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Mary’s Fiat

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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August 29, 2021 12:01 am

Mary’s Fiat

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 29, 2021 12:01 am

When an angel told Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, she answered, "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in the gospel of Luke to explain how this passage has been misused and shows how to interpret it correctly.

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There are those in the Roman Catholic Church who elevate Mary to unbiblical heights, venerating her and calling her a co-redemptrix with Christ, and because of that… Protestants tend to flee in the other direction so far that we almost despise this one who was highly favored by the Lord and was filled with the grace of God and was a model of submission to the authority of God Himself. So how should we view the mother of Jesus? To be certain, she is not interceding for our salvation. That role belongs solely to Jesus Himself. But at the same time, Mary is worthy of our honor and respect. Today on Renewing Your Mind, we return to Dr. R.C. Sproul's verse-by-verse series through the Gospel of Luke.

He preached these sermons at the church he pastored for many years, St. Andrew's Chapel near Orlando, Florida. If you would get in your car this afternoon and drive down I-4 in the direction of what the news commentators refer to as the attractions, you will notice as you near the attractions on your left the sign for a shrine that is titled in honor of Mary, Queen of the Universe. And every time I pass that shrine on I-4 and think in terms of the narrative we considered last week of this young girl who was a peasant in an obscure village in Nazareth who was visited with this startling announcement by the angel Gabriel, I want to say somewhat irreverently, you've come a long way, baby, from peasant girl in Nazareth to Queen of the Universe. Now I'd like to explore this morning how in the world such a transition could have happened in our civilization. Back in the sixteenth century, of course, the greatest schism in the history of Christendom took place with the Protestant Reformation, which we celebrate every year on Reformation Sunday, which happened to be last Sunday. And we know at the time of the Reformation the dispute became so bitter and the hostilities so escalated that we saw the formation of the Spanish Inquisition and the people being tortured on the rack and burned at the stake, and Christendom was at war with each other. And today we have seen the attitudes that prevailed in the sixteenth century to have been greatly mollified, and that we think of the rack and the burning at the stake as an aberration of the past and not of something that is commonplace in the theological disputes of our time. In fact, so much has the division between Rome and Protestantism been ameliorated that there have been initiatives in recent years to announce to the world a certain accord and agreement between Rome and Protestantism.

And in so doing, we see again a whole new attitude in the air. Now, at Vatican I in 1870 under the authority of Pope Pius IX, Protestants were described as schismatics and heretics. Fast forward to the 1960s to Vatican Council II, and in that council Protestants were referred to as separated brethren.

Do you see the stark difference and contrast in the language of communication between the two bodies, how the hostilities have settled down? And so I'll hear from people frequently that really the things that divide Rome from evangelicalism are not that great anymore, and I'd just like to remind you that the differences between evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism are far, far greater today than they were in the sixteenth century. The issue of the gospel is still very much at stake. The recent Roman Catholic Catechism of 1994 reaffirmed the Council of Trent and its teaching of their doctrine of justification, their understanding of salvation, the treasury of merits, indulgences, purgatory, and all the rest. But despite the ongoing dispute of the heart of the matter of the gospel itself on how a person is saved, since the sixteenth century, though there were many in the church at that time who believed in papal infallibility, it was not a formal doctrine defined de Fide by Rome until 1870 at that council I mentioned a moment ago, Vatican I, where papal infallibility was decreed. But in addition to the issue of the authority of the church and the doctrine of justification, we have this whole phenomenon of mariology.

And most of the mariological decrees that have come to place in Rome have come forth in the last 150 years, much later than the sixteenth century. The Immaculate Conception, for example, came in the middle of the 1950, excuse me, 1850s, and followed up by the vision and apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France, in which she was said to have… it was heard to have said, I am the Immaculate Conception. But the doctrines of the perpetual virginity of Mary, the sinlessness of Mary, the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, the coronation of Mary as the queen of heaven are all of much more recent vintage. In the 1950s, three critical encyclicals took place with respect to Mary, Munificentissimus Deus, which affirmed the bodily assumptions, Falcon's corona, and Quelle Regnum affirming the coronation of Mary as the queen of heaven. This is recent stuff, and it's very, very important to the actual daily practice of religion in Rome.

Devout Roman Catholics frequently have shrines to Mary in their yards, certainly in every church, and we wonder how can this be? And again, as recently as the Catechism of 1994, Mary is referred to there as the mother of the Christian church, as the queen of heaven, as the exemplar or icon of true Christianity, and as a mediatrix, a mediatrix. A mediatrix, a mediator between the church and God.

Beloved theology can hardly sink lower than to obscure the uniqueness of our Lord's saving work as the mediator between man and God, and as the Apostle Paul wrote in his pastoral epistes, there is one mediator between God and man, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the one great doctrinal issue that emerged at Vatican II had to do with the role of Mary in the church. But again, it was subsumed under the study of the church and where Mary fits into the church. And at Vatican II, there was a significant debate that went on between two factions of the church, basically between the Latin wing of the church and the Western wing of the church, and the two groups with respect to Mary were called minimalists and maximalists. And without getting into all the details of what separated the minimalists from the maximalists, the great issue that divided them was the issue of whether Mary should be regarded not only as mediatrix but as co-redemptrix. That is, was she a co-redeemer of the church with Jesus?

Now, happily, the church did not embrace the maximalist position in its fullness, but there remains a strong current in favor of maximalism within the Roman communion to this day. Now I've said all of that to say this. Where does this all come from? Well, one of the pivotal texts upon which the debate at Vatican II focused upon was the last verse of the section of chapter 1 that I read last week, Mary's response to the announcement of the angel Gabriel that she was going to conceive and have a child by the power of the Holy Ghost. The virgin birth was announced to Mary by Gabriel, and we know her initial response was one of stunned amazement, and she asked the question, how can this be since I know not a man?

And we considered that last week. How it was going to take place through the power of the Holy Ghost, the same power that brought the world into being at creation was going to overshadow her, and so that the child in her womb would be called the Son of God, He would be most holy, and He would be the Son of the Most High, and all the things that we considered last week. Now after all this explanation that the angel Gabriel provided to this young woman, then the rest of the chapter or the rest of the story has to do with her response. So what did Mary say then? After the angel explained all of these things to her, now what did she say?

Oh, okay, I see how this is going to happen, and this is a tremendous thing. I can't believe I'm going to be the mother of the Messiah and all of that. Then all of that, listen to what she in fact said. She said, Behold the maidservant of the Lord.

I'm going to come back to that in a minute. Then she said, Let it be to me according to your word. Now in the nomenclature of the Mariological doctrines of the Roman communion, this response of Mary is referred to as Mary's fiat.

Now this does not mean that she owned a little Italian car that got great gas mileage. No. The term fiat is the present imperative form of the verb to be in Latin, in the Latin language. It's the imperative.

Let it be, she says. Now go back to creation where we experience the first fiat in all of history, the divine imperative by which the whole universe was created. When the fiat came from the mouth of God, let there be light, and there was light. Let the oceans teem with fish and the fields with burdened growth, and all of the work of creation was accomplished through the command, the imperative of God, what we call the divine fiat at the grave of Lazarus where Jesus comes in the midst of the morning. He doesn't invite Lazarus to come back to life. He speaks to Him with the imperative, Lazarus, come forth. There was nothing that Lazarus could do but come forth under the weight and the authority of the imperative command of Jesus. So the idea of the fiat has a rich history throughout all of redemptive history. And when the theologians, the Roman theologians come to this text, they say, well, here it comes out of the lips of Mary.

Let it be. So the maximalists jump on this text, and they say, well, the incarnation took place because of the will of God but also because of the imperative of Mary. Mary exercised her authority without which there would be no virgin birth, without which there would be no redeeming Jesus, without which there would be no salvation. So salvation depended, according to the maximalists, on Mary's imperative response to the angel's announcement. I said earlier theology can hardly sink much lower than this. If ever a statement had been rudely torn and ripped out of the context in which it is made, it is Mary's fiat. Yes, the imperative form, at least in the Latin Vulgate, is used here, but notice how it is couched parenthetically in the context in which Mary says it. The first thing she says is, behold, the handmaiden of the Lord.

Before there's any, let it be. There's first, look, what am I? I'm a lowly slave, the kitchen servant of the Lord. What is the attitude being expressed by this girl to the announcement of the angel? Gabriel, look at me. I'm the handmaiden.

I'm not the owner of the house. I don't have any authority in this matter, but I am your servant, and if the Lord wants me to have this baby, so be it. Now that's a long way from, let it be, to if the Lord wants me to have this baby, whatever the Lord wants, I will do because I'm His servant. You know, at creation, God the Father didn't stand before the darkness and the void and the formlessness of the deep and say to the uncreated universe, behold the servant of creation. Okay, let the light shine.

No, no, no, no. When the imperative comes from the lips of our Maker, there's no sense in which He is our servant. We are His servant.

He's not our servant. And there's probably no human being in the history of the world that more fully manifested that than this magnificent young girl, Mary, who because of the maximalist exaggeration and heretical veneration that Rome has given to her over the centuries, Protestants tend to flee in the other direction so far that we almost despise this One who was highly favored by the Lord and was filled with the grace of God and was a model of submission to the authority of God Himself. Even though she asked questions, Gabriel didn't have to shut her mouth up until her son would be born like he did with Zacharias. She was humble. She was willing.

She was obedient. Let it be to me according to your word, not according to my word, not according to my authority. Now again, what do the maximalists do with this? They make another parallel. They say that there's a parallel between Adam and Jesus. Jesus is called in the New Testament the new Adam or the second Adam. Through the first Adam's disobedience, death comes into the world. Through the second Adam's obedience, life comes into the world. Destruction, disaster, damnation comes through the first Adam.

Salvation and deliverance comes through the second Adam, Jesus. So they say the same parallel exists between Eve and Mary as through one woman's disobedience, death came into the world. So the other woman's obedience, life came into the world. That's why they are jealous to elevate her to the level of co-redemptrix because she participates virtually as an equal with her son in effecting our redemption. Her son is the second Adam. She is the second Eve.

And together, mother and son, they bring about salvation. I would bet everything I own that Mary, who is in heaven right now, would be nothing but offended by anyone suggesting that there was a real parallel between Eve and herself. Mary is not the queen of the universe. The church is the queen of the universe. The church is the bride of Christ, and Christ is the King, and His only Queen is His bride, not His mother.

But again, we need to understand what a singularly blessed woman this lady was. And not only did she acquiesce to the announcement, but as the early creeds call Mary, Theotokos, the mother of God, not in the sense historically that Jesus derived His divine nature from Mary, no, no, no, no, no, but in the sense that she was mother to the One who was God incarnate. She was at the cross where the sword pierced her own soul. She was at the tomb, and she will participate in the fullness of the body of resurrection when Christ's kingdom comes. But Mary died. She went to heaven, but she doesn't have the eschatological glorification of her body as Rome claims.

There was no bodily assumption to heaven, none of that stuff. We don't pray to Mary. I've heard my Catholic friends say to me, but why not pray to Mary?

If she asks her son for something, he's not going to refuse her. Well, we're not told to pray to Mary. We're told to pray to the One who is the Mediator. We have a great high priest. We don't have a great high priestess. We have our great high priest who intercedes for us. Is that not enough? Shall we pray to his grandmother, grandfather, who else?

No. Mary is not divine. She is a sinner saved by grace, just as we are. But what a gracious, gracious sinner she was. I read in this text a willingness to do the will of the Lord.

Now that's what we can learn from Mary, how to be in subjection to God as she was. I know that I speak for so many of you in expressing how much I appreciate the balance and careful teaching of Dr. R.C. Sproul. We have continued his verse-by-verse series from the Gospel of Luke today, and we're glad you joined us for Renewing Your Mind on this Sunday. I'm Lee Webb. As co-pastor of St. Andrew's Chapel, Dr. Sproul had the opportunity to preach through entire books of the Bible, and much of that biblical wisdom was captured and put into a commentary series. And let me say from firsthand experience, these commentaries are a joy to read. The winsomeness and biblical clarity you heard in today's message is throughout his commentaries. And when you contact us today with a donation of any amount, we will be glad to provide you with a digital download of his commentary on the Gospel of Luke. This is an online offer only, so we invite you to go to to make your request. That's Well, after Mary heard she was going to bear the Messiah, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and we will hear about the amazing response of Elizabeth's baby next week as we continue Dr. Sproul's series from Luke here on Renewing Your Mind. I hope you'll make plans to join us. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-12 14:34:25 / 2023-09-12 14:41:50 / 7

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