Jesus is our only Mediator:
Some people confuse the role of Jesus as our only Mediator with the role of the Angels and Saints as our intercessors before Him.
Let’s see what kind of mediation Saint Paul refers to when he says “only Mediator”:
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” – (1 Timothy 2:5) NIV [i].
We Catholics do believe that Jesus is our only Mediator between God and men as the Bible teaches. However, we need to understand what Jesus as our only Mediator means in Biblical terms. Saint Paul himself tells us right in the following verse what Jesus as our only Mediator means:
“who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.” – (1 Timothy 2:6).
No one else has done that. Only our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is our only Mediator between God the Father and us because He offered Himself as the only perfect Sacrifice, He died on the Cross in order to redeem us; therefore, all salvation passes through Christ (Acts 4:12). Jesus is our only Mediator as our High Priest (Hebrews 9:11) showing the sacrifice of Himself interceding for us before the Father in the Heavenly Holy of Holies. Only Jesus has entered the Heavenly Holy of Holies as High Priest and Sacrifice before the Father.
The book of Hebrews goes into more detail describing the unique mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the O.T., only the high priests were able to enter the most sacred place of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, once a year in order to offer sacrifices with blood for himself and for the sins of the people. However, this was only a foreshadow the fulfillment, Christ Himself now in Heaven as High Priest and Sacrifice before the Father.
“But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” – (Hebrews 9:7-9).
“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” – (Hebrews 9:11-15).
Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, is the only perfect eternal High Priest and Offering.
“to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” – (Hebrews 12:24).
Only the blood of the animals was introduced to the holy of holiest, but the animals were sacrificed outside:
“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.” – (Hebrews 13:11-12).
And this has been believed in the Church since her beginning throughout the years [ii].
In the O.T., persons such as Moses and the high priests acted as mediators between God and the people of Israel, but their role was only a foreshadow of the fulfillment, Jesus Christ, the universal Mediator.
This way Jesus is our Only Mediator. No other person does this, but only our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible goes on to explain the effects of Jesus’ unique mediation:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” – (Ephesians 2:13).
“and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – (Colossians 1:20).
Notice above that through Him, all things are reconciled to God, this includes the Angels who are in Heaven.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” – (1 Peter 1:18-19).
“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” – (Hebrews 9:12).
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – (Acts 4:12).
“always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – (Ephesians 5:20).
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” – (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” – (Romans 5:18).
That “one righteous act” is Jesus redeeming us on the Cross. Since Original Sin, mankind has fallen from grace.
A limited creature cannot amend an offense against Eternity (God); therefore, only Jesus who is truly God and truly man was able to reconcile us with the Father. Jesus dispenses all the graces throughout time and place. The graces which flow from Christ, from Eternity, make mankind (past, present, future) able to be in fellowship with the Father in the Holy Spirit. No one is able to be holy without this grace (a gift) from Jesus.
Christ won universal salvation with the gift of his own life. No other mediator has been established by God as Savior. The unique value of the sacrifice of the Cross must always be acknowledged in the destiny of every man.
“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” – (Revelation 5:9).
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” – (Matthew 26:28).
“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” – (John 1:18).
This is what, in Biblical terms, Only Mediator means “He who gave Himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:6) has entered into the Heavenly Holy of Holies as our eternal High Priest and Sacrifice before the Father. Therefore, all salvation passes through Christ (Acts 4:12).
His Universal Church is His Mystical Body. Jesus is the Head of the Church.
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” – (Colossians 1:18-22 – ESV).
If Jesus had not died for us on the Cross, none of us would be saved, and none of us would have true spiritual love.
Only Jesus shed Divine Blood.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – (Romans 6:23 – ESV).
Each and all in Heaven have the same gift won for us by the salvific suffering and death of Christ on the Cross. We are equal, as concerns the reception of that particular gift; is the very same gift given to all the elect in Heaven: from the Greatest in Heaven, to the holy Angels and Saints, to even the least in the kingdom of Heaven.
Intercession of the Angels and Saints:
First of all, it is good to clarify that we Catholics also pray directly to God. It’s not that we always have to ask the Angels or Saints in Heaven in order to pray for and with us before God. But, of course, we also ask for the Saints’ great and advantageous help or their intercession before our Lord and Savior. That being said, our God is a God of the living, not the dead (Mark 12:27) (Matt 22:32).
As explained above, Jesus is our only Mediator. On the other hand, you, me, or any other person can pray for each other. We can also request the intercession of the Angels and Saints in Heaven to pray for us and this in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power (Lumen Gentium – n. 60.).
Without the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ before the Father, the intercession of the Angels and Saints (past, present, future whether in Heaven and on earth) is not possible at all. Actually, without His grace there are no Saints or holy people in the first place. All is done because of the merits of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Without the mediation of our Lord Jesus, Adam and Eve would have gone to Hell right after original sin and had no other opportunity to reconcile with God. We got another opportunity thanks to the sorrowful Passion of the Father’s dearly beloved Son our Lord Jesus Christ. He takes the initiative and we cooperate.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” – (John 15:16).
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” – (Galatians 4:4-7).
Angels and Saints intercede before the Son in the fellowship of all the saints. (Lumen Gentium n. 69).
Our union with the Father is through His Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. (Decree – Optatam Totius – On Priestly Training – #8 n. 1- Vatican II).
It is because of Christ our Lord that we have access to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
Praying for each other is pleasing to God. Paul actually teaches this right before telling us about the one mediation of Christ.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” – (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Notice also that, in the book of Job, God Himself did not ask to three of Job’s friends to pray directly to Him but to go to Job so that he can intercede for them (Job 42:8-9). God was not going to accept the direct prayers of those three men because of their wickedness, but accepted Job’s intercession on their behalf.
You may say, yes but that’s only between people here on earth, not asking prayers to death people, that is the sin of necromancy.
Necromancy is indeed a grave sin. This is idolatry. However, asking the intercession of the Angels and Saints before God in Heaven is not necromancy.
What is necromancy?
Necromancy, communication with the dead, usually in order to obtain insight into the future or to accomplish some otherwise impossible task. Such activity was current in ancient times among the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans; in medieval Europe it came to be associated with black (i.e., harmful, or antisocial) magic and was condemned by the church. (from britanica.com).
All forms of divinations or conjuring up the dead are condemned by the Catholic Church (CCC # 2116-2117).
Necromancy is idolatry because people are not following or sincerely seeking God but instead they are seeking spirits (evil spirits, false gods) as their ends for their own interest and selfishness. When we pray to the Saints, they are only means to go to God. Intercession of the Saints is not calling upon spirits to come to earth in order to do divination, sorcery, witchcraft, cast spells, get information about the future, unknown situations, or asking a medium who consults the dead in order to do these things. These are mortal sins and an abomination. We simply ask souls who are already in Heaven with God as members of the Body of Christ (Hebrews 12:22-23), in the same Holy Spirit, in order to pray for us or with us but let the will of God (not ours) be done in any case. This is something totally different that has nothing to do with witchcraft or necromancy.
We see how David, in his Psalm, asked the Angels and all of our Lord’s hosts and ministers to bless God.
“Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!” – (Psalm 103:20-22).
This is not necromancy. Actually, the Psalms are common composed prayers, praises, songs, a way to communicate with God or with His Angels and Saints to God.
In the New Testament, we see several cases of people interceding for another here on earth. For example, the Centurion interceding for his sick servant (Matthew 8:5-13). The sick servant was cured because of the Centurion’s intercession. The servant was simply at home perhaps not even knowing what the Centurion was doing for him. Another case, at the wedding in Cana we see that it was not time for Jesus to perform a miracle, yet because of Mary’s intercession, He turned water into wine (John 2:1-12). In another occasion, God spares the lives of all those who were in a ship that was about to perish, because of Paul (Acts 27:24-25).
Jesus appoints intermediaries:
“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:13-15 – ESV).
If Jesus doesn’t want intermediaries, then He wouldn’t have chosen anyone, but would have done all by Himself.
When people die, souls continue living:
“There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:50).
“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” – (Hebrews 11:4).
“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly” – (Hebrews 12:22).
The souls of the righteous go to Heaven and speak to God, they ask God and they receive a response:
“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” – (Revelation 6:9-11).
See also Luke 16:19-31 regarding life after death here on earth.
Now, death does not separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39). If Christ dwells in you (John 17:20-21) (Romans 8:10), death does not separate us. We can still be united. If we go to a holy person to pray for us and then that person dies in the love of Christ, that person goes to Heaven and can still continue to pray for us. We can still ask that person to pray for us. We are the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and He is our Head (Colossians 1:18). But the members of the Body of Christ are not separated by death. We are not one part here on this earth, and another part in Heaven. We are one sole Mystical Body alive in the same Spirit. Our Head went to Heaven but His Body is not cut off in half. We are united in Christ.
“he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” – (Ephesians 1:9-10).
“and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” – (Colossians 1:20 – ESV).
Christ has abolished death (2 Timothy 1:10). Our God is not God of the dead, but of the living (Mark 12:27) (Luke 20:38). It is not God’s will to separate us from the Angels and Saints in Heaven.
Jesus actually spoke to Moses and Elijah when He was praying (Luke 9:28-30) and we know that Moses left this world many years before (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).
In Acts 9:36-41 we read that a faithful disciple named Tabitha died. Then Peter prayed to her saying “Tabitha, arise”. He was literally praying to a dead person. As we have learned above, the soul of the person continues living, so when Peter spoke to her, her soul reacted. Peter might have prayed directly to God, yes. But he also addressed to the lady who had died. The lady came back to life but it is God who does the miracle. Again, this is in no way, shape or form, necromancy or any occult practice, but simply praying to a holy soul.
Jesus Himself did similarly when He resurrected Lazarus and a little girl from the death. He literally spoke to dead persons. He spoke to Lazarus by crying out in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:41-43) and to the little girl by saying: “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”) (Mark 5:41-42).
Also, Jesus said:
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – (Matthew 18:20).
If you don’t have a person on earth to pray with you, you can have the Angels and Saints in Heaven join you in prayer! This, by the way, is about communal prayer.
We ask in the Our Father:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.“ – (Matthew 6:10).
We are asking our Father that His Kingdom come here on earth. Members of His Kingdom are actually coming in a way when we ask their help, ask their intercession, or ask them to join us in prayer to God.
Since God’s will is done perfectly in Heaven, nothing contrary to God’s will should be done here on earth either, and if the practice interceding for each other here on earth is pleasing to God (1 Timothy 2:1-4), there is nothing stopping the intercession of the Angels and Saints in Heaven to also pray for us, for we say: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. We ask our Father for unity of His will on earth and in Heaven. One Body.
Can the holy persons who have gone to Heaven and are so close to the Throne of God continue to pray or intercede for us here on earth? Yes. The book of Revelation tells us the following:
“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” – (Revelation 5:8).
Other translations say: “which are the prayers of the saints”.
In Revelation 8:3-4 we read:
“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” – (ESV).
“The saints” are not only the people in Heaven. People on earth are also called “saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2) (6:1-2) (14:33) (16:1) (Ephesians 1:1) (1:15 – and many other verses). We see that the Angel brought the prayers of all the saints to the Altar before the Throne of God. Not just talking about the saints in Heaven.
In James 5:16 we read: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Since the intercessory prayer of the just is powerful, and death does not separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 38) (Revelation 5:8) for we are One Body of Christ who is alive (1 Corinthians 12:27), the prayers of the Angels and Saints in Heaven are very powerful for they are in much friendship with our Lord close to His Throne.
“ Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – (Ephesians 4:3-6).
There is one Body. Christ is the Head of the Body. Some members of the Body are in Heaven, other members are on earth but it is One living organism, not a separated or mutilated Mystical Body.
“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” – (1 Corinthians 12:18-20).
If parts of the body were separated or if such parts were all by themselves, we wouldn’t rightly call them “a Body”, but “parts of a body” such as the arm, the leg, the head, etc.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” – (1 Corinthians 12:12).
One member of the Body cannot say to the other I do not need you.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”– (1 Corinthians 12: 21-26).
Notice above that parts of the body are not separated “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it”. Members of the Body in Heaven rejoice when they see us members of the Body here on earth doing good, for Jesus told us:
“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” – (Luke 15:7).
Notice that it does not say “only God will rejoice in Heaven” but “there will be more rejoicing in Heaven“, this is a general statement which includes everyone in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As we have seen, it is God’s will to “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” – (Ephesians 1:10).
“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” – (Ephesians 1: 22-23 – ESV).
The communion of Saints in the Body of Christ (His Church), with Christ at the Head, in the same Spirit.
Is calling upon the Angels and Saints in Heaven any type of worship of a deity?
No, the Catholic Church does not teach to worship (latria) Mary, the Angels, the Saints, or any creature, idea, etc. in any way, shape or form because that is idolatry. Veneration, honor or respect to Angels and Saints for their accomplishments and fidelity to God will be another post.
Recommended post: Is Mary Mediatrix of All Graces? Is She co-Redemptrix or Advocatrix?
[i] Since this particular post is of Protestant brothers and sister’s interest also, passages or verses from the Bible are taken from the New International Version (“NIV”) except where “ESV” is indicated, those are taken from English Standard Version. As explained from the third to the seventh paragraphs here, we should not idolize one translated version of the Bible for God is not restricted to our limited spoken language.
[ii] Origen of Alexandria (c. 184 – c. 253) – Homily 9, 5. 10: PG 12, 515. 523).
Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe (462 or 467 – 1 January 527 or 533) – (On Peter’s Faith; Cap. 22, 62: CCL 91 A, 726. 750-751).
St. John Fisher (1469 – 1535) – On the Psalms; Psalm 129 Opera omnia, edition 1579, p. 1610.