page has two sections:
What the Bible Teaches about the Virgin Mary
The Place of Mary in the Saving Purposes of God
the Bible Teaches about the Virgin Mary
Luke's Gospel contains
the most detailed account of the life of the Virgin Mary.
The words spoken by the angel Gabriel show that she was favoured
by God and that the Lord was with her: ?Greetings,
O favoured one, the Lord is with you!? ch 1 v 28.
?Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favour with God.?
Mary's initial response was to ?be greatly troubled
' and to fear, which was the response of other faithful saints
who had been visited by an angel. Although Mary questioned the
angel Gabriel: ?How will this be, since I am a virgin??
she quickly showed humility and faith in God's word: ?behold,
I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your
word.? In this way all Christians should humble themselves
before God, recognising that they are God's servants and believe
God's word. As Jesus instructed his disciples: ?When
you have done all that you were commanded, say, ?We are unworthy
servants, we have only done what was our duty.?'
in Luke chapter 1 also recognised the faithfulness and blessedness
of Mary. It is worth noting the character of Elizabeth,
that she was righteous before God and walked blamelessly in all
the commandments and statutes of the Lord (ch 1 v 6) and who was
filled with the Holy Spirit (v 41). Elizabeth's praise
of Mary is therefore significant because it came from a righteous
and faithful woman filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth
praised Mary: ?blessed are you among women, and blessed is
the fruit of your womb!? (v 42). Elizabeth also showed
humility toward Mary when she visited (v 43) ?and why is this
granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me.?
Elizabeth then praised and acknowledged Mary's faith in God's
word spoken to her: ?Blessed is she who believed that there
would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.?
However, it must be noted just why Mary was held with such
high esteem by Elizabeth. It was because of the fruit of
Mary's womb and because she was the ?mother of my Lord.?
Because Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ.
Mary's response to Elizabeth's
praise of her was to praise God. Mary did not praise herself
or think of herself worthy to receive such blessing, but praised
God for His salvation and for blessing her. These verses
known as The Magnificat contain the bulk of the recorded
words of Mary in Scripture. (See Luke 1.46-56)
From Mary's words should
be noted the abundance of Old Testament quotations. There are
verses or portions of verses from many Old Testament books including
the Song of Hannah in the book of Samuel, a number of Psalms,
Isaiah, Habakkuk, Malachi, Zephaniah, Deuteronomy, Daniel, Ezekiel,
Job and Genesis. Whether by hearing or by reading, Mary's
memory was full of Scripture. When she came to praise God
she used words which had already been inspired by God.
Mary stands as an example to Christians of someone with a faithful
knowledge of Scripture and who used it in her praise to God.
Secondly, her humility
is again evident. She spoke of her humble estate and described
herself as God's servant. She also acknowledged her need
of a Saviour. She recognised her own sin, and position
before God. Mary's own honest and humble declaration of
herself in a few words makes nonsense the honours, titles and
exaltation Roman Catholics and others bestow upon her.
Any clear reading and understanding of these few verses must lead
to a rejection of the idolatry accorded to her by Roman Catholicism.
Christians would do well in learning from Mary true humility
and submission before God. ?Clothe yourselves, all
of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the
proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves,
therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper
time he may exalt you. ' (1 Peter ch 5 v 5-6).
Thirdly, Mary's thankfulness
should be noted. ? My spirit rejoices in God my saviour, from
now on all generations will call me blessed, for he who is mighty
has done great things for me. ? Mary is an example
of what it means to have a thankful spirit. All those who
have been saved have so much to be thankful for and should emulate
Mary in cultivating a spirit of praise and thankfulness to God
for what he has done. ?And whatever you do, in word
or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks
to God the Father through him.' Colossians ch 3 v 17
Fourthly, Mary remembered
God's former dealings with his people. ?His mercy is for those
who fear him from generation to generation? In reciting
these portions of Old Testament Scripture Mary remembered and
showed appreciation for the way God worked for and through his
people. No doubt she was recalling the way God had blessed Joseph,
Moses, David, Esther and Daniel; but had also brought low Pharaoh,
the Canaanites, the Philistines, Sennacherib, Haman and Belshazzar.
All Christians should imitate Mary by examining the way
God has worked through history and how he has dealt in the lives
of his saints since God is the same yesterday, and today and forever.
(Hebrews ch 13 v 8)
Finally, Mary's faith in
God's promises are evident. ?He has helped his servant
Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring for ever. ' She recognised
that the promises made to Abraham that all nations would be blessed
through him were finally coming to fruition through her Son.
Mary sets an example of trust and faith in God that he will keep
Mary was faithful to God in obeying
the angel's command but also, along with Joseph, in keeping the
Old Testament requirements regarding circumcision and purification
(cf. Lk 2.12-22)
Later her faithfulness
and obedience are still evident not least that she was a witness
to the crucifixion and, after the resurrection, was to be found
as part of the community of believers : ?All these with one
accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women
and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.' Acts ch
1 v 14.
However, although Mary
is a model of Christian faithfulness and obedience, the few references
to her in Scripture also show that she did not entirely understand
Jesus or His mission and that on occasion He had to rebuke his
mother. When His parents searched for the young boy Jesus
in the temple responded ?Why were you looking for me? Did
you not know that I must be in my Father's house?? ?And
they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.'
Mary's reaction was ? to treasure up all these things in her
heart. ' In these few verses the character of Mary is revealed,
her humanness and lack of understanding of Jesus' mission but
also her faithfulness and love.
When Jesus was preaching to the crowds
Mary and his brothers came to speak to him, but instead of patiently
waiting until the crowds had dispersed they desired to see him.
Jesus' response to them was to exclaim that: ?My mother
and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.?
This response repudiates any notion of Mary being
worthy of any more respect than any other believer.
It is also noteworthy that
Jesus' brothers did not understand Jesus' mission nor it would
seem did they believe in him at the start of his ministry.
They said to Jesus: ?? For no one works in secret if he seeks
to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the
world.? For not even his brothers believed in him. ' (John
ch 7 v 5). If Mary had a better understanding (and maybe faith?),
would this have reflected on her other children having more faith
and understanding of Jesus?
Therefore, although Mary
sometimes did not fully understand Jesus' mission and had to be
rebuked, yet she feared and submitted to God, was faithful to
His word, and was humble and faithful before Christ's birth, during
his lifetime and after his ascension into heaven. All Christians
should learn from her example.
See also the below
Churchman article where William Bridcut examines from the Bible
as to whether Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life
after giving birth to Jesus:
Mary Remain a Virgin? (Churchman article issue 111/1)
Place of Mary in the Saving Purposes of God
The grace and mercy
we see that God delights to use the things of little repute.
He chose Israel not because they were the greatest of the nations
but simply because of His own love (Dt 7.7,8). When Israel
wanted a King he gave them the ideal model of an earthly king
- Saul. But when Saul failed he provided them with a man
after His own heart, David, the youngest son, a shepherd boy.
Likewise Mary was a simple girl. Despite the efforts
of some to invent legend we know virtually nothing about her,
she arrived unannounced on the stage of human history and yet
has a supporting role more important than any other. This
is the way God works and it ought to be a great encouragement
to those of us who are inclined to feel out of our depths in His
work or believe that we are insignificant in the scale of things.
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put
to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world
to put to shame the things which are mighty (1 Cor 1.27).
The world of our day revolves
around personalities. All too often the Church imitates
this and we can seem to believe that somehow the Christian message
is more credible or truer if a sportsman or actress endorses it.
In reality it is all too easy for the personality to get
in the way of the gospel. The reason that God chooses the
weak and simple is in order that we should not glory in ourselves,
but that the glory should rest in Him (1 Cor 1.29). It
is significant therefore that Mary's song of praise (Luke 1.46ff)
moves quickly from speaking of herself to glorifying God.
This is a worthwhile model, we enjoy the praise of others but
are we always eager to reflect that praise onto our Lord?
Mary's place in
the saving plan of God
If the incarnation shows
us how God delights to use our weakness for His glory then the
Apostle Paul shows us how God the Son gave up His glory in order
to take on our weakness. Unless it was revealed Paul could
not have known what he affirms in Philippians chapter 2.
The eternal Son of God emptied himself (or made himself of no
reputation), in order to be found among us.
In a way it mattered little
whether Mary was a princess or an ordinary peasant from Nazareth.
It mattered little whether Jesus was born in a palace or
a stable. When we consider what was taking place,
from God's perspective there is surely no difference between princess
and peasant, the step down, the extent of self-emptying is no
different. But from our perspective the choice of Mary
and Joseph, the stable, the shepherds, all shows us something
in terms we can understand and relate to about how much Christ
gave up for us, about how much God has stooped down in order that
he might lift us up.
The coming of the Son of
God was part of the plan of God from before the beginning of the
world. It is an idle game to speculate whether God could have
done it any other way. What we see throughout the Bible
is that God is consistent in His practice of using people, even
downright unsuitable people on occasions, in order to accomplish
his saving works. He does not just play with us as
if we were a collection of tin soldiers. We are His creation,
made in His image and it seems to be His delight to draw us into
his purposes. In the Old Testament we see this again and
again, despite their failings God chose men and women to fulfil
So it is with Mary, in
her we see that God's saving plan is accomplished through human
beings. She does not add anything to salvation, and yet
she is part of God's saving purposes. Before grace was
shown to her she was nothing special, now we remember her as blessed
by God because God chose to work through her. It mattered
that Jesus should be born, that the Son of God took flesh and
was made man. It mattered that he was fully divine and
yet fully human. God's saving plan could not have been
achieved without this. Jesus took His human nature through
Mary. Quite how the mechanics of the virgin birth worked
is not revealed to us but it mattered that Jesus was human, flesh
of flesh and bone of bone.
Therefore in all these
things what we should chiefly learn from Mary is not about her,
nor about ourselves, but about God and his saving work, about
the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and what that means to us.
The child born
When the child was taken
to the temple Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul
(Lk 2.35). We understand what this means because we have
the benefit of hindsight. Doubtless it was something of
a mystery to Mary at the time, but one of those things that she
treasured up . When she stood at the cross watching
her Son die she knew the truth of what had been said.
Yet it seems that even she had not grasped the true significance
of what His death meant. Surely she could have known because
of the words which the angel had spoken to Joseph in his dream
- Mary your wife ... will bring forth a Son, and
you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from
The sword of grief pierced
her heart as she watched her Son die on the cross, but hidden
away were the treasures of the truth she had stored up - that
He was not simply her son but the Son of God who had taken flesh
and been made man. He was dying not as some mistaken radical,
but for the sins of His people.
There is much that we can
learn from Mary about what it means to respond to the grace of
God, and about how we can be slow to grasp the working of God.
Yet in the end Mary, like all the people of God in the
Bible should point us away from themselves and to the Lord Jesus
Christ. Mary was immensely privileged, blessed by God.
Yet even so in the grace and mercy of God the privilege
that was shown to her is available to us because the Son of God
died for us on the cross. We too can be counted in the
family of Christ if we in obedience to His word, put our faith
and trust in Him, and in Him alone.
Jesus said ? My mother
and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it'
The contents of this
page are based on a series of Cross†Way articles from 2002
in anticipation of ARCIC's report on the Virgin Mary (released
in May 2005). These articles can be downloaded as a pdf on the
publications section -
Leaflets for download on the website, titled 'Learning from
Mary', or purchased as a booklet from Church Society.