Archive for April, 2010

The Virgin Mary – and the Bible versus Roman Catholicism

April 30, 2010

May is normally one of the most beautiful months in our Irish year. We live in a rural area and I recall one particular morning in May when the fields were alive with birdsong, butterflies – and ladybirds which are said to be the promise of a lovely summer ahead! As I stood there alone that early morning, happily pegging out the wet washing, I heard the cry of a cuckoo far away across the dewy meadows – something that I have never heard since. In May our hedgerows and apple trees are cloaked with pink and white blossom, with the special radiance of Cherry Blossom gracing urban and rural gardens alike. However, May is also a month which is traditionally associated with Mary – mother of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Most of us are aware that May is a month which the Roman Catholic Church has set aside to pay special tribute to her. It is on the subject of this unique person, Mary, that I now wish to turn.

God’s Word reassures us that Mary was indeed a blessed person. In Luke 1v28 we read the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary… “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee:  blessed art thou among women.” Without a doubt Mary would have to have been a virtuous woman to have been chosen by God for such a wonderful calling. In Proverbs 31v10 we read… “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Mary was surely such a woman, and yet she too, like every other human being born into this world, needed a Saviour.

Of the fact that Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, the Bible leaves us in no doubt, for the angel of the Lord reassures Joseph in Matthew 1v20 & 21… “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” In Matthew 1v24&25, we also learn that Joseph had no marital relations with Mary until the birth of Jesus. “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” Note the little word “till” here, for the little words in the Bible are every bit as significant as the big ones! 

Therefore it is evident that Mary remained a virgin until after the birth of Jesus. Now there are many who believe that Mary remained a virgin for her entire marriage and for the remainder of her life. Furthermore they also believe that Mary (like Jesus) was immaculately conceived, and that eventually (like Elijah of old in 2Kings 2) she was taken up into Heaven. This doctrine, known as the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary,” is celebrated on the 15th August. Let us now look at what the Bible has to say about each issue in turn. 

Firstly there is the matter of Mary’s “perpetual virginity.” Does the Bible support this doctrine? In Matthew 13v53-58 we read the familiar account of how Jesus taught in the synagogue, in the place where he had grown up. We can see clearly from this account how ‘familiarity can breed contempt,’ and why Jesus “did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13v58)  “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” (Matthew 13v55-57)

The Bible clearly shows us in this account how, after the birth of Jesus, Mary went on to have more children. We learn that His brothers’ names were James, Joses, Simon and Judas and that He also had sisters, although these are not named here. Now, some would say that “brethren” can also mean “cousin” and this is so. Nevertheless, further confirmation that they were His brothers and not His cousins can be seen in Galatians 1v19. “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” Apart from these clear references which indicate to the contrary, there is no evidence anywhere in scripture to support the doctrine of “perpetual virginity.”

In 1854 Rome declared the doctrine of the “Immaculate Conception,” which is celebrated on December 8th. This commonly held doctrine holds that Mary, like Jesus, was born without sin. However, nowhere in scripture can we read anything which supports such a view. On the contrary, there are many portions of scripture which reveal that only Jesus was born and lived without sin in this world. In Romans 5v12 we read… “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Also Romans 3v23 declares: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” Note again, an important little word… “all.” With David, the psalmist, each individual born into this world (with the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ) can say: “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51v5) So we see that because of one man, sin entered into the world – but thank God for the Person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, of whom we read that He… “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Peter 2v22-24) The Bible makes no such claims for any other person in history. Only the blood of the perfect Son of God “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1Pet. 1v19) was (and is) able to take away sins. 

Note too, that in God’s Word we are exhorted to pray to no one, but the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1Tim.2v 5&6) Here too the little word “all” is important, as is the word “one.” This verse clearly dispenses with the view that Mary is a “mediatrix,” according to a lady I spoke to on one occasion. Jesus is the One and Only Mediator between God and men!

As for the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” which was declared by Rome as recently as 1950, there is no scriptural foundation for this doctrine either. In 2Kings 2 we may read that unique account of how Elijah and Elisha conversed, and how Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” (Verse 11) In Genesis 5v24 we learn of Enoch, that he “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Again, in Hebrews 11v5 we read: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” The latter are unique accounts of two individuals who did not see death, but no account exists to tell us that Mary, unlike most people, did not see death. If she had been taken up into heaven in such a manner, then I have no doubt that the infallible Word of God would have recorded such an important event.

Therefore, having viewed scripture in association with man’s declarations on the subject of Mary, that unique (but misrepresented) lady, we must conclude that man would wish to draw attention away from the greatest Person who ever walked the face of this earth – the sinless Person of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

In Luke 1v46-55 we read Mary’s famous words… “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.”

These are the words of a woman of faith – faith in her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ the promised Messiah of old. Although Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Elijah and many others did not live to see those days of grace, they too would be justified by faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11v6)

And so, in this, the ‘Day of Grace,’ we are most honoured to have an Advocate and sole Mediator, the risen Saviour, who now sits with His Father in Heaven, awaiting that day and hour which no man knows, when He will return “as a thief in the night” (1Thess. 5v2) to “judge the quick and the dead” (2Tim 4v1). But time is running out, and many today are being deceived. As each hour brings us closer to eternity are you ready for that Day of Judgement and is your name written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” (Rev. 21v27)

Somehow that glorious May morning (which I have described earlier) stands out in my mind, and my thoughts very often return to it on a bleak winter’s morning! Life too, can often be bleak, but if we have repented of our sins; put our trust in the shed blood of Jesus alone for salvation; and are walking in the light, as He is in the light – then Heaven will be our destination. In God’s Word we find no such place as ‘Purgatory.’ As someone once said “there is a Heaven to be won – and a Hell to shun.”

Was Purgatory (a doctrine proclaimed by Rome in 1438)   introduced as a means of extracting money from the vulnerable at a time of bereavement? Surely these people, for whom the Lord died, really need the love and comforting arms of the Saviour, as they grieve for their loved ones? Jesus said: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I am come not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12v46-48) If His words are to judge us in the last day, it is imperative that we read them – and obey them.

In 1545 Rome decreed that man’s tradition was to be equal in authority to the Bible. Please do not be deceived. Pray directly to God today, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ask Him to show you the truth in its entirety. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8v32)

If you turn to Him now, repenting of all that previous life of sin (and no matter how seemingly good and respectable we are, we all have sinned) He will come into your life with His presence and deliver you from that sin. His presence in a life floods that life with joy and a reason for living; you will have someone to confide in; someone you can trust with every problem, as well as decisions, large and small. Above all His Word, the Bible, will take on a whole new meaning. The best place to start reading is in the New Testament and then read the Old Testament – and the best version to read is the Authorized Version. (1611) 

While many today are only interested in the material, they neglect their soul’s salvation – but what could be more important than the issue of where we spend eternity? May God bless you as you search the scriptures and may you experience that joy and assurance of knowing that your sins are forgiven and that you will have a home in Heaven. Jesus said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5v39)

©Elizabeth Burke 2007

 

Springtime in Ireland – and a Prayer for Revival

April 8, 2010

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;” (Song of Solomon 2v11&12)

Today I was reminded of these words as I made a fascinating little journey through parts of rural Louth, Monaghan and Fermanagh. The warm rays of the sun were so welcome after the floods, snow and winter gales which have battered us until very recently. However, unlike the climate in Solomon’s part of the world, rain is usually somewhere on the horizon in Ireland, which is why rainbows are a common sight here!

After receiving a request from the proprietors of bookshops in Co. Fermanagh for more books, I took the opportunity to call en route at An Eaglais, once an old Presbyterian Church, but now home to a tourist amenity and heritage centre. It lies halfway between Castleblayney and Carrickmacross on the N2 Dublin to Derry/Londonderry Road, has a little café and sells arts, crafts and books – including my first book: “A Biblical Journey through the Irish Year.” After lunch here, we were off on the road again, driving towards the Fermanagh/Cavan area where the I.E.B. bookshops in Enniskillen and Cavan (see website below) and Val Irvine’s Christian Bookshop in Lisnaskea kindly facilitate my books.

Today as we travelled home, we noted many derelict houses, swans sailing on sparkling lakes – and quaint remains of historical interest. It was one of the latter which led us off the ‘beaten track’ on this lovely day to take photographs. Someone stopped to ask us ‘what were we doing?’ To cut a long story (very) short, I had the opportunity to speak to this person on spiritual matters, although I felt that I could have said much more. Yet our detour, I believe, was no accident and as we drove today through tiny hamlets, past lonely farms and thatched cottages, I longed to see (spiritually speaking) the winter past and a new awakening in my native land: both north and south of the Irish border and in every green field and city street. Oh, that in the words of Solomon, many could say: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” (Song of Solomon 7v10)

Ireland today is spiritually parched. April showers may gently fall upon an emerald green landscape, creating in their aftermath purity and freshness in the air and the beauty of the rainbow. Yet, spiritually speaking the atmosphere is dry and rancid. Lord, “wilt thou not revive us again; that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85v6)  How I love the old revival hymns, such as Fanny Crosby’s “Showers of Blessing” and “For a Worldwide Revival” by Leila N. Morris. When I recall the old revivals that flooded these islands and other nations in the past, today I pray for revival – and I pray that it will start within my own heart.

Below are links to the two hymns mentioned:

http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/s/b/l/sblessin.htm

http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/f/o/r/forworld.htm

http://www.irishevangelisticband.org/bookshops.php