A Baptist Friend Asks: The Bible Says “All have sinned” so how can Mary be Immaculate?

by Steve Ray on March 28, 2013

A Southern Baptist writes:

I am a Southern  Baptist who has a lot of respect for the Catholic faith. The Immaculate Conception is a hard concept for me. Does it also include the belief that Mary never sinned? How does that pass muster with Rom. 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God?” It seems like Paul would have noted the one exception here in Mary if that were the case.

 From my limited studies, I think Catholics have a very good argument on their position regarding the Eucharist. But wasn’t it several centuries before this concept of Mary arose in the Church?

 Dear Friend: yours is a good question. From the early centuries Mary was considered the All Holy One and considered as without sin. Rom 3:23 is a general statement but does not mention exceptions to the rule. For example, Jesus was a man without sin, therefore an exception. 

 The New Adam (Jesus)  is without sin. From the 1st century Mary has been viewed as the New Eve. It would be appropriate, actually proper, that the New Eve be without sin also. 

 Those who die before the age of reason, or who are mentally deficient are also exceptions. Job could even be called an exception if you take God’s report of him literally (Job 1:8).

 Romans is also discussing that it is not only the Gentiles that have sinned but also the Jews. All can be a collective of peoples. “You Jews think you are righteous because you are of Abraham? You think only  the Gentiles are in sin. No, all have sinned, Gentile and Jew alike”

 This is born out in Psalm 14 from where Rom 3:9 (parallel passage to Rom 3:23) is quoted. Here is says, Psalm 14:2–3 “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one.”

 Yet immediately following we find that God has his righteous. Psalm 14:5–6 ”There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge.”

As a Baptist I used to use the Bible often for proof-texts and sound bites. Scripture is much more subtle than that. It is our tradition, whether Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, etc., that guides us in our approach to Scripture. The real question is, which tradition will you allow to direct your interpretation and study? I chose the tradition that was practiced from the first century until today – which is Catholic.

Wish I had more time. I warn you (tongue in cheek) that if you want to stay Baptist you are asking dangerous questions and dancing very close to the fire :-)

 You will find helpful writings on this matter here, especially the short explanation of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Anil Wang March 28, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Another thing that’s overlooked is that Rom 3:23, although it alludes to Psalm 14:2–3, this “prooftext” needs to be read in context, namely the preceeding verse Psalm 14:1 which states that the “all” refers to the fool who says there is no God.

Given that Jews believed in God, the only plausible way Rom 3:23 could refer to Psalm 14:2–3 is in the practical sense, namely both Jew and Gentile live their lives as if there were no God and thus fall into sin. One only needs to skim the Old Testament or read the news today to see plenty of examples of this (Psalm 94:7-8).

Tom N March 28, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Wow Steve! Nailed it again!!! I’ll offer prayers for your Baptist friend (and hopefully soon-to-be Catholic) as he examines his faith!!!!

Cyril Vaz March 30, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Anil Wang ..
(i) What about Psalm 51:4-5 and Luke 2:21-22?
(ii) The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin, then the woman with the 12 stars on her head in Revelation 12:1 is not Mary because of Revelation 12:2 the woman was said to be experiencing “birth pains”

STEVE RAY HERE: Have you read in Genesis 3 that it was not pain that would accompany the woman now that sin entered but that her pain would be greatly increased. I agree the woman of Rev 12 is symbolic, but primarily it is Mary which is obvious.

De Maria March 31, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Cyril Vaz March 30, 2013 at 1:01 PM

(i) What about Psalm 51:4-5

4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

David acknowledges that he sinned against God.

5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

He also acknowledges that he was born in the original sin which we all inherit from our parents.

Is that what you were asking?

Hm? I think I get it. Are you saying that the Messiah is admitting that His mother sinned? Well, if that is the case, then He also admitted that He, Himself sinned. Read verses 2 and 3:
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Yes, this is a Messianic Psalm, spiritually speaking. But, literally speaking, David was talking about himself. Therefore, we must discern which portions of the Psalm pertain to Jesus Christ, which Scripture says:

Hebrews 4:15
King James Version (KJV)
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

and Luke 2:21-22?

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

Did you ever read in Scripture, where Jesus said:
Matthew 3:15
King James Version (KJV)
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

Although He never sinned, He submitted to Baptism for the remission of sins. To fulfill all righteousness.

That is the same reason why, the sinless Virgin Mary, submitted to the purification ritual, to fulfill all righteousness.

(ii) The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin, then the woman with the 12 stars on her head in Revelation 12:1 is not Mary because of Revelation 12:2 the woman was said to be experiencing “birth pains”

The entire Book of Reveleation is written in a style of speech called Apocalyptic. It is recognized that this book contains many symbols. In this case, the pain of childbirth represents the pains which Mary did endure which are referred to in another symbol by the prophet St. Simeon in the Temple:
Luke 2:35
King James Version (KJV)
35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

And this pain is not that of the physical birth of Jesus Christ. But of the spiritual birth of the Church by the efforts of Her Son, who also commanded her to be the mother of all who love Him:

John 19:26-27
King James Version (KJV)
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

And commanded us to take her as our Mother:

27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

Which is also confirmed in Revelations 12:17:
Revelation 12:17
King James Version (KJV)
17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The Woman of Rev 12 is definitely Mary.

Cyril Vaz March 31, 2013 at 2:28 PM

STEVE RAY HERE: Have you read in Genesis 3 that it was not pain that would accompany the woman now that sin entered but that her pain would be greatly increased.

So “pain” would be the result of sin Eve and generations of women after her would have to experience in child birth. If Mary is conceived without the stain of original sin, then she would not experience pain at child birth. The Scripture in Revelation 12:1-2 says the women was in pain as she travailed in child birth. Thus the women is only symbolic.

de Maria March 31, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Cyril Vaz March 31, 2013 at 2:28 PM
So “pain” would be the result of sin Eve and generations of women after her would have to experience in child birth. If Mary is conceived without the stain of original sin, then she would not experience pain at child birth. The Scripture in Revelation 12:1-2 says the women was in pain as she travailed in child birth. Thus the women is only symbolic.

But symbolic of what?

The Woman of Rev 12 is described as the Mother of the Messiah. Therefore, she symbolized Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.

Rev 12:5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Colin De Sa April 2, 2013 at 11:44 AM

Adam and Eve were created without sin and existed in that state until the fall happened . So Rom 3:23 cannot be applied to everyone because there are exceptions to the rule .

Cyril Vaz April 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

But symbolic of what?

In most of Chapters 12-14 of Revelation, John makes a restatement of the second half of the 70th Week (just as he did in Chapter 11). Initially, however, two “signs” are seen—a “woman” and an “enormous red dragon”—indicating that they are not literal but, rather, are symbolic of other things, which were present in the world long ago.

A “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” is seen (Revelation 12:1). According to Genesis 37:9,10, these represented the first family of Israel: Jacob (the “sun”), Rachel (the “moon”), and Jacob’s twelve sons (the “twelve stars”). Israel was the “embodiment” the Torah or Law, which is God’s eternal commandments, rules, and guidelines.

John noted that the woman “gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” (Revelation 12:5). Loosely speaking, this “son” could represent Judah, since Jacob (also named “Israel”) prophesied that his son Judah would be associated with the “scepter”—a symbol of governance, rule, and law (Genesis 49:10). More specifically, the son of the woman—and the Son of God—who came into the world was Jesus Christ (1 John 4:14,15). He is the descendant of Judah who will rule the nations “with an iron scepter” when He comes (Revelation 19:15).

Satan (the red dragon) attempted to destroy the woman’s son (Jesus), via crucifixion. However, Jesus—the one “who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter”—was resurrected and taken up to God’s throne in heaven (Revelation 12:4b,5). (The latter also may have a secondary fulfillment during a possible Mid-tribulation Rapture.)

In a sense, this “woman” is the earthly city of Jerusalem, since the Israelites were the embodiment of the woman, and their primary dwelling place was Jerusalem. Jerusalem was considered to be the “wife” or “bride” of God (Jeremiah 2:2); however, she was an “adulterous wife” (Ezekiel 16:32). Therefore, the New Jerusalem, the capital city of the new heaven, will become the perfect “Bride” of the Lamb of God when it comes out of the new heaven (just as Eve came out of Adam)—after a new heavens and a new earth have been created (Revelation 21:1,2,9,10) by God (see old and new Creations). Within the New Jerusalem will dwell “those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27).

Incidentally, this “woman” is not symbolic of Christianity or the Church, a view which is embraced by some Christians. The Church did not “replace” Israel. At a future time, Israel (Zion) will receive all of the blessings promised to her millennia ago by God (Isaiah 45:17, 51:2,3,16; Jeremiah 50:4,5; Ezekiel 36:1–37:28). Also, the “woman” does not represent only Jews, who are descendants of Judah, since they are only one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The woman, as embodied by a remnant of her Israeli “offspring,” will flee into the desert, to be protected by God, for 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6)—that is, for the last 3½ years of the 70th Week. Just as God reserved and protected a remnant of Israelites who were true to Him in the day of Elijah (1 Kings 19:18), so He will protect a remnant in the future. This endangered remnant, fleeing the land of Judea (probably mostly Jews), parallels what Jesus spoke about in His Olivet Discourse – see Matthew Matthew 24:15-21

nathan Fernandes April 4, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Colin De Sa April 2, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Adam and Eve were created without sin and existed in that state until the fall happened . So Rom 3:23 cannot be applied to everyone because there are exceptions to the rule .

Really? This means you too are an exception to the rule. The scriptures will have to be modified to accommodate your theory :=)

Bill912 April 6, 2013 at 11:26 AM

“There are exceptions”=”This means you too are an exception”? I’m not following the logic.

Bill912 April 6, 2013 at 11:31 AM

No, the pain would not be the result of the sin of Eve; the INCREASE in the pain of childbirth would be the result of the sin of Eve. Had Eve not sinned, there still would have been pain in childbirth, just less of it. You cannot increase something that does not exist.

Bill912 April 6, 2013 at 11:37 AM

So the prophetess Anna, of the tribe of Asher, was not a Jew? So, St. Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin was not a Jew? So, St. John the Baptist, of the tribe of Levi was not a Jew?

STEVE RAY HERE: Theoretically and genetically neither Anna nor Paul were “Jews.” “Jew” comes from Judah which was only one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Anna was from the tribe of Asher and Paul from the tribe of Benjamin, thus not “Jews.” And no, Levi was also distinct from Judah. Hebrews, yes. Israelites, yes. Jews, in common parlance yes, but strictly by tribal association, no.

De Maria April 8, 2013 at 12:58 AM

Cyril Vaz April 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Speaking of the Woman of Rev 12, I asked,

But symbolic of what?

You replied:

In most of Chapters 12-14 of Revelation, John makes a restatement of the second half of the 70th Week (just as he did in Chapter 11). Initially, however, two “signs” are seen—a “woman” and an “enormous red dragon”—indicating that they are not literal but, rather, are symbolic of other things, which were present in the world long ago.

You’ve forgotten Rev 11:19. It is the last sentence in Rev 11 and comes right before Rev 12:1.

Rev 11:
19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

Rev 12:
Revelation 12
King James Version (KJV)
1 And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
2 And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
5 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.

Now, remember, when the New Testament was written, there were no chapter divisions. These verses would follow one after the other with no disconnect.

And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

There can be no doubt, that the Ark which is seen in heaven is the Ark of the New Covenant. Mary.

What does Mary have in common with the Ark?

The Ark contained the Manna, the Bread of Heaven. Mary contained in her womb, the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ (John 6:51).

The Ark contained the Rod of Aaron, the High Priest. Mary contained in her womb, the True High Priest, Jesus Christ (Heb 3:1).

The Ark contained the Ten Commandments, the word of God. Mary contained in her womb, the Word of God, Jesus Christ (John 1:1).

St. John said he saw the Ark of the Covenant in heaven and then described, not a box of wood, but a Woman being crowned with twelve stars. A Woman who gave birth to the Messiah. The only one whom St. John could be describing is Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.

Poor Knight of Christ April 10, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Cyril Vaz, I cannot add much to De Maria’s information except this:

What do you believe about Grace? Is it God’s Divine Life given to us? Is it what cleanses us from sin? The vast majority of Christians would agree with that – I know there are new types and beliefs popping up daily so I won’t presume you do.

If you agree that Grace is God’s Divine Life, then please consider the following Greek phrase:

‘chaire kecharitomene’.

The translation, tense and conotations are profound.

God Bless you in your search for His Truth,
Poor Knight for Christ

Cyril Vaz April 13, 2013 at 2:51 PM

De Maria .. i must confess that you are truly a “incubator” for heresies. :)

Bill912 April 15, 2013 at 12:10 PM

If ya can’t refute ‘em, call ‘em names.

Cyril Vaz April 16, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Bill912 April 15, 2013 at 12:10 PM
If ya can’t refute ‘em, call ‘em names.

My sniffer is functioning properly. We have trollers galore. Can you start a refuting institute?

De Maria April 21, 2013 at 9:29 AM

Cyril Vaz April 13, 2013 at 2:51 PM
De Maria .. i must confess that you are truly a “incubator” for heresies. :)

No Cyril. All that I have stated is in accordance with the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church is that one of which Scripture speaks when it says,

Ephesians 3:10
King James Version (KJV)
10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

Cyril Vaz April 16, 2013 at 1:13 PM
Bill912 April 15, 2013 at 12:10 PM
If ya can’t refute ‘em, call ‘em names.

My sniffer is functioning properly. We have trollers galore. Can you start a refuting institute?

We’re off to a pretty good start. We refuted your objections.

Sincerely,

De Maria

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