When the Saints Go Marching In
"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..." (1 Timothy 2:5). How different simple New Testament Christianity is from the major religions during the first century. It seems as if the Greeks and Romans had a "god of ..." well, everything! I recall how Paul strolled from idol to idol on Mars Hill and the surrounding city of Athens. Just the sight of so many idols is said to have "provoked" Paul's spirit within him (Acts 17:16-ff). How much less complicated it is to have one God and one Mediator.
The Greeks had a god to call upon in a huge variety of circumstances. Each city had its main god or goddess. Each trade and guild had theirs as well. These gods and goddesses would be petitioned for favors. If you wanted to be safe on a trip at sea, you might petition Neptune, or Poseidon. Christians have one God they petition in everything through one mediator, Jesus. In the New Testament, Christians offered prayers only to One.
Of course, this practice has changed through the centuries for many. No longer are all those who profess Christ so limited as were their first century counterparts were. Perhaps in the attempt to appease pagans being converted, church leaders in later centuries departed from New Testament practice and began to provide alternates to whom people could address their prayers. Though you will read nothing like it in the New Testament of Jesus Christ, today if you, for example, lose your car keys, you can appeal to Saint Anthony. ("Heavenly Helpers"; Kankakee Daily Journal; 1-4-2001; p. B1). One lady said, "Praying to Saint Anthony is a never-fail, and it's not just for car keys. I bet I say the 'Holy Tony' prayer one hundred times a day. I don't know how he manages to help me find things, but he does." She is referring to Saint Anthony of Padua who lived from 1195 to 1231.
If you are a carpenter, Joseph, husband of Mary, is your man. But recently, he has branched out into real estate. One agent for Coldwell Banker talked of one of her clients being unable to sell her house. She was told by a friend about Joseph, and her house sold within a month of burying his statue in her yard! Barbers have Cosmas and Damian. Andrew gets the nod for fishermen. Motorists can depend on Saint Christopher. Policemen can call upon the likes of no less than Michael the archangel. And postmen have a fellow messenger in Gabriel to whom they can pray.
For me, there is still just one God, and one mediator. There is absolutely nothing in anything that our Lord has said in His New Testament that would suggest that the faith He delivered that would suggest these practices are effective, desired, by Him, authorized or acceptable to Him. The concept is completely foreign to His perfect word. Friends, one Mediator is quite enough if it is Jesus, and if it is someone else, then he or she will not do at all!
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 8.7; July 2001