WHAT ABOUT MARY?
In Ireland many religious people are devoted to Mary. Reformed Christians do not have such devotion to Mary. Because of this, we are sometimes asked, “Are you not devoted to Our Lady?”
We actually 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.
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. 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. Mary’s blessedness in being chosen to be the mother of the Lord 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 God’s people: “the glory of His grace wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Mary is not the fountain of all graces. Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Mary is a recipient of grace.
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 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 Christ alone: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5). The Intercessor is 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 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 dishonour Jesus Christ.
Third, the Bible does not teach that Mary was born without original sin or that she lived a life without sin. 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? Besides, Mary did not die on the cross and therefore has no basis on which to grant anything. 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 exalting Mary above others, He said, "Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it (v. 28). 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 reminding her of her place. In fact, Jesus never addressed Mary with the word, "Mother," and certainly never called her "Lady." In Matthew 12, when His mother was 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 Mary 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!