In Ireland many religious people are devoted to Mary. If you visit many homes you will see statues and pictures of Mary. The Rosary, a prayer to Mary, is very popular. In many villages and on country roads there are grottos and shrines dedicated to Mary. Reformed Christians do not have such devotion to Mary. Because of this, we are sometimes asked, "Do you hate Mary? Are you not devoted to Our Lady?"
Of course, we do not hate Mary. We think very highly of Mary. She was a godly woman, as were many people in the Bible. We admire her faith and her piety, and we love to read about her and others in the Bible. But in our admiration for Mary we do not go further than the Word of God allows us.
It might surprise you that the Bible speaks relatively infrequently about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
First, the Bible does not give to her titles such as "Our Lady," "Queen of Heaven" or even "Mother of God." The first title, "Our Lady," is really the female equivalent of "Our Lord." Lord or Lady is a title of honour and authority, but the Bible, God's Word, never speaks of Mary in such terms. Jesus alone is Lord. Mary is not "Lady." She is "the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1:38). There is one Lord, and everyone else (including Mary) is a servant. Indeed, the title "Queen of Heaven" is the name of a pagan goddess, not the title of Mary (Jer. 7:18). Heaven has a King, the Lord Jesus Christ, but Jesus has no Queen. His bride is the Church, and Mary is not by His side, helping Him rule over all things. The title "Mother of God" has an element of truth: Mary was the earthly mother of one who is God, but she is not the Mother of the Triune God, for she is a creature. Therefore, the Bible does not use that kind of language. Instead, Elizabeth calls Mary "the mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43). She does so in honour of Jesus who was in Mary's womb, not in honour of Mary. The angel Gabriel and Elizabeth address Mary as "blessed among women" (Luke 1:28, 42). This is simply in recognition of the fact that Mary was chosen to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Her blessedness in being chosen for that important task was great, but her greatest blessedness is that she, like all of God's people, received salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Moreover, when the angel Gabriel says that Mary is "highly favoured" (Luke 1:28), which some translate as "full of grace," he means the same favour or grace which is upon all of God's people: "the glory of His grace wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6). The Greek word is identical! Mary is not the fountain of all graces. Jesus is "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Mary is a recipient of grace, as are all Christians.
Second, the Bible does not give credit to Mary for the works of salvation which Jesus alone performed. Mary did not "cooperate" with God in saving the world. The Saviour is Jesus Christ alone. Peter says, "Neither is there salvation in any other [except Jesus] for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In no sense, therefore, is Mary the Saviour. The Mediator is Jesus Christ alone: "There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5). Mary is not even called "Mediatrix of all graces" (the word "Mediatrix" is a female Mediator, but no such Mediatrix exists). The Intercessor is Jesus Christ: "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). The Advocate is Jesus Christ: "And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (I John 2:1). To take these titles (Saviour, Lord, Mediator, Intercessor and Advocate) and to share them with Mary is to do dishonour to Jesus Christ.
Third, the Bible does not teach that Mary was born without original sin or that she lived a life without sin. It is true that none of her sins are recorded, but then neither are the sins of many other believers (such as Abel, Elizabeth, etc). But the Bible is clear: only Jesus is without sin. Mary freely confessed that she was a sinner because she needed a Saviour from her sins. She sang, "My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:46-47).
Fourth, the Bible does not permit us to pray to Mary. Our prayers may be addressed only to God through His Son Jesus Christ. This does no dishonour to her because Mary cannot hear prayers in heaven. How could a mere woman, a creature, hear the millions of prayers offered to her, and then have the power to answer each of those prayers? But Jesus hears prayers, because He is the Eternal Son of God. No-one, certainly not Mary, is closer to the Father than Jesus. And He has grounds for asking God to bless His people because He died on the cross to cover their sins and to give them eternal life. Mary did not die on the cross and therefore has no basis on which to ask anything. That is why, when we pray, we pray in Jesus' name or for Jesus' sake, never in the name of Mary.
In fact, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus never honoured Mary in the way many misguidedly do today. On one occasion, a woman in the crowd enthusiastically cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee" (Luke 11:27). Jesus corrected her! Instead of honouring Mary or exalting her above others, He said, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it (v. 28). Again, Jesus distanced Himself from His mother, Mary, when she became a hindrance to His ministry. In John 2:4 He said to her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come." He was not being rude, but He was putting her in her place. In fact, Jesus never addressed Mary with the word, "Mother," and certainly never called her "Lady." In Matthew 12, when His mother and brethren were standing outside wanting to speak to Him, He said, "Who is my mother and who are my brethren?" and then He said, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother" (vv. 47-50). Thus, He makes it clear, that her being His mother did not give her special privileges, honour or access.
In short, Mary was the humble handmaiden of the Lord, and she would be horrified if she knew what was being done in her name, that prayers are offered, candles are burned and devotion is given to her. Mary is a beautiful example of humble, childlike faith and obedience to God. We must not dishonour her by calling her "Our Lady."
For all these reasons, and more, we look to Christ, not Mary. We seek salvation and forgiveness of sins in Christ, not Mary. We urge you to do likewise!
Have you in the past worshiped or prayed to Mary? Were you convinced by the above arguments that we should come to God through Christ alone? Or if you do not do so yourself but know others who pray to Mary, have you been able to witness to them about it?