Entrusting Our Cares to Mary!?

Many of us have heard or even used the phrase “hail Mary.” It often refers to a long and risky throw in football, when the quarterback unleashes a monster toss hoping the receiver will catch it. This term, “hail Mary,” is how the “Ave Maria” prayer in the Roman Catholic traiditon starts: “Hail, Mary, full of grace…” In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a short commentary on the Ave Maria. Here are some parts of that commentary:

Full of grace, the Lord is with thee. …Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God … with men.” Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.

Holy Mary, Mother of God. …Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.” By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done.”

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.

 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 644.

To Protestant and and Reformed Christians today, this sounds terribly unbiblical (to put it mildly!). This view of Mary is not only unbiblical, it also detracts from the person and work of Christ, our one and only mediator and Savior. This is why we Reformed Christians say, confess, and believe the truth of the phrase “Solus Christus!” Here’s how Martin Luther responded to such Roman Catholic teaching mentioned above:

They [the Pope and his teachers] declared also to the people, in their sermons, that the only Mediator between God and man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, was a severe and an angry Judge; that he neither could nor would be reconciled with us, except we had other advocates and intercessors besides him.

By this doctrine people were seduced, and carried away to Heathenish idolatry; and they took their refuge in dead Saints that should help and deliver them, and made them to be their gods: in whom they put more trust and confidence than in our blessed Saviour Christ Jesus; and especially, they placed the Virgin Mary (instead of her son Christ) for a Mediatrix on the throne of grace.

 Martin Luther and Antonius Lauterbach, The Familiar Discourses of Dr. Martin Luther, ed. Joseph Kerby, trans. Henry Bell, New Edition. (Lewes; London: Sussex Press; John Baxter; Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy; H. Mozley, 1818), 462.

Similarly, the Westminster Confession of Faith echoes the biblical teaching that we have only one mediator, Jesus Christ:

Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and to Him alone; (Matt. 4:10, John 5:23, 2 Cor. 13:14) not to angels, saints, or any other creature: (Col. 2:18, Rev. 19:10, Rom. 1:25) and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone. (WCF XXI.2)

Yes, the Reformation still matters! We can be thankful that the reformers had the courage and conviction to stick with and teach the truths of Scripture. This glorifies our one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us as our one and only mediator.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Marrow of Modern Divnity: Edited and Abridged (Wilson)

 Many of our readers are perhaps familiar with Edward Fisher’s excellent 17th century publication called “The Marrow of Modern Divinity.”  It is a wonderful treatment of the great Reformation themes of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, to God’s glory alone.  I’ve mentioned it quite a few times here on the blog and it has been helpful to me in my own Christian walk.  The thing is, it’s not overly easy to read since it’s somewhat lengthy and the language is quite dated.  It’s not a book that every Christian would be able to sit down and read through and understand well.

However, Andy Wilson has given much of his time and energy to make “The Marrow” easier to read by abridging it and updating the language.  His abridgment is called, “The Marrow of the Marrow of Modern Divinity: A Simplified Version of Edward Fisher’s Seventeenth-Century Classic.”  Andy sent me a copy, which I was excited to read and now I am happy to recommend.  To be sure, abridging and editing a book like “The Marrow” is no easy task, and we all might go about it in a slightly different way.  But in my opinion Wilson’s summarization is a good and accurate one.  I’ll give a few quotes below in case you’re interested:

“…Adam and his offspring are no more freed from their duties because they have no strength to perform them than a debtor is freed from his debt because he lacks money to pay it” (p. 17).

“So if you desire to be justified before God, you must either bring him a perfect righteousness of your own, and wholly renounce Christ, or else you must bring the perfect righteousness of Christ, and wholly renounce your own” (p. 56).

“Because the law’s threatenings of eternal death have been satisfied for the believer in Christ, those threatenings cannot be renewed against the believer any more than a debt that ahs been paid can be held against a person” (p. 65).

“Certainly, the strongest believer of us all needs to take heed to the advice of Tyndale, who says, ‘Seek the Word of God in all things, and without the Word of God do nothing” (p. 97).

Again, no abridgement will be perfect in everyone’s eyes, but if you’re looking for a more readable version of Fisher’s Marrow, you should for sure check out Wilson’s summary.  If you read the summary first, I’m pretty confident it will help you better read and understand the full text of The Marrow.  In fact, one of Wilson’s goals of writing the summary was to get more people to read the original Marrow.  Both the abridgement and the full text will help you understand what Scripture says about “free grace,” “faith alone,” and “Christ alone” in the sinner’s justification.

Andy Wilson, The Marrow of the Marrow of Modern Divinity.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

God Clothed in His Word and Promises (Luther)

Luther’s Works (55 vols.) Here’s a wonderful selection from Martin Luther’s commentary on Psalm 51:1a (Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love! NET).  These comments have a lot to do with Luther’s critique of Rome’s “theology of glory.”  Notice how Luther talked about God “clothed in His Word and promises,” which have to do with Christ.  In fact, Luther’s contempt for the theology of glory had to do with his love for the biblical teaching of “Christ alone.”  We don’t find a loving, merciful God apart from His Word which reveals the suffering Messiah; this is the theology of the cross.  Here’s Luther’s comment:

“…Here at the very beginning [of the commentary on Psalm 51:1] you should be reminded of something so that you do not think that David is talking about God like a Mohammedan [Muslim] or like some other Gentile [unbeliever]. David is talking with the God of his fathers, with the God who promised. The people of Israel did not have a God who was viewed ‘absolutely,’ to use the expression, the way the inexperienced monks rise into heaven with their speculations and think about God as He is in Himself. From this ‘absolute God’ everyone should flee who does not want to perish, because human nature and the ‘absolute God’ are bitterest of enemies. Human weakness cannot help being crushed by such majesty, as Scripture reminds us over and over.

Let no one, therefore, interpret David as speaking with the ‘absolute God.’ He is speaking with God as He is dressed and clothed in His Word and promises, so that from the name ‘God’ we cannot exclude Christ, whom God promised to Adam and the other patriarchs. We must take hold of this God, not naked but clothed and revealed in His Word; otherwise certain despair will crush us.  This distinction must always be made between the Prophets who speak with God and the Gentiles.  The Gentiles speak with God outside His Word and promises, according to the thoughts of their own hearts; but the Prophets speak with God as He is clothed and revealed in His promises and Word. This God, clothed in such a kind appearance and, so to speak, in such a pleasant mask, that is to say, dressed in His promises—this God we can grasp and look at with joy and trust.

The above slightly edited quote is found in Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Volume 12, page 312.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Not a Twofold Justification (Turretin)

Turretin Scripture teaches that those who are justified have peace with God and will be glorified (Rom. 5:1; 8:30).  This means, among other things, that God continually forgives the sins of those he justified and that once they are justified, they cannot fall from the state of justification (see WCF 11.5).  What does this mean for Christians on the last day, the day of judgment?  Here’s how Francis Turretin nicely explained it:

Although our justification will be fully declared on the last day (our good works also being brought forward as the sign and proof of its truth, Mt. 25:34-40), still falsely would anyone maintain from this a twofold gospel justification – one from faith in this life (which is the first); the other (and second) from works on the day of judgment (as some hold, agreeing too much with the Romanists on this point).

The sentence to be pronounced by the supreme Judge will not be so much a new justification, as the solemn and public declaration of a sentence once passed and its execution by the assignment of the life promised with respect to an innocent person from the preceding justification.  Thus it is nothing else than an adjudicatory sentence of the possession of the kingdom of heaven from the right given before through justification.  And if works are then brought forward, they are not adduced as the foundation of a new justification to be obtained then, but as signs, marks and effects of our true faith and of our justification solely by it.

Francis Turretin, Institutes, vol. 2, p. 687.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

Justification Can Never Be Lost (Watson)

This is very good, very biblical, and very comforting:

Justification is ‘inamissibilis;’ it is a fixed permanent thing, it can never be lost.  The Arminians hold an apostasy from justification; today justified, tomorrow unjustified; today a Peter, tomorrow a Judas; today a member of Christ, tomorrow a limb of Satan.  This [Arminian doctrine] is a most uncomfortable doctrine.

Justified persons may fall from degrees of grace, they may leave their first love, they may lose God’s favor for a time, but not lose their justification.  If they are justified they are elected; and they can no more fall from their justification than from their election.  If they are justified they have union with Christ; and can a member of Christ be broken off?  If one justified person may fall away from Christ, all may; and so Christ would be a head without a body.

See from hence [this], that there is nothing within us that could justify but something without [outside] us; not any righteous inherent, but imputed.  We may as well look for a star in the earth as for justification in our own righteousness. The Papists say we are justified by works; but the Apostle confutes it, for he says, ‘not of works, lest any man should boast.’ (Eph 2.9).

Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 229.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI