Apologetics for the Masses, #389 - "All have sinned [including Mary]..." (Romans 3:23)

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Romans 3:23 and 5:12 - Does "all" include Mary?


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General Comments

Hey folks,

     Every so often I mention other Catholic organizations here to help promote them.  I have another one I want to mention - Wonderboy Creative.  These are the folks who redesigned the Bible Christian Society website for me.  If you haven't been to the new site yet, please check it out.  J.C. and his team were easy to work with, and they did a great job of taking the very general concepts that this technological neanderthal poorly articulated and turned them into reality so that we now have a beautiful - and functional - website.  J.C. - the top dog - was timely in his communications, open to feedback, and he went overboard to help me meet some deadlines related to an online evangelization campaign I was running. 

     Plus, J.C. and company are deeply committed to their Catholic Faith and the support of the Bible Christian Society's mission.  I highly recommend that any business, or individual, who needs a new website - or wants to update/revise their old website - check out this Catholic, family-run company.  I think you'll be very happy with the product and the service.  https://wonderboycreative.com/


     Okay, the last two newsletters have each been on one verse of the Bible that Protestants use to "prove" this or that teaching of the Catholic Church to be wrong. I've received some good feedback on those newsletters, so I thought I would continue the trend.  In this newsletter, I'm going to look at the one verse - Romans 3:23 - that is pretty much THE "go to" verse for Protestants to counter Catholic teaching on Mary being without sin.  And not just regarding the Immaculate Conception, but that she was without sin for her entire life.  I talked about this topic in this newsletter a couple of years ago, but that was within the context of a dialogue with an Evangelical pastor, so I wanted to re-visit this and give you a "clean" argument. 

     And, I encourage you to forward this newsletter to your Protestant friends, and ask them this question: "Hey, can you look over this newsletter and tell me where this guy [me] gets this argument about Romans 3:23 wrong?  I'd really be interested in your opinion as to whether it makes any sense or not from your perspective.  Thanks!" 

     And then, I hope you will send me any responses that you get back so that I can publish some of the highlights (anonymously) in my next newsletter which will allow everyone to see what kind of answers they will get when they use the arguments I present here.

     One more thing, Romans 5:12 also says that "all men have sinned," so this is really a two-for-one kind of deal...Romans 3:23 and Romans 5:12.


Romans 3:23 - "...since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."

     There it is.  Since "all" means "all," and since we take the Bible to mean what it says, then that means Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a sinner.  And, if Romans 3:23 isn't proof enough, the Word of God confirms this again in Romans 5:12.

Romans 5:12 - "Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned..."

     Again, "all" men sinned.  "All" doesn't mean "most," or "the majority of," or "many," no - "all" means what it says, "ALL!"  So when the Catholic Church teaches that not only was Mary conceived without sin in the Immaculate Conception, but that she never committed a sin in her entire life, well, that is clearly contrary to the Bible and must be rejected by Christians as a false teaching.

     Well, that's about as clear as it can get, right?  Well...hold on for a second.  "All" in these two verses is being interpreted by Protestants as an absolute.  But, is it being used as an absolute by Paul?  I am going to make the following arguments to show that Paul is not using the word to mean absolutely every single person who has ever lived:

     Argument #1: Jesus Christ is an exception.  He did not sin.  Everyone agrees with that.  Also, many - not all, but many - Protestants say that a child is without sin until they reach the age of reason.  So, children who die as babies or infants have never sinned and they, too, would be exceptions.  If there are exceptions, then "all" is not an absolute.

     Argument #2: Verse 9, of Romans 3, provides the context for the rest of the chapter: "What then?  Are we Jews any better off?  No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin."  In this verse, Paul is telling the Jews that they are no better off, as a people, in regard to being under the power of sin than are the Greeks, i.e., the Gentiles.  So, the context is that of comparing one group of people, the Jews - who generally considered themselves superior to the Gentiles and who looked down on the Gentiles as "unclean" - to another group of people, the Gentiles.  The phrase, "all men," in this verse is referring to two groups - Jews and Gentiles - It is not, necessarily, referring to individuals. 

     Argument #3: Verse 10 tells us that "none" is righteous, no, not one.  If "all" is an absolute, then "none" is an absolute, right?  Besides, the verse says, "no not one".  Given, then, that "none" is an absolute, we should expect to find not a single righteous person in all of Scripture. Yet, we do find righteous people...all through Scripture. 

     For example, in Luke 1:6, it says that both parents of John the Baptist – Zechariah and Elizabeth – were “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments of the Lord blameless.” How is that possible if absolutely “no one” is righteous? In Matthew 1:19, Joseph is described as being a “just” man…some translations say “righteous” man. And, couldn’t you say that John the Baptist was righteous? After all, he was filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life, “even from his mother’s womb,” as it says in Luke 1:15. Also, we read about “righteous” men in Matt 10:41 and Matt 13:17 and elsewhere in the New Testament.  Noah was a righteous man (Genesis 6:9) as was Lot (2 Peter 2:7). James 5:16 tells us that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  What righteous man is it talking about if no one is righteous, no not one? Simeon is described as being righteous in Luke 2:25, as is Joseph of Arimathea in Luke 23:50.  All throughout the Psalms, and many other places in the Old Testament, it talks about the righteous.

     Is the Word of God contradicting itself?  Well, yes, it is...that is, if you interpret "none" as being an absolute.  The same argument holds for Romans 3:11 when it says "no one" understands.  Yet, Proverbs 8:9 talks about "him who understands" and Jeremiah 9:24 says that he who glories should "glory in this, that he understands and knows Me."  Matthew 13:23 talks about those who hear the Word and understand it.  1 John 5:20, "the Son of God...has given us understanding."  Apparently, there are a lot of folks who understand.

     Verse 11 also says that "no one" seeks God.  Isaiah was seeking the Lord (Isaiah 26:9).  Lamentations tells us that the Lord is good to the soul that seeks Him (3:25).  Matthew 7:8, "...he who seeks, finds."  I've asked dozens upon dozens of Protestants if they are seeking the Lord in their lives, 100% of them said, "Yes".  I am seeking God in my life.  Ask any Protestant you know if they are seeking God in their life.  If they say, "Yes," ask them how that is so since the Bible says "no one" is seeking God.  Also, I'm pretty sure most, if not all, of you reading this are seeking God in your lives.  Again, I have to ask, is the Word of God contradicting itself?  

     Verse 12 says that "no one does good, not even one."  Yet, Scripture is awash with accounts of folks doing good.  Tabitha, Acts 9:36, was "full of good works".  We were created to do "good works" (Ephesians 2:10).  We're to stir up one another to do good works (Hebrews 10:24).  Titus is to show himself as a model of good deeds (Titus 2:7).  And these are just a few examples that show there are indeed those who do good.  Again, is this a contradiction?  

     No, the Word of God does not contradict itself, which means "no one" is not meant as an absolute.  And if "no one" is not interpreted as an absolute, then why is "all" in verse 23 interpreted as an absolute? 

     Argument #4: Romans 5:18-19 confirms that the word, "all," as used in Romans 3:23, is not being used in an absolute sense.  Remember, in Romans 5:12, it is repeating Romans 3:23, "...because all men sinned."  And then in 5:18 it says one man's (Adam's) trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's (Jesus') act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life (salvation) for all men.  So, if "all" men are acquitted by Jesus' act of righteousness, then does that mean all men are saved...universal salvation?  Very few Protestants believe that, but if "all" is an absolute, and the Protestant is being consistent in their interpretative methodology, then that is indeed what it is saying.

     But, the main point here is that, in verse 19, it essentially repeats verse 18, with one interesting difference - it uses the word "many," not the word "all".  "For by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous."  Verse 18: All - condemned/acquitted.  Verse 19: Many - made sinners/made righteous.  All condemned - many made sinners.  All made righteous - many acquitted.  I'm not sure how it could be more clear that Paul uses "all" and "many" interchangeably when talking about this particular topic. 

     Conclusion: Neither Romans 3:23, nor Romans 5:12, "prove" that Mary ever committed a sin during her lifetime because the word, "all," taken in context and as used in Romans 5:18-19, is not an absolute.  It does not, without exception, refer to every single human being who has ever lived.  Which means the best the Protestant can argue in this regard is that the Bible is silent on whether or not Mary ever sinned.  The Catholic, however, can argue that there is indeed evidence, albeit indirect, in Scripture, that Mary was indeed without sin her entire life - from conception to the point of her natural death.  For these positive arguments, from Scripture, regarding Mary being sinless, click this link: https://www.biblechristiansociety.com/newsletter/173-apologetics-for-the-masses-issue-127

     The Catholic can also argue that the Tradition of the 2000-yr. old Church founded by Jesus Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit, says that Mary was immaculately conceived and that she remained sinless her entire life. 

Closing Comments

     I have a prayer request pertaining to a job situation that I would ask all of you to please pray for me about.  I can't say exactly what it is at this time, but if you would keep it in your prayers I would greatly appreciate it.  I hope all of you have a great week and that you and yours stay safe and healthy.


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Apologetics for the Masses