merits as the ground on which his prayers for his people should be answered.

Protestants object to the intercession of saints as taught and practised in the Church of Rome.

1. Because it supposes a class of beings who do not exist; that is, of canonized departed spirits. It is only those who, with the angels, have been officially declared by the Church, on account of their merits, to be now in heaven, who are regarded as intercessors.

This, however, is an unauthorized assumption on the part of the Church. It has no prerogative to enable it thus to decide, and to enroll whom it will among glorified spirits. Often those thus dignified have been real enemies of God, and persecutors of his people.

2. It leads to practical idolatry. Idolatry is the ascription of divine attributes to a creature. In the popular mind the saints, and especially the Virgin Mary, are regarded as omnipresent; able at all times and in all places, to hear the prayers addressed to them, and to relieve the wants of their worshippers.

3. It is derogatory to Christ. As He is the only and sufficient mediator between God and man, and as He is ever willing to hear and answer the prayers of his people, it supposes some deficiency in Him, if we need other mediators to approach God in our behalf.

4. It moreover is contrary to Scripture, inasmuch as the saints are assumed to prevail with God on account of their personal merits. Such merit no human being has before God. No man has any merit to plead for his own salvation, much less for the salvation of others.

5. The practice is superstitious and degrading. Superstition is belief without evidence. The practice of the invocation of saints is founded on a belief which has no support from Scripture. It is calling upon imaginary helpers. It degrades men by turning them from the Creator to the creature, by leading them to put their trust
in an arm of flesh, instead of in the power of Christ. It, therefore, turns away the hearts and confidence of the people from Him to those who can neither hear nor save.

*** End of Hodge’s Comments ***


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