The Saints and Jesus as our One Mediator

This Evangelical site posts a very common objection to the Catholic understanding that we can pray to the saints.  That understanding of course is dependent on an accurate view of what we actually mean by praying to the saints, as was covered here

First Timothy 2:5 declares, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  There is no one else that can mediate with God for us.  If Jesus is the ONLY mediator, that indicates Mary and the saints cannot be mediators.  They cannot mediate our prayer requests to God.  Further, the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ Himself is interceding for us before the Father: “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).  With Jesus Himself interceding for us, why would we need Mary or the saints to intercede for us? 

Read more:

So do Catholics view Mary and the saints as “mediators” in place of Christ?  The answer would be no, and as always we have to view Scripture within its context.  And when we look at the passage referenced about Christ being the one mediator between God and man, the context is actually about intercessory prayer in the life of a believer.

 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.  This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.  (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

The site above poses the question – with Jesus himself interceding for us, why would we need Mary or the saints to intercede for us?  Wouldn’t the same question then be applicable to what St. Paul writes?  With Jesus himself interceding for us, why would anyone ever need another person to pray for us at all?  Why does St. Paul even think intercessory prayer is needed or a good thing?  Yet have you ever asked a Protestant friend to pray for you and have them reply “Why are you asking me?  Why don’t you just ask Jesus?”  Most likely not, which is why Catholics are often quite puzzled with the line of reasoning that to request the prayers of those in heaven is in conflict with Christ being the one mediator when to request prayers of those on earth is not.

Catholics absolutely agree Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, and without Christ and his redemptive work, there is nothing.  From the Catechism:

CCC480 Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men.

CCC2574 Once the promise begins to be fulfilled (Passover, the Exodus, the gift of the Law, and the ratification of the covenant), the prayer of Moses becomes the most striking example of intercessory prayer, which will be fulfilled in “the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Yet we need to explore the question – why does St. Paul associate Christ being the one mediator between God and man with the direction we should engage in intercessory prayer?  From the Catholic perspective that would be because Jesus calls us to participate in his redemptive work in many ways, and this is only possible because we are united in faith to the one mediator.  We see many examples of this in Scripture. 

St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”  The apostles are God’s fellow workers in planting and watering the seeds of the Gospel.

Paul writes to Timothy he should “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).  He writes of himself “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Would we interpret this to mean Paul views Timothy and himself are saviors instead of Christ?  As Catholics we would say no, but they are the instruments God is using to bring His salvation to others. 

St. Paul is even so bold as to say “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).  Would we interpret this to mean Christ needed Paul to suffer because his suffering wasn’t sufficient for our redemption?  As Catholics we would say no, because the suffering of Christ was more than sufficient enough for the salvation of the whole world.  Yet Paul is identified to share in Christ’s suffering, and when united to Christ, his suffering does indeed become redemptive for the sake of the Church. 

The book of Acts tells us “It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery; and Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him (Acts 28:8).  The Bible clearly says Paul healed a man.  Would we interpret that to mean Paul was the source of the healing?  As Catholics we would say no, God was the source of the healing, and Paul was the instrument God used.  In the same way, when a Catholic may say they prayed to a specific saint and received healing, we would recognize the source of the healing was God, and the saint was the instrument.

The Bible even goes so far as to teach we are to share in Christ’s glory (John 17:9-10,22, 2 Thessalonians 1:9-12, 2 Thessalonians 2:14, Romans 8:16-18).

Scripture indicates believers will participate in all of these activities – being God’s fellow workers in spreading the Gospel, healing, saving people, redemptive suffering, intercessory prayer for others, and sharing in Christ’s glory.  And none of them undermine the unique role of Christ as mediator between God and man.  Rather, they are only possible because of his role as mediator, and his invitation to participate in his work.  The Catechism explains it this way – “God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes.”  (CCC308)

And for this reason, the Catechism also associates the intercessory prayer of the saints in heaven as participation in the one mediation of Christ between God and man:

CCC956 The intercession of the saints.  “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.  .  .  .  They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.  .  .  .  So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” 

So indeed, requesting saints intercede for us is not a contradiction that Christ is the one mediator between God and men, any more than requesting someone on earth pray (intercede) for us would be.  The saints are simply continuing the same work of intercession they did on earth.  Why would we believe that would end with our death?

So when Protestants object to the idea of praying to the saints because Jesus is the one mediator, our most common response is to inquire why they don’t object to the idea of asking someone here on earth to pray for them.  That can lead to some fruitful discussions.  But one of the most common responses to our question is the reason it would be appropriate to ask someone on earth to pray for us and not a saint in heaven is because those on earth are alive, and the saints are dead.

But are the saints really dead?  Jesus was clear – “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32).  Catholics would attest to the great truth the saints in heaven are more alive than we are, and Jesus Christ has indeed abolished death for those who are in him (2 Timothy 1:10).

And are the saints in heaven in him?  My next post will cover a Catholic understanding of the body of Christ. 

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