Bible Study Discussions with Gary Panell
Question: I was wondering what all of Scripture says about praying to saints, I feel kind of iffy about it, I feel that its putting someone before God and I don't like that, but I do understand some of my friends reasoning as well. Also, I know that in 1 Timothy it says that there is only one mediator between God and Man. I guess I would just like some more Scripture to [support] the way I feel. I just do not want to spread the wrong [information] about God's Word. Thanks
Answer: Here are excerpts from two answers that we have used in the past that pertain to your question, I hope these answers help answer your question as well.
I have seen Roman Catholics in Mexico and some in the United States praying before images of Christ, Mary or one of the saints. We as Evangelicals get very concerned about this sort of thing because of the fear of breaking the commandment that says we should not make an image of God to worship it. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” Exodus 20:4-5
One of my friends is a Roman Catholic who loves the Lord, so I asked him about this very thing, that you are asking. I said something to the effect, don't you believe it is wrong for people to bow down and worship a statue of Mary or others? I shared with him how I had seen people in Mexico kneeling before what we would call an idol of a saint or of Mary, etc.
His answer was interesting, because he commented, “We know that we are not to worship the statues. Good Roman Catholic churches have this in their teaching, that you should reverence Mary and the saints but we are not to worship them. The statues are just there to help you get your thoughts on Christ. The people who worship the images are wrong in doing this and are untaught,” he said.
This seemed to make sense to him, but it really didn't convince me. To me it would be a hindrance, not a help. Also, I would worry about those who would get the wrong message from the image in front of them, as so often has happened and some actually do pray to the images.
The way that I have found that works to reach Roman Catholics is not to argue about our differences, but it is better to speak to what we do agree upon. We both believe Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. We believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, that Jesus is both God and man. We both believe that there is a heaven and a hell. We both believe that the Bible is the Word of God.
So we have a starting point for our discussion. Now, I would use their own Bible (it is very similar to ours) to show them verses like John 3:16, Romans 3:23, and Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8, 9, etc., and read the verses in the context as well. Why should we discuss these other issues, like praying to Mary or the saints first, these things, in most cases, will fall away if a person becomes truly born again. Your goal should be to show them the love of Christ, not to try and win arguments about the faith. They will change in their attitudes and desires after they are truly saved. Christ has to do that work in them; it is not something you or I can do.
So stick to the basics of salvation. Roman Catholics have a strong reverence for the blood of Christ as He shed it for them on the cross. Why not stay on this subject and point out that you are trusting in Christ's blood to save you. They will listen to you if you share in the love of Christ with them.
Why not offer to study the Bible with them, or invite them to your home Bible study? They would be far more apt to come to a home Bible study than they would be to go to your church. When they come to the home Bible study do not harp on things in the Roman Catholic Church that you do not agree with. Again, share in love, like you would want someone to talk to you. Show them from the Word of God why you believe what you believe. Pray for them and show them true Christian love! Watch how these methods will work with many Roman Catholics. Many are searching for the truth and are coming out of the Roman Church to find it.
It is sad how we show Christian love to reach the atheists, but when it comes to showing someone who is religious how to be saved, we so often treat them with hostility. The love of Christ is still what reaches the lost religious person as well as the atheist. Wasn't it the love of Christ that reached you? Think again how Christ reached out to the lost Jews, and I am not talking here of the lost religious leaders who hated Him, but the others who showed interest, like Nicodemus.
Let's look at that story and see how Christ witnessed to a seeking religious Jew, who, by the way received the message of Christ and became a follower of His. “After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” John 19:38-39
Notice that Jesus did not really argue with Nicodemus, but rather in love showed him the way of salvation. This is the best way to witness to your Roman Catholic relatives and friends, or for that matter, anyone else who you want to win to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second question that goes along with your question is about praying to Mary and using the Rosary to pray.
First, some people may not be familiar with what the Rosary is, so here is a short summary of it, a history, and a defense of it from Roman Catholics. Then I will give my response to this question.
Prayer before the Rosary
Queen of the Holy Rosary, you have designed to come to Fatima and Medjugorje, to reveal to the three shepherd children and six visionaries, the treasures of grace hidden in the Rosary. Inspire my heart with a sincere love of this devotion, in order that by meditating on the Mysteries of our Redemption which are recalled in it, I may obtain peace for the world, the conversion of sinners, and the favor which I ask of you in this Rosary (Mention your request). I ask it for the greater glory of God, for your own honor, and for the good of souls, especially for my own. Amen.
1. Make the Sign of the Cross and say the "Apostle's Creed."
After the Rosary:
HAIL, HOLY QUEEN, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To you do we cry poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, O most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O clement! O loving! O sweet Virgin Mary! Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
My response to what has been said, and answer the question, "Is it wrong to say the Rosary?"
As you can see there is a lot of Scripture and some other good things that are said in the Rosary. Obviously, it is not wrong to pray Our Lord's Prayer or to recite the Apostles Creed or many of the Scriptures quoted in the Rosary, but my objections are to saying such things as: "Queen of the Holy Rosary. I ask it for your own honor. Hail, Holy Queen. To you do we cry. O most gracious advocate. Pray for us."
Our whole teaching comes from the Word of God, but through the centuries things have been added to the Roman Catholic Church doctrines that were not taught in the Church to begin with. Therefore there is a mixture of truth and error in the Roman Catholic Church. That is not to say that any given denomination has a corner on the truth.
The only thing is that as you read the Rosary, it is a prayer that is directed to the Virgin Mary, and this in itself is a mistake according to the Bible which says: "For there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24)
In the Roman Catholic's defense to the statement that they are praying to Mary here is what some would say: "As doctrine, Roman Catholics do not actually pray to Mary—just as Roman Catholics do not pray to any of the other saints. Some Catholics may misunderstand the teachings of the church and therefore act against the teachings of Catholicism; however Catholics are not supposed to actually pray to anyone other than God. What they are actually supposed to do is offer up their prayers to God, and ask for the intercession of Mary (or any other saint). This may seem one in the same, but I assure you, it is not.
"Offering up a prayer to God and asking for the intercession of Mary is supposed to be like unto simply asking other Christians to pray for you. The prayer is still to God; however, Catholics are also asking Mary to pray to God for their intentions as well."
My comments to these statements would be. This is what they say they are doing, but look at the Consecration to Mary , which starts off, "O Mary, Virgin most powerful and Mother of mercy, Queen of Heaven and Refuge of sinners, we consecrate ourselves to thine Immaculate Heart. We consecrate to thee our very being and our whole life; all that we have, all that we love, all that we are. To thee we give our bodies, our hearts and our souls; to thee we give our homes, our families, our country."
The Pope [John Paul II prayed to Mary and encouraged all Catholics to do the same . In his Sunday mass in Denver in, August 1993, Pope John Paul II entrusted the youth and the entire world under Mary's protection and guidance.
"Mary of the New Advent, we implore your protection on the preparations that will now begin for the next meeting. Mary, full of grace, we entrust the next World Youth Day to you Mary, assumed into heaven, we entrust the young people of the world, the whole world to you." (August 1993, Denver, Colorado, Pope John Paul II).
Then the Roman Catholic Church also teaches: "2679 Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus' mother into our homes, for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope."
My comments again to this would be. The Scriptures teach us that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are our only " advocates " (which means lawyer or attorney), not Mary nor the saints. "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Romans 8:26)
Even though I have an article The Holy Catholic Church, and I point out in it from Scriptures that there is only one true Church, and that it is made up of all born again believers even from the Roman Catholic Church. That does not mean that I agree with everything that the Roman Catholic Church or any other church denomination, for that matter, teaches.
Even the church we attend now, has some things that I do not agree with, for example, they believe it is alright for Christians to drink a little alcohol. I believe that the Bible teaches otherwise, does that mean that I cannot fellowship with them? (See our article Is It Alright for Christians to Drink Alcohol?)
No, if we have to agree with everything a denomination, on this earth teaches, before we can fellowship with it, we would never go to church. There is no church that you can go to that teaches everything perfectly, if that were the case, the teachers would be perfect, and we know that no one will be perfect, myself included, on this earth.
However, I do believe some denominations do rely more on the Word of God, and teach it as their only rule of belief. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16)
If a church uses any other standard other than the Bible they will surely have errors in their teaching. That is why St. Paul was glad when the Bereans checked the Scriptures to see if what he was saying was correct. "Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men." (Acts 17:10-12 NKJV)
The Bible is our final authority, because everything else changes, the Bible will remain forever. "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." (Matthew 24:35) (See our article Is There Even One Mistake in the Bible?)
It is a very sad thing that so many Roman Catholics have been hindered from going straight to Jesus with their prayer needs, because He is the only One who will answer our prayers. That is why we are instructed from Scripture to pray to the Father in Jesus Name. "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14:13-14)
"...Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:23-24)
"...giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:20)
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Colossians 3:17)
"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." (Hebrews 13:15)
Nowhere in Scripture do we see that we are to pray to Mary or any other of the saints. When someone came to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, for a request she sent them to Jesus. "On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine.' Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Whatever He says to you, do it.'" (John 2:1-5)
I believe that Mary herself would say the same to those today who try to pray to her, "Whatever He says to you, do it." In His Word the Bible He tells us over and over to pray in His Name to the Father, so we need to do it! We do respect Mary, and I called her the Blessed Virgin Mary, because in Scripture we are told that believers would call her "Blessed" and she was a Virgin when she had Jesus, so it is a Scriptural title.
Here is what Mary said in a prophecy that God gave her: "For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation." (Luke 1:48-50) That, however, does not mean that we worship or pray to her. So, yes, it would be wrong to say the Rosary.
I know this will be received by many Roman Catholics as incredible, that anyone would doubt that we should pray using the Rosary. But when the prayer itself is directed to Mary, it is wrong! I trust that there will be those Roman Catholics that will take courage, as Martin Luther did, and say under the power of the Holy Spirit, enough is enough. We need to pray to God the Father in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ as He instructed us to do. No more making it look like Mary is a part of the Godhead, she is not, nor would she want us to believe and teach such a fallacy!
As far as these things being revealed by Mary, or one of the many who claim to be Mary, but go by different names, I would give these verses from the Holy Bible to meditate on: "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9)
Do I believe a person could be a born again Roman Catholic and even pray the Rosary, yes, but should they pray to Mary, no! Then, you say, “How can you say that you believe a person could go to the Roman Catholic Church where they do pray to Mary and the saints?” I believe there are born again Christians in every denomination, who are led astray in one doctrine or another. That is why we are to study the Bible and see what it really teaches, and start teaching it, even where it is not popular to do so.
Look what St. Paul did in his ministry, he went first to the Jewish synagogues and preached Christ. Was he accepted? Most of the time he was not, but then you have people like the Bereans who did listen, and who did search Scripture to see if what he was preaching was true.
If you study Scripture, you will see that what I am saying here is true, even if millions of people have accepted this lie of Satan for the last few hundred years, in some parts of the Church.
Is there a possibility that this will change? Yes, I believe with prayer, revival can break out even in the most unexpected places. We thank God for the Charismatic revival that is sweeping even the Roman Catholic Church. (See our links for the Catholic Charismatic Movement) Is this movement perfect, no, but has it done a lot of good? Yes! And God can do even greater things than what we think possible. He can break down these false doctrines that separate us, and make us one in Him, as I believe He will do before He comes back. We will see things that are thought impossible. With men they are impossible, but with God, nothing is impossible!!!!
Jesus' prayer of John 17, before He went to the cross will be answered. "I do not pray for these alone, [His 12 Apostles] but also for those who will believe in Me through their word [that's us], that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
"Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:20-26) You probably will want to read the whole chapter, it is Jesus' prayer for us as born again Christians, no matter what name we put over our building.
Thanks for the question and God bless you!
Gary T. Panell
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