Roman Catholic - Immaculate Conception
THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY
WAS MARY SINLESS?
One particular branch of Christianity, Roman Catholicism, holds firmly to a teaching called the “immaculate conception” of Mary. This teaching is very important to their understanding of who Mary was, what she did, and what she has been doing since she died and went to heaven. The interesting thing about this Catholic teaching is that many Catholics have it confused with another teaching of the church, the virgin birth of Christ. I have personally asked many Catholics what the Immaculate Conception means and I have rarely had even one give me the correct answer. You would think that being such an important doctrine that all Catholics would understand its meaning and implications.
Lets begin by comparing the virgin conception with the immaculate conception and in doing so clarify the issue. The virgin birth or conception has to do with the fact that Mary conceived Jesus unlike any woman before her or after her. She did not conceive through the seed of a man but rather through the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Luke bears out this truth in Luke 1.
Luke 1:30-35, “Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
God had several reasons why He chose to have Jesus enter the world in this manner. First of all it would be a sign to the house of David as recorded in Isaiah 7:12-14. Secondly, if Christ was born as the product of a natural conception than He could not be the sinless Savior Who would take away the sins of the world. All born in the line of Adam by natural procreation are born with a fallen nature and become sinners and therefore become unfit to serve as a sacrifice even for themselves. However, since Jesus was conceived directly by God He by passed this fallen nature and in doing so became the sinless Son of God (Heb. 4:15). A perfect sacrifice, without spot or blemish that through His righteousness all who put their faith in Him will enter into heaven. Paul brings this truth forth wonderfully in the book of Romans when he writes,
Rom 5:12-17, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned — (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
A third reason for the need of the virgin birth has to do with the origins of Jesus. Jesus existed before man’s existence because He is the eternal God, the God of Creation, the God of Genesis 1:1, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 8:58; John 1:1-4). Therefore when God created man in His image, He did so by placing within the physical body of man a spirit, a finite version of His infinite being. With this said, the definition of human life is a spirit or soul (the image of God) dwelling in a physical body (1 Cor. 5:1-5; James 2:26; Phil. 1:21-24; 2 Cor. 6:5-8). With this definition clearly stated by God, then no matter what state of development man is in, whether a one cell fetus in a womb or an 80 year old adult, he is truly human. This give worth to all men, from the moment of conception to the moment of death thus abortion and euthanasia are truly the taking of human life.
If Mary had conceived naturally, then a human spirit would have been conceived to dwell in the body of Jesus and is true in all human conception. However, no such spirit was necessary for Christ already was a Spirit, the image of God Himself. Therefore, to become human God only needed to created a physical body in which the Spirit, Jesus, might dwell for all of eternity. This could only be accomplished through the virgin conception and birth of Jesus Christ.
The immaculate conception, on the other hand, has to do with the conception of Mary, not Jesus. It is held by the Catholic Church that for Mary’s womb to hold God as He formed into a baby, then she too had to be sinless. Thus it is the Catholic position that Mary was conceived, born, and lived a sinless life to be a chosen and holy vessel of the Savior. In light of this teaching, it is believed that Mary was kept a virgin (she is often called “The Perpetual Virgin”) and though married to Joseph, never had sexual relations with Him. The so called brothers and sisters of Jesus were actually the children of Joseph and a second wife. Because of her sacred conception and calling, Mary is held today by the Catholic Church on a level equal to Jesus. She is called the Mother of God, she is omnipresent as she may be prayed to at anytime through the rosary, and she has even recently been declared a co-redeemer with Christ.
Now that we understand the meaning of the Immaculate Conception, the question must be asked, is it true? The answer from the Bible is no for several reasons.
1) First, all individuals selected of God for a special purpose from the moment of conception were fully aware of their specialcalling. Two examples of this are Samson and John theBaptist. Mary on the other hand is not aware that she has been chosen by God and did see herself as no different thanof her peers (Luke 1:26-38).
2) There are no scriptural references to Mary being conceived or born in any nique way. It is not until 431 AD at the council of Ephesus is the term Mother of God” ascribed to her and notuntil 1854 AD that Immaculate Conception of Mary was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX.
3) Thirdly, Mary speaks of Jesus as her Savior (Lk. 1:47). A sinless person does not need a Savior but a sinner does. The Bible is very clear that born of Adam and Eve are sinners with one exception, the God/man, Christ Jesus
Rom 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
1 Cor 15:22-23. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”
Gal 3:22, “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, thatthe promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”
1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
4) Fourthly, Mary did have normal marital sexual relations with her husband Joseph as declared in Matt. 1:25. Matt 1:24-25, “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
Therefore the brothers and sisters mentioned of Jesus would have been his half brothers and sisters having the same mother but not the same father (Matt. 12:46-47; Matt.13:55-56). Please also note that in the time of Jesus polygamy was not practiced. In fact one is hard pressed to find any reference to polygamy being practiced during NT times.
5) Fifthly, 1 Cor. 12:13 indicates that the Holy Spirit dwells within the soul of every believer from the moment of Salvation on. If God could indwell even though we still sin it is no difficulty for Christ to have dwelt in the body of Mary even though she sinned as every human does.
6) Sixthly, never does it ever say that Mary is the Mother of God! To imply this is to destroy to key truths of Scripture. First it would imply that God is not eternal and secondly it would imply that someone other than God is equal with God. Mary was the mother of man Jesus or the physical side of Jesus but was in no way the mother of the deity of Christ. Therefore she can not be a co-redeemer neither can Saints pray to her and expect to get an answer. God clearly says we have only one intercessor between God and man and that is Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5).
7) Finally, after the Resurrection Mary falls into obscurity. She is mentioned once in Acts and after that silence. She was cared for by John and she probably died at an old age. No mention is made of her death or her burial. The reason I believe this took place was at the bidding of the Holy Spirit. God knew that if Mary were to play a prominent role in the NT Church that there would be the danger that some in the Church might worship her. Even with the silence about her later years, yet many today worship her with more fervency than they do the Savior whom she carried.
In conclusion, Mary was a normal woman, no different than any other woman with two exceptions. She was a Saint of God and she was chosen to carry the Savior of the world. She was a great woman of faith just as Sarah, Rebekah, Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, Esther, Elizabeth and the list could go on and on. She is to be respected for the life she lived but it should be noted that she should never be worshipped, prayed too, or considered a co-redeemer. Only to God can we rightly ascribe those things. Salvation lies in Jesus Christ, and Him alone (John 14:6). Any other way to God will fail!